Before crude oil became cool, that is, before it became the chief revenue source for the Nigerian government, there was Lagos. Circa 1905, when the ‘geographical expression’ now called Nigeria was administered in three separate regions—Southern Nigeria, Northern Nigeria, and Colony of Lagos—it was Lagos which had the wherewithal.
This viewpoint that Lagos is the original southern lady of means is the theme of the 4th Festival Colloquium, to mark the celebration of Lagos at 50. The colloquium is to be delivered by Solomon Asemota (Senior Advocate of Nigeria) on 17 Saturday September 2016 at Kongi Art Gallery Freedom Park Lagos.
Solomon Asemota (SAN) was educated at the University of Lagos between 1964-1969, where he earned a Bachelor of Law (Honours) degree, and later the Nigerian Law School (1969-1970). He has had an illustrious career as a police officer. A career which began when he attended the Cadet Sub-Inspectors’ Course at the Southern Police College, Ikeja Lagos (1959-1960) and culminated as a superintendent in 1969, when he was officer-in charge of the Detective Training School, Ikoyi Lagos. Upon which he resigned to practice law. He has had an equally successful career both in the public positions held (e.g. Presidential Advisory Committee on National Dialogue/Conference 2013) and in private practice as a lawyer (e.g. Secretary, Finance Committee, Sixth Commonwealth Law Conference -1980).
Solomon Asemota’s metaphor on Lagos being the original well-off southern lady is taken from a speech by Lord Harcourt, in the book Lugard and the Amalgamation of Nigeria (p.30). Lord Harcourt, then Secretary of State for the colonies, gave the speech at a colonial service dinner in 1913, he said:
“We have released Northern Nigeria from the leading strings of the Treasury. The promising and well-conducted youth is now on an allowance “on his own” and is about to effect an alliance with a Southern lady of means. I have issued the special license and Sir Frederick Lugard will perform the ceremony. May the union be fruitful and the couple constant! The Nigerias are not designed to be a great “Trust” but a great “Federation”.
Mr. Asemota holds that Lagos which in 1906 was first merged with Southern Nigeria, in preparation for the amalgamation of Nigeria in 1914, is the original lady of means. That it was Lagos which provided the funds for the allowance Lord Harcourt jokingly alluded to. That the source of funds for Southern Nigeria was import duties through Lagos Port mainly Gin. In 1939, Southern Nigeria was split into two Eastern and Western Nigeria and the well conducted youth became polygamous with two wives – East and West. According to Asemota, this is how Nigeria perfected ‘harem politics’—the playing of one wife (Yoruba) against the other (Ndigbo). This “politics”, he says, has continued till date.
Also, Asemota sees Lagos as the ‘original Nigeria’, because prior to the amalgamation Lagos was arguably the only region which could boast of being a melting pot of the diverse ethnic nationalities in Nigeria. He says three Yoruba of Lagos extraction, Shitta Bey, Chief H. O. Davies QC, and his mentor Mobolaji Johnson, were ‘‘examples of Lagosians who believed and understood then and now that Lagos is built on diversity, Yorubas, Benin, Saro, Brazil, Igbo, Niger Delta (Warri people), Hausa and others and for ideological reasons it almost lost its role as the “original Nigeria” and the “original lady of means”.
Mr. Asemota recommends ‘‘that Nigeria must congratulate and rejoice with Lagos as an oil producing state, I have outlined a brief history of ownership of land and mineral and also discussed the Yoruba sense of justice. Now that Lagos is an oil producing state, they must join others to demand for justice’’, and that ‘‘the preponderance of non-indigenes should form as the basis for increased federal grants. It will also help to promote accurate census and tourism. Nigerians must first become the local tourists before it can attract foreigners’’.
Other features to be expected at the colloquium includes: cultural displays, speaker’s corner, lectures, and performances.