How history, culture, economy continue to favour lagos
The colourful handbill produced to create awareness few weeks before the October 22, 2016 outing had advertised “Modern and Traditional Elites in the Politics of Lagos (1851- 1950)” as the theme of engagement by historian and diplomat, Dr. Patrick Dele-Cole whose competence to handle the topic was never in doubt. After all, the theme was more or less, an adopted version of the title of a recent book authored by Dele Cole.
But on getting to Cinema Hall 2, National Theatre, Iganmu, Lagos that Saturday afternoon, a new theme: Lagos 1861: Matters Arising (Reflection on recent Parliamentary debate on prospect of granting LAGOS a ‘Special Status’) appeared on the programme of event. And the rationale behind the modification could be excused. On October 4, 2016 precisely, the upper chamber of the National Assembly had voted against a bill seeking special status and federal grant for Lagos State. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Oluremi Tinubu- All Progressives Congress (APC), representing Lagos Central, was rejected after failing a voice vote called by Sen. Ike Ekweremadu, the Deputy Senate President. It seeks one per cent of the federally-generated revenue as a special grant for Lagos State in view of its status as the former Nigeria capital and the socioeconomic significance.
So, the ‘rowdy’ session in the Senate on October 4 became an appropriate motif on October 22 for Dele Cole to begin his conversation asserting that Lagos State deserved special status as a state that held the country together for 50 years.
The former envoy urged all and sundry to prevail on the National Assembly to grant the state the special status. “We have to wake up to our own responsibilities,” he said, adding that the state had provided homes for all tribes in the country immediately after the amalgamation of Northern and Southern Nigeria Protectorates and Colony of Lagos.
He said that before the invasion of Lagos, the Oba of Lagos was the chief collector of taxes at the nation’s seaports and other tolls. Dele-Cole said that the Oba of Lagos was then praised as the Olowo-Eko (an epithet being used for the Lagos monarch till date) because he was in-charge of the seaports and other taxes. He said that all the seaports and airports were being controlled by the Federal Government now, leaving nothing for Lagos indigenes to enjoy.
“For the past 50 years, no sons and daughters of Lagos had served as the director-general of the airport or seaports in their land. “If Lagos had a saying in how airport and seaports in the state were being managed, they will not be in the mess they are now,” the former envoy said. On culture, Dele-Cole said that Nigerians should know the culture of where they come from. “It is disheartening that most of our young ones in Yorubaland had forgotten the culture of prostrating to their elders. “It is also sad that most of us are not speaking in our languages to our children. “You cannot be practicing alien culture and expect your children to know your language. “It is sad for a nation to forgo its own language for the alien language to flourish,” he warned.
Indeed, it was a historical excursion into Lagos from 1861 with Dele Cole as narrator. The rapt attention which enveloped the hall throughout the duration of his narration was an indication of masterly delivery. In attendance were dignitaries such as Prof. J. P. Clark, Francesca Emanuel, Erelu Abiola, Olawale Cole, Wale Adeniran, Akin Adejuwon, Engineer S.O. Uwaifo, Teju Kareem, among others as well as large number of secondary school students from the state.
According to Dele Cole, 1861 was the year when the peace of the state was first shattered and disorganized by the British invaders and overloads. He said: “the history of Lagos is the history of Nigeria. The history of Lagos cannot be divorced from the history of Nigeria. It was in 1861 when suddenly sounds of gun and the booming of explosives were heard everywhere in the city. Indeed, the Oba woke up completely disoriented. He thought it was the god of thunder angry with the people and he felt it was time to appease it.”
But it was an invasion that signaled the coming of the Europeans to Lagos. He continued: “At that point the bombing intensified as fire settled on top of houses. Many homes were burnt down as communities and settlements got more confused. The Oba then sent out his soldiers to find out what was happening. When the soldiers got to the seashore, they saw the British with the huge canons and guns stationed to bombard the whole town. It was terrible and unbearable.
“Thereafter, the white men began to move to the palace of the Oba to set their eyes on him. There, they said it was one Queen Victoria who told them to take over the city. They accused the Oba of still maintaining and engaging in Slave Trade, which the Queen and others in Europe had already banned. He was however told to remain in office but at the beck and call of the Queen. This baffled everyone. But the city was thus taken over by the invaders who instructed the Oba and his people to henceforth engage in trade in oil from the interior to the hinterland with the British in close supervision.”
Cole, a former ambassador to Brazil and presidential aspirant, said further, “Lagos now became a colony. This was strange to the people. The British also warned them not to trade on the sea anymore. They were dumbfounded. The order came from the Queen. Then the consul brought a book and asked the Oba to sign. He signed, thus ceding Lagos to the white-man. Then the white-man said this was the treaty of concession and now the land belonged to the Queen of England. It is now a crown colony of Lagos to be run and administered by Her Imperial Majesty.”
From that moment to date, the state has continued to play significant roles in the evolution of the country and subsequent growth and development till date. “In 1914, when the amalgamation took place, Lagos assumed a new role in the formation of Nigeria. It later became a protectorate and the capital of Nigeria. In 1967, it became the headquarters of Lagos State and that is why we are here today”, Cole reminisced, saying, “this celebration is important to all of us not only as Nigerians, but as Lagosians, for Lagos has now become one of the fastest emerging cities and economies in the world.”
But for Lagos to become what it is today, people from different corners of the world made it possible. Cole said, “So, in 1877, Brazil released their slaves. Some came back to Lagos. Here they had their Brazilian quarters. Then the Oba of Lagos had an affair with a Benin woman to beget Oba Ado. Today, we cannot forget our connection with Benin people. Then, the Aworis who came through the action of the Olofin of Ife. So, the history has continued to unfold and spread.”
During the Q & A session, there were interventions supporting the call for granting a special status for the state, while questions were asked on how to preserve intrinsic cultural heritage of the state which is perceived to be endangered by the so-called threat of modernity.
And one significant message emerged from the event was gradual return of critical stakeholders patronizing facilities of the National Theatre. The Artistic Director, National Troupe of Nigeria, Dr. Akin Adejuwon acknowledged this in his opening remarks thanking the organizers for keeping faith with the National Theatre as the venue of the lecture. He said: “We all are here today because this is your home, it is a venue built to have shows like this one we are having today.
It was the property of Lagos State before it became the property of the federal government. It is situated in this centre of excellence for our use. This is why it is the National Theatre, meant for all of us. Its occupants are Lagosians, and so let us make maximum use of it to promote theatre, to keep it afloat for us all.”The performance of the some artistes of the National Troupe and Team Nigeria spiced up the outing greatly.