Listening to the Oba of Benin during his recent visit to the Lagos State House reminds me of the Irish poet and playwright Oscar Fingal O’Fflahertie Wills Wilde who says “ Anybody can make history only a great man can write it”
It is a fact of history that Lagos was founded and established by Olofin Ogunfuminire, the legendary progenitor of the Awori people. He left Ile-Ife to settled at Isheri before migrating with his wife Ajaiye to present day Iddo in the heart of Lagos. It was at Iddo that Ajaiye was blessed with the fruits of the womb. Her offsprings are the Idejo who are the actual traditional land owners of Lagos. The spatial region of the land own by the Idejo spans from Lagos Mainland( Iddo) to Lagos island and up to Eti- Osa which he allocated absolutely to his children and other descendants.
In this regard he assigned Iru to the Oniru , Ikate to the Elegushi, Lagos Island to Aromire, Iganmu to Ojora , Otto and mainland to the Oloto( up to Odo – Iya Alaro). Isheri was the dispersal point where other Olofin Ogunfunminire descendants left to found other Awori towns. For instance, Akeredun left Isheri to establish Igbesa, Odoyi left Isheri to found Agboyi, Osolo and Eleidi Atalabi left Isheri to found Ota. These facts are firmly established and supported by extant literature written by foreign authors and researchers such as Kristin Mann who in his book titled “Slavery and Birth of an African city: Lagos 1760- 1900” wrote and I quote: “Migrant fishing people first settled in Lagos and from the beginning water and canoes had a prominent role in the lives of its inhabitants. Prior to the sixteenth century , Aworis, the southern most of the Yoruba – speaking people, dispersed from Isheri, a village twelve miles up the Ogun river. A group of them settled at what is now Ebute metta, on the mainland. Until the need for greater security drove the community to a smaller island in the lagoon opposite Lagos island. There, they established two settlements, Otto and Iddo, and soon attracted fresh immigrants. In time , people from Iddo moved to the north western corner of the larger island opposite, which eventually became known as Lagos , looking for land to farm . The settlers recognized the paramount ruler called the Olofin, based at the more populous community of Iddo but tracing mythical descent from Isheri and via the founder of that village to Ile-Ife, the cradle of Yoruba civilization.”
The Benin who later came to Lagos as mere traders met Olofin and his descendants on the island of Iddo and its neighbourhood where they, the Benin settled down and were well received and hosted by the community.. As time went by, a fued broke out between the Benin and their hosts. Facing imminent defeat, they called for reinforcements and assistance from the Oba of Benin. Olofin Ogunfunminire and his mentees vehemently and successfully repelled these attacks. As a compromise, and as part of the tolerant disposition which is the character of the typical Awori, the Benin were eventually relocated to live with Aromire on his pepper farm on Lagos island at Iga Idungaran (Idungaran in Awori means pepper farm)) where they after a while and probably due to the indifference of the original land owner introduced a more structured organization. The Oba of Benin’s reference to the speech of the present Oba of Lagos, Oba Rilwan Akiolu is rather unfortunate. The Late Oba of Lagos , Oba Adeyinka Oyekan II to whom Oba Akiolu is a successor granted an interview to the Headlines Newpaper on the 11th may 1982. The highly revered monarch said and I quote : “the first settlers were the Aworis . They settled at Isheri on the river Ogun abond 32 kilometers from the Island of Lagos . Their leader when something was heard about the place was said to have built Isheri . He took the title Olofin presumably after Oduduwa . A part of the settlement at Isheri soon scattered and followed the downward course of the river till arrived at that part of the mainland which is over the island of Lagos where they built named Ebute metta . Because of the threatening danger the inhabitants of Ebute metta soon broke up their town and moved to Iddo” The first settlers in present Lagos are Aworis and the dispersal point of Aworis is Isheri and as the Olofin of Isheri and Adimula of Awori Kingdoms, I implore The Oba of Benin to retrace the origin of the Benin kingdom to Ile Ife, like the Aworis have always done.
Oba Sulaimon Bamgbade
Olofin of Isheri and Adimula of Awori Kingdom.