PING LAGOS (EPISODE 9)

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RIVALRY BETWEEN THE CHIEFS
There was already great rivalry, envy and resentment between the chief office holders. This led to both long winded testimony that obscured the issues as well as halting abrupt unsupported statements all unfortunately put on record, ‘facts’ that even some of the witness themselves knew or ought to have known were unsustainable.

Bamgbopa, the Chief Eletu Odibo of the period testified ‘I am the Eletu Odibo, head of the Akarigbere chiefs’. He refers to the ‘white cap chiefs’ as ‘first class’ even though there was no established precedence amongst the chiefs. He also said in relation to the eligibility of candidates to the throne of Lagos, ‘Only those sons of the late Oba who were born during his reign and have reached the age of puberty are eligible’ to be chosen as Oba. This testimony was also not supported by observable practice at that time. The witness even went as far as to state the old rule that, ‘succession is confined to the sons of the late Oba; we only go to other relatives if the late Oba had son’.

The Eletu Odibo does however state the very useful and commonly agreed facts of traditional institution, that at the death of an Oba the domestics known as Ibigas report this fact to the Ashogbon whose duty is to close the doors of the palace and secure the Iga from external breach. The report of the death of the King to the Ashogbon is then made known to the Eletu Odibo.

It is hardly surprising that the Ashogbon who was deposed by the late Eshugbayi, confirmed the Eletu’s testimony.

Eletu was diametrically opposed to both the Oba-elect Falolu and the Chief Obanikoro, who was a leading supporter of the Oba-elect and the government.

Naturally, Ward-Price was quickly concerned with Eletu’s testimony such that he treated his statements with caution; he made a margin note to observe that ‘the witness (Eletu) was not helpful in answering questions he was too much on the defensive’.

It is more difficult to ascribe motive to Chief Oluwa’s position when he agreed with Eletu Odibo in substance that literally only the Eletu Odibo in substance that literally only the Eletu and Ashogbon consult Ifa oracle for selection and went on to state when questioned by Kitoyi Ajasa (later Sir), ‘I have not heard of Ado nor that Oshunlokun was ever Oba of Lagos’. The only conclusion, knowing what we do know of Amodu Tijani, Chief Oluwa is that there must have been some collateral reason that might not be connected to the determination of selection to the throne.
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THE OVERBEARING COLONY
The mere fact that the government was conducting an enquiry into the affairs of local institutions raised a conflict, if not a moral dilemma, for participants such as the leading elite and the chiefs whose very survival relied on patronage from the government. This meant in effect that the outcome would be less than a candid reflection of the true state of affairs, but the proceedings went ahead.

Adamu Akeju, the Chief Obanikoro, was known to have views that coincided with the government. He was certainly an opponent of Eshugbayi whose activities against the government are detailed below. He was the most senior chief by Iwuye – installation at the time of the enquiry, which naturally pitched him against any claim by an Eletu Odibo that would suggest divine superiority over all chiefs, irrespective of the date of installation. The Eletu Odibo believed that he would assume seniority by virtue office. Obanikoro’s evidence was, for reasons perhaps best known to Ward-Price, the chairman of the commission, the most extensive and formed the majority of the views adopted by the commission in its report.

Obanikoro stated, ‘There was no Ifa at Benin. The corresponding thing was called Aje. It was our local forefathers who taught the Benin immigrants the use of Ifa… I have no special duties [that i perform] for the Oba. The Opeluwa (an Ogalade Chief) has the special duty of consulting the Aje from Benin as to the future of any child born to the Oba. I know Dosunmu very well. He occupied the Iga (palace until he died. This Iga Iduganran is the property of the town. It is or was the townspeople’s duty to keep it in repair without payment… In accordance with the history as I know it, when an Oba died the report will go to the senior chief of the town and he may belong to any one of the classes of chiefs. Even an Ologun – a war chief, can be the senior chief. The Ifa oracle is not consulted immediately. The name of the most promising Omo-Oba is selected and Ifa is then consulted as to whether his appointment would be for the good of the people. The purpose of consulting Ifa is to decide whether the choice is wise. The candidates are selected from all the Omo-Obas, any Omo-Oba whatsoever, so long as he is a son of an Oba or descended from an Oba through males… Lagos has changed alot n since 1860. If Ifa were to be allowed the final selection now I would not agree to it. Ifa is consulted not to make selection but after selection is made… formerly however, they had to get the approval from the Oba of Benin. For example at Ologun Kutere’s death, Adele was asked to take the body to Benin as usual. This was done but only with great difficulty. After this, the bodies were not taken to Benin anymore but the Oba of Benin was still saluted as Enu Owa. The exchange of presents between Benin and Lagos ceased in the time of Dosunmu. The Oba of Benin’s confirmation is no longer necessary’.

Ward-Price decided on 18 May 1933 that the commission should pause its hearing to hold a private meeting at which it was hoped that being away from formality and the public scrutiny, it would allow for some candour between the parties and hopefully resolution on areas of clear divide between the chiefs. The attendance at the meeting reflected the divide between the chiefs and brought little resolution save for the agreement that Omo-Obas do not select the Oba and only the government’s decision could settle matters between the chiefs. Chief Eletu Odibo even conceded to allowing the government modify the custom of Lagos if need be.

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