By Reno Omokri
The Binis, Fulani, Hausa and Yoruba are the most well documented ethnicities in Nigeria. And when I say documented, I am talking about the pre-colonial era.
Their histories are not lost. You just have to know where to look for it.
The Binis carve their history. For example, if a plague, like COVID-19, visited Benin 500 years ago, you would know all about it today, because they would carve it in intricate detail.
Among the people now loosely called Yoruba, they sang and drummed their history. Each community had a griot or praise-singer, who knew the history of each family, and passed it from father to first son.
During festivities, these griots would recite your lineage’s oriki for you. And as an Omoluabi, you were honour-bound, but not duty-bound to pay them.
The Fulani and Hausa wrote their histories in Ajami script, which they have been using for close to 500 years.
So, history abounds in Nigeria. It is just that sadly, our people have become intellectually lazy, due largely to the vicissitudes of colonialism. And this political season has accentuated and emphasised that mental laziness, like never before.
I was sent a viral video of a certain woman accusing the Yoruba of calling other non-Yoruba Southerners Yibo, by Daddy Freeze, who wanted to know if there was truth in what she said.
Actually, what she said is an urban myth. Many people from all over Nigeria come to Lagos, and the melting pot creates its own historical ecosystem, such that a new language evolved (Yoruba) and new ethics and morals developed.
Before colonialism, there was nothing like Yoruba. You were either Egba, Owu, Awori, Ibadan, Ekiti, Ondo, Ikale, Igbomina, etc.
Many modern-day ‘Yoruba’ people are even shocked to learn that the Ijebu are not even part of what they call Yoruba today. They have their own origin different from modern-day Yoruba, or Omo-ti-Olu Iwa-bi (the real name of the people now known as Yoruba),
The people who were custodians of history among the people now called Yoruba often had the prefix of ayan, which means drummer, to their names
Typically, they would drum with a talking drum (which is a language known to the initiated) and sing your oriki (a poetic narration of exploits of your family lineage).
People who you see today with last names like Ayantade, Ayandele; Ayanbadejo, etc, likely had ancestors that were involved in oriki.
These orikis were custodians of history. And even in pre-colonial times, when they were vastly illiterate, the Yoruba (real name Omo-to-Olu Iwa-bi) oriki had specific names for other major tribes.
Binis were called Ibinu (angry people), probably because they liked to fight and conquer others. Igbo were called Kobokobo, and later in post-colonial times, Ajeokuta m’a momi. Hausa were Gambari, while Fulani were Fulani. Nupe were Tapa (Sango’s mother was Tapa).
If these ayans could be so aware when they were illiterate, is it now that they are literate that they will be unaware?
In fact, some of the Yoruba Lagosians are not even of Yoruba or Omo-to-Olu Iwa-bi origin. Most are, but some are actually of Igbo and Efik/Ibibio origin.
The reason being that just before and immediately after the British abolished slavery in 1807, they began dumping their emancipated slaves in a place they Christened Freetown, which is now the capital of Sierra Leone.
Many of those freed slaves were Igbo. Others were Yoruba. A lot of them left Freetown for Lagos and became Lagosians.
The French dumped their own freed slaves in Libreville, Gabon. Libreville means Freetown in French. Many of those freed slaves were Igbo and fewer were Yoruba. The French had more Igbo slaves and worked them on an island then known as Hispaniola, later rechristened Saint Domingue, but known today as Haiti.
People of Haiti and many in Gabon claim Igbo heritage and that was the reason why both countries supported Biafra during the Nigerian Civil War. Gabon went even further and accepted Biafran refugees. It is widely believed, but not publicly proven, that the ruling Gabonese President’s family is of Igbo origin.
Libreville is quite popular with Igbo. In fact, a popular Nollywood actor is Igbo from Libreville, Gabon.
Now, let us face the issue of Lagos.
First of all, let us go into the origin of the names of some strategic places in Lagos.
Eti-Osa is actually a Yoruba word, but it is a Yoruba word of Bini origin, accepted into Yoruba language.
It is a compound word. The word Eti is fully Yoruba. However, the word Osa has its roots in the Bini language. It means sea, which has the same meaning in Yoruba today.
The Binis have two words for big bodies of water. The first is osa, which is more like sea. And then okun, which we can term ocean. It is just like the word sachet. Yes, sachet is now an English word, but it is a French word accepted into the English language, like entourage, genre, apostrophe, ballet, cadet, cliche, etc. All those words are French words accepted into English.
Eti-Osa should not be confused with Etinosa, which means the power of God in Bini. Etin and Eti are two completely different and unconnected words. And Osa (God in Bini) is pronounced differently from the Bini word for sea, Osa. But they are spelt the same.
And there needs to be no controversy. There are ancient pre-colonial maps of Eko in the British library. And there are copies in Lagos. The state known today as Lagos was classified as the Slave Coast. The territorial waters were known as The Bight of Benin.
Present-day Idumota was known on that map by its original Bini name, Idumwun-Ota. Obalende also features on the map by its Bini name, Oba n’ędé (meaning the Oba never fails). Obanikoro is actually Obanikáo (the Oba on the frontline) on the map. Kao means first in Bini.
Obazuaye is now known as Bajulaye. While Isi-Eko (meaning in Bini: outpost war camp) is now known as Isale Eko.
Please do not get angry with me if you are Yoruba. I actually agree that the people who are now loosely called Yoruba, were there in what is now known as Lagos before the Binis conquered it, or you prefer, occupied the land.
The reason I am bringing out this pre-colonial map is to prove to those who say that Lagos is a No Man’s Land, that they are very far from the truth.
How can a land that was surveyed in a map over 400 years ago, with identified locales, be a No Man’s Land? As our people would say, no be juju be that?
Even the name for Lagos, before the Portuguese renamed it Lagos (Lagos means Lakes or lagoon in Portuguese) is of Bini origin. That name is Eko. And the name of the palace of the Oba of Lagos, Iga Idunganran, is a Bini phrase.
Eko means barracks, or war camp, in Bini language. It was used to describe Lagos because it was a military base of the Binis.
If you lived in Benin, or attended the University of Benin, you would know of a place close to Ugbowo called Eko-Oshodin. It is very popular with students. Eko-Oshodin simply means Oshodin’s war camp.
The word Eko-Oshodin has been corrupted to Ekosodin by non Bini-speaking students who largely populate the environ as a satellite town to the Ugbowo main campus of the University of Benin. Just like the street Papal Via was corrupted to Akpakpava. It was called Papal Via, because that was where the first Catholic priests sent by the Pope stayed. Papal Via simply means Pope Road.
The place described as Jaboo on the map is actually the modern-day Ijebu. If you read my earlier piece, ‘The Ijebu, The Yoruba and Their Influence on The Bible and Judaism’, you will remember that I said that the ‘I’ in Jebu was originally silent. This map is my vindication.
Through enculturation and acculturation, some Bini words became part of Yoruba and Itsekiri lexicon. If a Yoruba or Itsekiri speaks their native tongue, a Bini person will understand about 6-7% of what they say.
On February 24, 1851, Oba Akitoye of Lagos actually wrote a letter, which still exists, to the then British Consul, John Beecroft, clearly stating that Lagos was under Bini suzerainty.
Even the current Oba of Lagos, Oba Rilwan Akiolu, admitted on video that he and his lineage are of Bini origin. Please Google the interview he gave to Channels TV.
But as to whether or not Lagos is no man’s land, no, it is not. When the Binis got there, they met Awori, and other peoples now loosely called Yoruba.
It is important to state that even the word Yoruba is a fairly recent word, coined by Samuel Ajayi Crowther. I know what it means and it is offensive. So I won’t say it.
The more accurate name of the people is Omo-ti-Olu Iwa-bi. And etymologically, they are classified as Edekiri people.
The Ife Bronzes are actually carbon dated to be older than the Benin Bronzes. As a result, it would be preposterous to say the Binis were in Lagos before the Yoruba. And being the honourable people they are, the Binis do not even make such a claim.
However, we ought to accept that Nigeria’s democracy is seriously flawed at gubernatorial levels. Why? Because groups with an agenda to upset the demographics of a state can encourage their kinsmen to move to that state in biblically exodus dimensions. Burden free social services, paid for by the taxpayers, including education, health care, and public utilities. Not pay taxes. Register to vote. And do a hostile takeover of the state, after acquiring a critical mass, and then declare it a no man’s land.
It is an age-old challenge. Egypt was nearly overwhelmed by the ancient Israelites 4000 years ago, and again, by Syrians after the Syrian civil war began in 2011. The Lebanese lost their country through uncontrolled demographic change and are now near slaves to those they once hosted. And in America, even the Democrats are now waking up to the reality of mass invasion from their Southern borders.
We keep bringing up Europe and America. I schooled in England and have been resident in California from the age of 9. You can’t just move from Florida to California, and register to vote. You must fulfil residency requirements, pay taxes, and in some states, but not all, have no criminal records.
And you cannot just move from Birmingham to London and vote in municipal elections. You must fulfil residency requirements, and pay the poll tax, as well as have proof of address at a place where you pay utilities.
If Nigeria’s democracy is not reformed to reflect ‘no representation without taxation’, then sedentary Nigerians would soon be at the mercy of more itinerant Nigerians who consider other people’s domains their own, while studiously protecting their own domains from any form of demographic change.
Some people who want equal rights with others in places where they have not made equal contributions with those they desire to be equal to, would literally kpai you if you try what they are doing to you in their ancestral homesteads.
Of course, when you raise these factual issues, those who have an agenda will shout loudly, even though in their hearts of hearts, they know it is true. Sadly, some of those who should know, would join them, perhaps because they need validation, seeing as their careers in comedy and music, transcends peoples.
But you should still not swallow poison because you are trying to be polite. If your neighbour starts acting like your master in your own home, then your silence is no longer golden. Especially when he has an unknown rabid dog in his house that kills people who have a contrary opinion.
You cannot say what is yours is ours but what is mine is mine. That is not cooperation. That is domination. If for example, the United Arab Emirates does not put in place sufficient checks and balances, they would overnight become a minority in their own country.
Of course when good things are happening, everybody will lay claim to a place. But I was in Nigeria in 1993, immediately after General Babangida annulled the June 12, 1993 Presidential elections.
Those who are old enough remember the massive exodus by some groups away from certain Nigerian cities as a result of the June 12 annulment. When the chips are down, you will really know those who have made a home in a place versus those who have an agenda in that place.
Our system of democracy without responsibilities is breeding irresponsible democrats, who see rights everywhere, but take flight when duties arise anywhere.
You cannot for example open a shop in any part of Europe or America without a business licence. But people expect to move from point A to point B in Nigeria and then they are asked to pay taxes they say it is because of their ethnicity. What a simplicity of imagination!
Nigeria is not like America, a country that was built on immigration. As I said earlier, the Ife bronzes are a thousand years old. Meaning that, that region of Nigeria has been inhabited for a millennium. To call anywhere under Ife influence a no man’s land is a crime against history!
And it goes beyond territory. Even religion should be monitored, if not regulated outright. One of the candidates in Nigeria’s February 25, 2023 Presidential elections really went too far in using religion.
And it has now caused a crisis of expectation, with religious leaders rolling their tongues in their noisy mouths as they try to justify why their ‘prophecy’ did not come to pass. Some of the more callous ones are even making comments that under a military government, could be deemed treasonable.
Well, thankfully, some Christian elders are trying to undo the damage their rogue colleagues have done, by calling for caution and asking Obi to accept his fate as the will of God. Sadly, Obi himself seems unwilling to be checked. He is accusing such elements of using Lord’s Name in vain.
When the same church leaders were publicly telling Peter Obi that the name of the next President is in the Bible, Obi didn’t accuse them of using the Lord’s Name in vain. But now that they are telling him to accept his loss, they are suddenly using God’s Name in vain?
Peter was ready to jump from church to church telling Christians to take back their country. And now that Muslims have taken his advice and voted religiously, he is crying? The moral of the story is this: don’t start what you can’t finish!
Don’t confuse someone who needs you for someone who loves you. If you are looking after a poor girlfriend and paying her school fees, she needs you. Don’t mistake her need for you as her love for you. Relocate her to Canada first and see if her love remains the same! Sadly, poverty can humble people. But that does not mean they are humble. No. They have been humbled. Remove the poverty, and their humility may go away. The love, loyalty, and respect a broke person gives you is untested. That does not mean it is not real. Or that it is real!