The controversy over who owns Lagos, was again raised recently, with the launching of a book; Ota Awori Kingdom: Synopsis and Biography of Oba T. T Dada. The 572-page book written by Senator Gbolahan Dada and Mr. Frank Akinola, was presented to the public in Lagos recently. It was graced by many Yoruba monarchs, chiefs, politicians, business moguls and scholars.
The event became tensed when Olota of Ota, Oba Adeyemi Obalanlege, did an analysis of who owns Lagos and why Olota stool could not be under Alake of Egbaland. He dismissed the assertion that Bini people owned Lagos, noting that Lagos has been in existence before the arrival of Bini people and Awori were the first settlers:
He insisted that there are existing historical accounts that Awori territory, especially at Isheri and Idumota existed before 1500AD: “As at the time Awori settled in Lagos, Bini people were no where to found in the area until the invasion of 15 century. It is well known in history and there is no dispute about invasion of Lagos by Bini. But it will be unfair to history and Awori for anybody to claim that Bini owned Lagos when they are not the first settlers. If anybody wants to lay claims for the ownership of Lagos, it should be Awori because we are the first settlers in the area.
“No matter how history is being twisted, the fact still remains that while the first documented crowned monarch of the Awori ascended the throne as early as 1621, the Egba Kingdom did not come into existence until 1832. With this, there is no controversy over seniority, and there is nothing like history of Egba conquering Awori in war. Awori were not inferior to Egba and Olota of Ota stool has been in existence before Alake.”
The monarch said the book is a must read for anybody who wants to know much about Awori Kingdom because it espoused many encounters of the Awori, their perseverance, challenges and how they surmounted them and it contained a narrative about how Orunmila (Baba~1fa) visited Ota Awori kingdom in the 14th Century AD to neutralise the powers of the witches and wizards who had held Ota-Awori by the jugular and successfully liberated the people.
Ogun State Governor, Prince Dapo Abiodun, represented by his deputy, Mrs. Noimot Salako-Oyedele, declared that his administration would be fair to all and address wrongdoing of previous government in the state: “This book is a piece of history which, will be a good reference for all Awori and for students of history who will now have corrected version to deal with. The governor is well aware of many issues, which are paramount to Awori and as listed by our monarch.
“Be rest assure that the administration of Prince Dapo Abiodun has reiterated that his government will be government for whole Ogun State, not government for specific Senatorial District or ethnic groups and this means that the issue raised will be adequately address, he has told us repeatedly in private and public that his government will be fair, equitable and just. So, Olota has our support as he continues to press his case and I believe this book will compliment his efforts.”
The 572-page book traced the history of Awori to the ancestral home of all Yoruba, Ile-Ife. It narrated in detail how they moved from Ile-Ife through their progenitor, Olofin, to their present location in and around the coastal region in present day Lagos and Ogun states.
The Awori settled in different places like Oke Ata, Ido, Idumota and Isheri, before they finally settled in their present abode with Ota as the capital and crowned their first documented monarch, Oba Akinsewa Ogbolu, in 1621. The authors define the Awori as a “peace-loving sub-ethnic Yoruba group, who speak a distinctive and easily recognizable Yoruba dialect.”
They identified four different Awori groups as follows: The Coastal or Southern Awori found in Lagos and its environs extending to Agege, with other identifiable villages like Ibese, Osolu, Itire, Ogba, Ogudu, Idimu and Isolo.
The Western Awori concentrating in areas like Badagry, Ijanikin and Oojo. The Eastern Awori whose capital is in Ota but are also found in Iseri, Ado-Odo and Ado-Igbesa. The central Awori are also found in Ogun State with their capital at Ilaro and extending as far as Imeko on Nigeria’s border with Benin Republic.
The name Awori, according to the authors, was derived from a mythical plate (Awo) given to Olofin, the progenitor of the Awori by his father, Oduduwa, with the instruction that the plate would serve as a pathfinder for him (Olofin) and his people who were moving away from Ile-Ife and that wherever the plate sank would be their permanent settlement.
The authors stated that the plate sank at Idumota in Lagos. For the fact that Idumota was the point where the plate sank (Awo ri) they joyfully shouted “Awo ri” (the plate sank) and Olofin and his people adopted the name.
The book also narrates the history of the Yoruba especially their historical land, spiritual attachment to Ile-Ife, which they believed to be not only the source of the origin of the Yoruba alone but also that of humanity at large. It also explains how Ile-Ife became the source of the dispersal of rulers who later founded Yoruba kingdoms including Bini and Ota Awori.
Although there has been the age-long supremacy contest between the Egba and the Awori, the fact of history as revealed in the book indicated unmistakably that while the first documented crowned monarch of the Awori ascended the throne as early as 1621, the Egba Kingdom did not come into existence until 1832.