Ogu people are originally from Ghana, says Oba Akran - MissiveBlog


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Sunday, 10 March 2019

Ogu people are originally from Ghana, says Oba Akran

A lot may have been written about the ancient town of Badagry, with its rich history and numerous firsts. But when a group of reporters get the rare opportunity to sit with the monarch of the town, De Wheno Aholu Menu Toyi I, something is always going to give. Gboyega Alaka, who led the crew captures the moment.
IT’S a long, tedious journey, courtesy of the poor condition of the Lagos-Badagry Expressway, but once you take that right turn at the bustling Badagry roundabout, with its legendary tall Sato drum statue, it’s a totally different ballgame. All the way through the heart of the ancient city, with its relics of over 800-year heritage of deep African culture, language, slavery, western education and religion; you literally get a feeling of being transmuted into a city of early civilisation and culture, old architecture and discipline.
Badagry, in spite of being looked down upon by the more illustrious Eko or Central Lagos and environs, carts home the trophies when it comes to orderliness, neatness, and hospitality. Not for once did this crew of four, comprising Chief Correspondent GBOYEGA ALAKA, Photographer, OLUSEGUN RAPHEAL, SIMEON OGHENEAKPHOBO AKUSU and SHERIF ATANDA, a heap of refuse, or encounter tactless hoodlums or touts. And the roads? Smooth and wide, almost an indictment of both the federal government and state, by the local government, for neglecting their side of the deal. Even the usually unruly commercial motorcycle riders, exhibited clearer level of decorum.
The Akran’s palace, our destination, is a one-storey piece of architectural grandeur and beauty, compact and magnificent; its top decor, a large golden crown, depicting its glory and royalty; reminiscent of a palace in the real sense of the word. Each floor of the palace opens into a large palace hall, with a raised throne, and seats arranged neatly and in an orderly manner, ostensibly for the different grades of chiefs, and another set of seats directly opposite the throne, possibly for the people or visitors to the palace. This crew was received in the lower floor palace by the Jengen of Badagry, High Chief Onuosekan-Gbewa-1 (JP) and Segun Thomas, a palace official.
Another conspicuous feature of the palace is the royal wagon, with the inscription,  ‘Akran of Badagry.’ Thomas would go on to explain that it was a gift to the Akran, usually pulled by horses, which he rides on ceremonial occasions and during important tourism activities to acknowledge obeisance and cheers from his people.
And standing right on the edge of the expansive driveway towards the palace, as one veers off palace Road, is the magnificent Methodist Church Cathedral, almost a testimonial to the towns rich Christian heritage.

HIS Royal Majesty
At well over eighty years of age and 42 years on the throne, Oba Akran of Badagry, His Royal Majesty, De Wheno Aholu Menu Toyi 1 is no longer that vibrant young man who ascended the throne of his forefathers in 1977, but he no doubt retains that royalty and grace associated with the stool. Though now slower, his voice, still conveys that strength and power of a man of his prominence and status, and his memory, still sharp, as he, on more than one occasion, corrected these reporters on some misjudgments, and even urged them on, when they at a point, wondered aloud if they weren’t asking too many questions.
Seated majestically on his throne in the upper palace, in company of High Chief Jengen and another prominent son of the soil, Baale of Akomeji Close (Iyafin), Chief Patindode, Kabiesi welcomed the crew of The Nation reporters. A former journalist himself, he would later regal them with stories of his days in the media, where he traversed a number of  media houses, some defunct and some still in operation. But first, he would talk about some of the major activities unfolding in his kingdom for which he is proud and excited, and those things, he believed needed urgent attention.
Just last year, April to be precise, the sprawling coastal kingdom played host to dignitaries from far and wide, as it witnessed the foundation stone-laying ceremony of the Oba Akran International Shopping Mall to be named after his Royal Majesty himself. That project, according to High Chief Agoloto, who spoke on behalf of the monarch on that occasion, is a fulfillment of a long-term dream his majesty had nursed over the years, to have a Dubai-like mall that would attract visitors from far and wide and boost the increasing vibrant economic activities of the kingdom.
Indeed, Kabiesi reiterated everything the high chief said about these proposed 93-acre project, but added that it was a dream he has nursed for nearly ten years.
“The idea of that mall is a fulfillment of my plan to have a shopping mall of international standard in Badagry, so that people will be attracted to come visiting and appreciate the beauty and commercial potentials of the place, and also understand that we are doing well and moving on.
“I have nursed the idea for nearly ten years, but of course, you know that ideas don’t just translate to reality; so I was waiting for the opportunity, which finally presented itself; hence the foundation ceremony last year. As I speak to you, we have launched it and we have foreign partners who are handling the financial aspect.”
Oba Akran however desisted from talking about delivery date for the project, opting instead to say, “It is my dream that the project is completed in my lifetime, but it is the pace of work that will determine when they will conclude and deliver the project.”
The Oba Akran International Shopping Mall is being handled by Palmnto Nigeria Limited, a consortium of investors and developers, in conjunction with the Badagry Royal House and the people of Badagry Local Government Council, as host community.
Kabiesi also spoke of a proposed port, which, he said investors are trying to build in the coastal town. “They have been making arrangement on this port and I think that very soon, it will be done. When completed, the port will be the largest in Africa. I can tell you for free that this is another project I am very proud and excited about.” He said.
These projects, along with Seme Border, which arguably remains Nigeria’s busiest land border, are some of the things his royal majesty hopes would take the kingdom to its next level of prosperity. He maintained that business activities at the border and by implication, Badagry, is still thriving, despite restrictions on importation of certain products such as rice and poultry.
Fundamental to these laudable projects and quest for next level of prosperity, however, is the highway leading from central Lagos metropolis to the ancient town. He regretted that the highway, which was inaugurated at about the same time he was coronatted in 1977, is now in a collapsed state and virtually impassable.
“Hear him: “To tell the truth, I am disappointed. Because even now, I thought they would have completed the repair works on the road, especially the part being undertaken by the state government. So my appeal is to have the in-coming state government give it priority and complete it. That (along with the Okokomaiko – Badagry section of the same road, recently awarded by the federal government) is one project I will be happy if they can complete in my lifetime.”
On how the people of the town have been able to imbibe and maintain the culture of neatness, which clearly pervades the town, Kabiesi literally down-played this, saying instead, “We’re still working at it. We are still trying to develop Badagry to become one of the biggest modern cities. You would have noticed that the area of the Roundabout, as you drive in, is getting busier, with business and vehicular activities thriving. That is an indication that we’re advancing.”
Asked how he felt when he was asked to ascend the throne of his forefathers at barely 40, De Wheno Aholu Meno Toyi I laughed a knowing laugh, nodded and said, “Well, I was a young man in my prime and never thought I would be called upon so early. But I was happy anyway. The late Oba CD Akran had just passed on a few years earlier.
Did he at any point in his childhood think he would someday become king? Oba Akran said, “Yes of course. As a young prince, I knew I was in line, but I never thought it would be that soon.”
Town of many firsts
When reminded that the sprawling town still retains a lot of fame and history despite its visible infrastructural neglect, so much so, that it annually attracts a rainbow of visitors to its internationally reputed African Heritage Festival, Oba Akran said, “It has to be. You cannot undermine the place of Badagry in the history of Nigeria and the whole of black Africa. First, Christianity entered Nigeria through Badagry. That was in 1842. By implication, that also means that western education entered Nigeria first, through this shore. Education started in Wesley Mission, followed by the Anglican School. Even as I speak, the Anglican school is waxing strong.”
How is it then that despite its deep roots in western education, the town still seems a bit on the backside when it comes to academic advancement?
To this, the monarch said, “It all boils down to the government; because if you know that education came into the country through this town, why then are you slow in making sure education is given priority there?”
Is he then blaming the government for the slow progress of education among his people? The Akran said, “Not exactly, but I think they should have done more.”
When reminded that the town, in spite of everything, is home to two Lagos Model Colleges, in addition to other regular primary and secondary schools, the octogenarian monarch again busted into that knowing laughter and asked, “What about a university? What about a polytechnic? They were not brought here; those are the things I expected here and still expect.”
Even the fact that the state’s ivory tower, the Lagos State University, Ojo, is situated not too far from Badagry town, is no consolation for the oba, who feels the town deserves “at least a university satellite campus, if not a full university.”
He however expressed delight at the Administrative Staff College of Nigeria (ASCON) established in 1973 by the federal government and situated in Topo, Badagry. “ASCON is still strong because it is a government institution set up to encourage learning and build up people in the civil service and industry,” the Akran reflected.
He expressed same enthusiasm at the French Village, Ajara, set up in 1992 to enhance acquisition of competence in the French language, but insisted the government should do more in bringing development and prosperity to the town.
When the conversation shifted to the recent discovery of crude oil in the town, the monarch’s face lit up and a smile lined his thin lips. You could tell he is glad at this benevolent gift of nature. First, he agreed that the discovery has further endowed the town with global prominence – outside the age-long fame of birthing western education, Christianity, first storey building, slave port, point of no return et al. But it inadvertently steered the conversation back to the subject of neglect.
“The oil was discovered right on the coast of Badagry here, but the problem is that the money is not coming into the town. We need them to bring part of the money in to establish industries and develop the town. Let the government take this as an official demand to do more in terms of infrastructure in the town. Of all the towns and divisions in Lagos State, Badagry is the only one fetching crude oil money, so why are they not taking care of Badagry?”
When asked if he has ever tabled some of town’s grievances during the monthly Council of Obas meeting at the Lagos State Government Secretariat in Alausa, the Akran said, even as one of the vice presidents of the council, the opportunity has yet to present itself, as the governor never sits with them at the meetings.
Besides, he asked almost rhetorically, “How do I present our problems to them, when the president has not been here in the last five years, and the governor, in the last two years. At least, both have not been to this palace.”
Badagry, with its rich history and economic heritage, is yet to produce a governor for Lagos State. Doesn’t His Majesty see this as marginalisation of his people?
To this, he said, “It depends on the opportunities. We are trying to make our voices heard and get at least one of our prominent sons to be governor; I think after the incoming governor, it will be our turn.”
Would that mean the people have been making demands, as power is never freely given? Kabiesi said, “It depends on the parties. We have our sons and daughters in the parties and we’re sure at the right time, we’ll get it.”
Relationship with Republic of Benin?
By its culture, language and proximity, many have easily concluded that the Ogu (not Egun) people of Badagry are actually a spill-over of a tribe of people in the neighbouring Republic of Benin; how true is this? This crew wanted to know.
“The only link we have with the people of Republic of Benin is that we speak the same language, but we are not from there. We are originally from the present day Ghana. The Ogu people migrated from Kumasi, Ghana, from a place called Aneho and settled in our present abode in the 13th century. That is over 800 years ago. Agbede was the first of our ancestors to settle here. It was from him that the town got its name, Agbadagreme, which the white-man adjusted to Badagry to suit his tongue.”
When asked if the name Agbede has any connection with another word Agbede or Alagbede in Yoruba, which translates to blacksmith, the Akran shook his head in negation, stressing that “both should not be confused.”
What would appear to be another shocking revelation in this encounter, was the monarch’s disclosure that the Kingdom of Badagry extends from the border town of Seme as far as Ajegunle on the outskirts of Lagos metropolis.
“The Kingdom of Badagry starts from Seme border right through to Ajegunle,” he said categorically.
When reminded that some Lagos white cap chiefs, such as the Oluwa and Ojora of Lagos may take exception to this pronouncement, the Akran, smiled and simply said, “They may lay claim to it today, but originally it was part of Badagry Kingdom.”
Asked how it got to be taken away from the kingdom, the monarch said, “It’s not a matter of being taken away; it’s a matter of where they live. They are not Ogu people but they are part of us, in the same way all the Awori settlements along the (Lagos-Badagry) route are part of us. You can ask them.”
Would that mean that the people who delineated Badagry Local Government of old to extend as far as Ajeromi Ifelodun Local Government, which now administers Ajegunle made no mistake?
“No, it was not a mistake at all. That’s the way it was before it was divided,” the monarch reiterated.
Journalist prince
Finally the discussion shifted to his journalism days. The Akran admitted to being a journalist and spoke loftily of his active days in the profession.
“I was a journalist before I was called upon to be Akran. I worked with The West African Pilot owned by Chief Nnamdi Azikiwe; I also worked with the Morning Post, New Nigeria and Sketch. Journalism in our days was interesting and challenging. And it was financially rewarding too, at least relatively.”
At this, the visitors exchanged glances and threw back, “How come there isn’t so much money in the profession these days?”
For the umpteenth time, the Akran laughed again, licked his lips and said, “Be patient, money is coming.”
Asked to give his parting words, the De Wheno Aholu Meno Toyi 1 sat back and said, “The expressway is our most challenging problem now. They should expedite work on it and complete it. When they’re done with that, they should facilitate the port. And then of course, they should let us feel the impact of the oil discovered on our shores.”
To youths of the kingdom, he said, “Please come home to build and develop the town.”

Source The Nation

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