By Ola Animashaun

Mr Babajide Sanwo – Olu, Governor, Lagos State and Rt. Hon. (Dr.) Mudashiru Obasa, Speaker, Lagos State House of Assembly

Lagos State was created on 27 May 1967 by virtue of the State Creation and Transitional Provisions Decree No. 14 of 1967. It was created from what used to be the Lagos Colony or the Colonial Province before 1954. It was Lagos Colony that metamorphosed into Lagos State. The Lagos Colony was made up of Lagos Island and the mainland – ceded to the British in 1861, Badagry – ceded in 1863, Epe – ceded in 1892 and Ikorodu – ceded in 1894. At the time of these cessions, there was no country called Nigeria and there was no Western Region. The Colony existed before the Southern and Northern protectorates.

However, with the advent of Federalism in 1954, It was necessary to create a federal capital territory where every citizen of Nigeria would be comfortable and have a sense of belonging. The Federal Capital Territory was thus created out of the Lagos Colony and the rest of the Lagos Colony (Badagry, Epe, Ikorodu, etc) was merged with Western Nigeria on the basis that there was homogeneity between the people of Lagos Colony and the people of Western Region. The Federal Capital Territory was the whole of Lagos Island, Ikoyi and Victoria Island, some parts of the mainland, up to Jibowu.

When Lagos State was created, the Federal Capital Territory was a part of it. this was where the state began to get its tag of “no man’s land”, based on the erroneous belief that Lagos State was synonymous with the federal capital territory. However, it was the federal capital territory and the part of Lagos Colony that was merged with the Western Region that became Lagos State, in other words, the whole of the old Lagos Colony became Lagos State. And the federal capital territory was a limited part of Lagos State.

The point of all of this is to say that if a person’s ancestors were not indigenous to the Lagos Colony (i.e., all the territories ceded to the British), such a person cannot be an indigene of Lagos State, notwithstanding that such a person is indigenous to any of the Yoruba states that used to be part of the Western Region. This is because Lagos State and the Lagos Colony are the same in terms of the territories that constituted them.

With the federal capital territory moved to Abuja in December 1991, there is no part of what used to be Lagos Colony and is now Lagos State, that can be jokingly or seriously referred to as no man’s land. Lagos belongs to Yorubas, but only to the Yorubas whose forebears were indigenous to Lagos Colony – these are the indigenes of Lagos State. It is part of several international conventions that indigenes of a place must not be marginalized out of political participation in their communities. Minority rights of indigenous people are an integral part of international human rights law. It should also be noted that Nigerian citizenship is based on one’s forebears belonging to a community indigenous to Nigeria. Section 147(3) of the constitution also provides that only an indigene of a state can be appointed as a minister from that state. The Federal Character Commission Act defines an indigene of a state as a person who is an indigene of one of the local governments of that state and equally provides that no person shall lay claim to more than one state. It implies that is that ordinarily, you should not be able to claim two states simultaneously.

The indigenes of the Lagos state have been marginalised in their state. If a census of political office holders in Lagos State is taken today, it will show that non-indigenes hold most of the major political positions. For instance, the Speaker of the Lagos House of Assembly is a non-indigene. The Governor of Lagos State is said to be an indigene of Ogun State – the Deputy Governor is also from Ogun State. It was not until recently that indigenes of Lagos State were selected as senators representing the State. This could be taken as a sign of progress since all the senators representing Lagos State are from Lagos State, and the issue of divided loyalty is not likely to materialise.

A situation of non-indigenes hold most of the major political positions in Lagos State is an absurd situation. Especially because while these people were holding political posts in Lagos State, they had divided loyalties and they could not have properly protected the interests of the indigenes and people of Lagos State. For example, there is Senator Solomon Adeola , who while he was representing Lagos State as a senator, of the Lagos West senatorial district, contested for the same post in Ogun State and won. Additionally, while Lai Mohammed was Chief of Staff in Lagos State, he was planning to become the governor of Kwara State. The former minister of interior, Rauf Aregbesola, was a commissioner in Lagos State when he contested for Governor of Osun State and won. There is also James Faleke, who, while representing Ikeja Federal constituency in Lagos State, simultaneously contested for the post of Deputy Governor in Kogi State.

Going forward, the powers that be in Lagos State, from politicians to the traditional rulers, must do right by the indigenes of the Lagos State. Under no circumstances must a non-indigene emerge as the governor of Lagos State, and this is in the interest of indigenes and non-indigenes alike. If an indigene is elected, he has no other state to run to and will act in the interest of Lagos State. Shamsedeen Lawal, Lateef Jakande and Gbolahan Mudashiru all did well for Lagos State because they were indigenes of the state. Under no circumstances should a non-indigene emerge as the governor of Lagos State again. The same thing should apply to the Deputy Governor and the Speaker of the State Assembly.

The House of Assembly and House of Representatives may be thrown open, as these areas need to reflect the diversity of Lagos State. However, the Senate should be restricted to indigenes because they would adequately represent the interest of Lagos without doubtful loyalty, especially so, since each state, irrespective of size, is represented by three senators. I will urge President Bola Tinubu, who is an indigene of Lagos State from the famous Tinubu family to use all the powers at his disposal to make sure Lagos is no longer short-changed and that come 2027 that an indigene of Lagos State emerges as governor of the state. Lagos State should no longer be treated as a conquered territory.

Ola Animashaun, a legal practitioner and former representative of the Ikorodu Constituency I, writes from Ikorodu.

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