The indigenes of Lagos are clearly under threat of not just extinction or marginalization / oppression but outrageous distortion of our history. It was my grandmother who about seventy years ago delivered judgement on the matter as follows:
What If Things Do Not Go According To Plan
“It is a travesty to postulate that the history of Lagos commenced with the Portuguese who landed on its shores in the 16th century. Long before that Lagos was a haven (the abode of spirits and mystics) for those specially chosen by the Almighty. All that the Portuguese did was to leak the secret to the rest of the world. Here was an island blessed with eternal serenity and blissful existence surrounded by sacred waters that annihilated evel spirits and nullified life threatened ailments as well as disease.
Besides, everyone lived up till old age. Death was strictly forbidden !! Those who got tired of living were ferried to the other side – – across the lagoon / ocean and deposited in Badagry (then known as “Agbadaigi”) where they could start their lives all over again.”
However, my father Chief J.K. Randle was more sceptical and circumspect. He was the Lisa of Lagos [Prime Minister] and he was firmly convinced that pride/arrogance had no place in the lexicon of Lagos. In essence, there is no contradiction between being proud of Lagos and being a humble Lagosian. Hence, anyone who is arrogant cannot be a true Lagosian.
Both my grandmother and my father are gone. What we have to deal with now are harsh realities. Perhaps I should add that my grandmother was the last surviving daughter of Fadimula (an Ifa priest and water diviner). As for my father, he was only forty-seven years old when he died on 17th December 1956. He had great plans for the indigenes of Lagos and even after death he laboured assiduously – through generous endowments and scholarships – to protect their interest and serve them selflessly.
In a matter of months, I shall attain the age of eighty years. It bears repetition that according to our ancestral history and oral tradition, Lagosians could speak directly to the deities and beyond them to the Almighty, ultimately. Now, its all so very different. Unlike in ancient times, integrity is gone. Compassion has taken flight. Discipline is on terminal leave. As for character, it is on suspension. The word for scruples sounds like a foreign language. Poverty is everywhere and deprivation/despair foul the air. The indigenes of Lagos are in a grave (excuse the pun) situation. Between life and death, they are living precariously – right on the knife edge of civilization and the valley of doom. They are lost but they see no reason to trust anyone or believe any promises of redemption/salvation. That is where the trust deficit kicks in and mutual disdain is the order of the day. They have no role models in the toxic ghettos, medieval shanties, suffocating slums, soporific squalor and ghastly “IDP’s” (a different version of Internally Displaced Persons) masquerading as shelters.
The past casts a long and dark shadow. The indigenes have lost their identity. Their vibrancy is gone. What prevails is nostalgia for the days long gone when they owned their Family land and ancestral homes. What prevails is a sense of collective doom and vulnerability at the hand of their oppressors and tormentors.
My grandmother was adamant that the “Omoluabi” cognomen of indigenes of Lagos has been misunderstood or deliberately understated. It actually means “Omo ti Oluwa bi” (the direct offspring of the Almighty). In ancient times, discipline within Lagos families was imposed by the mere raising of the eyebrows of the “Olori Ebi” / “Babaloke” – patriarch of the family who was the custodian of sacred family values, sacrosanct morals, long established abominations and principled adherence to fairness, justice, empathy, compassion – especially GOODWILL as the antidote to evil spirits and invasion by jealousy, rancour and resentment.
The first blow that devastated and dispossessed the indigenes was the Land Use Act of 1978 which delivered by the military as an occupying force. It did not take the succeeding politicians to introduce the Land Use Charge as the catalyst for the surrender of family property to market forces. Everything was for sale for forfeiture by the government.
The consequences are there for all to see. The fabric of truth attests to the pandemic of poverty, teenage pregnancy, drug abuse and violence. Low self-esteem and lack of confidence have become the order of the day as replacement for hard work, honesty and purposeful enterprise in the pursuit of excellence.
Now we must seize the moment and change the narrative. First of all, we must clearly define our task – namely, the victim card will get us nowhere. Hence, we must take responsibility for the launching of a rescue mission with the sole aim of empowering those that have long ago been abandoned. They represent the “LCD” (Lowest Common Denomination of our social tapestry. They are entitled to a new lease of life that would get them back on track to their pre-ordained destiny of greatness anchored on productive enterprise starting with the “Three B’s plus E” meaning
- Blacksmith / Goldsmith
and (iv) Embroidery, arts and crafts.
These are the minimum basics that would advertise the dignity of labour rather than relying on handouts or prostitution/ gambling for survival.
However, we need the data which would enable us to focus on those areas where the indigenes are still significant. Perhaps only seven out of the twenty Local Government Areas would meet the threshold:
- (i) Lagos Island
- (ii) Eti-Osa
- (iii) Ibeju Lekki
- (iv) Epe
- (v) Badagry
- (vi) Ikorodu.
The stakes are high but we must rise up to the task. The alternative is failure and collapse on a monumental scale. The least we can do is to commence with the symbols of hope in a society where order and justice prevail.
The next step is to create robust and sustainable institutions that would cater for the special needs and interest of the indigenes. For four generations:
- Mr. Thomas Randle
- Dr. J.K. Randle
- Chief J.K. Randle
and (iv) Bashorun J.K. Randle
have made the same pleas to the government – health, education, recreation and infrastructure for the indigenes. The response from the government has been hostile, derisory and baffling.
Perhaps, now is the time to flip the coin and ask the indigenes to table not only grievances but concrete and practicable solutions to several decades of neglect and humiliation.
In this endeavour, we are at liberty to seek the assistance of relevant international agencies such as the World Bank; the United Nations; European Union; African Development Bank etc.
Hence, it is of utmost importance that our approach, methodologies and integrity must be beyond reproach.
Indeed, we have to be scientific. According to the legendary Irish poet and playwright, Oscar Wilde.
“Success is science. If you have the conditions, you get the results.”
Failure is not an option; otherwise we would be playing with fire that would eventually engulf all of us without distinction between rich or poor, powerful or powerless; young and old; male or female.
We are dealing with a complex web of intrigues. We have to be smart; and on top of our game. Over the years, the government surreptiously introduced religion into the equation and would deliberately favour one religion over the other – just to deceive and divide us. We have seen through the subterfuge, mendacity and vindictiveness.
Even politics which should be a noble endeavour to serve has been subverted into a “Do or Die” affair. This was not always the case in Lagos. In 1951, Chief J.K. Randle of the “AG” (Action Group) lost the Town Council Election to Mr. Jack McWeen of “NCNC” (National Council for Nigeria and the Cameroons). McWeen was declared the winner. My dad being s sportsman and an old boy of King’s College, Lagos hosted a victory party for McWeen at the Lagos Island Club. Next time round, it was my dad who won. !!
We must recognise that as we speak, the very people we are seeking to liberate from poverty have lost faith because they have been disappointed so many times in the post. There is a trust deficit. They are not entirely convinced that we would be any different from those who promised them heaven on earth in the past only to let them down. Here, honesty of purpose and sincerity must kick in. When falsehood becomes an institution, truth looks like rebellion.
The hapless indigenes of Lagos are suffering more pain than joy; more sorrow than happiness.
My beloved grandmother was right when she insisted that Lagos was by the special grace of the Almighty and divine creation a city without sin or blemish. Absolutely no crime. It is not by accident that it is surrounded by water. Water never forgets !!
As for me, I can never forget that epochal event in Lagos when for the first time murder was committed in Lagos. It was the Aparala murder case.
The whole of Lagos was in utter shock. Now human life means next to nothing. Ritual murder; armed robbery; kidnapping; rape; extortion; “419” fraud; violence at elections and ballot snatching of ballot boxes etc. are regular fare. This is the same Lagos that used to be the greatest city on planet earth.
We must be aware that on account of the trust deficit, even those we seek to rescue have raised the shutters based on suspicion that what we are really after is to infiltrate them and further weaken them !!
Their ruggedness and defiance were on full display during the COVID-19 pandemic. They bluntly refused to wear masks and carried on with their street parties regardless of the strict prohibitions and stern warnings. Somehow, they survived with relatively modest casualties. They believe that we are on a pilgrimage to snoop on them in order to extract the source of their strength. As for the palliatives which the government promised, it was (according to them) redolent with corruption and elusive salvation.
The future is already here. Both The World Bank and the United Nations have released their projections which indicate that before 2050, Nigeria will become the third most populous country in the world (after India and China). From their respective websites, the figures for Lagos are available. What is not available are the plans for the population explosion – infrastructure, water, health, education, security etc.
We have our work cut out. Sadly, the indigenes have resigned themselves to their fate and have adopted the cynical slogan : “Beyioku” (if this baby does not die).