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Lagos is not a no-man's land

07 October 2013, 08:35 Julius Ngbede Philips

In the past few months some things happened in Lagos that drew a lot of attention in and around the country causing controversies and splitting of hairs. The deportation of some Igbo citizens from Lagos state to Onitsha Anambra state, and also the appointment of a Yoruba market chief at Ladipo Auto Spare Parts in Mushin, a market where Igbos dominate.

These issues got serious and viral all over the media up to the point that even the governor of Anambra state Mr Peter Obi threatened to react adversely. These issues brought about lots of questions and tribal issues like, who realy owns Lagos? But we must know that every man has a history and so does a place. Regardless of these odds the Igbos and the Yorubas since time immemorial have been leaving peacefully as brothers farring and sharing in the same Lagos.

This article really, is not to justify any actions that may have been taken by the Lagos state government in recent times in any way but i think we need to really know who owns Lagos. Here is a little history of Lagos: The first settler in Lagos is said to be a fisherman called Aromire. He was one of the sons of a Yoruba ruler who have moved his people to the protection of the island of Iddo. There they lived by trading and fishing, the lagoon providing an excellent environment for both activities.

According to legend, Aromire swarm accross from Iddo to Lagos, settled there and began growing peppers on what is today the site of the Oba's palace. The legend is an explanation of a gradual process which took place around the late 1600's. Fishermen from Iddo began visiting Lagos as they extended their fishing grounds and as the need for more farmland grew, their temporary dwellings were replaced by more substantial thatched huts and the patches of dry land that existed on the swampy island were turned over to farming.

To a European eye, the prospect was uninviting: an earlier visitor, the Portuguese explorer Sequiera, discribed it in 1472 as "an island partly submerged in water and surrounded by a fringe of mangroove". But it apparently suited Aromire who occupied it and divided the land up with his nine brothers. He and his brothers are regarded as the ancestors of the Idejo, the white cap chiefs, who traditionally own all the land in Lagos. Quite separate from the Idejo chiefs, and established some time after them was the office of Oba (king).

The office was introduced at the behest of the distant but mighty Oba of Benin who at that time had lots of influence due to his power and installed his man as Oba. Though they were there at that time but they had little influence compared to the Idejo chiefs and over the years the links with Benin weakened and the Lagos Oba's who were Yorubas with theirr increasing independence got a stronger position in the community.

The Obas were not permitted to own land, but were able to derive income (which at times was considerable) from dues and levies from traders. They also got payments and commissions from the Idejo chiefs when land transactions took place. Their obligation was the defence of the island: according to legend the Idejo chiefs were apt to go off into the bush when danger threatened leaving the protection of their land to the Oba and his warriors.

Lagos Island was originally named Eko, a name which still survives among the local people and has also been appropriated by a morden hotel Eko Le Meridien. The Portuguese called it Lago de Curamo, but later introduced the name Lagos which has survived to this day.

The earlier name was passed on to the strip of water between Victoria Island and Maroko, which is now known as Kuramo waters. At least now we know who owns Lagos, and as landlord it is believed that there are measures you need to take to protect and put your property in order.

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