|The Time Of Yoruba Wars by Starboy(m): Mon 18, October, 2021|
During the feisty days of the Yoruba Wars, the tribe had its first main refugee problem. Many kingdoms were forming and unforming, and uniformity was beckoning and fleeing the race. It was chaos as rhythm. A quicksand moment gave birth at once to tyrants and heroes. Aole. Kurunmi. Sodeke. Latoosa. Fabunmi. Ogedengbe. Men as myths and myths as men. Those who spat fire and those who ate.
But the landmark heritage of the time was the birth of Ibadan, then known as eba odan, and how the phlegm and fiery of the race climbed there as the tower of refuge. It resembles what Jesus said in his prophesy, “let those who live in Judea, flee into the mountains.” If the race brandished the Bible and not Ifa, they might have read and appropriated those lines and dedicated the new town to the Lord on high, like the births of Jerusalem, Samaria, et al.
Ibadan was the Yoruba mountain in that febrile age. They had their abomination of desolation. Gods fell. Shrines caught fire. Kings were toppled. The ancient city of Ife defiled. Oyo found a new home and a new royalty. Ibadan was the city on the hill, embracing kings and republicans in one soul. That was the 19th century.
Today, we have another city, by the sea in fact but on the hill in metaphor: Lagos, without the martial past of Ibadan but a modern warhorse where Awo patented his genius. But the Lagos of today is the city, not just of Yorubaland but of Nigeria. It is Nigeria’s mountain, where all flee. The 19th century was the city of men on horseback, and swords and the short-range guns. This is a century of computers and software, where muscles swap places with another set of sinews: the brain.
Never before has the city sat centre stage in our history. It is here that the best and brightest come, and the worst find treasure for their souls and talent. It is the big elephant that carries on its back a mammoth country and strides without a groan. It holds our history by the strand, and probes the jugular of our future. Here the military rose and fell. Here power has changed hands as money does. We had the revolutionary, the turncoat and the upstart.
In this republic, however, we have had moments when the nation knew it had a brother in Lagos, and hence the present governor recently spoke again about its status.
“I should say that it will actually be unfair to expect the state to bear this heavy burden on its own. It is therefore necessary to give due consideration to all the variables that support our advocacy for a special status.
“The call for a special status for Lagos is not a selfish proposition; it is in the best interest of the country and all Nigerians, for Lagos which accounts for about 20 per cent of the national Gross Domestic Product and about 10 per cent of the nation’s population to continue to prosper.”
He was right. This should be a demand, as the BOS of Lagos, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu has done. He was not asking for a big portion of the communal feast. He was asking only for a piece of a piece of the pie. He demands Lagos to eat the humble pie. He also calls for tweaking of that Nigerian pie. The federal government should have 34 percent, FCT one percent, states 42 percent, local governments 23 percent, and Lagos one percent.
The reasons are clear. Lagos is the Nigerian lab and lab rat and slab and barn and back and bank and pot and pottery and melting pot and a mosaic and the theatre and stage and the excuse and tower of refuge and destiny and destination. It is the part that is also the whole, and it may not be the centre but it is the head of the corner.
It is a lab because it is here that all experiments take place. Whether it is starting a business or tweaking our federal system. As Barrister Femi Falana, SAN, has noted Lagos is the beachhead to a federalist duel, using the courts as the touchstone of the constitution. It is therefore the lab rat. Many a rat has died to start an idea. In spite Nyesom Wike’s bluster, he knows his VAT battle is without the needed momentum without the backing of Lagos. Hence Lagos has always been a back and backing. If an idea is good, everyone wants either the Lagos institutional support or its big market. Many states have learned about internally generated revenue from Lagos. They even send their staff members for a private tutor’s class on how to govern fruitfully. It is here that the idea will get its money, to pursue an infrastructure project as well as to start the new business.
That is why Lagos is the pot, where all come to cook and sup. The new graduate, the village recruit, the new entrepreneur, the new artisan, the new artistic genius. He comes here where we had the Ikorodu Boys and the Yaba techie who hosted the Facebook guy.
Before the pot is the pottery, where all bring their ideas together and also have a place for it to seed and bloom. The mechanic has enough cars to fix, as the software engineer as the electrician and the fertiliser plant.
As an excuse, Lagos is a target. When many states fail, they find a place here in Lagos for their many citizens who cannot live and thrive there. They ran to the big city, whose bosom is big.
It is a melting pot like New York or a mosaic like Toronto. Whether an Ijebu or an Itsekiri or a Fulani or an Igbo, everyone has a welcome berth. They make the place in their own image. It is here they intermarry, and intermingle, where the son of an Adebayo can say Ko yo in Edo, and the son of an Okeke can sing Ebenezar Obey with the impunity of a native. I recall my Ife schoolmate Uche Ntinu, who spoke Yoruba so well, it never occurred to me he bore an Igbo name. Just as Ojukwu or Zik. When Ojukwu died, I titled my essay Omo Eko, because the Ikemba was more Lagosian than anyone. Hence, he abandoned a purist Biafra to gamble on taking Lagos. It was the fetal doom of a fatal project.
Those who come to this commercial node also have their own parts of town, where they can be themselves apart from the whole, and become a part of the whole.
It is the theatre and the stage. It is here that Achebe flowered, and Ogunde and it was here that Peter Igho’s talent came to blossom, or P-Square. Or Dora Akunyili. Here Onyeka Onwenu did a duet of voice, if not romance, with the great Sunny Ade. Sam Amuka gave us a journalism as well as Nduka Obaigbena, though both schooled faraway in Government College Ughelli. It was here that Sweet Mother became a national anthem. It was here that both Yoruba and Igbo and Niger Delta fans anointed French soccer star Igwe, without regard to what accent it was. Phyno flourishes here just as our own Ali Baba and Gordons. It is here that James Omokwe has reinvented the Itsekiri history with his Riona drama series.
It is the tower, from where we study the country. It provides the platform. Hence Lagos is the tower of refuge. It is a strong tower where the fearful run into and are safe. With the scourge of bandits and separatists and Boko Haram, Lagos has absorbed many who have nowhere else to go. It’s the firewall of resistance. More people entre Lagos than almost anywhere else in the world and never return. They come to live and dream, and not to leave. It has more roads to hold and ferry goods to Kanfanchan as to Sokoto. When they bring millet and yam, the city is a barn on the go.
It is because they feel their destiny is in their destination. Once they are here, they feel at home. Those not born in Lagos come here. But once here, they are never more at home than when out of home – in Lagos.
What Lagos needs is encouragement. Let it not work alone. It is time for a cooperative warmth between Lagos and the centre. Not distrust. Oprah Winfrey may have exaggerated it but she was on to something when she said, “One percent doubt is zero percent faith.” Lagos is doing the work as the BOS of Lagos has noted. But it needs faith. One percent more faith is all Lagos needs.
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