Welcome to Lagos: our Only Lagos and our Pride

Lagos remained the capital of Federal Republic of Nigeria until 1992 when the capital was relocated to Abuja by the Nigerian Military Government because they considered Abuja centralized. Whether centralization of a Nation’s capital is a paramount necessity to the roles such a state would play as the capital or not is a matter to be left to the Northern Oligarchy of the mid 1970s who on their own decided to carry out this relocation. All I know is that there are still many individuals in Nigeria who are still very much in love with Lagos. And the very reason this article purports at exhibiting.

They tried to originate Abuja out of nothing and give it the same status which Lagos had enjoyed for centuries as the capital of Nigeria but what they could not achieve was a creation of a single seaport in the artificial city. Thus while Lagos remains commercially, geographically and vibrantly fit as the capital of Nigeria , Abuja is unattractive though more physically and well planned. We see Lagos as a natural wonder and Abuja as an artificial creation.

“Lagos is a Portuguese word meaning Lagoon and is believed to be an offshoot of the word Lagos de Curamo”. It would appear reasonable to assume that Lagos was so named because it took very much in terms of its physical and geographical features after a small coastal lagoon town in Portugal” (Background to Urbanization: Lagos Society Before 1900 By Kunle Lawal)

Controversies over the ownership of Lagos have continued to rage till this day as various ethnicities in Nigeria have at one time or the other laid claims to the ownership of the city. The Edo typical version believes the city originally named “Eko” to be war camp for the Benin forces that used the city extend military attacks against the areas outside Lagos with the present Benin Republic inclusive.

The Lagos or Yoruba version has it that Eko (Lagos) was founded by Ogunfunminire, a prince who migrated in company of others from Ile-Ife. Eko to them thus means Oko (farm) in Yoruba language. This Yoruba version greatly appreciates the influence Benin had on the city but would not readily agree with the Edo version which recognizes them (Edo) as the original settlers. Instead, they would agree that the Benin influence was merely an act of conquest and enthronement of paramount rulers who were of their (Benin) extraction.

Next in line of contention are the Hausas. “Testifying before Justice Victor Famakinwa panel of inquiry on civil disturbances in Lagos the other day, the Serikin Hausas told the panel that Hausa are the owners of Lagos. Pressed further, he argued that the Hausas have been in Lagos since 1735, and that it is patently wrong to treat them as outsiders and to shed Hausa blood in Lagos” (see The Guardian Newspaper, Sunday, January 21, 2001)

The Serikin Hausawa of Agege (Alhaji Jibrila Abdullahi) further argues that “Ago-Hausa” a place around Epe, Ibeju-Lekki and Alausa belongs to the Hausas. Well by this claim, Lagos is a Hausa territory.

The conflict of interpretation on the ownership of Lagos further confronts us with the entry of the Ijaws and Urhobo, the third and fourth ethnicities to lay claim to the ownership of Lagos. In the opinions of these ethnicities, the area presently called “Ajegunle” belongs to them.

Enter the Igbo race, one of the largest ethnic groups in Nigeria. Because the Igbos are firmly and industriously established particularly in areas of Okomaiko, Alaba, International and Ajamgbadi, the Igboman will tell you that Lagos is a no man’s land. After all, a place called Oyingbo in Lagos is an Igbo expression for “Igbo person”. This area belongs the Igbos and clearly shows that the Igbos have been living in Lagos earlier than Historians can remember. This very expression is what the typical Lagosian of Issale-Eko hates to hear. Watch it or you spark off another round of civil disturbances because the city unmistakably belongs to them.

All of these claims whether true or false help to vindicate that contemporary “Lagos is perhaps the only Nigerian city that effectively belongs to everyone else. This is true to the extent that the city of Lagos is about the history of everybody else; there is something about each one of us that is intertwined with the destiny of the city” (Reuben Abati on “Who owns Lagos?)

The truth is also that Lagos combines several qualities attributable to the vehicle plate’s numbers of several states in Nigeria. “Lagos is Home for All” (Anambra), Centre of Excellence” (Lagos itself), “Centre of Unity” (Abuja), “The Big Heart” (Delta), “Pacesetters” (Ondo), “Gateway State” (Ogun), “Centre of Commerce” (Kano) etc. Lagos is everything to us. Little wonder Ministers work in Abuja but live in Lagos. Everyone wants to live in Lagos because of what we have seen, read or heard about Lagos. Different people have different opinions of Lagos.

Lagos is an extremely intriguing and interesting place to live with comfortable provisions of nature, several untapped resources, and tourist attractions in abundance. The cosmopolitan nature of Lagos shows the population of the city to be a diversity of people coming together to shape the socio-economic, cultural and political destiny of the city. Yet, people from all over the country and beyond keep migrating to Lagos. Perhaps, the only state in Nigeria which has produced a non native as its local government chairman from far away Igbo land courtesy of hospitality is Lagos.

In a sense therefore, the governor of Lagos could be said to be the governor of the entire ethnicities of Nigeria. There is indeed hardly any single individual without a relation living somewhere in Lagos. Such is the accommodating prowess of Lagos.
“Military leaders failed Nigeria” (Gen. Yakubu Gowon, speaking at the Inauguration of Ken Nnamani Centre for Leadership and Development. See This Day, Wednesday, May 7, 2008)

However what Gen Gowon failed to tell us is that the costly mistake of relocating Nigeria’s capital to Abuja with hurried erections and spending of so much an amount of money than anyone can comprehend in order to originate the city of Abuja is part of the failure of these failures.

Lagos will forever remain the capital of Nigeria in our minds, Welcome to Lagos.

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