Chief Solomon Ayinde Ojolowo is the National President of Awori Welfare Association of Nigerian (AWAN), the umbrella body of all pan-Awori organisations home and abroad. He holds the titles of Ba’Gbimo of Onigbongbo, Ikeja, Lagos and Gboba’ Niyi of Ota, Ogun State.
He expressed concern over alleged attempts by certain forces to distort the history of Awori people in Lagos State and warned that his people, who according to him are the original owners of Lagos, should not be marginalised for political reasons.
How would you react to the on-going controversy over the origin of Awori following a recent interview by a prominent leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Lagos State, Prince Tajudeen Olusi where he made certain claims on the position of Awori in the state?
We were all shocked by Olusi’s outburst. Olusi was trying to distort the history of Lagos State for selfish reasons but he can never succeed in doing that. Our investigations revealed that Olusi’s action is part of a grand plot by some people to marginalise Awori in Lagos State. We learnt that Olusi and his co-travelers are coming out with this falsehood in order to ensure that Awori are schemed out in the new government that is set to be inaugurated in the state but they are not going to succeed. We are disappointed by this unexpected outburst from a Lagos political leader of the status of Prince Tajudeen Olusi, the leader of APC Elders Forum who declared not only that Awori are not in Lagos, but also that Awori is not a tribe in Yoruba land. We even expected him to deny this falsehood but so far he has not retracted his statement, and that’s why we are debunking his spurious claims.
Everyone in Yoruba land, including non-Yoruba know that Awori are the aborigines of Lagos. We have no quarrel with Prince Olusi being a Bini man, especially as a Prince of a late Oba in Lagos. We are not going into the details of the controversial era of his late father. The record or account of that is in history.
Why are you faulting Olusi’s recent claims?
His ill motivated and premeditated claims are false .A renowned scholar, the late Prof. Lawal, who wrote several well-researched books and lectures on Awori and Lagos history, submitted that ‘available evidence convincingly shows that the Bini’s, Nupe, Tapa, the slave returnees such as Saro, Brazillian, Cuba and the likes now form part of the indigenes of Lagos State but none of them should make the mistake of claiming to be the original land owner in any form because the Awori solely enjoys this right by virtue of their earliest settlements.’ It appears that Prince Tajudeen Olusi and people like him are being mischievous or must be up to something sinister. It is strange that Prince Tajudeen Olusi who had at various times described himself as an Awori, and who in fact, at one time in 1985, acted as the secretary of the Lagos Royal House when he authored a memorandum in which he declared that the royal lineages of Lagos and a number of chiefs within the state and outside it took their origin from the Awori settlement of the 15th Century.
He went further in the memo to say that the head of the settlement was titled ‘Olofin’. He also pointed out that the seat of government was based at Iddo Island, and that the jurisdiction of the Island government extended to the whole of Awori land. It is high time Awori Obas rallied round to ensure the permanent chairmanship of Lagos State Council of Obas and Chief s is reversed to an Awori Oba or at least rotated among the five Administrative Divisions of Lagos State. There is a precedence in the early second republic, precisely, the Jakande Era, when Oba Farombi of Isolo was made the Chairman of the Lagos State Council of Obas.
The chairmanship of the Obas’ Council has been permanent for a long time before now. Why are you advocating for a rotation now?
This has become very necessary because these Bini elements are over rating themselves to the detriment of their landlords, the Awori. It is quite a reckless statement for someone to claim Isolo, one of the prominent Awori communities in Lago State is not an Awori town or that people of Isolo are not Awori. Isolo is a well-known major Awori town which was founded by a group of Awori people led by one Akinbaiye. Many other towns and villages of Awori origin from the major part of the Ikeja Division of Lagos State are mainly Awori establishment. Of notorious negative significance is the attempt by Prince Olusi to twist the history of Akesan, where he also claimed that the late King of Akesan was not Awori.
The emphasis of Prince Olusi on Oyo as the original place of Isolo and Akesan has neglected the fact that every Yoruba including the people of Oyo has claim to Ile – Ife as the source. Generally speaking, the Awori of Lagos State constitutes the largest single ethnic sub-group in Lagos State, in fact the Awori own about 75 percent of the indigenous population of the state. They are found in all the local government areas of the state. Out of the old 20 local government areas in Lagos State, the Awori conveniently form the indigenous population of 17 of the local government areas, namely, Lagos Island, Ojo, Badagry, Amuwo-Odofin, Ajeromi-Ifelodun, Apapa, Osodi Isolo, Mushin, Agege, Ikeja, Alimosho, Kosofe, Eti-Osa, Lagos Mainland, Surulere, Shomolu and Ifako-Ijaye, while it has a recongnisable percentage of indigenous population in Ibeju-Lekki Local Government. The Awori people are predominant people around Majidun and Ajegunle areas of modern Ikorodu Local Government Area. Awori are the landlords in Lagos. We hope that Prince Olusi is not taking undue advantage of his position in the APC Advisory Council in Lagos State, and the Governors Advisory Council (GAC), to marginalise and neutralise the Awori in the pending formation of the cabinet of the incoming administration in the state. We trust that the true leaders of Lagos State like Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu who recognise the place Awori in the state will not allow this injustice to stand.