You know elections are close when politicians begin to confess their love for Nigeria. Suddenly strange bedfellows are walking side-by-side, arms locked, lovey-dovey. Arch rivals and sworn enemies are dining and planning and plotting and plotting and planning. Politicians who have contributed immensely to the underdevelopment of Nigeria begin to tell us exactly what we want to hear: that the country is drifting and they have arrived to rescue us. They become our new messiahs, the patriots who love Nigeria like Jesus loves his church. I bear witness that Nigerian politicians are very good at winning power. Pity, they don’t know how to use it for Nigeria’s progress.
I don’t really care what the politicians do or say. They are politicians and must politick. A footballer must play football. You cannot begrudge a fish for swimming or a dog for barking. The headache, for me, is our gullibility. It is so easy to sway Nigerians. We are too cheap. Our memories are so tiny and so short. Yesterday means nothing to us. You will see politicians that ruined us — politicians that we cursed and stoned just moments ago — come back to seduce us and, pronto, we are back in bed with them. We hail them as the new heroes, the saviours of our democracy. Don’t they just love our gullibility! We fall too easily for their gimmicks. It happens all the time. It works all the time.
In the first part of this “new mindset” series, I wrote on “The President Nigeria Badly Needs” (January 7, 2018). I officially announced my resignation from the committee of those celebrating false dawns and getting excited over new rhetoric and new rhyme anytime a new election is approaching. I have seen it all. I am done. As I said in my resignation letter, I am no longer excited by the permutations we do every four years. My personal resolve, after experiencing so many heartbreaks, is that I will, in my little corner, continue to constructively engage with whoever holds power — and insist they use it for Nigeria’s progress.
A senior colleague asked me: “Simon, I hope you are not saying you won’t vote again?” No, sir; that is not my point. But, then, I think we even overrate the voter. People can vote for the best of candidates who will turn out to be disasters in office. We seem to assume that if we vote on the basis of merit, howsoever defined, then our problem is about to be solved. I used to say that nonsense. But I have since realised that it is one thing to vote for candidates according to your conscience or best judgment, but it is another thing for the candidates to do the right thing in office. It is beyond us. You can choose to vote them out, vote in new ones and still get similar results.
I’ve been deceived too many times. People campaign passionately about change or transformation or whatever and hoodwink us to buy into their rhetoric. They win big mandates and begin to misrule once they get the job. Let’s stop fooling around: the voter has no way of knowing who is going to perform or fail in office. I have seen underrated candidates do well when elected — and highly rated ones fumble. I have seen illiterates, semi-literates, professors, medical doctors, engineers, journalists, accountants, Igbo, Yoruba, Hausa, minority, Muslims and Christians hold public office, and I can hardly say the conduct of one is much better than that of the other.
So what? Shall we then fold our arms and do nothing? Shall we say we will no longer vote because we have been deceived and jilted by even the best? God forbid. But I am trying to make a point: if we have been doing something the same way for decades and the results are pretty much the same, shall we continue in it and expect progress to abound? Every four years, we get excited when we hear promises. In the end, we still import fuel, power remains on and off, the rich are still sending their children to private schools or abroad, the roads are still without form and void, kidnappers are still having a ball, insecurity lingers and cholera persists. Something is wrong. We need a rethink.
This is where the “Spirit of Lagos” comes to mind. Some years ago, the campaign was launched to promote some core values among Lagosians in the direction of attitudinal change, to engineer what was called a “new thinking in Lagos”. The campaign sought to promote four cardinal values: social justice, civic responsibility, citizenship and neighbourliness. There were conversations on radio and social media around these values. There was a series of “good citizenship” campaign, community engagement, “catch them young” contests, “do the right thing” re-orientation and the students’ challenge that encouraged conception of competitive projects and ideas.
The last I heard about this laudable project was the Citizens’ Day award that was held in May 2015 to celebrate citizens who had positively impacted on their communities. We were told it would continue, but I doubt it did. Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, who has performed quite impressively in office, has to revisit this campaign. It is a wonderful idea that must not die. I understand it was the original idea of the TBWA Consortium, executed in partnership with the state government under Governor Babatunde Fashola. The whole idea is “change your thinking”. As a man thinks in his heart, so he is. If you cannot change the way you think, you cannot change the way you act.
Although it was targeted at the general citizenry, in truth our leaders emerge from among the citizens. A leader with a backward mindset is a danger to the society. We must “recruit” everyone. In my first article, I argued that the leaders Nigeria needs are those who have a good mental picture of what the society should look like. It is called visioning, which I described as the “starting point”. No matter how good citizens are, no matter how sincere voters are, no matter the good intentions of leaders, we are headed in no direction if there is no vision of society. It is vision that drives action and passion. Leading without a vision is like driving without a destination.
Taking it further today, I will argue that Nigerians must also develop a new mindset if Nigeria is ever going to progress. The “Spirit of Lagos” focused on the shared history of Lagosians: what makes it home to everybody in spite of our differences. It harped on civic responsibility and good neighbourliness: how to look out for one another, solve problems together and think as an intimate community. It aimed to promote “new thinking”. It was NOT political. I am, therefore, suggesting a “Spirit of Nigeria” movement that will promote a new thinking in Nigeria. It will NOT be political. It will NOT be about ethnic and religious affiliations. It will be purely about a shared vision of Nigeria.
Some movements are springing up ahead of the 2019 elections. Things like this do not last because, from experience, they are motivated by the fleeting quest for political power and appointments. They sell their rhetoric to us, we buy it, renew our hope and vote for them. The moment they get what they want, they disappear into the system and normal service resumes. So Nigeria remains the same. I have seen it all. It is the same old mindset at work. To get a different outcome, we must start thinking differently. The idea of the “Spirit of Nigeria” is to construct a new Nigeria, but we cannot build a new Nigeria with old mindsets shaped by hate, prejudice, greed and ambition.
It is catastrophic that many leaders and citizens see themselves first and foremost as defenders of their faith and champions of their ethnic identities. These old mindsets have to give way to the “Spirit of Nigeria”. Nigeria is so sharply divided today along ethnic and religious lines largely because we have leaders who cannot see beyond their nose, leaders who cannot be bothered about the consequences of their action and inaction — and citizens who are not any different. The saddest thing is that even the young generation has been conscripted into the destructive frame of mind filled with bile and bitterness on the basis of religion and ethnicity.
We badly need a new crop of Nigerians — leaders and citizens — who will begin to consciously make Nigeria their primary constituency. It is a mindset issue. We need leaders and citizens with a mindset that treats nationhood problems, such as the farmers/herders clashes, as challenges that have to be confronted and resolved constructively. Those working very hard behind the scenes to set Nigeria on fire — by playing up one part against the other, by stoking hate through the circulation of fake news on social media to poison our minds against one another — have to be resisted with the “Spirit of Nigeria” henceforth. “New Nigerians” must stop getting excited by these raw primordial emotions.
By the way, I am not proposing a new association (before somebody registers “Spirit of Nigeria Movement” and starts giving “best governor” awards in exchange for a mess of pottage). I am just challenging our mindsets as individuals who want to see Nigeria prosper. We need to “change our thinking”. That is what should ultimately shape the political choices of citizens and the performance of leaders. We need to stop getting carried away by the seasonal “messiah” politicking. Change will not come in one day, but if we don’t change our thinking, we will never change Nigeria. I’m convinced there is a “Spirit of Nigeria” in us waiting to be tapped.
AND FOUR OTHER THINGS…
BLAST FROM THE PAST
I must confess I was shocked that an article I wrote three years ago, “Obasanjo as Nigeria’s Moral Compass” (January 18, 2015), has resurfaced and gone viral following the former president’s blistering “special press statement”. I was more shocked that those who loved the article then now hate it, and those who hated it then now love it. The Buhari camp told me in 2015 I should forget the messenger and focus on the message; Jonathan’s supporters are now telling me in 2018 to forget the messenger and focus on the message. But truth is constant, no matter whose ox is gored. I am amused watching proceedings from my balcony, cuddling my pack of popcorn. Action!
There was a time in Nigeria when the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) would call politicians to order for jumping the gun in electioneering. Not any longer. For instance, supporters of President Buhari have embarked on an open campaign very much ahead of time. Alhaji Adebayo Shittu, minister of communication who wants to be governor of Oyo state, has even opened a “Buhari” office in Ibadan and was about to start sharing “Buhari 2019” fez caps at the cabinet meeting on Wednesday when he was stopped. This opportunistic political behaviour was popularised under Gen. Sani Abacha, I think, and it has now become a national culture. Sycophancy.
FARMER VS HERDSMAN
Amid the heat in the country caused by the herders/farmers crisis, and the stoking of ethno-religious tension by those playing snooker with the delicate state of the Nigerian union, it is gratifying that some Nigerians still find the time and space to offer us wit and wisdom to calm the tempers. When Ms Ayo Obe said Cain was a farmer and Abel was a herdsman to illustrate the age-old conflict between the world’s oldest professions, I had a good laugh as well as a great insight into this eternal rivalry. But someone completely killed it when he wrote: “Obasanjo is a farmer, Buhari is a herdsman, so the battle line has been drawn.” Smart!
Tragedy visited the house of football and Lagos state government on Thursday when Mr. Deji Tinubu, special adviser to the governor, died during a recreational five-a-aside match. He reportedly screamed, grabbed his chest and collapsed. When I was growing up in the village, I would have called it “apepa” (killed by “remote control”) out of ignorance but today, with the benefit of education, I would say it was apparently a heart attack. One major cause, doctors say, is a blood clot that suddenly blocks an artery. Doctors often recommend an aspirin a day for those above 40 or those managing high blood pressure. DT’s sudden death is so, so painful. What a loss. Devastating.
The late Special Adviser to Lagos State Governor on Commerce, Industry and Cooperatives, Mr Deji Tinubu, who died on Thursday will be buried on Tuesday.
According to the funeral Programme made available to us, the late ace sports broadcaster’s valedictory programme would be as follows
Service of Songs at RCCG, City of David, Victoria Island, Lagos – Monday , 29th January 2018 at 5.00pm
Lying-in-State – RCCG, City of David , Victoria Island, Lagos – Tuesday, 30th January 2018 at 9.30am.
Funeral Service – RCCG,City of David, Victoria Island, Lagos – Tuesday, 30th January 2018 at 10.00am
Interment follows immediately after at Vaults & Gardens, Ikoyi, Lagos
The late sports broadcaster and administrator had slumped while playing a five-a-side football match during a retreat organised for members of the Lagos State executive. All attempts to revive him proved abortive and he was pronounced dead on arrival at the Epe General Hospital.
Ambode Harps on Capacity Building to Boost Teaching, Learning
The Lagos State Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode has expressed confidence about the rapid infrastructure growth and strategies of the state, saying that this could only be sustained by corresponding capacity building to enhance teaching and learning.
Ambode, who made this known recently at the inauguration of the Girls’ Junior Model College, Agunfoye, Ikorodu, said the new school was to further drive the ‘Change Lagos’ initiative of his administration.
Represented by the Deputy Governor, Dr. Oluranti Adebule, he said the administration has invested in the future of the children of the state through strategic reforms and planning in the education sector to ensure that their potential to compete favourably with their peers globally is assured.
“Upon the take-over of the school from the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), the state government invested substantially in the provision of infrastructure and facilities towards meeting the set standard.”
He expressed delight that the intervention of government in the education sector has been yielding positive results as evidenced in improved students’ performance in examinations, national/international competitions, as well as improved morals, etiquette and confidence in public speaking.
Speaking to journalists, Adebule said the move is about commitment and ensuring that education is accessible particularly to the girl-child.
“We understand that as a government, we have new developments coming up in the environment to make education available to children. The girl-child has a special place in the heart of the governor because we know that giving them a conducive environment will make them to do better.
“We know that a conducive environment for learning with the best of teachers around them, they will do excellently well. We have that conviction and that is why we have inaugurated this school which was established in September 2017. It is about excellence and learning,” the deputy governor stressed.
The inauguration of the college brings the number of existing model colleges in the state to 16 and the second model college for girls.
The Chairman, State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB), Mr. Ganiyu Sopeyin said the state is poised for greater things, adding that inaugurating a number of projects which are now at completion stages would be paramount.
“On our part as a board, we shall not relent or shy away from our responsibilities to execute policies geared towards the improvement of basic education which has in recent times, been transformed by the present administration.”
Source : ThisDay
Lagos State Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode on Thursday carried out a major cabinet reshuffle, dropping three commissioners and appointing five new ones.
In a statement signed by the Secretary to the State Government, Mr. Tunji Bello, the three affected cabinet members are Mrs. Adebimpe Akinsola, Mr. Femi Odubiyi and Mr. Anifowoshe Abiola.
The newly appointed cabinet members include Mr. Hakeem Fahm (Ministry of Science and Technology); Mr. Ladi Lawanson (Ministry of Transportation); Mr Segun Banjo (Ministry of Economic Planning and Budget); Mrs. Olayinka Oladunjoye (Ministry of Commerce and Industry) and Mr. Hakeem Sulaiman (Communities and Communications).
The Statement added that major deployments have also been effected.
Mr. Rotimi Ogunleye from Commerce and Industry to Physical Planning and Urban Development; Mr. Steve Ayorinde from Ministry of Information and Strategy to Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture, Mr. Kehinde Bamigbetan from Communities and Communication to Ministry of Information and Strategy; Mr. Babatunde Durosinmi Etti from Ministry of Wealth Creation to Ministry of the Environment; Mrs. Uzamat Akinbile-Yusuf from Ministry of Youth and Social Development to Ministry of Wealth Creation; Mr. Agboola Dabiri from Central Business District to Ministry of Youth and Social Development.
Others include Dr. Samuel Adejare from Ministry of the Environment to Ministry of Waterfront Infrastructure Development; Engr. Ade Akinsanya from Ministry of Waterfront Infrastructure Development to Ministry of Works and Infrastructure.
In the same vein, the statement also added that Mr. Benjamin Olabinjo has been moved from Special Adviser Commerce and Industry to become Special Adviser Civic Engagement, while Mr. Kehinde Joseph moved from Special Adviser Civic Engagement to become Special Adviser Housing.
Mr. Deji Tinubu, Special Adviser Sports has been redeployed as Special Adviser to the Governor on Commerce and Industry and Mr. Anofiu Elegushi moves from Special Adviser Transport to become Special Adviser, Central Business District.
The new Commissioners are expected to be cleared by the State House of Assembly while the other redeployment and postings take immediate effect.
According to the Secretary to the State Government, Mr. Bello, the new appointments and redeployments are intended to create a new vigour and vitality for service delivery which has been the hallmark of the Governor Ambode administration.
Lagos belongs to Awori, the Bini met them there — Akintoye
A renowned historian, Prof. Banji Akintoye, tells TOBI AWORINDE that the Awori were the first settlers and owners of Lagos
What is your take on the ownership of Lagos?
When people say ownership, I find that difficult to understand because ownership belongs to the people who first settled in it. And the people who first settled in Lagos — I don’t think anybody is disputing that they are the Awori subgroup of the Yoruba nation. The Awori are a subgroup of the Yoruba, just as the Ijebu, Ikale, and Ekiti are subgroups. Those are the people who first settled in Lagos with the Ijebu close to them towards the North and East and the Egbado close to them towards the North and West. So, I don’t think there is anybody disputing that. In fairness to the Oba of Lagos, I don’t think he’s saying any other group but the Awori are the owners of Lagos because there is no basis for saying that. What he has been saying is that at some point in the history of Lagos — not when Lagos was founded as a human settlement, but many centuries later after Lagos had become a kingdom — people who first settled in these places were not kingdoms; we know that from Yoruba history. We know it from the Edo history too. The first Edo people who settled east of Yorubaland were not a kingdom; they were just a scattered people in the forest. The Yoruba were scattered people in the forest too. It was not until more than 3,000 years that kingdoms began to emerge in these forests among the Yoruba first, then among the Edo, and so on. And it wasn’t until the kingdoms had existed for hundreds of years that the Edo had contact with the kingdom of Lagos and became involved in the royal family of Lagos.
Does that mean there was a kingdom in Lagos before Oba Ado and the Bini came to Lagos?
Of course, there was an Awori kingdom in Lagos before any contact with the Bini. Let me put the story a little clearly. The Yoruba, Edo, Igbo, Urhobo, Nupe, Tiv, Igala, Idoma, and so on, from our archeological research and linguistic research, we believe that though all those peoples evolved along the banks of the Middle Niger up to the confluence with the Benue and that at some point in 3000-2000 BC they began to spread out from there and gradually, the Yoruba, Edo, Nupe, Igbo, Igala, Idoma, Igbere evolved, and so on. People then went out roughly from 3000 to 1000 BC, spread out and gradually occupied the country that became the Aro. The Yoruba, which happened to be the largest of these groups, spread out roughly southwards and westwards and occupied what is now Yorubaland, from the Yoruba in Kogi, west of the Niger, that is, Lokoja — southwards, all the way to the coast, what is now the islands of Lagos and westwards into what is now Benin Republic, Togo Republic and even a little bit of Ghana. That’s the Yoruba homeland. Every group had its own homeland. The Edo had its own homeland, a little smaller than that of the Yoruba, to the east of the Yoruba. And there were no kingdoms; these were just people that were coming as agricultural communities, evolving and getting better. About 900 AD, the Yoruba started to evolve kingdoms; they ruled themselves by kingdoms and the first kingdom to be created was Ife. From Ife, people went out and created other kingdoms in the Yoruba forest. The kings were not the creators of the people. The people were (already) there. So, it is not that the king is the owner of the people; the people were there. A prince would come from Ife, establish a kingdom among the people and become the king of the people.
When you say, for instance, ‘the Owa of Ilesa,’ the Owa of Ilesa did not create Ijesa people. The Ijesa people were there. The Owa of Ilesa came from Ife. Or you say ‘the Ewi of Ado Ekiti.’ The Ewi is not the creator of the people of Ado. The people were there. A prince came from Ife and became the ruler over the people. That’s how the kingdoms were created in Yorubaland. The same thing (in) Benin; the Edo people were there in their own share of the forest and then, according to Edo and Yoruba traditions, a prince came from Ife and helped the Edo to establish the type of kingdom that the Yoruba were establishing at about the same time.
What do you make of the argument that when the Awori came to Lagos, the Benin royalty had established some form of influence?
There was no influence at all. When the Yoruba people came, there were no people in the forest. They took it over. When the Edo came to their own part of the country, there were no people there. They took over that country. When the Igbo came to their part of the forest, they took over the forest. There was nobody living there before them at all. So, there was no Edo living anywhere beyond the Edo forest. It was later, when they founded a kingdom and the kingdom became strong — especially because, then, about 1450, the white man began to come along the coast of West Africa, establishing trade and so on — that the Edo kingdom became rich as a result of the trade because they had a little slice of the coast and a port from which the Europeans used to bring goods and so on. So, the Edo became a major trading people and that’s why they became strong. It was at that time that they began to have contact with other people; it was not before.
Are you saying the Awori kingdom preceded the Bini kingdom?
Of course! There was a kingdom in Aworiland just as there was a kingdom in other parts of Yorubaland. In fact, there were two kingdoms: there was the kingdom of Ota, which was older than the Lagos kingdom.
SUNDAY PUNCH has spoken to a number of Awori descendants, some of whom say the Awori people did not exist as a kingdom until they accepted the Bini royalty who created a form of government for the Awori. Is this accurate?
No, the Awori (already) had a kingdom. We don’t know exactly how it came that the Edo had a part in the government of the Awori kingdom. Apparently, we historians are different from people who tell stories of their parents, their families and so on. I have stories of my own family too. I come from the royal family in Ado Ekiti and I can tell stories and so on, but a historian looks at those stories, interprets them, relates them to stories from other places, looks for any documentary evidence that can be found — archeological evidence or evidence from historical linguistics — and you can put it together and create a story that is nearer the truth than any traditional stories that my parents might have told me. So, what you hear from a lot of people who are telling stories of Lagos are stories they heard from their parents. As a historian, I don’t say there is anything wrong with those stories, but I say they are incomplete as a means of interpreting the history of Lagos State because you have to bring other information that you know.
The information that we know, for instance, broadly, is what I have repeated; the various peoples of the West African coasts, especially the eastern parts of the West African coasts, starting from the Igbo in the east, to the Ijaw, the Yoruba, the Ebira, the Nupe, the Igala, the Idoma, and so on, all took possession of their part of what is now Nigeria at roughly the same period of history. Sometime before the fourth millennium — that is about 4000 BC—they started to take over those territories and the Yoruba went all the way to the coast. They came to the coast not only in Lagos; they came to the coast in what is now the Ilaje country, the southern part of Ondo. They came to the coast in a part of Ikale and in Itsekiri. The Itsekiri are Yoruba. So, the Yoruba were in all those places. Later, about the 9th Century AD, the Yoruba began to evolve kingdoms. That was a new development in their political history. So, kingdoms arose all over Yorubaland — and towns. The kingdom of Lagos was one of those Yoruba kingdoms that evolved from about the 9th Century AD to about 1600 AD. So, there was a Yoruba kingdom, that is, an Awori kingdom, in Lagos. There was an Awori kingdom in Isheri. There was an Awori kingdom in Ota which is believed to be the oldest.
Lagos was an Awori kingdom, but many centuries later, the trade with Europeans on the coast made the Edo kingdom of Benin strong. They became interested in the trade along the coast, so as to be able to take more part along the coast. It was at that time that they first came to Lagos. And they were not the first people to come to Lagos to take advantage of the trade. The Ijebu, the Ilaje, the Ijaw and others came. So, there was nothing different about them (Edo).
First of all, there was an Awori people who occupied the coast — I want you to be clear — from about the fourth millenium BC until about the 9th Century AD. Among the Awori people on the coast on the island of Lagos, there evolved a kingdom, one of the Yoruba kingdoms evolving all over Yorubaland. About the same time, the Benin kingdom also evolved in its own part of the forest. It was not until many centuries later that the Benin kingdom had contact with the Lagos kingdom. To make it a little clearer, if the Lagos kingdom evolved, say, in the 12th Century AD, which was about the same period the Benin kingdom was evolving in its own place, how do you then say that it was the Bini who then came to create Lagos kingdom. They didn’t create Lagos kingdom. The Awori people created their own kingdom. That’s the truth of the matter and we know the names that they had in their traditions as the founder of their kingdom and so on. But in about 1600, now with Benin a strong and rich state from the trade, they came into contact with Lagos and we don’t know exactly what happened. There are all sorts of stories. Some people say, ‘The king of Benin came and conquered the Lagos kingdom!’ There is no truth in that. There was a large Benin trading community in Lagos, just as there were large Ijebu and Ijaw trading communities in Lagos, because Lagos was becoming attractive as a place of trade. So, according to the stories that we historians hold to be nearer the truth, there developed a succession dispute between two Awori princes for the throne, and somehow — it’s not clear — the Edo community assisted one of the princes and it was in the year 1600 AD.
How can you say categorically that 1600 AD was the year this happened?
We have something that a German, who was a trader in Lagos in 1603, wrote about war in Lagos. He didn’t say that anybody came to invade Lagos. He said there was war in Lagos, and so, we historians say that is the succession dispute that became a war and the Edo community helped one prince against the other. And the Edo community became, in some way, part of the governance of the Lagos kingdom.
Do you think that willingness to help one of the princes was because of the economic gains by the Edo?
No, apparently it was some general sort of thing with people helping whatever side they wanted to.
So, it wasn’t about political or economic dominance?
No, not so much. So, about that time, the Edo became involved in the royal family of Lagos and a lot of Edo traditions and cultural accretions then came. For us to be able to study the history of our people, we historians have to be able to read the archives of other people. So, I had to study Portuguese, a little bit of Spanish and Italian because we need to be able to read (their languages). These people came to our land so we can go after the little bits of information they had on our land in their archives, in their countries. For instance, a Portuguese trader in Lagos in 1533 mentioned Ijebu Ode. So, I had to go and read it there. He said, ‘From this point, about 10 leagues to the interior, there is a large town called Geebou’ — that is Ijebu — ‘and it is surrounded by a great wall.’ Ijebu Ode has one of the largest city walls on earth. It already had those walls by the time this man, Pacheco Pereira, came to Lagos in 1533. So, the duty of the historian is to try and tell the people our history and what we know about Lagos history is that it became a great trading centre; people from all sorts of places, even people from outside what is now Nigeria — Ajah people from places like Epe, Ouidah, Allada and others came to Lagos to trade too. It was as a result of that that the kingdom of Badagry emerged in about 1730.
Having said that, there are certain things that I must say: first, all this talk about Edo and Yoruba as if they were different and hostile is not true. The Edo and the Yoruba were very culturally close. In fact, until the 20th Century, the information at our disposal as historians is that the Edo and the Yoruba didn’t really see each other as different people; they were just one people: Edo people all (were) over Yorubaland and Yoruba traders everywhere in Edo. According to one of our historians who has studied the matter, even the palace of Benin was bilingual for most of its history.
What languages were they speaking?
They spoke the Edo and Yoruba languages. And according to the Edo and Yoruba traditions, the royal family of Benin is part Yoruba, part Edo. A Yoruba prince went from Ife and helped to create a kingdom. We Yoruba don’t say, ‘He went and conquered Edo.’ The idea of conquest is attractive to young people. But the historian knows that things don’t always happen by conquest. No doubt, he (the Yoruba prince turned Edo king) was a great warrior because later, he went and created another kingdom in Yorubaland; he was the same prince who went and created the kingdom of Oyo Ile in the north of Yorubaland, which became the centre of a great Yoruba empire: this (the prince) was Oranmiyan. And when he had settled down, he said he was going home and he had a son who was old enough to be king — some young man, maybe a teenager — he asked them, ‘Make this one your king because I’m going to my own people.’ That is the tradition we have from both Yoruba people and Edo people. The oldest writing on it was by Egharevba, an Edo historian, in the 1920s. He wrote that the man came, helped to establish a kingdom for the Edo people because they were fighting one another when he came. He made some people friends, subdued those who were troublesome, created a kingdom and later left, leaving his son who was of a Benin woman to be their king.
So, it’s all mixed up and this story of Lagos — the Yoruba and the Edo do not see each other as different at all. They think they are just one people and there is a lot of intermixture between the Yoruba and the Edo. The Yoruba monarchical system is actually what they adapted. Yoruba and Edo culture and arts are all mixed together. The similarities are very profound. I think what we should be talking about really are the similarities and closeness, rather than trying to create a picture of divergence, difference and conflict. Between the Edo and the Yoruba, there was no such thing.
There were large numbers of Edo people in many Yoruba towns. I can sit here and tell you the Yoruba towns where there were large Edo trading communities. In Akure, Ado Ekiti, Owo, many of the towns in Akoko, there were large Edo trading communities. And then, in Benin, there were large Yoruba trading communities there. The two peoples intermixed, so if an Edo became king in a place, it didn’t look odd to the people. The king of Ikere Ekiti can claim to come from Benin but he doesn’t talk about it. He’s the king of Ikere and he doesn’t make the type of noise that we hear in Lagos. Or do we hear the Oba of Benin saying, ‘I was originally from Ife.’ He’s too busy exuding the pride that ‘I’m the king of Benin’ and I think that’s what the king of Lagos should learn to do — behave like the other kings from the Yoruba or Edo worlds who happen to be ruling among people who might not be originally ethnically their people but who are ruling among them and are therefore one of them.
If you’re ruling over the kingdom of Lagos, you’re a Lagos man and that’s the most important thing. The fact that you came from Benin is not important really. If you’re the king of Ikere, you’re the leader of the Ikere people and you don’t start to behave as if there is a dichotomy between you and the people you rule. Listen, the kings of Britain are from Germany. They don’t talk about their being German. That is the way the world is. I think that it’s a pity that in Lagos, people are talking about these things. It is of no importance. What is important to the world is that you are the king of this great city of Lagos.
What are your thoughts on the argument that Lagos is no man’s land?
It started during the colonial era because the British said Lagos was the capital of Nigeria and therefore when they were trying to create regions, they would not let it go to be part of any one region. So, it is everybody’s homeland; it would be everybody’s home. So, that was how the idea of ‘Lagos is no man’s land’ came to be. And some immature young people turned it around later, and so on. It’s nonsense, of course. Lagos belongs to the Awori section of the Yoruba nation. The Awori people created their own kingdom in Lagos. At some point in the history of that kingdom, Edo influence came into the royal family. That’s what we know and Lagos is not peculiar in that. There are many other places where Edo influence exists in the royal family and in the Edo royal family, also Benin — because they have only one major city; it’s the Yoruba who have towns everywhere. The Yoruba are the most urbanised people in the whole of black Africa. They have big towns everywhere. When the first visitors to the interior of Yorubaland did so in 1825, they were surprised to find that Yorubaland had more towns than European countries. Yoruba are the most urbanised people in the world. The circumstances that have created that, we don’t know. But we know that the Yoruba are among the most urbanised people on earth and they have been so for a long time. There is no town in Yorubaland that was created by the British. Just as there are towns all over Nigeria that were created by the British, there are no such towns in Yorubaland. All Yoruba towns are old towns. Some of them are a thousand years old. By the time the Europeans came to the coast of Yorubaland in the 1530s, Ijebu Ode was already more than 500 years old.
In the history of these kingdoms, there are all sorts of influence. People come from different places and become chiefs and so on. Some in a few places, they become rulers and so on. But the important thing is that whoever is ruler of a town is ruler of that town, pre-eminently. That is your most important credential. The fact that your ancestors might have come from somewhere is not important. The British queen knows that she is German but she doesn’t make a noise about it. She is the queen of England and that is the important thing. The Lagos king is the king of Lagos and that is the important thing. The earlier people learn to live with that, the better. One final thing I want to say is, there is a danger from this way of thinking and talking that Lagos could become polarised and some sort of political trouble could arise thereby in the future. I think the people who are promoting this must be very careful. It is in the interest of our future.
Source: The Punch
To ensure even and fair distribution of LAKE Rice Lagos State Government has sought the participation of major rice distributors and signed agreement with the distributors in the transportation, distribution and marketing of LAKE rice.
Special Adviser to the Lagos State Governor on Food Security Mr. Ganiyu Okanlawon who signed on behalf of the Lagos State Government said the agreement would ensure that residents get LAKE rice not just from designated centres but also from the open market at the official government price.
Okanlawon explained that the agreement which is valid for one year in the first instance and may be extended by mutual agreement in writing for additional period involves major distributors in various rice markets in the State which have the capacity to receive and distribute large tonnes of LAKE Rice during after the yuletide season.
“The distributors shall transport and market LAKE Rice, engage in equitable distribution of the product by avoiding hoarding and other sharp practices and ensure all year round continuous and equitable distribution of LAKE rice”, he said.
Noting that the need to ensure availability of the product to citizens is key in the State’s drive to attain food sufficiency, the Special Adviser stated that food production and self-sufficiency have been given priority attention at State’s policy and strategic level
Okanlawon, who implored the distributors not to default in the agreement assured the distributors of Lagos State Government commitment to keep its end of the bargain.
Speaking earlier, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Mr. Olayiwole Onansanya explained the agreement sets out the terms upon which the parties will co-operate with each other for execution of the scheme.
He added that the state government will verify claims of address and warehouse or shops of the distributors, approve all business plans before implementation and conduct regular monitoring visits with respect to capacity and effectiveness of the distributor.
Responding on behalf of the distributors, the Iyaloja of Dalako Rice Market, Mrs. Ibilola Sholaja thanked the State government for the opportunity given to distributors to be part of history in the sales of LAKE rice.
She assured the State government that distributors will abide by the terms of the agreement.