Some natives of Lagos State say time has come for the inclusion of indegenes in the running of the state.
The natives spoke during a symposium organised to celebrate Lagos State at 50 by the Eko Foundation.
They were worried that the future of their children and grandchildren was not secured if people who came to benefit from the accommodating culture of Lagos should continue to block their rights as natives, saying their fathers fought for the creation of Lagos. At the symposium, a former Minister of Communications, Major General Tajudeen Olanrewaju, (retd), who was chairman of the occasion, noted, in his address, that “fifty years in the lives of the people as indigenes of the most liberal and accommodating state is worth celebrating”, but pointed out that it was time indigenes of Lagos began to know and be part of the day-to-day administration of their state.
The former General Officer Commanding, Third Armourd Division of the Nigerian Army, went on: “At this point in time, we must begin to look inwards and examine where Lagos State is being steered into and what opportunities exist for its indigenous communities. I am not therefore surprised that the Eko Foundation has shown capacity to defend the interest of the citizens no matter whose ox is gored. “It is imperative to understand the fact that no other issue has shaped the history and destiny of the state so much as the fight to secure and control the state by outsiders from within. Tell me any state that is not controlled by its own indigenous folks.
Lagos State syndrome is as real as it is in other States of the Federal Republic.” Represented by Major General Abdullahi Adekunle Martins (retd), Olanrewaju ventilated his worry about the common saying that “Lagos is no man’s land”, challenging those who believe in the statement to tell him one state in the country that is not controlled by its indigenous folks. He said he was “terribly disturbed to be told that Lagos is no man’s land” and that he was further disturbed about the impact that “such an extraordinary arrogant and insulting boast has had on our communities.”
In his own submission, a former Federal Commissioner for Works, Alhaji Femi Okunnu (SAN), wondered what people clamouring for restructuring of Nigeria meant.
He, however, said his “own emphasis is that, whatever restructuring that must be, Lagos State must remain as a unit” because, according to him, Lagos as a colony had existed since 1861, adding that not even the 1st January 1904 policy, which made the Protectorate of Northern Nigeria and the Protectorate of Southern Nigeria to begin to cooperate as British possessions, changed the status of Lagos.
Okunnu explained that he went down memory lane to establish the distinctiveness of Lagos as an administrative unit, which started in 1861. Speaking to Sunday Vanguard after the event, Martins said the idea of people coming from outside Lagos to take appointments and thus depriving the indigenes only to take the benefits back to their states to the detriment of Lagos indigenes must cease to be. “Eko Foundation is not saying don’t give opportunities to people. What it is saying is, ‘give opportunity to indigenes, those that supposed to benefit by right’.
Can I go to Zamfara now and say I want to contest as Martins? Can I go to Anambra to contest? I cannot even go to Ogun State to contest coming as Lagos indigene. We can’t go to other places. But if they come here, they look for things and take charge of your resources and then, you are just completely marginalized as if you are not a relevant person. And yet they start making useless comment to say Eko is no man’s land.
What does that imply? People are from Maforija, Epe, Ikeja, Egun, Awori. So many different tribes are Lagosians yet they don’t have opportunities, they are not adequately represented at both federal and state levels, they are not given so much of opportunity, they are not empowered. And those appointed from Lagos to the Federal, when they finish Lagos state service, they go to their states and still claim the same,” he said.
Reading from a letter of October 1956 written by Oba Adeniji-Adele to the British government in the course of his agitation for the creation of Lagos State, the Mayegun of Lagos, Hon. Adekunle Alli, revered for being a major custodian of Lagos historical facts, said: “Lagos is not a Yoruba land. We are not saying that non-indigenes should not benefit but we are also saying that we the indigenes of Lagos must be given opportunities to be part of the administration of the state.” According to the Oba Adeniji-Adele’s letter Alli read, “…some people say Lagos or Eko is part of Yoruba land, which is not true.”