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The Erelu Kuti IV of Lagos, Erelu Abiola Dosunmu, speaks with BAYO AKINLOYE about the controversy trailing the history of Lagos’ original settlers.
Given your ancestry, what is your view of the seeming confusion of the history of Lagos as regards the original owners?
.... We’ve always known the Benin Kingdom to be a foremost kingdom. It is very clear that Benin has always been very strong and exposed to the outside world. Lagos has always been an extension of Benin as a passageway to the waters to trade with the foreigners and of course, to hunt and do other things. Hence, when the Awori came from Ile-Ife – I haven’t heard anybody mention that. Although the Benin didn’t really settle (down in Lagos), they had authority (over the land). But when the Awori came to settle there the Benin made them to pay isakole. If the Benin were not there or they had no authority (over Lagos) they wouldn’t make the Awori pay isakole to the Benin king through his emissaries.
The Awori settlers reasoned that, after a long period of settlement that they were well established in the area. They therefore wondered why they should continue to pay royalty to a king who was not present in the domain. So, they rebelled and refused to pay the isakole. The news got to the Benin king because people would say why didn’t they go to other Yoruba to help them? Why did they go to the Benin king to settle the quarrel for them? That’s not the point. The point is that they refused to pay the isakole. Therefore, the Benin king sent an expedition to ensure that they continue to pay the royalty. At that point, the most sensible thing for the Benin king was to establish his presence – that was what the Oba of Benin did. He established his presence in the territory rather than leaving it to the settlers who were now rebelling – hence, the obaship started. Should we say this is a chicken and egg situation? To now jettison the right of one for another? I don’t think it’s right. ....
So, are you Benin, Awori or Yoruba?
First of alI, I’d say I’m Benin. But you know the Erelu Kuti, who was the daughter of King Ado from Benin, her mother, Erelu Olugbani, came from Ibefun and married the Benin king. So, I am a melange of the two. But it doesn’t stop the origin story – that’s why I’m saying the history of Lagos is very clear. It is not obscure. We know that Queen Olugbani was the daughter of King Osin from Ibefun who was actually an Awujale. He (Osin) abdicated the throne of Awujale and relocated to Ibefun and became Osin the first. And, then his daughter was given in marriage to the king of Lagos. The fetish for the Eyo came from her home and the Eyo was used to bury her – when Queen Olugbani (the mother of Erelu Kuti, who today by the grace of God is the creator of the second dynasty that has produced the obas for almost 400 years. That’s why she gave that right to the princes and princesses of Lagos; that’s why instead of claiming the throne of Lagos only through the male descendancy you can actually claim it through the female descendancy, because she was the one who crowned her son. She was a princess. She crowned her son, Ologun Kutere. Anybody who attempts to get to the throne today always say they descended from Ologun Kutere but they actually descended from Erelu Kuti, the daughter of King Ado and mother of Ologun Kutere) died.
So, the history of Lagos is very clear. When people are making sketchy contributions about this matter it becomes confusing. The history of Lagos is straightforward. For sure, the Benin had control over the area because they used it as a passage. They were not ready to settle there. But when other people were coming in to settle and usurp them, they (the Benin) made the settlers pay for coming to settle in the area. All of them know that the Awori were paying isakole to the Benin. There was nothing wrong in that
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