PING LAGOS (EPISODE 12)

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FIRST OCTOBER – THE WALL CAME DOWN
It all unfolded in 1949; in an auspicious manner, the Adele supporters pasted posters around the town particularly on the palace premises announcing that the new Oba would arrive to claim the Iga – the throne of his fathers.

At six o’ clock on the evening of 1 October 1949, the Adeles and a significant crowd of people including several prominent Lagos chiefs (Oluwa, Ashogbon, Onilegbale and Oniru assembled with their own men) they commenced approach through the winding roads leading to Upper King Street. Some followers were armed with implements including hammers, crowbars and chisels. They marched along amidst chants and songs from the Enu Owa site and then approached from past Great Bridge Street facing the Ebute (shoreline) end, turning right into Upper King Street. The new Oba himself was then driven into the compound in Chief Oluwa’s car.

The story is told by Ganiyu Dosunmu, an electrician and member of the Dosunmu family who along with a strong group of men, was at the Iga atte mpting to defend it from the Adeles. He was led in evidence by one of the most formidable barristers of his time, Adeleke Adedoyin for the Oyekan plaintiffs. Ganiyu Dosunmu siad:
The car was in front trying to push us away and we were trying to push it back, the chiefs and their followers followed the car… the car had reached the gate leading into the compound but was removed on the request of the police to near the flag post. When the car stopped, the defendant called the following people who are his brothers viz: Sanni Adele, Salawu Lawani Adele and Aminu Kosoko and told them to go home and change yourselves and come back to break the fence. They went away. I saw them return… the people rushed into the compound I ran back to the main gate. The car was then driven into the compound.

The crowd had overwhelmed the Dosunmus who then slipped out in the night, making away through the Ehiniga Street exit, behind the Iga, ‘The fence surrounding the Iga was broken and the door was forced open. The doors to the living quarters were broken. I was sad… we had to leave the Iga that night because an evil would have happened if we had remained till day break.

This allowed for the Adeles to proceed to prayer at the shrine of coronation within the old palace. Adele was effectively crowned on that October day, but the Dosunmu’s retreat was only temporary. On 13 October 1949 they filed an action at the Supreme Court. The hearing commenced on the 18 January 1951; the opposing lines were clear as day. While Oyekan (the Dosunmus) sought €2,000 damages for trespass they also pursued a declearation that the palace belonged exclusively to the family. Adele’s defence was that as King of Lagos he and the chiefs of Lagos were entitled to the use and occupation of the palace as the seat of the Oba.

At the trial court Justice Reece heard the case and after due consideration concluded, that the palace – Iga Iduganran was a gift of land by Chief Aromire to King Ado, who ruled between 1630 and 1669. The court found that it was not until the late seventeenth century that King Gabaro built the first palace on the land and then resided there as king. Extensions and buildings were added by King Akitoye before and following the war with Kosoko. Therefore from King Ado onwards, all kings of Lagos had resided at the Iga except for the brief period following Eshugbayi’s return from exile in 1931, when the colonial government permitted him to reside there even though he was no longer king. The court found that all kings except Sanusi Olusi and Adele as at the date of the trial had been of Dosunmu lineage before and after King Dosunmu himself, that Olusi and Adele were descendants of King Ado and therefore did not belong to the so-called House of Dosunmu.

It emerged that as the date of cession of Lagos by the treaty of 6 August 1861, the Iga had been used for over a century by kings of Lagos descended from Ado. Despite the cesssion, Dosunmu continued to reside at the Iga and was given a document of conveyance of property known as a crown grant by the colonial government in 1870.

After all the evidence that was presented brfore Justice Reece, oral arguments commenced on 13 December 1950; Sir Adeyemo Alakija opened his address for the defendants; appearing with him were Fredrick Rotimi Alade Williams and Hezekiah Oladipo Davis. Alakija already a seasoned barrister was deliberate in his speech, his delivery was clear and he submitted: ‘The occupants of the Iga for the past 100 years have been Obas and no one else. And while these Obas were resident the chiefs were using the Iga as a meeting place to discuss the affairs of Lagos.’

He then skilfully took the court through the relevant history of the kings of Lagos only pausing to pose a rhetorical question:
If the plaintiffs are claiming this property because he got a crown grant for himself and heirs and successive heads, they mean descendants of Dosunmu accepted the land on behalf of the Akitoye come in? If they say that Dosunmu accepted the land on behalf of the Akitoye descendants, it supports the defence because we say it is the constitutionally recognised residence of successive Kings of Lagos.

Adeleke Adedoyin replied as counsel for the defence he tried to use defence witness Chiefs Ashogbon and Oniru to show that the old King Ado, obtained the land on which the Iga was built from Chief Aromire, but failed to reconcile the claim of the Dosunmus of having been in possession for 100 years by ‘original gift’ to Ado and the intervening occupation by kings clearly not from Dosunmus’ lineage.

Justice Reece found for the defendants, the Adeles. He declared that the Oba of Lagos by native law and custom had a right to live in the Iga and that he enjoyed this right by virtue of office. Adele was no exception; once he died he would not pass it to his own heirs but to his successors in office. Being the official home of the king, the chiefs and the functionaries had a right to the performance of certain rites and ceremonies there.

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