Is Lagos a “No Man’s Land”?

By: Deji Yesufu

This question is probably the most debated theme in Nigeria’s political space at the moment. It is a question that was precipitated by the recent elections in Lagos State. In the presidential elections, former Governor of Lagos State, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, lost to Peter Obi of the Labour Party in the state by a little over 10,000 votes; though Tinubu won the overall elections – polling massive numbers from northern Nigeria. Three weeks later, incumbent Governor Jide Sanwo-Olu won re-election to office, beating his rival Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour of the Labour Party by over 400,000 votes.

The question as to who owns Lagos or whether Lagos should be declared a no man’s land arise from the realisation that many people of Eastern Nigeria have taken over Lagos and are able to now dictate the political direction of the state. Peter Obi is Ibo and won Lagos; and a few people allege that Gbadebo is actually half Ibo, with his mother and wife being Ibo, therefore these two enjoyed the support of Ibos in Lagos. But is Lagos State really a no man’s land? The answer, to be honest, is not easy to reach and I’ll explain why.

First, Lagos State is in South West Nigeria and South West Nigeria is Yoruba. Those who pitch their argument on the geography of Lagos are therefore right to conclude that Lagos State is not a no man’s land. Lagos belongs to the people’s group called the Yorubas within whose land mass Lagos is situated. Dr. Abass Abdus-Salam of UCH, Ibadan, in a private conversation, told me that the when states were created in Nigeria, ethnicity formed some of the primary considerations in dividing up the lands. The aim was to put as many ethnic groups as possible in a geographical space, to minimise friction among them. That the primary reason for creating Lagos as a state must therefore put into consideration the fact that Lagos was in Yoruba land, albeit a state that enjoyed federal presence because it was the capital of Nigeria. On this argument alone, Lagos is not a no man’s land. Lagos State belongs to the Yoruba ethnic stock in Nigeria.

A second argument will tilt the discussion towards a different conclusion: Lagos was the federal capital of Nigeria and it enjoyed a cosmopolitan status. Even long before Lagos was made capital of Nigeria, the city was a port town that received visitors to Nigeria via the sea. In fact the original dwellers in Lagos, and those who lay claim to having laid the cosmopolitan nature of the city of Lagos, were visitors to Nigeria from Senegal, Serena Leone, Liberia, Ghana and other West African countries. These people had been exposed to western education and they came to Lagos as business men. Their children, individuals with names like Thomas, Campbell, MacCauley, Rhodes, etc, will become the earliest aristocrats in Lagos and quickly filled the void that the British left behind in the civil service and in the political spheres. Along with this group will also include the original dwellers of Lagos, the ones that should be rightfully called the true owners of the land. This will include the Aworis and the Eguns. But this group of people will be in the minority in Lagos State today, which leads us back to the question of who then are the owners of the Lagos land space. Because if the original settlers are themselves minorities, it means that every other person in lagos are visitors and this is how I want to answer the question of whether Lagos is a no man’s land or not.

Lagos, at some point in our national life, became cosmopolitan. Its nearness to the sea meant that visitors to Nigeria reached Lagos first and most stayed there. It also meant that Lagos was open to business opportunities that no other parts of Nigeria knew. This is besides the fact of presence of the Federal might in Lagos, with that city enjoying the first bastion of investment that oil rich Nigeria had in the 1970s. Today’s Lagos is therefore the combined effort of many factors and no people’s group can lay sole claim to Lagos. Lagos is what Nigeria should be: a no man’s land – a land that’s the result of the investment of all Nigerians – an all Nigerian land. Most people in Lagos today are visitors to that city. The Yorubas only enjoy the advantage of proximity.

Having said that I think that the idea of Lagos being inherently Yoruba should not be denied the people of South West Nigeria. Just a city in South East Nigeria cannot be said to be no man’s land. In the long run, we should understand that mutual respect is the foundation for peaceful and prosperous coexistence. It is a reality that Lagos can enjoy and our Yoruba and Ibo brothers can teach the rest of Nigeria how to do it.

Posted by Deji Yesufu

One Comment

  1. This is sad. No matter the garb you are clothing this writeup with. Calabar once enjoy the status your write postulates so also is lokoja. Can it be said today that calabar or lokoja is no man’s land? The answer is probably see Yoruba ethnic group are hospitable, this hospitality is what is hunting the Yoruba ethnic group. Can anyone or group claims Kano or portharcout is no man’s land? No because the locals will not even give you as a settlers an inch of comfort.
    You see the 2023 election has awaken some sense of belonging which many ungrateful lots called bigotry.we are not troubled but this year has revealed a lot and non Indigenous people will have to know they are mere settlers because its only Yoruba that thinks federally as far as Nigeria is concerned


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