I start this paper by going down the historical lane. Ikorodu has always been very relevant in the socio-economic and political activities of the geographical space occupied by the Yoruba People, that geographical space that presently constitutes what is now known as the south west geopolitical zone of Nigeria.
However, before I continue down the historical lane, it would be necessary to define both economic relevance and political relevance. In doing this, we will concentrate on the meaning of the word ‘relevant’ (the adjective) or ‘relevance’ (the noun). It is simply defined as “closely connected or appropriate to what is being done or considered”. In other words, economic and political relevance would mean being present, involved, connected and influencing tbyhe determination of the distribution of economic resources and political representation and power. On the political side, it would also mean being involved in government policy making. Having this in mind, how has Ikorodu fared right from the mid-nineteenth century to the present era?
MID NINETEENTH CENTURY
Ikorodu used to be a part of the ‘Ijebu Country’ and later became part of the ‘Remo Country’, after Remo shrugged off the political control of the Awujale. Ikorodu went on to become part of the Lagos Colony in 1894 when it was ceded to the British Crown by the Akarigbo with coercive diplomacy. The cession was done with the acquiescence of the Balogun Jaiyesinmi and others by virtue of the treaty document dated 4th August, 1894 and headed “Treaty for the Cession of Certain Territory in the Jebu Remo Country to Great Britain – see British Annexation of Epe and Ikorodu, 1892-1894: A Historical Survey, ir.unilag.edu.ng. The way Ikorodu was ceded to the British was not different from the way Alaska was ceded or sold to the United States of America by Russia on 18 October, 1867 (see Alaska Purchase, Wikipedia) – both were done by legally signed treaties and for valuable considerations. So, legally, just as Alaska ceased to be a part of Russia, Ikorodu also ceased to be a part of Remo however, without prejudice to existing inter personal or familial relationships.
To highlight the relevance of Ikorodu, as early as the year 1865, Ikorodu was a major player in determining the course of a very important war between the combined forces of the Egbas and Ijebus, on one side, versus Ibadan. Ikorodu assisted Ibadan to circumvent the arms blockade by the Egbas and Ijebus against Ibadan. As a result of this, the Egbas instigated a punitive expedition against Ikorodu. The British Government however assisted Ikorodu in defeating the Egbas, taking into consideration the strategic location of Ikorodu – see Encyclopedia Britannica, Amy McKenna Jan 09, 2009. This was ostensibly done by the British Authorities in order to deprive the Egbas and the Ijebus of their ‘middle man’ role and allow the British have direct trade contact with the hinterland. The British quest later led to the ceding of Ikorodu to the British. So we can see that right from the mid-nineteenth century, Ikorodu has been playing strategic roles in the socio-economic and political activities of Yoruba land.
1900 TO 1966
The location of Ikorodu by the coast of the inland water of the Lagos Lagoon has always been a blessing. It made Ikorodu an important trading post valued by the British colonialists. The location enabled Ikorodu to have economic clout. It conferred an advantage on Ikorodu in the pursuit of economic relevance. Many inhabitants of Ikorodu had opportunities to participate in trade and commerce, either as direct participants or as brokers. This led to prosperity. There was no doubt that at this point in time, Ikorodu had both economic and political relevance – economic relevance by being a centre of trade between nations. It was also politically relevant enough to participate in the dynamics of an arms embargo between two powerful warring armies. It was not for fun that Ikorodu earned the sobriquet “Ilu kekere, oko ilu bantata”.
The early involvement of the people of Ikorodu in trade and commerce gave them resources to educate their children in various institutions at home and abroad. At this point, Ikorodu was lucky that trade and commerce was not tied to government bureaucracy of quota and imports license. The ceding of Ikorodu to the British in 1894 was equally helpful as it became a part of the Lagos Colony and administered directly from the British Colonial office. It should be noted that Governor Carter actually visited Ikorodu to meet with Ikorodu Chiefs, the most prominent being the Balogun Jaiyesinmi during negotiation leading to the ceding of Ikorodu to the British.
The trading activities in Ikorodu by virtue of being one of the shortest route to the hinterland probably enabled many like the Owolowos, the Abudu Bensons, the Osinowos and many others to gather enough resources for business enterprises which made them rich to the point of educating their children both at home and abroad before the advent of full internal political activities and self-rule. Due to the efforts of our forebears and the foundation they laid, Ikorodu was able to produce foremost industrialists in the ilk of Gbadamosi, Kamson, Allison and others, formidable professionals like M. O. Onafowokan, the first Nigerian to qualify as an architect, T. O. S. Benson, Adeniran Ogunsanya, and many others who were first in their field of endeavour.
In other words, Ikorodu built her sons and daughters, making them ready to become the inheritors and major players in the professional and political fields being vacated by many British colonial officers. It was not surprising that starting from 1951 with the introduction of the Macpherson Constitution and up till 1954, when Ikorodu (which had been a part of the Lagos Colony since 1894) was merged with the newly created western region at the dawn of real self-government and federalism, ushered in by the Oliver Lyttleton Constitution, Ikorodu had the men and resources to fully participate in politics and government of the region and the country.
On the relevant fronts the likes of Chief S. O. Gbadamosi, Chief T. O. S. Benson, Chief Adeniran Ogunsanya and others carried blazing torches on behalf of Ikorodu. At this point, Ikorodu successfully pursued both economic and political relevance. Our representatives in government were able to influence and facilitate the siting of infrastructure, industries and government parastatals in Ikorodu. Ikorodu through their efforts had ceramics industry, the Voice of Nigeria, the Nigeria Telecommunications, the road linking Ikorodu to Lagos etc.
All of these were possible because our leaders were relevant in both the corridors and chambers of power. Chief Gbadamosi was one of the frontline associates of Chief Obafemi Awolowo, with Chief Awolowo visiting him at home at times. TOS Benson was a notable player in NCNC caucus, becoming Nigeria’s first Federal Minister of Information. Chief Adeniran Ogunsanya equally pulled his weight and also became a federal minister. All of them were nobody’s yes-men. They all used their resources and positions to advance the cause of Ikorodu and her people. It was not unusual to find them placing Ikorodu people in both public and private sector jobs. Lagos Island, at this point, was probably, no better than Ikorodu in terms of political relevance. I will also want us to note something here – there was political pluralism. Ikorodu did not put all her eggs in one basket. Nobody was seen as an outcast for being in one political party or the other. At this point in time, there was no doubt that Ikorodu was relevant economically and politically and it was as a result of that able to attract substantial benefits for her people.
1967 TO 1999
Lagos State was created on 27 May 1967 by virtue of the State Creation and Transitional Provisions Decree No. 14 of 1967. It was created from what used to be Lagos Colony or Colony Province before 1954. It was the Lagos Colony that metamorphosed into Lagos State. The Lagos Colony was made up of Lagos Island and Mainland ceded to the British in 1861, Badagry ceded in 1863, Epe ceded in 1892 and Ikorodu ceded in 1894. As at the time of these cessions, do note that there was no country called Nigeria and there was no Western Region. It was not until January 1st, 1900 that the governments of Northern and Southern Nigeria were created. The Lagos Colony formed a third administration – see 1919 cmd.468) Nigeria, Report by Sir F. D. Lugard on the amalgamation of northern and southern Nigeria, and administration, 1912-1919. In fact, the name ‘’Nigeria’’ was only fortuitously coined in a January 8, 1897 London Times article written by a British journalist, Miss Flora Shaw – who later became the wife of Lord Lugard. The name replaced “Royal Niger Company Territories”. Thus there was Lagos Colony before Nigeria. When the areas now known as Ogun, Oyo, Osun, Ondo and Ekiti States were mere protectorates of the British Empire, the Lagos Colony was already a part of the British Empire and governed directly from Britain through the Colonial Office. Its inhabitants were British subjects with full rights protected by British laws and having access to British courts, as opposed to those from the ‘hinterland’.
So, Lagos State, to start with, was never a no-man’s land. The people of the ‘hinterland’ starting from Ogijo in Ogun State and up to Ilorin in Kwara State were never part of the Lagos Colony or Colony Province that became Lagos State. Ikorodu was thus one of the four major territories ceded to the British Crown to form the Lagos Colony. The people of Ikorodu should never doubt their part ownership of Lagos State and should always be aware of this historical antecedent when agitating for their rightful place in Lagos State. It should in fact be bedrock of our agitations within Lagos State.
The military government was well aware of this historical fact and the composition of the inaugural cabinet of Lagos State was made up of indigenes of Lagos State based on the five administrative divisions (Ikorodu, Badagry, Ikeja, Lagos Island and Epe – IBILE) with Adeniran Ogunsanya representing Ikorodu Division in the inaugural cabinet of Lagos State. Subsequently, we had the likes of Chief Odunlami, Rasheed Gbadamosi, Taju Odofin etc. In fact, if Governor Mobolaji Johnson had wanted to fill his whole cabinet with Ikorodu indigenes, he would have found more than he would need. This fact was attested to by General Yakubu Gowon when he visited Ikorodu in 1973. From 1967 to 1999, Ikorodu had its fair share in the participation of economic and political activities of Lagos State. Within this period, we have had a military governor (the late Commodore Gbolahan Mudasiru) and numerous high court judges, commissioners, permanent secretaries, captains of industry, erudite professors, successful businessmen and women.
To mention a few, this period saw the emergence of outstanding Ikorodu people like Patriarch (Prof.) Bolaji Idowu, Justice Micheal Odesanya, Chief Adebayo Ogunsanya (SAN), Chief (Mrs) Folake Sholanke, nee Odulate (SAN) – the first female senior advocate of Nigeria, Chief B. O. Benson (SAN) – a former president of both the Nigerian Bar Association and the African Bar Association, Professor Ayodele Awojobi – the first African to be awarded a Doctor of Science Degree, Professor Anthony Afolabi Adegbola, Professor S. A. Sanni (the first professor of chemical engineering in Nigeria), Alhaja Jarinat Adunni Facus (a foremost trader) and many others. Ikorodu thus developed exponentially. On our own, without external aid, we were able to build an ultra-modern town hall (there is no other community town hall like it in the whole of Lagos State) and a road. Our major link road was made into a dual carriage way from Ketu to Ikorodu.
It was also within this period that the Ikorodu Industrial Estate was established, the general hospital, the water works, the high court judicial division etc. And because we had people in all the relevant places, including people we could call super permanent secretaries, we ably pursued our socio-economic and political relevance and advanced it beyond what our forebears left and we got our dues in Lagos. Nobody in Lagos State then could marginalise Ikorodu Division. We were able to hold our own in Lagos State. These years can aptly
be described as the golden years of Ikorodu Division.
However, it could even have been better if we had reconciled our differences and put the interest of Ikorodu first in 1990 in the aftermath of the Agbalajobi and Sarumi crisis. Irrespective of our political differences, we could have united behind the candidacy of Prince Abiodun Ogunleye for the office of the governor of Lagos State by putting Ikorodu’s interest before and above our personal politics. But people whose names I won’t mention here (one at Igbogbo – still alive, another at Ebute – still alive, a popular old man in ward A1 who’s now late and a former honourable member who served in the House of Assembly between 1979 and 1983 who’s now late) scuttled his ambition. The Epe man they supported won the state primary with 714 votes. But for them, Prince Ogunneye would have won that primary to become the standard bearer of the Social Democratic Party and could have gone on to win the election for the office of the governor of Lagos State. We never knew we were losing a golden opportunity that would have prepared for us a solid foundation for 1999.
1999 TO 2020
The year 1999 was the return of Nigeria to representative democracy. In the run up to the gubernatorial contest of that year, Ikorodu played a major role that would more or less, unknowingly push her towards a political abyss and sold Lagos State to political carpetbaggers and buccaneers. There were two major contenders – the late Engineer Funsho Williams and Chief Bola Tinubu, with the former from available facts, being an indigene of Lagos State, while the indigenousness of the latter was suspect. With Funsho Williams, Ikorodu COULD have had, apart from her share of commissioners, the speaker of the house of assembly and secretary to the state government (and mind you, these would strictly have been indigenes of Lagos State), and equally we would have had a governor who would have been sympathetic towards empowering indigenes, knowing fully well that he himself had no claim to any other state. The late Ayangburen would also probably have had a tremendous influence in
a Williams’ government.
Williams’ candidature was scuttled from Ikorodu by elements led by a self-acclaimed ‘strongman’ of Ikorodu politics, who came forward to claim that there was violence in the primaries at Ikorodu when the reality was otherwise. Some of those involved started having regrets right here on earth before departing to the great beyond. Yinka Odunmakin (the current Afenifere Secretary) in a recent piece in one of the national dailies admitted that the 1999 Lagos State gubernatorial primary of the Alliance for Democracy in Ikorodu was intentionally cancelled for the candidate favoured by Afenifere and NADECO elements to win. That candidate was Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
By the year 2020, we have inadvertently frittered away the socio-economic and political relevance laboured for and bequeathed to us by our forebears. Presently, because of placing personal interest above Ikorodu interest, we have become fringe players in the politics and economy of Lagos State. We have become strangers in our own land. To get benefits in our own state, we now have to kowtow to people from the ‘hinterland’. It is sad that during the clamour for Ikorodu to produce the governor of Lagos State, it was one of us, right on our soil, who raised up the hand of a ‘stranger’ as his preferred choice for the office of the governor of Lagos State. This action was described by Chief B. O. Benson, SAN as “the glaring act of show of shame” at page 32 of the Report on the Activities of the Conference of Leaders of Ikorodu Division. It brings to mind the story of Ikemefuna in that epic novel – Things Fall Apart, written by the late Prof. Chinua Achebe. If the gods decreed Ikemefuna to be sacrificed, it shouldn’t have been Okonkwo that would carry out the killing. The symbolic killing of the ‘Ikorodu ambition’ shouldn’t have been from an Ikorodu indigene.
From 1999 when Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu was elected as governor, Lagos became, more or less, a conquered territory and the systematic marginalisation of Ikorodu began. How else do you describe a state that has been paying at least five per cent of its revenue to a particular consultant since around the year 2001. Consultants are usually engaged to solve problems, consultants are not supposed to be a permanent feature of an organisation. There has been an elephant in the room since 1999, but we do not want to talk about it. Now, we are all suffering for it, especially in Ikorodu, with our dilapidated infrastructure. Out of the forty two cabinet members in Lagos State, Ikorodu Division only has two. Recently, members of the Lagos State Local Government Service Commission were announced, Ikorodu had no representative. We, who fought and defeated the mighty Egbas have suddenly found it difficult to fight again for our common patrimony and the future of our children, many of whom are now unemployed many years after leaving university, their places having been taken in the Lagos State Public Service by people from other states. In spite of this, majority of us are still facing the same direction responsible for our marginalisation. We keep taking the same political steps – and sanely, we are expecting a different result.
It is possible for rhetorical purpose to opine that Ikorodu is still politically relevant because it is still producing commissioners, senators, heads of service, sectary to state government or other political representatives or office holders and particularly having produced a deputy governor (for two weeks) and three high court chief judges since 1999? I am of a different opinion and inclined to say – no. A community that is not allowed to pick its representatives, but has them imposed on it by an outsider or outsiders cannot be said to be politically relevant. Such representatives, most times, would not owe allegiance to the community because they were imposed on the community by forces outside of the community. They are more or less, like Manchurian candidates. Furthermore, these (those working with Lagos State) were or are appointees operating in a government that can best be described as a proxy government that could not insist on due process or procedure, or fight for indigenes of the state. (I am not unaware that we have also had two federal ministers within this period. This actually buttressed my point on political pluralism).
WHAT IS THE WAY FORWARD?
- We must as a people encourage political pluralism by not putting all our eggs in one basket, by encouraging our people to join any of the prominent political parties in order to keep the relevant political parties on their toes, with no political party guaranteed our votes. Contributing positively in politics may depend on conviction. Many of us may be satisfied with the status-quo, there are equally many others who want change. But not many societies or communities progress by facing one direction. To progress as a political unit, we must constantly evolve and change direction, when necessary.
- Equally, any Ikorodu person that finds himself in any position of authority must discreetly, if not overtly wield his influence – to the best of his ability and conscience, in favour of his Ikorodu people by empowering them through employment or engagement. Such a position must be seen as being held in a constructive trust for and for the benefit of the people of Ikorodu. We must subsume personal aggrandisement and self-interest under community interest and empowerment. As a permanent secretary, a head of service, a commissioner, a chief judge, a vice chancellor or pro chancellor you must be able to beat your chest and say that ‘I did so and so for these people from Ikorodu’. It is indeed in the interest of the occupiers of such offices, who are indigenes of Ikorodu, to help fellow indigenes from Ikorodu, that way, they are sowing seeds which would become trees that may probably offer them shelter or shade in future. This may however be difficult in the present circumstances, except such people and both intelligent and courageous.
- We must learn how to play the good cop and the bad cop with powers that be, especially with the chief recruiting officer of Lagos State, who I heard doesn’t listen to anybody. While some of us are using diplomacy, others would, where possible protest or take legal action in asking for or fighting for our right to get what is due to us as a major component of Lagos State or to prevent our communal assets from being appropriated for private business endeavours. I am proud to say I was one of the few who protested the proposed sale of Ikorodu Local Government secretariat to a South African business concern. It is not that I do not want development for Ikorodu, but don’t take what I already have for the promise of something that is not certain. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. Today, that South African conglomerate is seeking to exit Nigeria, but our local government secretariat is still there and being used for the purpose it was built.
- Also, where we find lopsided political appointments, the government can be challenged under the provisions of section 14(4) of the 1999 Constitution and under the Federal Character Commission (Establishment, etc.) Act, Cap. F7, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004. It is my view that the existence of the Federal Character Commission Act has made the provisions of section 14(4) of the Constitution justiciable, just like the provision of section 15(5) of the Constitution was made justiciable by the Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Act, 2000 – see the case of Attorney-General of Ondo State v. Attorney–General of the Federation (2002) 9 SCM 1 where the Supreme Court held that “This argument (that the provisions of Chapter II of the Constitution are not justiciable) in my view is limited to the extent that courts cannot enforce any of the provisions of Chapter II of the Constitution until the National Assembly has enacted specific laws for their enforcement…”.
The Tinubu administration intentionally repealed the law that divided Lagos State into five administrative divisions, by claiming that the law was ‘spent’. Asiwaju Bola Tinubu has been known to ask people to show him the law dividing Lagos State into five administrative divisions. But that action cannot erase history, and documented one at that. Anytime nomination is called for a federal appointment, we must be ready to take actions if an indigene of Lagos State is not nominated. We must start protesting the appointments of persons who are not indigenes of Lagos State into positions meant for indigenes of Lagos State, especially persons that we know still lay claims to being indigenes of local governments outside Lagos State. Lagos State, just like any other state in Nigeria was created in order to give her indigenes a sense of belonging. See the definitions of ‘indigene of a local government’ and ‘indigene of a state’ as provided in paragraph 1(1) & (2) of Part II of the Subsidiary Legislation passed under the Federal Character Commission (Establishment, etc.) Act. The bottom line is that those who are claiming to be indigenes of Lagos State, but are known to retain claims to other states are committing illegality, and where such persons are nominated to represent Lagos State to take up appointments meant for indigenes of Lagos State, WE SHOULD RAISE A HELL OF A PROTEST.
- We must start pushing an agenda that would treat Lagos State as a mini federation with Lagos Island/Mainland, Badagry, Epe and Ikorodu as the federating units. Consequently, we should fight for a political system with a framework that allows the governorship of Lagos State to rotate, not on the basis of senatorial districts, but on the basis of the different entities that were ceded to the British to form the Lagos Colony, which many years later metamorphosed into Lagos State – doing this, we will get political restorative justice.
- We must have a think tank, a body consisting of competent and independent minded people, who are equally of independent means and who can speak truth to power without fearing consequences. The major focus of such a body would be to stridently call government’s attention to the needs of our division, to put forward our needs to be incorporated into the budgets of the state – to propose and suggest policies to government. For example, we can agitate, as a policy that a percentage of the capital budget of the state be spread evenly among local government development areas of the state. I am not unaware of bodies like the Ikorodu Division Resource Development Group and its subsidiaries, Ikorodu Oga Development Association, Coalition of Leaders of Ikorodu Division and others who are performing good deeds on behalf of the people of Ikorodu. These would be part of our ‘good cop’. The
new think tank would be our ‘bad cop’.
- Some of the steps listed above would need money to jump start and implement them. As Bill Clinton quoted in his autobiography “My Life” there are three most important things in politics – money, money and money. We must as a community consciously invest in politics. Not necessarily by making contributions to politicians and political parties, but also by using the money to create strategy and relevance by executing some of the above listed recommendations.
We can no longer afford to leave the representation of our interests to the contractors and the political jobbers among us. We must be ready to fight and struggle for our entitlements in Lagos State. As Nicollo Machiavelli said, “All courses of action are risky, so prudence is not in avoiding danger, but calculating risk and acting decisively. Make mistakes of ambition and not mistake of sloth. Develop strength to do bold things, not the strength to suffer.” We must all be involved, for as Charles de Gaulle said, “politics is too important to be left to politicians alone”. We must not shy away from taking bold actions. Imagine if we had started a continuous and vociferous agitation for an alternative road out of Ikorodu several years ago, the road would probably have been built by now. And if one road was being repaired, the other would have served as an alternative, instead of the hell we are presently experiencing as a result of the rehabilitation of the Mile 12 to Ojota section of Ikorodu Road.
A former Governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu once said – “power is not served a la carte, you have to struggle for power (he must have said that with a self-satisfied smirk). When Tai Solarin equally wrote that ‘may your road be rough’ – he was not cursing anyone. He was only reminding us that nothing good comes easy. Yorubas would also say – “mi o le waku kan o ki nj’oye ile baba e.