The Role Of Late Oba YEKINI ELEGUSHI
The Father Of Oba SAHEED ELEGUSHI
Ikateland is one of the big communities in the Lekki area of Lagos State. A few years back,. Ikateland was a sleepy community, but it took the efforts of the late Oba Yekini Adeniyi Elegushi (Kusenla(II) the 20th Elegushi of Ikateland, Lagos to give the community a touch of modernity.
His son, Oba Saheed Elegushi has continued from where his father stopped. The result of all these efforts is the growth of Ikate kingdom.
City People gathered that the territory, which became known as Ikateland, came into existence through sheer necessity for survival and a strong desire for freedom from stressful lifestyle of urban community of Lagos Island.
Its existence dates back to 17th century with scattered settlements on a wooded plain-land on the Atlantic sea-board that provided sheltered for people who shared blood affinity, and refugees seeking independent life and the fresh air of the surrounding to pography.
Until most recently, the land which formed Eti-Osa district was sandwiched between the middle part of the extensive waterways known as Lagos lagoon and the shores of the Atlantic Oceans. Ikate kingdom formed a rectangular-shaped land of about ten square kilometers on the sand-spit land formation interspersed with mangrove swamps, which pervaded the area. This factor made land transport very difficult in the area until a few years ago, when a long stretch of road was constructed by the State Government to ensure vehicular traffic from across the Five-Cowrie Creek bridge to Epe.
Earlier, footpaths and bicycle tracks were the only means of transportation until 1983 when the Maroko-Eti-Osa-Epe Expressway was constructed.
The physical difficulties and inaccessibility to the area apparently drove many of the indigenes to settle on Lagos Island, leaving behind a scanty population to engage in rural and agricultural pursuits to serve the larger economy of Lagos Island. The area thus became one of the food baskets, or food producing area for Lagos.
The people of Ikate area of Lagos (Awori) whose occupation was fishing, (palm) oil production, and also a little farming; producing cassava, palm oil, palm kernels and garri, which were sold at daily markets in Lagos, in exchange for Tobacco, Pipe, Twine, Thread, Gin, Rum and Provision.
Although Ikate was the capital of the pristine kingdom, the territory extended from Ojota, a satellite community village which sat in a perpendicular position with the Kuramo waters (known in local parlance as Omi Alakoto), and ran in a straight line along Igbosere Creek to the village of Ilado and said to have shared boundary with the old Moba on the North-east, while on the West, it shares boundary with Ajiran near Osapa village. This rectangular piece of land was the territory over which the traditional writ of Oba Elegushi ran. But in a bitterly-fought lawsuit in 1941, Ikate kingdom lost the ownership of lIado and Ogoyoland.”
Before the advent of British Colonial rule, Ikateland was autonomous, maintaining a seigneurial relationship as the overlord of his territory. This relationship was threatened with the establishment of British rule on Lagos Island and the so-called Treaty of Cession of 1861, which passed king Dosumu’s sovereignty to the foreign power.
In the past, before the creation of Lagos State, the entire Eti-Osa was an economic appendage to Lagos metropolitan economic system, exchanging primary agricultural produce with the imported goods from Lagos Island.
The scale appears to have changed dramatically ‘since the opening up the Eti-Osa by an arterial road constructed, and runs through the entire peninsula to connect Epe. Over the years, the forces of modernisation has relegated the traditional elements to the background, while the younger elements, better educated, have taken overthe leadership.
This leadership role of the young men were formed around Township community, articulating the common aspirations of each community for social economic development. The creation of Lagos State in 1967, catalysed the efforts and energy of the young men to bring the separate township associations to form one common body, which became known as Association Of Eti-Osa (ASEDEC) in 1968.
In 1971, the Lagos State Government set up Joel Ogunnaike Tribunal of Enquiry into Lagos State Local
Government System. At the enquiry, Prince Yekini Elegushi accompanied the late Chief Dauda Fasansa Elegushi, his predecessor, to testify before the Tribunal of Enquiry, together with the late Chief Liasu Dosumu, the then Baale of Addo, Prince Tijani Akinloye (The then Secretary of Ojomu Chieftaincy Family) now Oba Ojomu of Ajiran and Mr. Adio Mayegun. The result of the Enquiry was the excision of Eti-Osa Local Council from Ikorodu Division and its merger with the defunct Lagos Island Local Government.
It was the first stage in the transformation and creation of Eti-Osa as one unit of administration. The success further gingered the efforts to rectify the political, economic, and social isolation of Eti-Osa from the mainstream of Lagos metropolitan development. The traffic between Lagos and Eti-Osa dramatically increased, leading to more frequent visits by expatriates and indigenes to their respective home-towns, more than hitherto.
Gradually, the physical scene of Eti-Osa, began to change as affluent indigenes of Eti-Osa began to put up substantial buildings on the peninsula. At a more social level, peninsula-wide social clubs began to be formed by the indigenes such as Eti-Osa Club and Irepodun Club of Eti-Osa, to consolidate and unify the elite of the area. Some of these are still existing today, playing a unifying role among the youthful elite.
The major factor was the decision of Alhaji Lateef Jakande, the first civilian governor of Lagos State to open up the entire peninsula for economic and social development, by providing road access road through out the entire length of Eti-Osa to terminate at the boundary of Ibeju/Lekki Local Government, district of Lagos State, a stretch of arterial road of 27 kilometres from Maroko. This stretch of road is now popularly known today as Lekki corridor. Today, it is the fastest growingeconomic enclave of Lagos State.
No one will deny the crucial role played by Prince, (later, Oba) Yekini Elegushi in the process of the transformation. He, along with some of his siblings, suffered physical hardship and paid enormous price for the role he played in the process. He suffered incarceration.
This is only another way’ of illustrating the titanic efforts, concertedly displayed by the young men with the support of older generation of Eti-Osa indigenes. In this common effort at the development process, this story will be told in another part of this book.
In the thirties and forties of the last century, there was a Vast rural-urban migration, leading to people in the rural areas, migrating to urban areas such as Lagos Island, and neighbouring settlements. It led to de-population of rural areas and increase in the population of urban areas.
According to documented information, the territory under the control of Elegushi extended to Ojota near Shangojimi in Omi Akoto (KURAMO water) northwards, including Idi-Oro, right up to Odo Aden, crossing Ilado Creek and sharing common boundaries with Moba, and then Eastwards to join the territory Ojomu near Osapa.
“Elegushiland includes: the towns of Mosafejo, Lafiaji Kekere, Okun Ilasan, Ogoyo, Igbokusu, Igbara, Mayegun, and Ologolo.”
A dispute arose in 1940-1941 between Chief Oniru and the Elegushi family over boundary between the two chieftaincy families at Ilado. This was the culmination of series of encroachment on the land claimed by the respective Chieftaincy families. In December 1941, Momodu Sanni Elegushi, acting on behalf of Elegushi family took action in the Supreme Court against Chief Oniru, “seeking a declaration of the right of ownership of “our land from Akoto (Kuramo Waters) to Oju Ibo up to Ilado, …. as to who is to exercise the right of ownership on the land.”
“Unfortunately,” Momoh Sanni, owing to insufficiency of certain clarification in evidence adduced, as asserted by the presiding Judge, Legusi Family lost the case to the Chief Oniru.”
In his petition to the Commissioner of the colony, dated December 11, 1942, Momoh Sanni stated: “Not satisfied with this judgment, Legusi Family resolved to pursue the case to the full seat of justice in the Privy Council.
That was the opening salvo of a dispute that was to mark a bitter relationship between the two families, which was to last over fifty years until the gladiatorial leaders of the two Chieftaincy died.
This struggle over the land boundary of Ilado, and Ogoyo claimed more causalities, until the Lagos State Government stepped in to acquire compulsorily, the land disputed which, today, is the extension of Victoria Island, and part of which has been released to Oniru Royal Family, and the Lekki Phase One Housing Project of the Lagos State Government.
Judgment on the land at Ilado and Ogoyo was handed down by the Supreme Court in 1941. The two families continued to wage cold war over the land, which the Elegushi family believed was theirs, obtained through faulty judgment in the Court, for insufficiency of evidence.
The situation persisted, (in spite of the Court judgments on the land between 1964 and 1968) until the election of the first civilian governor in 1979, when Alhaji Lateef Jakande decided to open up Eti-Osa by constructing a road from Maroko through to Abijoh town, the boundary with Ibeju-Lekki Local Government. During the operation, the man who led the government demolition gang lost his life, while some residents resisted the demolition of their houses. Because the late Prince Yekini Elegushi and some of his siblings and their agents was believed to be behind the resistance to the demolition project, he, with his siblings were arrested and charged to court. Prince Yekini Elegushi was remanded in prison custody for 9 months, but he did not betray his people. When evidence could not be produced for their complicity in the crime’, he, and his siblings were released to freedom; having paid the price of leadership by his unjust incarceration. It is, however, known that opponents of Prince Yekini Elegushi, in a rival political party colluded with the agents of the government to rope him into the crime.
It is, therefore, clear that Ilado was the breaking point in the relationship of the two important Idejo chiefs in the modern Eti-Osa axis. Notwithstanding, the call on various governors to acquire the Ilado disputed territory, the military government of Brigadier Johnson did not respond to the call for wholesale demolition of houses in Ilado; his successors similarly refrained to act until the emergence of Governor Jakande, who courageously decided to act on a limited scale by demolishing some houses along the path of the new Maroko-Epe Expressway in 1981.
The opposition to the demolition of houses in Ilado, brought out the hero in Prince Yekini Elegushi among the local people in Eti-Osa. His fame spread far and wide, and when he contested for a seat in the old Lagos Island Local Government, (the first to be held after Eti-Osa was transferred from Ikorodu Division to Lagos Island Local Government) in ward “K.1”, which comprised Lekki Phase 1, Ikota, Igbokusu, Osapa, Agungi, Ajiran, Idado, Ikota Village, Victoria Garden City and Mayegun, he had no problem defeating his opponent – one Shafari Akinsanya by 1,321 votes to 1,066 votes to the loser.
The rising fame propelled him further on the political plain, when he rose to become the Supervisory Councilor for Health in the Council in 1977. He became a powerful voice in the new political group, the National Party of Nigeria (NPN), which had become the majority party on the Council in that year.
When the Council was dissolved in 1980, he returned to his business of Clearing and Forwarding of goods, as well as, being a formidable force in political and social affairs of Eti-Osa.
In particular, he was accused of being a moving spirit behind the Ilado fiasco, until he was mentioned in the Cyrillo’s murder allegation of 1981 by his political opponents. He, however, survived the ordeal without major damage to his reputation, until the death of Chief Dauda Fasanya Elegushi.
Chief Dauda Fasanya was the 19th Chief Elegushi of Ikate. His father was Jose Aluko Onikoyi from Muti branch of that well-known family, while his mother was Ajayi Eruifa, the great granddaughter of Akin Idunfa, the 10th Chief Elegushi of Ikate. He was an iconic figure.
He was born in Lagos in 1885. A fisherman by occupation, 3 years after the demise of his predecessor, Bakare, he accepted the nomination of his family to step into the Chieftaincy office, on February 11, 1948. Oba Falolu approved his installation, and on August 1952, his coronation ceremony took place at Enu Owa, Lagos. He held the family intact, while pursuing the landed case at “Ado and Ogoyo in court.
Chief Dauda Fasanya Elegushi had the singular distinction as the only representative’ of Eti-Osa in the old Western House of Chiefs between 1951 and 1955, when the old Colony District of Lagos was under the former Western Region of Nigeria. He was also the President of the Customary Court at Ajah during, and after the colonial regime in Nigeria. In addition, he was a member of the old Ikorodu Divisional Council, who later fought patriotically for the separation of Eti-Osa from Ikorodu, which was achieved in 1971. He was, indeed, one of the pioneer architects of the modern Eti-Osa district of Lagos Division. When he died on March, 22, 1991, at the age of 106, the mantle fell on Prince Yekini Adeniyi Gbamgbala Elegushi, who became the 20th Elegushi, and elevated in 1993 to the status of Oba of Ikateland, the first Idejo Chief in modern history of Lagos to attain that status.
When he was installed the 20th Chief Elegushi on January 23, 1991, he inherited from Chief Dauda Fasanya Elegushi, the old Ikateland which was crying for modernization from its rural setting. This was the agenda set in 1968 by the ASEDEC (that is, Association of Society of Eti-Osa Development Council). Any idea needs time for gestation, and in the case of Eti-Osa, it took a full generation (1968 to 1991) before the transformation began to take root.
Today, if we look back over that period, it is clear that it was the generation of Oba Yekinni Elegushi, together with young men of his age, who ushered in the present change. Today, as people say, Eti-Osa, or in popular parlance, Lekki-corridor is New Lagos. All thanks to the young men of vision, the indigenes of Eti-Osa who catalysed the change in Eti-Osa.
Splendid new buildings, water and electricity system, waste disposal and other modern amenities for civilized life are made available, with the assistance of the government.
No place in Eti-Osa, in particular, Ikate and its environs was left untouched by the change. But not only the physical environment was touched, the institutions of the people were equally touched. The population of Eti-Osa, which was 3,273 in 1952, went up to 10,435 in 1963, and by 1991 census 23 years ago, it was recorded as 33,779. The data for 2006 population census is not available to the writer, at the time of writing, but because of the geometrical growth of the Lekki corridor, or Eti-Osa district, it must have risen to more than 100,000 people today. And it continues to expand!
If we attempt to catalogue the contributions of the late Oba Yekini Elegushi in this development effort, it will be seen that he too played a huge role. That he died without attaining the biblical age of three score plus ten must have been owing to the hard work, efforts and energy he exerted to see that Eti-Osa advance and overtake the Lagos Island, the mother community itself. He saw to it that the dependent status hitherto foisted on Eti-Osa district, was removed for all time!
Indeed, one can call Eti-Osa, a metropolis on its own, where the eminent people are eager to live. A visit to Ikate itself is a lesson in comparative study of environment. The private palace of Oba Elegushi was, until the State Government-sponsored renovation or renewal of Iga Idunganran, the best, architecturally speaking, palace in Nigeria – not only in Lagos. He added touch of glamour to modern royalty, before he passed on. The cultural development of Ikate is second to none in Eti-Osa. He modernised the annual Elegba cultural plays; the Ogboni lodge, headed by his younger brother, Ifasegun Elegushi , head of ATREN (Africa Traditional Religious of Nigeria) has been modernised, and made less intimidating; the cult-house of Awo Ijinla or Awo Opa was similarly modernised and now serves its true religious purposes of people with fishing culture. So are other institutions of Ikate.
Oba Yekinni Elegushi was a strong believer in education. Today, several primary and, at least a secondary school exist in Ikate. He sponsored education of many young persons from Ikate and other areas of Eti-Osa and beyond at the higher level both in the country and abroad. He was very passionate about education for the people of Eti-Osa, because he saw it as the instrument of liberation for the people.
Although a Muslim by Faith, he did not discriminate on religious matters. He supported Churches in his neighbourhood if requested.
On his own, he sponsored the building of a Central Mosque in Ikate without soliciting financial assistance from any source.
He did not like the idea of Eti-Osa playing a second-fiddle to Lagos Island metropolis. Apart from the fact that there is no one Central Mosque for the entire Eti-Osa, he instigated a Muslim title system for Eti-Osa by having indigenes of Eti-Osa appointed by the national Muslim bodies, to hold the titles of Saba Adinni and similar religious and honorific titles.
In forging the unity of Eti-Osa people, he went beyond institutions and the geographical boundaries of Eti-Osa to neighbouring lbeju-Lekki enclave.
Alas! Death cut short his life, but his legacy continues to live after him. Such a man is worth celebrating.
–Excerpts from a write up by Prince Adekunle Alli, a Specialist on the history of Lagos) and Hajia Yinka Paramole-Shabi (a PR Consultant)