There has been a raging controversy over who really owns the popular Epetedo area of Lagos Island.
In recent times, hoodlums allegedly sponsored and ordered by popular members of the Oshodi Tapa family in Lagos Island including Chief Kabiru Oshodi aka Olori Eyo and Baba Surakatu Oshodi have been involved in violent land and property grabbing, assault, brandishing of dangerous weapon, disturbance of public peace and other violent activities in the area.
This behaviour from the Oshodi Tapa family, according to many sources, is premised on the claim that they own the Epetedo area.
However, notable personalities from Epetedo insist that Oshodi family does not own the area. They revealed that, in fact, the progenitor of the Oshodi Tapa family was originally a 6-year-old slave boy from Nupeland who was bought by the kind-hearted Oba Eshinlokun of Lagos at Badagry during the thriving days of slave trade, and as such are shocked by the attempted historical revisionism going on.
As part of investigations to unravel the truth, Imam Rahman Mogaji, the Executive Secretary-General of Epetedo Union, a foremost association of descendants of Epetedo founded in 1927 shed light to the event. Excerpt:
Can you briefly introduce yourself?
I am Alhaji Abdulrahman Ayinde Mogaji, the Chief Imam of Mogaji Central Mosque, Freeman Street, Epetedo area of Lagos Island and also the Executive Secretary-General of the Epetedo Union, established in 1927.
What is the problem in Epetedo area of Lagos Island?
It’s a long story but I will get into it quickly. Oshodi Tapa family in Lagos Island led by Chief Kabiru Oshodi aka Olori Eyo and Baba Surakatu Oshodi have been involved in violent property grabbing, assault, and disturbance of public peace.
They are making false claims that they own the Epetedo lands. That is an absolute falsehood and a terrible attempt at historical reversion and revisionism.
It is on record that in the presence of Lagos government officials from physical planning, our Epetedo Union lawyer was assaulted by Chief Kabiru Oshodi just this January 13/14. It is getting out of hand.
What is really the truth of the matter?
The Oshodi Tapa families are one of the prominent leaders of the area but do not own the lands. The returnee chiefs and warriors of King Kosoko were all given lands independently and subsequently were given independent Crown Grants per compound by Governor Glover in 1869 after the death of Oshodi Tapa.
The documents are still available. There are 21 Compounds that make up the Epetedo area and Oshodi only owns two as a leader, there are 19 independent other compounds.
The Aromire families who originally gave the lands to King Kosoko for all his chiefs who returned with him after about 10 years exile in Epe have disagreed with the position of the Oshodi family on this matter. The King Kosoko families also disagree with Oshodi family on the matter. Even the Oba of Lagos does not agree with Oshodi family on this matter. I will give you a blow-by-blow historical accounts and background on this issue.
Everything I am saying is as referenced in the following historical books. So I am not telling you my personal views.
Please check The Lagos Consulate 1851 – 1861 by Robert Smith written in 1978; Letter written by Chief Momodu Oteniya Kosoko to the Commissioner of the Colony’s Office in Marina Lagos dated March 9th, in 1943; History of Lagos by J.B Losi in 1921; History of Eko Dynasty by Chief Bolakale Kotun Published 26th April, 1973 and Table of Principal Events in Yoruba History by John Augustus Otonba Payne in January, 1893.
These books all counter the false claims of Oshodi family.
Who are the masterminds of the alleged property grabbing and usurpations?
Baba Surakatu Oshodi is the ring leader. There is also Morufu Babatunde Oshodi aka Awishe who is the Chairman Oshodi family; Nasiru Adegboyega Oshodi and Chief kabiru Oshodi aka Olori Eyo. They are all key actors.
What cogent steps has the Epetedo Union made for Resolution?
We have been creating awareness for our members and giving support to those affected. As a mark of respect, we took the matter first to the Oba of Lagos before thinking of involving state government.
Kabiyesi is the father for all and a representative of the government. We had written petitions and made oral documentary and documentations to the Oba of Lagos and the Traditional Councils first in August 2017 with other follow-ups. Our President, Dr. Babs Hussein and I are leading the efforts.
What is the History of Epetedo in Lagos Island?
The area known as Epetedo in Lagos Island today could be traced directly to the kingship tussle between King Kosoko and King Akintoye way back in Lagos.
Trouble started between both princes around 1845 and 1851. Kosoko seized power from King Akintoye and reigned for six years between 1845 and 1851 before the British chased him out in 1851 over slave trade issues. The British wanted slave trade abolished. Kosoko disagreed but Akintoye supported the abolishment. That led to King Kosoko ouster in 1851 when he fled to Epe with his warriors, loyal chiefs and supporters, including Oshodi, Ajeniya, Mogaji, Dada Anthonio, Ajagun etc. and settled there. All those who settled permanently in Epe and never returned to Lagos with King Kosoko are today called Eko Epe.
Sadly, Akintoye had a short reign after Kosoko fled to Epe. After Akintoye’s death, King Dosunmu ascended the throne and invited Kosoko to return to Lagos, no longer as King but as Oloja of Ereko and that’s why he settled at Ereko.
Oshodi, Ajeniya, Mogaji, Dada Anthonio, Ajagun, Imam Onirakunmi (now in Salu Lafiaji) and others were among his chiefs and loyalists who returned with him to Lagos but they had all lost their previous dwellings at Olowogbowo Balogun area and so needed a new place to settle.
Their dwellings had already been taken over by freed slaves from Sierra Leone.
To avoid trouble, King Dosunmu approached the then Aromire who owns the Lagos land to help provide Kosoko followers with virgin lands for dwelling.
It was Aromire who gave the area known today as Epetedo area of Lagos Island to the returnees and Kosoko followers in 1862. They had landed on September 12 to the area known as Epe Street today. That’s why it was named Epe Street.
Everyone picked their preferred location and formed the 21 Compounds/Courts known today as Epetedo, meaning Epe returnees settled here. Epetedo land is big though the area has witnessed some changes. It starts from Simpson Street, down to Adeniji, to swamp, to Alukotamo, to Olusi; but now since Eti has settled in Oke Popo Onipopo that slashed the land.
If all the returnees from Epe had arrived together, there would have been no Oke Popo but they had returned in batches. There were about 12 ships that transported the returnees but it was the first, second and third batches who formed Epetedo area. The ships were landing in batches. Others who came were the Eti, Oni Popo, Adamo Arole, Dada Anthonio. They formed another group and settled in Oke Popo. That’s why Epetedo cuts in through Simpson Street, down to Sura, Adeniji, Glover, Tokunbo, Igbosere.
The Oke Popo group including Eti, Adeshina and others also was part of the returnee families. They all returned together with Kosoko. It was their arrival time that affected their settlements and current locations today. They settled upon arrival based on the available lands then as given by Aromire.
The returnees were different professionals from different locations including warriors, clerics, blacksmith, herbalists etc. who had all came together to serve Kosoko and they all had their dwellings before fleeing and returning with Kosoko. The origin of Lafiaji is Tapa, for instance.
The current land on which the LSDPC building stands today in Balogun area of Lagos Island was originally the Ajagun family house before they fled with Kosoko to Epe.
The place was already occupied by the time they returned from Epe. All returnees had their dwelling places before fleeing and the area known as Epetedo today was a really thick bush behind the town uninhabited and desolate. Even Obalende was a thick jungle with wild animals. Nobody was living there.
That’s why the land was given to the returnees who had lost their lands and were homeless. But they are still the same with all other descendants of Lagos.
So how does the Oshodi Tapa land ownership claim surface?
Oshodi Tapa is not the owner of Epetedo. He may be a leader for Kosoko followers. Maybe because of his relationship with King Eshinlokun. It was Oba Eshinlokun who bought Oshodi Tapa and Dada Anthonio in Badagry during the slave trade. Eshinlokun was the father to Kosoko and co.
Many available records show that King Eshinlokun bought Oshodi Tapa as a 6 year boy slave (The Consulate 1851 – 1861). There are many other records confirming this.
He had lost his parents in a war in the North and was captured as a Nupe slave boy and taken to Badagry where he cried out ‘landuji’ from the slave ships to King Eshinlokun. The King then ordered that he be bought and he paid the fees for the slave boy and took him to his palace to live with him as a slave.
Subsequently, Landuji has been verified and interpreted to mean ‘buy me and make me your child.’ in Nupe language. There is no place in Tapa land or name or any other word like that anywhere else.
Eshinlokun also bought Dada Anthonio and put both slaves to live with him and the royal family. Oshodi Tapa was then raised with the princes and princesses as a slave.
Later on in the booming days of slave trade, the European slave merchants advised King Eshinlokun to allow some of his children travel with them to Europe to learn foreign languages and trading skills. This, they said, would ease language barrier and boost slave trade. Worried that it may be a dangerous journey of no return, the king’s wives disallowed any of the princes to travel to Europe.
Oshodi Tapa and Dada Anthonio being slaves were then sent to Europe. Oshodi later returned as a learned man and became influential because of his important role as interpreter to the foreign merchants and the love that Eshinlokun showed him as one of his warriors.
That was how he became very relevant. This is well confirmed by many books including The Consulate, Lawson, and history of Lagos by Folami.
Following the death of Eshinlokun, Kosoko inherited his father’s chiefs and warriors including Oshodi. But in the Kosoko Army, there were many captains and warriors including Eti, Mogaji, and Ope. It was not just Oshodi. All of them had different powers. For example, Eti has special powers especially in darkness; Aina Oluwo Jakande had been an Ifa priest to King Eshinlokun long before Kosoko became a king so how can he be a slave to Oshodi?
They all loved and supported Kosoko. Slave trade has been abolished before Kosoko returned with Oshodi and others, how could they still be Oshodi slaves?
There are terrible misconceptions about who is a slave. A chief can grant a space for a sojourner to live and become his overlord. Does that make him a slave bought from the market?
A spiritually afflicted person, prison escapee or one who escaped from a sacked community also do seek help from wealthy personalities and chiefs and thus become submissive to him and run errands. The chief’s children may mistake such for a slave. Does that make him a slave?
A slave is only one bought with money in an exchange or captured. So, how did all Epetedo people become Oshodi’s slaves? Where and when did he buy them?
There are some Eshinlokun slaves inherited by Kosoko who followed him to Epe. Some of these slaves are traced to the Ogun Oloko family today but they are not even slaves to Oshodi. How can all be Oshodi slaves?
For example, Oshodi has land in Eti Osa, Mogaji has land in Ogudu, and many others have their family lands on the mainland where they farm which was given to them to compensate for the lands lost at Olowogbowo apart from their Epetedo compounds, how can that be for slaves?
Oshodi is also not an Idejo. There is no Idejo in Epetedo so nobody can claim any superiority over others. Even the Oba of Lagos is not an Idejo. Whoever is not an Idejo cannot claim anybody’s land except what is given. Eletu Odibo is not an idejo but the Abule Oja and a part of Abule Ijesha land was given as a gift to Eletu Odibo as a chief; Asogbon also has lands in Makoko. Chiefs have lands given to them where they lay claim to across Lagos but they are not Idejos. So Epetedo is 21 Compounds and only two is for Oshodi.
Oshodi is only representing government and the community as head but does not own the lands. That was why Oshodi’s first heir and successor, Feyisetan during whose time trouble started in 1894 with the Ajagun family, who lost to Obayomi Ajagun at Supreme Court on 24 March 1894 over the same spurious claim of land ownership through Grant in Trust.
The judgment records are available. Same with Ogun Oloko family at the Supreme Court where Christopher Olasehinde Oshodi lost on July 3, 1946 over same land possession claim. The fathers failed then now the children are at it again.
The children are not warriors and were not present during the time with their fathers. Some of these children don’t even own any property in Epetedo.
They just stand as guarantee for some Compounds by the virtue of their lineage and the father’s popular name to represent others way back.
So, the claims are absurd and ridiculous. Clearly, the Crown Grant was for each Occupiers of the land in 1969. In fact, in some of the 21 Compounds, the name used for the independent Crown Grant represents the group in the compound and not necessarily the owner family alone. Though some name represents the single family owner e.g. the Mogajis. But some Crown Grants were granted for joint ownerships within each Compound.
Despite these facts, why are Oshodi Tapa family still bent on grabbing Lands in Epetedo?
When the Oshodis started encroaching on other Compounds in Epetedo, it led to court litigations. The Oshodis lost some and won some. This led to the setting-up of a tribunal or a panel on lands. This was first was in 1937, and later 1947.
For the Customary Law that the Oshodis insist empower them as Chiefs, there is no document or serious backing. As they are chiefs, so are many others. Jakande, Ajagun and Mogaji are chiefs too! And according to the Crown Grants, the occupiers are independent owners! But the Oshodis claim they put people in the compound as their overlords without any evidence.
So at a time the problem stopped with land enfranchisement issued. But there were some lands outside the compounds, so government said in the land Ordinance that Oshodi should represent government and collect simple fee like land use and if not collected, it should be paid to government.
But Oshodis have no rights to eject anyone or forcefully occupy the property. But after a while the problem started again after those who understood the arrangement died. Some who don’t know the history well started the problems again.
That’s why we had to revive the Epetedo Unions to solve the problems. There is a section in the land Ordinance that states clearly that Oshodi owns only two compounds – Akinyemi and Oshodi; in fact, Oshodi is not the name on the Crown Grant but Amore (one of Oshodi’s children) was used for Akinyemi and Feyisetan for Oshodi Court. Feyisetan was the ruling leader of the Oshodi family when the Crown Grant was issued. It was after the death of the first Oshodi.
If Oshodi Tapa was the owner of Epetedo, his name would have been used to issue all the Crown Grants. But everyone has a space. He was only a leader. Presently, there are many court cases on the land issue and the King of Lagos is also aware.
Presentations and submissions have been made to the Oba and his traditional council. Some have been checkmated while some still lingering. Even the Oba of Lagos does not agree with the violent land and property grabbing misconducts of the Oshodis.
Police have also tried to maintain peace and encouraged aggrieved parties to seek redress in courts.
Looking at the constitution over lands matter, former Head of State, Olusegun Obasanjo in 1978 nullified land Ordinance. In fact, government owns all lands according to Obasanjo 1978 decree. The provision is that anybody who has not paid simple fee or land use to anyone apart from government for 12 years cannot just be chased away overnight.
This supersedes all previous laws as applicable and so anyone who has been paying tax to government for years cannot just be suddenly displaced by an invader. Backed with this decree, government acquired many lands in 1962 including the land currently hosting UNILAG, UI, OAU etc. and then compensated the owners.
If government can do that and compensate, how could you then suddenly come after over 100 years to claim a land and chase away the occupiers?
The case will still get to court for proper review to avoid crisis similar to Ife/Modakeke. Presently, some people are still being harassed because some of the houses don’t have other documents than the Crown Grants. This superiority agenda is setting back Epetedo.
In fact, it’s just getting better now. They once imposed outsiders on Epetedo as Council Chairman, House or Representatives etc.
It’s that bad. For example; Bashua falls into Islale Eko, not Epetedo. Because someone is insisting that others are slaves. And that’s the real slave. It’s illegal to call anyone a slave. King Docemo has since ceded Lagos to the Queen, so nobody should call anyone a slave. That was what led to the ouster of Kosoko in 1851 in the first instance.
What moves has Epetedo Union made to create enlightenments and reconcile the parties for Progress?
It’s not all of Oshodi families that have the erroneous superiority mindset or indulge in land grabbing acts. Some of them neither like nor support it.
They are divided too. Some Oshodi children belong to Epetedo Union and are solidly against the illegalities.
During the 150 year anniversary of the Mogaji Central Mosque in 2015, we published a magazine that chronicles the true story, accounts and authentic history of Epetedo as never told recently but in consonance with the true accounts of old key actors and witnesses who wrote about the issue decades and over a century ago.
We delved deeply into how Epetedo started and the treaty that was signed and all the key actors and not just Oshodi. The goal was to create deeper awareness and enlightenment, and clarify grey areas for those who are willing to embrace the truth.
Epetedo Union is also making moves for more publications and awareness creation opportunities to further educate everyone on the issue, foster better understanding, unity and progress.
It is inappropriate for some Epetedo people to call themselves indigenes in view of our history?
Indigene is a wrong word. Descendant is the correct word. Are we different from Lafiaji, Isale Eko, Olowogbowo or Oke Popo?
We are same with all others in Lagos. We left during war and returned so we are one with all other Lagosians.
Is Lagos Government aware and how has Government intervened?
We have deliberately held on until now to allow us start by firstly involving the Oba of Lagos. Oba has been on the case and that was why we didn’t involve state government yet.
As it is, we will be taking more drastic steps including involving state government and Attorney-General in 2021 by writing them with the list of the properties wrongly grabbed. We wanted to start by lodging all complaints to the King first since government will also ask for the King’s position.
He is also an Authority. So, it’s right to have started by involving the King and the Council first.
What are the positions of Aromire and Kosoko families on these issues?
The Aromire and Kosoko families are unhappy with Oshodi family over these issues. During our Epetedo Union 90 year’s anniversary, we invited and honoured the Aromire and Kosoko Family chiefs. They attended and both frowned at the activities of the Oshodi family.
In fact, a direct son of Kosoko who was his last born wrote a letter to the British in 1943 clarifying that Epetedo does not belong to Oshodi but all the 21 compounds.
That was through a letter written by Chief Momodu Oteniya Kosoko to the Commissioner of the Colony’s Office in Marina Lagos dated March 9th, in 1943. Even the Aromire insisted that they gave the lands to King Docemo who gave it to us.
So, when we write the state government on the issue, we will write Kosoko and Aromire families and invite them to be involved if the government will be setting up a Panel or Tribunal to investigate the issue and find lasting solutions.