Prince Tajudeen Oluyole Olusi, Chairman of the Elders’ Forum of All Progressives Congress (APC) in Lagos recently granted an interview where he said Aworis were not a tribe in Yorubaland. In this interview with TEMIDAYO AKINSUYI, he responds to the claims of the Awori Welfare Association of Nigeria that he is trying to misinform Nigerians and distort history by his remarks. Excerpts:
The Awori in Lagos under the auspices of Awori Welfare Association of Nigeria on Tuesday threatened to take legal actions against you for saying there are no Aworis in Yorubaland. What informed that statement?
In the interview I granted few weeks ago, I was quoted to have said there is no tribe like Awori in Yorubaland. In Nigeria, we have been told that there are three major tribes and they are the Yoruba, Ibo (now Igbo) and the Hausa. These are the major tribes that we have. People take most of the people in the Southern part of Nigeria as Yoruba. So therefore, if you have one Yoruba tribe, then Awori cannot be a tribe in Yorubaland. I went further to say that Awori were those settlers who left Ile-Ife as a result of chieftaincy dispute, follow the path of Ogun River and disembark at Isheri and settled there. So, that is one point I want to note. Now, there have been about three rejoinders to what I have said. One rejoinder quoted the late Professor Kunle Lawal that he stated in his historical writings that the Aworis traced their origin to Ile-Ife. Even today, I have read in the dailies that the representative of the Ooni of Ife was at the press conference and that he produced a letter from the Ooni asserting that the people are from Ile- Ife. So, if I say that the Aworis are from Ile- Ife, what is really wrong in that? I think the media and other independent people will ask from those who have promised to take court actions against me what is really their complaint.
Do you have any issue with the Aworis in Lagos?
I have no problem with those who called themselves or describe themselves as Awori. I cannot query any individual how he comes about his name or any adjective he chooses to attach to himself. But we are talking about history and all I have been saying is about the history of Lagos. I want to assert that Lagos was part of the Bini Empire and most of the chiefs in Lagos are from Bini. Four classes of chiefs in Lagos- the Akarigberes, most of them are from Bini. The Abagbons (war chiefs) like Bajulaiye, Obajulu, Saba most of them are from Bini. I mentioned earlier the Akarigberes, the Oshodis and the Eletus are all from Bini. In the Ogalade class, we have a mixture formed from other parts of Yorubaland and Nigeria. Then, we have the Idejos, most of the Idejos are from the various parts of the southern part of Nigeria. We are talking about the history of Lagos here.
They also said out of the original 20 local government areas in Lagos State, the Awori formed the indigenous population of 17 LGAs. What is your take on that?
In the dailies today, they listed a number of local governments. I have authentic records of the colony of Lagos that was ceded to the British by the king of Lagos. Pictures of the areas that the British took from Oba Dosunmu of Lagos is in the archives and all these areas that they have mentioned were part of the kingdoms of Oba Dosunmu that was taken by the British and which later formed the colony of Lagos. So, the king of Lagos ceded all these areas to the British and therefore, the king of Lagos was the paramount ruler at that time. People should go into the records. The British signed treaties with paramount kings in Nigeria like the Alaafin of Oyo, Owa of Ijeshaland, Alake in Abeokuta; the Egba united kingdom and so on. This is history, not politics and clearly not an attempt to wage war against anybody or any tribe. The purpose of relating history is for our children and generations yet unborn to know the truth about our history and our beginning. In my earlier statement, I made reference to a record written by a German doctor who in 1604 visited Lagos and recorded that Lagos was part of the empire of the king of Bini. That does not mean that Lagos was founded in 1604. The man was only on a voyage around the globe and he visited Lagos. There are other records.
The Aworis are asking you retract the claims or be ready to face legal action for allegedly misleading the people. Are you saying what you said about the Aworis is genuine and not an attempt to distort history?
I have no grudge with anybody but I am particular about the history of Lagos. Let me tell you one story. When I was a young boy, like age of 6, most primary schools in Lagos at that time, the teachers were the Egbas, Ijebus and some Calabar people. These people dominated the teaching profession back then. We had Geography, they will teach us about other parts of the country. They will tell us about Abeokuta, Ibadan and other places. After the teaching, the teacher will now ask each one of us, ‘where are you from’? Somebody will say ‘I am from Abeokuta’ and the teacher will say clap for him. He will call another person and that one will say ‘I am from Ibadan’ and they will also clap; the same for Ilorin and other places. When he gets to my turn, I will say I am from Lagos and the teacher will say ‘ There is no Lagos, Lagos is no man’s land’. I will burst into tears and I will cry until I reach home. My father, who was a former Oba of Lagos, Oba Sanusi Matiku Olusi will now say ‘Taju, your teacher does not know everything’. You see that Centenary Hall in Abeokuta, it was built to mark the 100 years of Egba settlement. That is to say our forefathers have been here long before that. On another occasion, my father will say ‘Look, the old Oyo, they call that place Agodoyo which means a temporary settlement has become Oyo and that Alaafin had other lands. It was this little discussion that spurred me to be interested in history. I repeat, I have no grudge with Aworis. There is Awori High School, Awori Street and so on. I am not saying that government should demolish Awori High School or prosecute anybody who calls himself an Awori. What I did was just to set the records straight and tell the history of Lagos the way it should be.