ONE OF THE EARLIEST INHABITANTS OF LAGOS ISLAND WERE THE IJAWS
According to S K Owonaro, an Ijaw ancestral historian, the Ijaws were the earliest inahitants of the Lagos Island and nearby environs. These earliest ancestors intermarried with upland Yorubas (Awori) and later day Benin settlers. The original Ijo name for Lagos was Ukuroama, also spelt Kurama (Kuramo)
“…EXPLORATION ON THE NIGER BY IJO AND HIS FOLLOWERS- Ujo and his followers commenced their exploratory journey in one of the newly manufactured canoes in a southwesterly direction. After a long and arduous cruise, they were ushered as if by a magic wand, to the extreme northern end of Lagos lagoon. As they drifted listlessly along the lagoon, their peeping eyes caught sight of a graceful archipelago. The Iddo island, the Lagos island and other adjoining isles stand as relics of that once picturesque archipelago. Being attracted by that scenic sight, they made their way to the island immediately following the mainland. This island, the Iddo island they so-journeyed and the temporary settlement became known as Ijora, being a corruption of Ojo-Orun the original name of Ijo. The title of chief Ojora of Ijora as a nomenclature for the head of Ijora family is simply reminiscent of Ijo’s (or Ojo’s) first settlement at Ijora. From Ijora, Ijo crossed over to Lagos island and on rising land he settled and cultivated a pepper farm. This farm became known as Idumu Iganran, meaning the land of pepper – Idumu being an old Ijo word for land and Iganran for pepper. Iga-Iduganran the famous palace of the king of Lagos was a contraction of Idumu Iganran. The chief attendant of the farm was known as Opu Odubo meaning great servant in Ijo language. The word Odubo is still retained and used as one of the titles of the chiefs in the palace. After some time Ijo entrusted this farm to the charge of some of his able men and left with others for the eastern region of the Niger. Those that remained in Lagos took to farming and fishing and flourished there. In the course of time Benin hunters and farmers filtered into Lagos. These were friendly and the Ijos willingly ferried them to and from the island across the lagoon. When the Benis immigrated to the island in overwhelming numbers, some of the Ijos migrated to the creeks near by, these include the Ojos in Badagiri creek, the Ilajes and other Yoruba speaking people in the creeks near Lagos. Those who stayed on the island of Lagos were later absorbed into the early settlers and original Yoruba inhabitants of Lagos.
The Proto-Ijos who founded settlements in Lagos are referred to in Awori-Lagos traditional history as the legendary ‘Aromire’s, i.e. to say ‘the lovers of water’, “children of the Ala-Afin at Ife: in – History of the People of Lagos State (1987) Edited by Adefuye A, Agiri B and Osuntokun J. pp20,21,28.
“…In contrast to Ido, Benin established a firm base across the lagoon on Lagos Island with little resistance. At the time, Lagos Island had one known settlement, founded by the legendary Aromire, “lover of water”, as a fishing camp…”
And Kingdoms of the Yoruba (1988) by Smith R. p73
“…The present Afin of Lagos is situated on this site and is called Iga-Idungaran ‘the pepper palace’, a recollection in the Lagos Awori dialect of the pepper bushes on Aromire’s farm…”
We also have from Elegbede Dosumu A (1992)- Lagos a Legacy of Honour;. p2
“…At Idido, the first ruler was the Olofin [Ala-Afrin] whose real name is no longer remembered…One of the many sons of Olofin Aromire(lover of water) is remembered in local tradition as being the first fisherman to farm and to settle on this island…Aromire, the first settler choose for his ‘red pepper farm’ a well-drained site which later became the nucleus of Isale-Eko, the most indigenous part of Lagos and the site for the official palace of many of the rulers of Lagos…”
We can compare this statement to Owonaru’s statement. The fact that Aromire is referred to as Ala-Afin (first title of king Adumu-Ala ) and that he planted a pepper farm, that the palace is built on the site of the pepper farm…” The legendary “Aromire” is non-other than the ancestral Ijo people personified.
That Lagos was originally known as Ukoruama (Kurama or Kuramo) is not in doubt:
“…In Kuramo [Kurama] there are to be had cotton cloth which are taken to the Gold coast and with which the Dutch are wont to trade with much profit…There is a bar which chokes it almost across, only on the side of Curamo it leaves a passage found out by often sounding; and through it you enter the channel of Lagos, steering your course to north east to the river Lagos, that runs into it from the country to the north, and gives its name to the said channel, according to the Portuguese who first called it Lago de Curamo…” from Talbot P A (1926) The Peoples of Southern Nigeria vol 1, pp82-83.