Lagos State in a Jumping-off Point: Live for Nigeria and West Africa

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In a bid to celebrate Lagos@50, Ardent Writers, a fast growing literary platform presents a well-crafted article on Lagos by the versed historian, Talib Ola.

 

One interesting thing that’s got Lagos attracted to many from inception has been its benevolence of warm reception embedded in its socio-economic security and expeditions of all sorts from within and beyond the shores. It was this same benevolence that created an avenue for continual migrations, in the Lagos of yesterday, including trade relations with the Portuguese [the first European settlers to enjoy unrivaled trade relations with the people of Eko until the British arrived in the 18th century] resulting in a new name–‘Lagos’– given by a Portuguese explorer, Ruy de Sequeira, during his visit in 1472. He named the area after a maritime town in Portugal which was at the major centre of the Portuguese expeditions down the African coast.

Although, it’s quite unfortunate that we may never be able to ascertain how and when the first humans began to reside in the areas that have become Lagos State today, historical records postulate that it was initially inhabited by the Aworis who migrated from Isheri Olofin before the Ijebus, Eguns and some warriors from Benin kingdom became inhabitants too. This simple historical truth negates the widespread belief that Eko was founded by the Benin people. Yes, the Benin warriors that came centuries later–the 16th century precisely– to capture the land christened their camps ‘Eko’ but the Aworis whose economic activities basically revolved around fishing and farming had always referred to their farmlands as ‘oko’. Perhaps, ‘Eko’ became the morphological and phonological transmutation of ‘oko’ by Portuguese traders, who couldn’t pronounce it properly, before it’s eventual new name– ‘Lagos’ (Edo Nation).

It’s pertinent to note at this point that the incursion of the British government, the banning of the slave trade and the re-installation of Oba Akitoye as king in 1851 added a new twist to the political and economic atmosphere of Lagos. Their influence was absolute. After ten years of decisively piloting the political and economic affairs of Lagos, it became officially annexed as a British colony in 1861. However, goaded by its wonderful success in socio-political and economic spheres which enabled it to exert a profound influence in Nigeria and other landlocked countries in Africa, Lagos soon held an enviable position in world commerce with first-rate trading power that’s evidenced in its economic status as an entreport and link with the outside world particularly, the Europeans. This fanned the trade relations between ‘Lagosians’ and the Europeans, ingniting a new passion that culminated in a major shift from a ‘fishing economy’ to a diversified economy. By the time Nigeria became a protectorate in 1914, Lagos was ‘naturally’ made the capital. It continued to maintain its status as capital even after Nigeria obtained her independence from Britain in 1960 until 1991 when it was replaced by Federal Capital Territory, Abuja–a city built specifically for such purpose.

With the movement of the seat of power, one would have thought that the bustling economic activities in Lagos would, in a way, be affected severely but, hell no! Even before its attainment of statehood on May 27,1967, its economic growth has been rapid, dependent on its strategic positioning and its inhabitants’ commercial inclinations to the extent that in the wake of the recession that has almost wrecked the nation’s economy, Lagos State was and is still buoyant enough to pay its workers’ salaries from its internally generated revenue.

Lagos State is geographically bounded on the north and east by Ogun State while on the west and south, it’s bounded by the Republic of Benin and the Atlantic Ocean. Ironically, as the state that contains the largest urban areas in Nigeria and the most populous city in Africa with an estimated population of 21 million, it has the smallest land mass of 3,475 square kilometres (1,342 square miles) among other states in Nigeria. It is the only state in Nigeria that has had the status of a state and Federal Capital Territory at the same time. As the economic capital of the country, it has the highest number of television, radio stations and media houses in the country. It’s also where a chunk of Nigerian hip-hop and Nollywood artistes started and still ply their trades: their popularity seems to be tested and accepted first, by Lagosians.

Many millionaires reside in Lagos than any other state in Nigeria, playing third to Johannesburg and Cairo. It is responsible for processing 80% imports in Nigeria and maintaining top ten list in Africa. It hosts numerous strategic civil service offices including Lagos Port Complex, Tin Can Island, the Apapa Wharf, the head office of the Nigerian Ports Authority, etc. ; monumental structures like the first one-storey building in Nigeria, the first higher institution in Nigeria, the first National Stadium, National Arts Theatre and the longest bridge in the African continent. The 11.8km bridge connects Lagos Island to the Mainland. It had also hosted the largest Pan-African gathering to ever take place in the world–the second World Black and African Festival of Art and Culture; a major international festival from Jan 15,1977- Feb 12,1977 where African cultures, values were showcased and promoted to the highest conception.

For all that, the legacy bequeathed by Lagos State to succeeding economy and maintaining pace of excellence amidst other states in Nigeria and West Africa in particular is not to be underestimated. Indeed, Lagos is a centre of excellence judging by its  legacies. The golden jubilee anniversary of Lagos State is worth celebrating because its success as a state is by the dint of a deep-dyed consistency on the verge of reaching dizzying heights!!!

 

ARTICLE WRITTEN BY : HISTORIAN TALIB OLA.

EDITED BY : BALOGUN YUSUF GEMINI.

PHOTO CREDITS : KOLAPO ONIFOTO.

 

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