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JULIUS IDOWU AKINDELE: There’s grand plot against Awori in Lagos
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JULIUS IDOWU AKINDELE: There’s grand plot against Awori in Lagos

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Ask him about his origin and Rev. Dr. Julius Idowu Akindele will tell you that he is a proud Lagosian. The former Secretary to the State Government (SSG) and former Head of Service in the Third Republic will also impress it upon you that he is of Awori descent. In this interview with ‘Dare Odufowokan, Assistant Editor, the Egan-Igando-born retired civil servant wondered why anybody will attempt to deny the Awori their place of pride in the politics of Lagos State. According to him, there is no Lagos without the Awori people. He looks back into history and says that the Awori people, who he describes as the aborigines of Lagos, have not been giving enough opportunities to contribute to the politics and governance of the state.

YOU once served as the Secretary to the State Government (SSG) in Lagos State. It appears you didn’t do much of politics after that?

Well, let me explain that I actually served as the SSG while still in the service of the Lagos State government. Mine was different from the current arrangement where the SSG is a politician appointed into the position. I was nominated into the position as a very senior civil servant by the then Governor Michael Otedola.

I was before then the Head of Service. That was after I rose to the enviable position of Permanent Secretary in the service of the state. It was as HOS that I was made the SSG by the then new civilian regime of Pa Otedola. I actually combined both positions together until the end of that administration.

It was when Col. Olagunsoye Oyinlola came to power that I retired from active service. He found me so dependable as a government worker and administrator that he immediately appointed me the Chairman of the Lagos State Transport Development Authority (LSDTDA).

I am a thorough-bred Lagosian. So all along, I saw all I did as service to my dear state and my people. As a civil servant and as a political appointee, I was happy serving the state because I saw it all as opportunities to give back to the society that produced me and has given me much as an indigene of the state.

I am an Awori man from Egan in Alimosho Local Government Area of Lagos State. Every Awori man has this very special attachment to Lagos and whenever we are given the opportunity, we always give our very best to the service of the state because we believe we are working for the good of our people. Lagos originally belongs to us, therefore, we are always concerned about the good of Lagos.

Since you’ve mentioned it, there is this raging debate over the place of the Awori in Lagos State. And here you are saying Lagos belongs to the Awori? Haven’t you heard about Lagos being a “No man’s land” or belonging to the Bini?

I have heard such talks but I want to tell you not to be impressed by claims like that because they lack any intelligent basis. Somebody must definitely be the owner of a specific location. There’s no place that is a “No man’s land” anywhere in the world. People are called founders of some places because they got there before others. In Lagos, the first settlers, the aborigines, are the Awori.

There is no controversy about this at all and all stakeholders in Lagos know this. We have all agreed to live together in peace because we all understand the truth and realities about how our forefathers got

here and co-habited. Truth be told, all these controversies have been about talks and stories alone. Nobody has dared to drag the lands in Lagos with the Awori (laughter).

We own the lands here in Lagos and everybody knows that. Our forefathers came here in the 15th century. Documents and history abound aplenty to back this claim. Historians and oral renditions have also proved these facts. So, it is wrong for anybody to say there are no Awori in Lagos. We own Lagos.

Only those who are ignorant will say Lagos belongs to any other people other than the Awori. Prominent and well informed Lagosians like Alhaji Femi Okunnu have also said these much in various interviews that we have read. So, if some people are now saying any other thing because of politics, they lack knowledge about Lagos.

But some Lagosians say they are not Awori but of Bini descents. And they claim Lagos belongs to their line of Lagos indigenes and not to the Awori. There is even the claim that the Awori once paid tribute to the Bini in Lagos?

Yes we have descendants of Bini forefathers in Lagos, but they are strangers here in Lagos. The Bini came to Lagos and met the Awori here. It was our forefathers who allocated a small portion of Lagos to these people to inhabit. But I must add here that the peace loving nature of our fathers and a prior revelation by the oracle that Lagos will favour strangers more than the indigenes worked against the Awori so much that strangers are now more prominent in Lagos.

Here in Lagos, people of Bini descent don’t own lands. I have been asking that they should show me their ancestral land anywhere in Lagos. All the land owning families are of Awori descent. Go and check all the Idejo chiefs of Lagos; they are all Awori. These are the people who own lands, not the Oba of Lagos or any other family of Bini descent. So, people who confused the Lagosians of Bini descent as the owners of Lagos are mistaken.

The first Ashipa of Lagos, the first to come from Bini, arrived in 1682 with his group. He met our fathers here. The first Awori Oba around here, in Ota was in 1621 and history had it that he moved from Lagos to pioneer Ota. The bottom line here is that our forefathers were hospitable and accommodating to a fault. And they gave too much concession to the warlike Bini visitors who came to meet them in Lagos.

The Bini people were received and accommodated by our fathers largely based on an earlier prediction that strangers must not be turned back from Lagos. The saying, “Eko agbe ajoji ma gbe omo onile” em anated from this fact. The Bini came here as strangers and they are still here today as a result of the magnanimity of our forefathers.

But the Obaship lineage in Lagos seems not to be in agreement with your claims. How come people you call strangers are now the ruling houses?

I have tried explaining that to you. The Bini people came at a time when our fathers were no longer interested in warfare. So, they intimidated the aborigine Awori so much that they were allowed to set up some form of leadership or rulership in the Isale-Eko area of Lagos. It is very important to always stress the fact that the Obaship we are talking about was for Isale Eko and not the whole of Lagos at the time.

Even in Isale Eko, it is a known fact that the Idejo chiefs, who are Awori, are the landowners till tomorrow, not the Bini ruling houses. They own no land. I am waiting to be showed the lands bequeathed them in Lagos by their own forefathers. You can see Awori ancestral lands all over the place from Isale Eko to Alimosho, to Elegushi to Amuwo Odofin to Ota. All the Idejo lands; Ojora, Aromire, Onitolo, Elegushi, Olumegbon, Ikate, Ojon, name them, are Awori lands.

The Idejos are the white cap chiefs of Lagos and they are Awori. They are all descendants of Olofin who came down to Lagos from Ile Ife. And someone say no Awori in Yorubaland. Olofin came through the Ogun-Osun river basin. He got to Abeokuta and wanted to settle. But when the Oracle was consulted, it was revealed that he must keep moving until the pot they were travelling with in the river sinks.

In Abeokuta, the pot sank for a while but resurfaced again after two weeks. So, Olofin and his people continued their journey until they got to Isheri in present day Ogun State. There, the pot sank again and they were there for three months. The pot resurfaced again and they moved on until they got to Ido in present day Lagos State. The pot finally sank and they settled there.

That was the origin of the name ‘Awori’. It means ‘the pot sank’. It was from there the children of Ogunfunminire moved to establish towns and villages all over Lagos and Ogun State including the present day Ota. The Awori started spreading all over the axis moving towards Badagry and Yewa land. Some moved towards Ikorodu and settled at Majidun and Ebutte Iga areas of the town. Awori are the owners of Majidun and Ebute Iga in Ikorodu. These are facts.

The Awori were in Lagos for over a hundred years before the Bini came and were quartered in a part of Lagos. Other people also came like the Ilaje and were also accommodated. The Ijebu also came as well as some other tribes from Ife and Oyo. They were all accommodated in some parts of Lagos by our forefathers who were the aborigines of Lagos. The Egba too came. Go to some part of the Ota axis, go to Agege, go to Ifako, you will find them there.

When you consider all these, you will agree with me that it is laughable for anybody to either say Lagos belong to nobody or to say there is no tribe called Awori. It is like saying there are no tribes called Ijebu, Remo, Egba, and Bini too. We are a distinct people with traceable cultural and socio-political background that dates back hundreds of years. My parents told me they are Awori and I cannot at over 80 years old change that identity.

What has been happening is that some people, using political and other influences, have been working hard to marginalize the Awori in Lagos. They have tried hard to distort the history f Lagos in such a way that the Awori will not be recognized as the principal group in Lagos. We have been here for over 500 years, yet some people say we don’t exist. We own all the lands yet some people say we are inferior to them. That is the sorry tale of the Awori in Lagos today. YOU once served as the Secretary to the State Government (SSG) in Lagos State. It appears you didn’t do much of politics after that?

Well, let me explain that I actually served as the SSG while still in the service of the Lagos State government. Mine was different from the current arrangement where the SSG is a politician appointed into the position. I was nominated into the position as a very senior civil servant by the then Governor Michael Otedola.

I was before then the Head of Service. That was after I rose to the enviable position of Permanent Secretary in the service of the state. It was as HOS that I was made the SSG by the then new civilian regime of Pa Otedola. I actually combined both positions together until the end of that administration.

It was when Col. Olagunsoye Oyinlola came to power that I retired from active service. He found me so dependable as a government worker and administrator that he immediately appointed me the Chairman of the Lagos State Transport Development Authority (LSDTDA).

I am a thorough-bred Lagosian. So all along, I saw all I did as service to my dear state and my people. As a civil servant and as a political appointee, I was happy serving the state because I saw it all as opportunities to give back to the society that produced me and has given me much as an indigene of the state.

I am an Awori man from Egan in Alimosho Local Government Area of Lagos State. Every Awori man has this very special attachment to Lagos and whenever we are given the opportunity, we always give our very best to the service of the state because we believe we are working for the good of our people. Lagos originally belongs to us, therefore, we are always concerned about the good of Lagos.

Since you’ve mentioned it, there is this raging debate over the place of the Awori in Lagos State. And here you are saying Lagos belongs to the Awori? Haven’t you heard about Lagos being a “No man’s land” or belonging to the Bini?

I have heard such talks but I want to tell you not to be impressed by claims like that because they lack any intelligent basis. Somebody must definitely be the owner of a specific location. There’s no place that is a “No man’s land” anywhere in the world. People are called founders of some places because they got there before others. In Lagos, the first settlers, the aborigines, are the Awori.

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