Sammy Adebiyi, a prince of the Akinsemoyin Ruling House of Lagos, who is contesting in court the right to the throne of Oba of Lagos, Oba Rilwan.
Akiolu, in this interview, insists that the Awori, not the Bini or the Yoruba, are the original owners of Lagos
From Lagos being a no man’s land, the bone of contention now is whether it is the Bini, the Awori or the Yoruba that own Lagos. What do you think about this debate about who really owns Lagos?
Let it be stated categorically that the original owners of Lagos are the Awori – there is no doubt about that. It is impossible for the history of a people to be rewritten at whim by some people. But you asked me, is this debate healthy, necessary? My response is that the debate is healthy in order to educate the residents of Lagos – and by extension our children and our children’s children – in particular, and Nigerians in general.
Do you think the Yoruba are owners of Lagos?
Because of Lagos’ geographical position in the South-West of Nigeria – which is predominantly Yoruba – it doesn’t make the Yoruba owners of Lagos. It is a fact that most of these Yoruba have their own states of origin (other than Lagos State).
Since Lagos does not belong to the Yoruba, are the Bini the original owners of Lagos?
Not at all! Lagos never belonged to the Bini. Only the monarch came from Benin, that is, Ashipa, the father of the first Oba of Lagos (King Ado).
So, who does Lagos belong to? Do you think it belongs to the Awori?
Yes, it belongs to them. The Awori are the owners of Lagos. The Awori and the Bini are not the same. The Awori, being the first settlers, came through the hinterland and have their own language – apparently different from that of the Bini language – and, which is closer to the Yoruba than to the Bini. In fact, the Awori believe that they are sons and daughters of Oduduwa.
Are there any historical facts about Lagos that support your argument?
The position of history is that they, the Awori, have the legitimate claim to the ownership of Lagos. In fact, the land where the Oba of Lagos resides was given to Oba Akinsemoyin of Lagos by the then Chief Aromire of Lagos, who was an Awori.
It is the belief of some Lagosians that Lagos history is being distorted for political reasons. Is that how you feel too?
I think and believe that the history of the original Lagosians is being distorted for political and selfish purposes. What you are currently doing will assist us to set the records straight and resolve the issue (of who the original owners of Lagos are) amicably. Otherwise, if there is no amicable resolution of this contentious issue, some mischief-makers will still not accept the fact s of history for some obvious reasons.
The Lagos monarch, Oba Rilwan Akiolu, once said Lagos belongs to the Bini. Do you agree with him?
No, I do not agree with him. He was wrong to have said that Lagos belongs to the Bini. Are you aware that during the reign of His Royal Majesty, Oba Musendiku Adeniji Adele, the late Oba of Lagos (who died in 1965), he used to speak Awori language with his chiefs? It will also interest you to know that most of the indigenes of Isale Eko and its environs were also speaking the Awori language. Besides, I was an eyewitness to that claim. In fact, my paternal grandmother, Princess Fatumo Duro-Orike Bioshogan Akinsemoyin, who was the Erelu Oba of Lagos, used to speak the Awori language. I am 72 years old; what I am telling you are facts of the history of our beloved and unique Lagos. It is an abomination to twist the history of a people for whatever reason. Let me furnish you with another important piece of information: it is interesting to note that Oba Akinsemoyin of Lagos married an Awori as a wife, who was (my) great-great-grandmother.
I am a Lagosian; I am a prince with a legitimate claim to the royalty. I am from Akinsemoyin Ruling House. I grew up in Isalegangan and Isale Eko. I used to follow my grandmother, a princess and chief of Lagos, to the Oba’s palace. My grandmother told us how her great-grandfather, Oba Akinsemoyin, went on self-exile to Apa, in the Badagry axis and married an Awori woman. I witnessed how Isale Eko indigenes used to speak the Awori language – even the traditional drummers’ drumbeats (gbedu) reverberated with songs in the Awori language.
If the Awori own the land in Lagos, the Bini, Lagos royalty – as claimed by some Lagosians – doesn’t that lend credence to the belief that Lagos is no man’s land?
Never! No, it does not. I have categorically made it clear to you that Lagos is not no man’s land – mischief-makers can say whatever they like. Yes, they can have their say, but we will have our way. Lagos belongs to the indigenes of Lagos just like everybody residing in their various villages claim to be the indigenes of those places – what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. If people are not greedy, why should they be claiming two states of origin? Their action short-changes the (original) Lagos indigenes who have no other place to claim as their home. It is high time we adopted what is being practised in the United States of America as regards claiming to belong to one state at a time. For instance, somebody was a commissioner in Lagos State; later, he moved to his (original) state of origin to become the governor. It is unfair to Lagos indigenes.
Could that be one of the reasons some Lagosians kicked against Prof. Wole Soyinka’s choice as chairman of Lagos@50 as they felt slighted that a ‘foreigner’ was chosen ahead of many illustrious Lagos indigenes? And do you agree with them?
I agreed with those Lagosians who rejected Prof. Wole Soyinka’s choice as the chairman of Lagos@50. Lagos is blessed with people of integrity and talent; people with impeccable character and sagacity. Everyone knows that there are many qualified Lagosians for that position given to Prof. Soyinka. Tell me, could that happen in any other states in Nigeria? Do you think other people will allow that in their states? Please, let us be honest; let us be fair to one another. Which state in Nigeria could that have happened?
Some people are claiming that Lagos indigenes are being pushed away from the foreground in Lagos State’s scheme of things. Is that how you feel too?
I feel that we, Lagosians, are being marginalised and unfairly treated. They – the people who are marginalising us – are able to do this because we are in the minority and coupled with the Nigerian constitution that does not take into cognisance the interests of Lagos indigenes. I also feel this is happening because we are very accommodating, God-fearing, generous, and tolerant. – Culled from Punch.