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Ambode and Lagos History Lecture

Published by The Nation on Mon, 25 Mar 2019


When the Governor Akinwunmi Ambode administration organised the Lagos History Lecture to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Lagos State in May 2017, it wasnt expected to be just a one-off. However, two years after the first lecture, there are indications that the idea is going nowhere.The title of the lecture: Lagos: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow. Prof H. O. Danmole, who delivered the lecture, was at the time Dean, Faculty of the Humanities and Social Sciences, Al-Hikmah University, Ilorin. The event happened on May 24, 2017 at the Eko Convention Centre, Lagos.In his welcome speech, Ambode had said: The gathering of today goes beyond the periphery; this is because today offers us all, an opportunity to have introspection into the past, engage in an objective appraisal of the present and, a realistic prognosis of the future of another fifty years It is important for us at this epochal gathering to refresh our memory about the beginning.He added: I have no doubt that this assemblage will at the end of its sitting put an end to the erroneous impression by some in the public space that Lagos is no mans land. The need for this becomes imperative so that todays young folks will know the truth and be able to stand on the right historical platform.It is noteworthy that the government had reportedly planned to distribute printed copies of the lecture to the public, particularly public secondary schools in the state, as a way of publicising the truth about the beginning. Two years after the event, this hasnt been done. Ambode had observed: What we are doing here today is another history and as such I urge all to take it serious so that history will be kind to us all. Ironically, it seems the Ambode administration itself didnt take the event seriously enough, which explains why the lecture has not been printed and circulated as initially planned. This isnt the way to be history-friendly.Danmoles lecture, divided into eight parts, covers The Early Years; The British in Lagos Affairs; Establishment of Colonial Rule; Colonial Government and Traditional Politics; and Lagos: Nigerias First Capital City. Other parts are: The Creation of Lagos State; Lagos: The Era of Action Governor, Jakande Years; Tinubu to Ambode Revolution; and Lagos of the Future.The history of Lagos has received attention from historians and others; and a single lecture cannot do proper justice to it, Danmole notes. However, this lecture shall try to give some insight into major developments in its history. Lagos Island (Eko), which is the epicentre of our present Lagos State, is one of the oldest kingdoms on the West African Coast. Incidentally, the kingdom of Lagos was also one of the earliest recipients of European traders and travellers in what is now modern Nigeria. Reportedly, Portuguese merchants, because of the geographical location of Lagos on the lagoon, gave the Island its name Lagos. Lagos Island, to the indigenous population, is called EKO, a name whose origin is told in two well-known traditional but controversial accounts.Danmole continues: Nevertheless, it is important to note that one version of the name relates to the advent of the Awori, while the other is connected to Benin adv entures in Lagos. Our knowledge of the early history of Lagos is enriched by the accounts of European travellers, historians and traditional accounts. What is fairly certain is that the Awori settlement in Lagos was earlier than that of the Benin which eventually subjugated the emergent settlement. Lagos continued to evolve as a veritable place of migration for many Yoruba groups; some of these included the Ilaje and other groups who were attracted to Lagos because of their fishing activities.According to Danmole, The idea for the creation of a Lagos region could be traced to a suggestion by C.D. Temple, who was Lieutenant Governor of the Northern Protectorate in 1914 when Nigeria was created. He suggested that Nigeria should be divided into seven regions, the Lagos Colony being one of the regions. Conversely, the Governor-General of Nigeria, Sir F.D. Lugard, rejected his suggestion. It was not until after the Second World War, during the process of decolonisation that the thought of dividing Nigeria into regions or states resurfaced on the political scene With the creation of Lagos State on 27th May, 1967, the task of administering the state fell on Brigadier (then Colonel) Mobolaji Johnson, who had earlier been appointed the Administrator of Lagos before the State was created.Danmole sheds light on the states divisions: The military administration under Mobolaji Johnson issued an edict on 1st May, 1968 which divided the state into five divisions, namely Lagos, Ikeja, Badagry, Ikorodu and Epe. These administrative divisions represented, in our view, the old Lagos colony and province, and this perhaps explains the term IBILE, being the first letters of the names of the five administrative divisions. Thus, the acronym IBILE signifies the long standing administration and socio-cultural relations which had existed among the divisions before, during and after colonial rule.Speaking about the future of Lagos, Danmole argues: I make bold to say that the commitment which those in government have been giving to the state since it was created in 1967 has continued to give Lagos State a central position when compared with other states in the Federal Republic. The expanding economy of the state, the infrastructural growth and continued investment in human capital, will lead to the rapid growth of Lagos State in the future. The megacity that Lagos has become is a result of encouragement given to organised initiatives that contribute to social and economic development of the state. This must continue, if Lagos must be among the frontline megacities in the world.It is interesting that Danmole emphasises the importance of planning for development. He says: For Lagos to reach greater heights there must be adherence to development plans. Development plans assist governments to achieve their focus within a particular time frame. Furthermore, development plans allow for measurement of growth. Two examples will help to illustrate this point. Nigeria and India were almost at the same level of development in 1960, but India has left us behind because of her strict adherence to development plans. India is currently on her own 17th development plan. Also, Malaysia was behind Nigeria in terms of development some decades ago; however, through development plans, Malaysia has overtaken Nigeria. I do know that Lagos State is a part of a whole, but as a state, Lagos can show leadership for others to emulate.It is inexcusable that this enlightening lecture is gathering dust.
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