The quest for a greener pasture and a white-collar job took away several Nigerians from their hometowns to the city of Lagos over the years. This development made it necessary for majority of Nigerian people to flock to the commercial capital of the country, Lagos state—and eventually, melt into its unique identity.
Perhaps it is obvious why: abundant opportunities exist in Lagos. Like magnet, these will always attract people. Lagos used to be the administrative (capital) of Nigeria, in addition to its location, infrastructure and historical advantages. Over time, a new identity, the Lagosian identity, which is a representation of the meeting point between the diverse cultures of Nigeria, indeed, united by common interest in trade and commerce. There, everyone pursues his or her business, regardless of individual background.
End to end, the distance between Borno and Lagos is quite far, but among these diverse groups, there is a great percentage of its people who melted into this distinct identity. It is flabbergasting to many and even the Yoruba how Borno citizens, especially the Shuwa Arabs, form major part of this identity.
As to the root of this, a tale was told of some prominent Shuwa businessmen who moved to the state and over time dispersed across different places. They were to in no time build extended families—and thus led to expansion in their numbers in so short. They contract in building houses and transportation. Notable among them was Late Grema Mohammed.
Late Alhaji Grema Mohammed, as one of them, was a great philanthropist during his days and a promising businessman who ventured into transportation and general contractors. Alongside these were Alhaji Ebet Tom, Alhaji Amir Abdullahi, Alhaji Jubril Yahaya, Late Alhaji Gaji Abubakar and Late Alhaji Yahaya Abubakar. They formed what is today known as the Al-Hayya Association which brings together all the Shuwa Arabs in Lagos state and beyond under one umbrella. Majority of them are today found in areas like Ikoyi, Ikeja, Agege, Festac Town etc.
But Shuwa are not the only Borno people who have made a distinct representation of the Lagos identity. There are Kanuri, Babur, Gwoza, Marghi and etcetera. For the Kanuri residents in Lagos, Alhaji Mustapha Mohammed (Mai Massa) is the Mai Kanuribe or otherwise known as the Sarkin Hausawa of Ijora, a popular area in Apapa. He has been in Lagos for over thirty years and his Palace is located at the heart of Ijora. Majority of the Kanuris recognise him as their leader as well as the government of Lagos state. They relate with him and make all necessary correspondence to his palace whenever the need arises.
The economic life of these groups of people range from import/exports of goods and materials to and from the northern states, especially Kano and Borno. These products include amongst others, cottons, food items, groundnut oil, fish etc. They also import materials from neighbouring countries of Benin (Cotonou), Togo and Ghana.
In terms of oil, they yet are not left behind. Apart from the giant companies owned by Borno citizens in Lagos like the Orientals Energy, there exist other growing Oil and Gas companies like the Kain Energy Limited, Mamu Oil and Gas Company and Ngab Oil.
There are few others who are engaged in menial jobs and okada riding. They are mostly sited in Rainbow Junction, a popular joint before Mile 2, along Oshodi-Badagry Express Way, some in Obalande and Victoria Island.
It is still very difficult for the Yoruba and their likes to believe that people from Borno are not Hausas. This is because they regard all northerners as Hausas. They do this because to them, majority of people engaged in the sale of meat, shoemaking, motorcycling, and other similar menial jobs are from the north. But this is true to an extent, only that they are mixed, with almost 60% of them from Niger and Chad as they share similar cultures, particularly, the Sokoto-Kebbi-Zamfara axis.
Though they travel overseas, unlike the Igbos, the Yorubas hardly travel out from Lagos to know places and meet people outside their culture. One may be amazed to find out that a typical Yoruba from the Mainland side of Lagos has never travelled to the Island side talk more of outside the state. But it is the truth.
For those who are opportune to know places, they only know Ibadan, Abuja, Kano and Kaduna. So, with an exposure of this scale, they find it difficult to believe that people from the North live a good life. On several engagements, some of them wonder if there are houses with roofs across the North especially in places like Borno. So, one can imagine this kind of questions coming from them.
But having stayed this long, the Borno citizens in Lagos regard the state as their second home. They have melted into the environment so much so that they copy some of the life-styles and cultures of the Yorubas. The Lagos identity is the way to go for Nigeria—an identity not base on where you come from, but what you can offer or do.
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02 July 2022