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Lagos, our Lagos

By Alade Rotimi-John
05 April 2023   |   3:54 am
There is on-going, an uneasy fearful sensation regarding a noticeable change in the demographics and in the property ownership profile of Lagos.

[FILES] Vehicles drive in chaotic traffic gridlock past yellow painted mini buses, popularly called Danfo, parked at Ojodu-Berger bus station in Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital, on October 19, 2022. (Photo by PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP)

There is on-going, an uneasy fearful sensation regarding a noticeable change in the demographics and in the property ownership profile of Lagos. Many reasoned and unscientific or irrational excuses are being conversely bandied as reasons for the happening of what ordinarily should be explained as an unstoppable sociological dynamics of a rapidly-growing sub-national entity. Many commentaries about the place of the indigenous population of Lagos are mischievously choreographed in sneers and jeers as if to suggest that claimants to Lagos indigenship are interlopers or, at best, pretenders to the crown of Pontifex.

The contest for the governorship seat of Lagos this season has unfortunately rejuvenated the contrived animosity in the subject matter of the status of Lagos and of the natural or ordained claim to its ownership. Truly, there are people whose heritage is Lagos; whose entitlement is geo-social and steeped in the demographic history of Lagos.

Akinsemoyin’s Who are Lagosians? is a guide in this respect as it clearly identifies those who truly deserve to be called indigenous Lagosians. Takiu Folami’s A Story of Lagos, Nigeria is a further handy chaperon to the contrived difficulty in resolving an obvious or otherwise unambiguous matter.

An evil ethno-tribal malefaction is today being foisted on the people for selfish political interests. Standards of engagement, age-long cherished values and eternal principles are being mischievously lowered just to score some cheap debating point. Primordial sentiments are being hawked just to befuddle the clear issue of the necessity for change or of a probable possibility of the victory of certain candidates who have dexterously combined gravitas with indigenship. The emergence as governorship candidates of Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour, LP, Funsho Doherty, ADC and Kunle Uthman, SDP who among themselves constitute an illustrious bunch of Lagos indigenes was deemed a clear message that Lagos has arisen to ward off the toga of the presumed Lagos indigenes’ indifference to the captainship of the affairs and events of their State.

The hackneyed friendly banter, Gbogbo wa l’a l’Eko, has been mischievously turned into a hurtful irritation to mean that Lagos is being appropriated by some ghoulish interest manifesting in internecine struggle. The truth of the matter is that the group that has held on to power in Lagos this quarter of a century or so have become threatened by their own shadows even as times have changed many things. The ordinary people have come to recognise over time that the chief duty which their grief has occasioned respecting bad governance, impunity and corruption is silence. They have borne in silence their hardship, their long suffering, and their angst as they wait patiently for the day they will throw off the yoke of their oppressors.

They have recalled the days of golden happiness under an administration that preceded today’s reign of gangsterism. Every now and then, the people are seized by inexplicable recurrence of malevolent events resulting from poor governance. Great hopes emanating from this year’s cycle of general elections have been dashed even as some clairvoyant persons had forewarned regarding a rage of thuggery, violence, disenfranchisement, abuse of technology etc.

Lagos which has had a meritorious history of popular elections into its executive or representative governance regime since 1922 has over the last 25years had its image dented or its history maligned. Elections have become un-representative of the will of the people but have instead proven to be a bundle of nightmarish experiences each time as results that are in oppositional relationship to the factual situation are announced un-ashamedly.

Parties or persons that are outside the contemplation of the popular will are routinely announced as the winners of polls. These impostors have pretended to bear the popular mandate of the people and have gone on to foist on the polity an un-ending cycle of rogue administration from season to season. The people on their part appear to have resolved to throw off the yoke of their oppressors. The 2023 general elections were an opportunity to showcase the stuff of which they are made.

The people have laid in wait to defeat the shenanigans of the vilely-disposed impostors. They have identified as a most fatal impediment to their growth and development, the difficulty which surrounds the proper identification of a true political party. Many of the early political parties contributed to this pitiful situation by bearing labels which emphasis deny their true intent. As a fundamental premise, names must depict or define a political party’s aggregate ethic or policy imperatives. Names including “progressives”, “national”, “peoples”, etc. have tended to deny the true meanings of these significations as they are not progressive (in the case of those who wear it as name on their lapels) or national in their operational methodology. Though bearing “progressive” or “peoples” or “national” labels, they have engaged in anything but progressive, integrative or national. Party political programmes and language have been largely imprecise, un-innovative in their design and enunciation and generally anti-people in spite of high fallutin advisory to the contrary.

Alhaji Femi Okunnu’s Let Lagos State Be historical excursion ostensibly positioned to clear the air on the status of Lagos and of the centrality of her chequered demography respecting the general history of Nigeria’s peoples and tendencies has however floundered on the facts. Okunnu glibly denies that Lagos is Yoruba territory.

Aside from her geographical contiguity to the larger Yoruba country, Lagos by its adoption of the Yoruba language in spite of its historical diversity has confirmed the Yoruba as being the foremost indigenous ethnic group in Lagos. It is a-historical as elicited worldwide especially by the example of the history of the royalty in England and of the indigenous Anglo-Saxons to suggest that the English people are of German descent.

It is untrue that the Binis were a preponderant whole in Lagos; they could not have been. The Bini incursion into Lagos and the tinge or sample of its blood in the veins of the Lagos royalty did not affect the mores, customs and language of the teeming indigenous population that spoke Yoruba language in their inter-personal relationships and as the language of trade, commerce, etc. Even the royal court of Lagos may have lost its Bini accent as the Yoruba language has since become the language of the court. Linguistically, this is made possible as the effervescence of a more-widely spoken language necessarily obviates the necessity for its lesser-spoken counterpart to compete with it.

A local example is that of the Fulani in Northern Nigeria who by their jihad of the nineteenth century foisted Fulani aristocratic rule over Hausa land. All over Hausa territory, traditional rulers were replaced with Fulani Uthman Dan Fodio flag bearers as emirs. Even as the generality of the people were Hausa, it was inelegant for fulfude to predominate as popular language. Hausa language being the popular mode of communication was thereby adopted as the lingua franca even as the Fulani rulers spoke their fulfude in the inner recesses of their courts.

It is advisable even as it is to the eternal glory of Lagos that her cosmopolitan mix, her diversity in culture and customs, and her vivacious pluralism be married to the pristine truth of her ownership by her indigenous people or early settlers.

Rotimi-John, a lawyer and commentator on public affairs wrote vide lawgravitas@gmail.com