LAGOS WAS FOUNDED BY BENINS
Written by R.O. AJETUMOBI Ph.D
Theories of migration in early Yoruba kingdoms, to which the Awori and Ijebu groups share affinal relationship is directly linked with myths and legends, which are lavishly laced in religion. For instance, Ile-Ife to which hardly migratory claim among the Awori of Lagos state would not share a direct or indirect type of consanguineous affinal relationship is given to may theories of migration. Yoruba political history shows that the earliest and perhaps the most important migration was the one associated with Oduduwa, the eponymous father of the Yoruba in Ile-Ife. His migration to Ile-Ife led to formation of centralized political institution and rapid socio-cultural development. Ile-Ife soon became the dispersal centre of the children of Oduduwa and other groups who founded many other kingdoms north and south of Ile-Ife.
Recorded data and oral evidences show that most of the Awori and Ijebu settlements in Lagos state owe their origins to waves and layers of migration from Ile-Ife and Oyo-Ile before the 18th century A.D. According to tradition, the founder of Isheri, Ogunfunminire, was an immigrant from Ile-Ife. Isheri soon became a secondary dispersal centre of some other Awori settlements in Lagos, especially those that claim direct descent from Ile-Ife and Oduduwa.
Apart from the fission and fusion that characterized the history of the Awori, Ogu and Ijebu settlements in Lagos state and the theory of migration from Ile-Ife and West Africa sub-region, there are ample evidences to support that the Bini undoubtedly founded some Awori settlements. A crowned Chief of Benin, Aina Aseba, for instance, founded Ojo. The Benin birth of the founder of Ijanikin is indicated by the Oba’s mark Alade, and that the town’s fetish is Iroko, commonly worshipped by the Egun, suggests an influence of Dahomey now Republic of Benin, Isashi, Ilogbo-Elegba, Iba, Oto-Awori have traditional link with. Also, Ibeju wa founded by Abeju a reputed hunter from Benin or Ile-Ife. Osolu, Irede, Imore, Ikare, Ilogbo-Eremi and indeed Eko are with significant with Benin connections than would possibly be admitted in contemporary time. Asiwaju reinforced this view by saying that Bini influences as military conqueror on coastal communities indeed on the Awori was strong and covered a wider area of Lagos region than is generally accepted.
In spite of the fact that most of these communities still affirm some forms of relationship with Ife like other Yoruba settlements, literature give impressive evidences to show that early writers might be wrong in viewing the “Bini connection” as merely a product of military operation rather than kingship ties and natural process of migration and interminglings of Ebi. Akinjogbin and Olomola who in separate studies have looked into Ebi system and nature of affinal relationship among the Yoruba show evidences of kinship ties between Ile-Ife and Benin. Also, there are ample evidences in oral data and disjointed evidences in literature to the view that the nature of Benin with the Awori of Lagos state is more than largely political and miht have not entirely be the result of Benin conquest. Adding weight to this assertion is Avoseh’s view that the founder of Ibeju named Agbeduwa was a migrant hunter from Benin and his migration was more economical than political. His followers also founded some other riverine communities in Lagos state.
In addition, Iba tradition of origin posits that the founders were hunting migrants from Benin who settled in some other communities before reaching the present day Iba. But why the rejection of Benin connection and significant influence by some of these Lagos state Awori kingdoms that had early connections? One of the possible explanation is that Benin era and factor in Awori-Ijebu settlements was initiated and sustained by force and when the imperial power of Benin collapsed the political influence of Benin or its factor went on a downward trend. The decline of Benin power contributed to the independence of settlements founded by Benin warriors or provincial governors. Thus, lust for political independence led to deliberate attempt to severe the political and affinal relationship, and more often than not through diplomacy. This might have induced most of these communities towards finding favour from Ile-Ife to which other Awori and Ijebu settlements share direct relations.
Added to this, it would appear that the overwhelming populations of later Yoruba migrants from the hinterland with purely Yoruba cultural values that settled in some of these communities gradually weakened the Benin influence and gave the communities indelible Yoruba- Awori-Ijebu distinctive stamp. It is conjectural, but it may as well be true that in this process of culture conflict Benin leadership or influence simply lost face and gradually became assimilated leaving behind the existence of artifacts and traditional respect as constant reminders of traditional Benin connection.
Added to this, it is fashionable among the Yoruba to use connection with Ile-Ife, Oduduwa or Oyo to justify their claims to wear beaded crown with fringes. Consequently, attempt to gain favour from Ile-Ife and the need to unite with other Ijebu and Awori speaking groups in a rapidly changing political climate where unity is strength, made the focus of migratory patterns from Ile-Ife a necessity.
It is difficult to date in absolute terms when Awori migration to the region of Lagos state began. But literature shows that settlement in the coastal region predated 16th century A.D. For instance, Lagos had experienced waves of migrations since the establishment of Isheri about five hundred years ago. One account suggests that the early inhabitants of Lagos were Oluwen, Olopon and Tomuse who lived in Iddo Island before they were later joined by a gigantic warrior known as Olofin who had previously settled at Isheri. Their names appear to be Ijo or Benin origin. There were two independent and almost simultaneous migrations at the time when the Awori were to occupy the coastal Yoruba land. The first was initiated by Benin expansionist policy towards the coastal corridor of the Niger-Delta region to Porto-Noovo in the 16th and 17th centuries A.D. especially during the reigns of Oba Orhogbua (c. 1550-1578) and Ehengbuda (c. 1578-1606). Second, was the parallel, but smaller migrations southwards from the Yoruba country which culminated into the foundation of Isheri, Iddo, Eko and later Otta, Ado and Iworo. From these early settlements others were created, while, migrations either from Benin or interior Yorubaland continued till the present day.
Apart from these two major sources of Awori migrations is the Dahomey factor. The early Benin migrants including Obanikoro’s Ancestors had established themselves in the frontiers of Dahomey, but Agaja Trudo’s war of expansion-Southwards in the 17th century drove the Benin-Awori coastal settlers eastwards to the region of Ologe lagoon. Many of the Awori settlements founded by these Benin extractions or intermixtures retained some of their cultural traits in their new settlements in Lagos State and related with other Awori settlements founded by the people of interior Yorubaland.
Awori migrations to the region of Lagos state could be discussed o two major levels.
Internal migrations among the Awori connote the permanent movement of some Awori groups from other Yoruba settlements such as Ile-Ife, Oyo, Egbado, Ado-Odo, etc. to the area of Lagos as well as the fission of some Awori settlements in Lagos thereby leading to the evolution of congeries of Awori kingdoms and chiefdoms in Lagos state. In this category are communities founded before Benin Era, the oldest of which was Isheri. Isheri: tradition is connected with the migration of a group from Ile-Ife as counseled by Ifa oracle, and the choice of the settlement dictated by the disappearance or sinking of the ritual pot. From Isheri, Ebute-Metta, Iddo, and Eko some other communities were founded. Ibese consist of mixed Ife and Egun stock which suggest aan early internal migration of people from the interior. Also, Abule Coker was populated by migrant from interior Yorubaland as far as Ojo, Imore, Ibasa, Ilase, Igbologun, the migration of some Ale people and Egba to ibiku Ibiye, Iworo, Ilogbo, Ilado and Ibereko represent internal migration of people of similar cultural values an fhostorical origins to places or regions other than the ones earlier occupied.
External migrations to Lagos state include migrations from Benin and Porto-Novo and other settlements founded by the people outside Yoruba culture area and who were not originally Yoruba. The earliest recorded external migrations are associated with Benin warriors who developed military garrisons or camps between Eko-Akete- Lagos and Dahomey. Between 1600 and 1900, the region of the state witnessed the evolution of Awori-Ijebu-Benin settlements in Lagos. Such ssettlements include Oto, Ojo, ijanikin, Idoluwo, Iba, Irede, Ikare, Gbanko and Epe, Ikorodu, Ibeju Lekki, Makun Omi and a host others.
For instance, Gbanko was founded by Ladipo, a member of the Alade, a crowned order of Benin chiefs of whom the senior was the first Obanikoro who settled in early Lagos. Tradition has it that Onigbanko received his title from the Obanikoro as the latter was the head of the order of Alade. Ikotun was founded by Benin refugees from Benin colonies near Porto-Novo and the same Ikotun group founded Idoluwo in Lagos. Oluwo, the leader of the group became the first Chief Obanikoro. Okokomaiko in the early foundation contained no Awori. The village was founded by Governor Glover for demobilized veterans of the Asante war. Isashi and Ilogbo Elegba claimed common Benin origin. Until recent time, there was no official version of Oto origin, though evidences suggests Benin origin. For instance, up to the 4th decade of the 20th century, the Oloto had only the right has insignia of office, to and Abere, a large flat sword made familiar in carvings of the Oba of Benin. Also, the founder of the Osolu family was an Alade crown who migrated from Benin and settled at Idole near Porto-Novo.
The political crisis in Dahomey in the 18th century forced the early settlement to migrate and camp in the southern side of the main lagoon near the sea. But this settlement was not a permanent one as migrations further took place to the vicinity of the Irewe and Osolu which became the final abode of this group.
Lagos is NOT Yoruba Land.
~ Oba Akiolu.
Coming from the palace, with what I was told by my late paternal grandmother who is a descendant of Oba Ovonramwen Nogbaisi. Also reading from factual Historical books.
Let me share this Knowledge with you all on Eko/Lagos.
Modern-day Lagos was founded by Prince Ado, the son of the Oba of Benin, Prince Ado was the First Oba of Lagos, the son of the Bini King, Prince Ado, named the town Eko until the Portuguese explorer Ruy de Segueira changed the Maritime town to Lagos, which at that time from 1942 was Portuguese expedition center down the African Coast.
It was a major center of the slave trade until 1851. Lagos was annexed by Britain via the Lagos treaty of cession in 1861, ending the consular period and starting the British Colonial Period. The remainder of Modern-day Nigeria was seized in 1886, when the Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria was established in 1914 Lagos was declared its Capital due to the struggle of the Bini King.
Lagos experienced growth pro to the British Colonial rule and even more rapid growth during the Colonial rule throughout the 1960s, 70s, continued through the 80s and 90s till date. Thanks to the Awori's, Bini's, Yoruba's, migrants across the Nation and World at large, as no particular group of people can take the Glory alone.
Lagos is made up of Lagoons and creeks. The Lagos lagoon, Lagos Harbour, five cowne creeks. Ebute-Metta creeks, Porto-Novo creeks, New canal, Badagry creeks, Kuramo waters and Light house creeks.
The Awori's and Bini's are known to be the first settlers of the Eko Land. The Awori's are speakers of a distinct dialect close to that of the Yoruba Language with a rich Bini mixture. Traditionally, Awori's were found in Ile-Ife, they were known to be the Bini's who followed their self exiled Prince, the first son of the Ogiso (now called Oba) of Benin Kingdom, whose Step-Mother was after his head.
The Exiled Benin Prince Izoduwa known to the Yoruba's as Ooduwa (Oduduwa) was made ruler of the Ife people due to his Powers and followers from the Great Benin-Kingdom.
Izoduwa (Ooduwa) was made the First King of Ile-Ife in 1230 AD. His followers from his father's Kingdom in Benin are the today's Awori people who settled in Eko now called Lagos.
In the 1300, the King of Benin-Empire heard from one of his traders who was a settler in Eko on how the Bini's were treated by the Awori's who lived in their area. Upon hearing this the King of Benin commanded the assembling of a War expedition, lead by his Son Prince Ado, which headed the settlement of the Awori's and demanded and explanation.
On arriving Eko, Prince Ado and his Army were more than received. The Awori's asked the Bini Prince to stay and become their leader. Ado agreed on the condition that they surrender their sovereignty to the Oba of Benin, to which the people agreed.
Hearing this, the King of Benin gave his permission for Prince Ado and the expedition to remain in Eko.
The Oba of Benin sent some of his chiefs including the Eletu, Odibo, Obanikoro and others to assist his son Oba Ado in the running of Eko. From the crowing of Prince Ado as the First Oba of Lagos (then called Eko) Lagos served as a major center for Slave- trade from which the Awori's, the Oba of Benin and his son the Oba of Lagos and all the children/descendants who took over as his successors for over four centuries supported the trade.
The Oba of Benin was head of the Benin-Empire which are present day Western, Southern and Eastern Modern- day Nigeria.
The King never obliged anyone to speak the Bini language as he believed everyone was entitled to their own choice of language.
The name Eko was given to it by the First King of Lagos Oba Ado, the young and vibrant Prince from Benin. Eko was the Land now known as Lagos Island, where the king Palace was built. The palace is called IDUNGARAN meaning "palace built on pepper farm" Oba Ado and the Warriors from Benin together with the early Bini's settlers in Eko and the Awori people settled in the Southern part of Eko called "Isale Eko". "Isale literally means bottom ". Must have been used to indicate downtown (as in down town Lagos)
Until the coming in of the Benin's 1300AD , Lagos geographical boundary was Lagos mainland, Lagos Island, the seat of the Oba of Lagos then consisted of a pepper farm and fishing post. No one was living there.
About 1450 AD some Yoruba's who hailed from Isheri in Ogun-State and Ekiti were allowed by the King to settle in Eko during a war, they came in very large numbers thereby surpassing the numbers of the Awori's and Bini's. (Hence Yorubas claim to own Eko due to their numbers).
Oba Ado fell in-love with a beautiful woman whose father was Awori and mother a daughter to one of the chief, they had two sons and also a daughter Erelu Kuti, who begat Ologun Kutere who later became King.
Oba Akintoye descendant of Prince Ado whose mother was the First Queen from Awori ascended the throne as Oba of Lagos in 1841, he attempted to ban Slave-trade with the help of the British, but the Local merchant, the Awori's, Bini's and a few Yoruba's who was already integrated and married to Awori's and Bini's strongly opposed the intended move, and disposed and exiled the King and installed Akintoye's brother Kosoko as Oba, at exile in Europe, Akintoye met with British Authorities who had earlier banned Slavery in 1807 the British decided to support the deposed Oba to regain his throne.
With the Success of the British intervention in 1851 Akintoye was reinstalled as Oba of Lagos. In practical terms, however the British influence over the Benin-Empire had become absolute, and then years later in 1861 Lagos was formally annexed as a British Colony.
This lead to the fight of the British and the Bini King, the leader of the Benin-Empire for years, which finally lead to the fall of the Empire and the capturing of Oba Ovonramwen.
Oba Akintoye of Lagos was the first Oba not to be buried in Benin. Prior to this all the Kings of Lagos were buried in Benin. They passed on taxes to the Oba of Benin until the British settled in.
Until today the Oba of Lagos is the head of all the Oba's in Lagos because the Bini's believe that wherever they or their offspring are they are senior. The Status of the Oba of Lagos is different from other Obas most of whom were given back their crowns and staff of office only within 40years ago.
Those who got their lands back was the original land owners they were mostly descendant of Prince Ado others children of the Olofin.