Wednesday, 20 July 2016

The Aftermath of 100 Years Yoruba Civil War

Photo credit: Vanguard 

Lagos city shares similar history with two other major Yoruba cities, Ilorin and Ibadan, which were created or became transformed in the wake of the almost 100 years Yoruba Civil Wars of the 19th Century. 

Ilorin was the trigger of the Yoruba Wars. Ilorin was an outpost of the old Oyo Empire where the last Oyo ruler, Afonja, the Are Ona-Kakanfo, commander of the elite Calvary forces, was resident. Afonja, with the aid of Malam Alimi, a Fulani Islamic cleric, later revolted against his suzerain, the Alaafin. Soon, the followers of Alimi, tired of Afonja’s high-handedness, staged a bloody coup and had Afonja assassinated and put his regime to a sorry end.

All attempts by the Alaafin to regain Ilorin met with disaster until Oyo itself was destroyed and the people forced to evacuate under the leadership of Prince Atiba, an outstanding soldier-statesman, who led his people to build the present modern city of Oyo. Ilorin people had created an attractive ideology that was difficult to resist. All members of the Muslim laity, known as the Jamaa, were free men and they were all equal (at least in theory). Under this ideology, no Muslim could enslave another Muslim or put him in any form of bondage. These attracted young men, especially indenture slaves, to escape from their masters and take refuge in Ilorin. The conditions for acceptance were simple: accept the new faith, join the Ilorin army and grow a beard.

Photo Credit:

Therefore, by the end of the Yoruba Wars in 1886, every Yoruba town has one person or the other in Ilorin. Though most of them settled in Ilorin permanently, many of them or their descendants also took advantage of the peace brought about by the British colonial regime to preach Islam in many parts of the Yoruba country. Therefore, Islam spread more rapidly among the Yoruba during peace time than when the Islamists of Ilorin were waging wars to expand their faith and defend their outpost.

Ibadan was to have a similar history. Ibadan was one of the numerous settlements in the Egba forest which suffered greatly after the collapse of Oyo Empire. A band of soldiers led by Lagelu, a general from Ile-Ife, was the first to impose his rule on the settlement, forcing the Egba owners to move south deeper into the forest. Lagelu’s successors were soldiers, mostly veterans of the Ilorin offensives. The new rulers, which included such men as Oluyole and Osunkunle, soon created an ideology that was similar to that of Ilorin. Ibadan became a bye-word for meritocracy where anyone from any part of Yoruba land could make a career.

Photo Credit: Osun Defender

Ibadan, like Ilorin, believed in merit. Each of the two towns developed a unique Yoruba dialect that is a variation of Oyo dialect but with its own distinction. Both towns are robust in their understanding of their unique position in the Yoruba milieu and there is no doubt they have continued to play good roles in Nigerian politics, economics and social development till this day.

We can say the same about Lagos. With the collapse of old Oyo, Eko, as Lagos was known, acquired new prominence as the most important port in the Yoruba country sharing distinction with Badagry and Port-Novo (Ajase). Its deep harbour attracted British seafarers who soon pitched their tent there and imposed their rule by force of arms. By the end of the Yoruba Wars in 1886, Lagos had acquired special importance for it was also in the city that many of the missionary groups had their headquarters. The returnees from the Slave Trade had also formed a substantial section of the Lagos society. Thus the Ekitiparapo Society of Lagos, led by Haastrup (from Ilesha) and Doherty (from Ijero-Ekiti), was based in Lagos. Haastrup was later to become Kabiyesi Ajimoko, the Owa-Obokun of Ijeshaland.

Since the amalgamation of Nigeria in 1914, Eko has been transformed from the island and the few islets like Ikoyi that the British originally settled in. Like Ibadan and Ilorin, Lagos continues to attract hordes of immigrants seeking good fortunes and hoping to find gold on its dusty streets. It also served as the capital of Nigeria from 1914 until when the capital was moved to Abuja by General Ibrahim Babangida in 1991.

Such was the greatness of Lagos that everyone could call it home. Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe was elected from Lagos in 1951 to represent the Colony Province in the Western House of Assembly in Ibadan. When some people were confusing Lagos expansive multi-culturalism with something else in 1973, Brigadier Mobolaji Johnson, the first military governor of Lagos State declared: “Lagos is not a No-Man’s Land!”

Culled from Herdsmen of the City by Dare Babarinsa, co-founder of Tell Magazine and pioneering member of Newswatch

Monday, 18 July 2016

Meet The Nigerian Entrepreneur Who Turned NairaBET Into An Overnight Success Story

Otunba Akin Alabi lounging at an event

Until five years ago, he has no inkling that he was going to become one of the owners of Nigeria’s biggest sports betting outfits. In fact, the name Akin Alabi was synonymous with publishing, book writing, public speaking, life coaching and anything that has to do with small online businesses. That was the old vintage Akin Alabi, one of the protégés of the great Sunny Ojeagbase, a small businesses and investment coach. For the record, Ojeagbase is also the publisher of Success Digest and Complete Sports.

 In 2003, Alabi launched his own seminar and training company which specialised in teaching and consulting for other young people who dream of starting small businesses. The enterprising young man also published a business opportunity newspaper with the masthead titled “Income” (now defunct) which was a sort of bible for young entrepreneurs. To add to his fledgling media empire, Alabi launched, World Soccer News, a coloured weekly sports newspaper. All those were in the past now.

A man of great ideas and vision, Alabi is always in tune with innovative business trends across the globe. He has since gone on to build a handful of other businesses from the scratch. One of such massive investments which have since turned into an overnight success is NairaBET, Nigeria's first online sports betting portal, with outlets across the country.  

A cross section of sports betting buffs in one of NairaBET centres

With its headquarters strategically located in Lagos, NairaBET was licensed by the Lagos State Lotteries Board as part of legal proceedings. As expected of every new venture, the idea of “Putting your money where your mouth is” was floated among soccer crazy Nigerians, especially among EPL, La Liga, Lique 1 and Serie A to test the water. The response was amazing! The turnover was so great that even Akin Alabi himself couldn’t believe it. In 2015, he entered into a business partnership with ColossusBETS, a company owned by Zeljko Ranogajec, to reinforce his capital base and further accommodate the growing demands of his followers.

Today, NairaBET has several sports betting outlets that cut across viewing centres and independent agents all over the country and Alabi has become one of the most sought-after business moguls. Virtually everybody wants to hear him talk about his success story. Seminar organisers, aspiring entrepreneurs armed with business plans and charitable organisations have turned his Cherub Mall office in Lekki into a Mecca of sort.

Hear him...

“Most of the time, I get asked questions all the time like: How did you conceive the idea of NairaBET? What made you start it? What were the challenges you faced? I think it is normal people are interested in knowing the story behind building Africa’s most visited sports betting website and one of the top 10 in the world. It is a pretty “normal” story but I am sure you will learn one or two things or at least get motivated.

The interior of NairaBET model centre

Before I give you the full details, let me digress a bit. Bear with me. My digression will make a lot of sense later. I never thought I would own a sports betting website until 6 months to owning one. And I can sell it any time if I get a great offer. I don’t have a preference for any kind of business. I am not addicted to any kind of business. I go to where there is money.

I know there are some people who will say all they know how to do is import cars to sell. If for a reason that becomes unprofitable (maybe due to government policies or bad exchange rate) they moan and give up and blame everyone but themselves for their woes. I am not like that. I am not emotionally attached to any kind of business. If I am selling cars today and it becomes unprofitable, I can become a chef tomorrow. If I hear and do my research that producing baby toys will make me serious money, tomorrow, you will see me in the toy business.

What’s my point?

One of the few mistakes people make is when they want to start a business, they think of the product they want to sell. For me, it is the other way round. I will rather research a market than a product. The late Gary Halbert will say ‘Be a student of markets. When you find a market where people are willing to spend money, getting a product or service is not hard to do.’

I used to do a lot of writing before I got very busy. I used to write ebooks for sale. I wrote ebooks on different topics from “How to register a business name with the CAC without a lawyer” to “How to design a mini website using Front page”. I was doing quite well with it.

Anyway, I was in the UK at a time and my brother told me about sports betting. I went to the nearest betting shop in Central Milton Keynes and asked the cashier there how to place bets. I found it interesting. I placed some bets and won. Placed more and lost. Won again. Lost again. And so on. I loved it. I said to myself that Nigerians were going to love it. I started researching how it could be done online. I looked for the sports betting websites that were accepting Nigerian residents and the ones with relatively easy payment methods.

So I wrote an ebook how it is done. I placed an ad in the papers in Nigeria and there was a mad rush for it. I made some money and I was happy. I didn’t know I had not done anything yet. After about a month, some of those who bought the ebook called me to ask me if I could help them transfer money to these foreign sports betting companies. I was like, boy, are you guys really taking this thing seriously?

Customers waiting patiently to collect their winnings

Then my “eyes opened!”

This is a market waiting to be tapped. We need an online sports betting portal for Nigerians. The market was waiting with money. I didn’t think of the product/business first. I saw the market first. Then I created the product. That is how every serious entrepreneur and those hoping to be successful in business should think!

Interesting analysis, isn’t it?

Meanwhile questions are sometimes raised as to how profitable sports betting business is in the country.

According to a recent report compiled by News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), about 60 million Nigerians between 18 and 40 years of age spend up to N1.8 billion on sports betting daily. A survey revealed that they commit on the average N3,000 on sports betting daily. The research also shows that most unemployed youths have taken to online and other forms of sports betting to make a living. In the words of Mr. Lanre Gbajabiamila, Chief Executive Officer of Lagos State Lottery Board, the industry is risky but also lucrative.

Gbajabiamila said that the board generated about N1 million in 2013 from 11 sports betting companies in the state. He added that more revenue could be generated with more investments.

“The state government has been making efforts to provide an enabling environment for the lottery industry but only 40 per cent of the industry had been tapped into. The major needs of the operators are improved electricity and internet provision to boost the business,” he said. He restated the commitment of the board to rid the state of illegal lottery operators.

NairaBET Ambassadors: Music duo, Skuki (standing 1st & 4th), Akin Alabi and Phyno

Now back to Akin Alabi story.

Before you rush into conclusion of any sort, it is noteworthy to point out here that NairaBET is not his only investment at the moment.

Akin Alabi is also the founder of Over The Top Entertainment, an entertainment company which manages the award winning Afro hip-hop duo of SKUKI. The outfit boasts of state of the art recording and rehearsal studio among others.

A philanthropist by nature, the NairaBET boss is the founder of Akin Alabi Foundation, a not for profit outfit, aimed at improving the well being of indigent students and the average Nigerian.

In recognition of his good work, he was honoured with the chieftancy title of Otunba Atunlushe of Igbole Ekiti by the Olugbole of Igbole Ekiti, HRM Oba Emmanuel.O. Ajayi Adetiloye II.

A staunch member of the People's Democratic Party (Nigeria) at the grassroots level, Alabi contested for a seat in the Federal House Of Representatives on 28 March 2015. He hoped to represent Egbeda/Ona Ara Federal Constituency in Oyo State but lost to his counterpart in the All Progressives Congress (APC).

Friday, 17 June 2016

Why Saro-Wiwa Turned Down Abacha’s Ministerial Appointment (FLASH BACK)

History of political and historical figures in Nigeria is so warped that each passing springs up its own surprise. It may indeed amaze many to note that the late tyrant, Gen Sani Abacha and the Ogoni activist, Ken Saro-Wiwa, whose execution he sanctioned along with eight others in 1995 had something in common.

According to Dare Babarinsa, a veteran journalist, their friendship dated back to the era of the Civil War (1967 – 1970) days when the latter was a commissioner in the old Rivers State government headed by the military governor, Alfred Diette-Spiff. On the strength of that friendship, Abacha had sent a presidential jet to fetch Saro-Wiwa from Port Harcourt, capital of Rivers State.

Relieving his meeting with Saro-Wiwa when he paid them a visit at TELL Magazine office in Ogba shortly before his arrest, the poet confided in them that he was not surprised about the royal treatment for Abacha had been a generous friend.

Abacha made his offer to the President of the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP). Would he like to be the Minister of Petroleum Resources? Saro-Wiwa declined. What he wanted, he told Abacha, was for the head of the ruling junta to help him implement the Ogoni Bill of Rights. The meeting ended as a fiasco. Abacha threw the Ogoni Bill of Rights into the waste bin. No more presidential jet for Saro-Wiwa. He was asked to find his way home. They were never to meet again. About 24 months later in 1995, Saro-Wiwa and eight of his compatriots in the MOSOP leadership were executed in what was called “judicial murder.”

Trial of Saro-Wiwa and the Ogoni eight

It was for the sake of the long run that Saro-Wiwa waged his war for justice with so much eloquence and audacity. He believed that Nigerians need to learn to discuss and negotiate peacefully the future of their great country. He was a tireless advocate because he had witnessed the futility of war.

Saro-Wiwa wanted the future of Ogoni to be negotiated. He believes in the potency of the written word and with this weapon, he pursued the oil giant, Royal Dutch Shell, the main oil company in Ogoni, to the end of the earth over the pollution of his homeland. He wanted a national conference that would debate the future of the Nigerian federation and grant some level of self-determination to his Ogoni. Unfortunately, Abacha did not have a listening ear and Saro-Wiwa ended up at the gallows.

Dare Babarinsa is now a columnist with Guardian Nigeria

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Wednesday, 1 June 2016

FRANK EDWARD: Inspirational Story of Enugu Street Boy Who Rose To Become Nigeria’s Best Gospel Artiste

The cover of the duo's Extended Play Album

If there is any Nigerian gospel artiste whose songs I find soothing and reassuring after those of American Don Moen, it has to be Frank Edward. It was a sheer delight watching him performed during Emzor Pharmaceuticals’ annual thanksgiving held at the popular City Hall in Lagos Island in 2015. His mastery of the guitar and silky voice combine well to give room for both meditation and a sort of connection with the heavenlies. Aside having a collection of his inspirational songs, that was the very first time I saw him play live at any event.

Nicknamed “Rich Boy,” Frank Ugochukwu Edwards was born on July 22, 1990 into a family of seven in Enugu state. He learned to play the piano from his father and began singing at the age of ten. In what appeared to many as unusual, young Edward became a born-again Christian quite early in his teenage years.

A staunch member and keyboardist in Pastor Chris Oyakhilome-led Christ Embassy Church and LoveWorld Music Ministry, the contemporary gospel singer, songwriter and recording artist is presently the founder and owner of Rocktown Records, which is home to enterprising young recording artists such as Gil, Divine, King BAS, Nkay, and David among others.

But just how did Frank Edward manage to get to this stage?

Young Frank when he started out as pianist

The artiste personally relieved his rise from a street boy to stardom to participants at the inauguration of the Calvary Bible Church in Lekki recently. It was so inspiring!

Hear him!

“Ten years ago, I was hawking on the streets of Enugu for my mother. We were so poor that we could hardly afford to eat. But, my mother always took me to church. She always told me to serve GOD, and that is how I have lived my life. Even when it was difficult to eat, I have always lived a life of worship. That is me. That is my life!
When I started singing, and my songs were being played everywhere, I had all kinds of offers. At a point in my life, I was in South Africa for a programme, and some promoters came to me and said, ‘Frank, your songs are so good, and we would like to promote you, take you all over the world. However, you mention the name JESUS too much in your songs. But if you can try and replace JESUS with GOD, we can do business together’.

 Brethren, that offer was very tempting. You would think, ‘What is the big deal about replacing JESUS with GOD?’ So, I called my mother, and told her about the offer. She said, ‘Don’t mind them O! Don’t do it! Holy Ghost Fire will burn all of them.’ So, I told them NO!

Today, GOD has taken my music all over! It is a beautiful thing to see white people, Americans, singing my song, Igbo songs that they don’t even know the meaning! GOD did it.

Frank and his mum on a rare date

Sometime ago, we were concluding a programme, and I was looking for a camera man to snap my picture with a renowned praise and worship leader Don Moen. Eventually I got someone to take it. As I posed with Don, he looked at me and said, ‘Oh, Frank Edwards! It is you! I need to take this picture with you!’ And he took his phone and showed me, ‘See, I have all your songs on my phone’.

We took the snapshot. After then, he said, ‘Frank, I saw online that you have a studio in your home. I would like us to do collaboration together. I’m gonna come to your house for the first recording, and you will come over to mine in U.S. for the finishing.’
At that time, I thought to myself, ‘Me, the same street boy in Enugu, to do collaboration with a Gospel legend like Don Moen? Only GOD could have made it happen. Live for GOD. Praise Him and thank Him even when things are not as you would have loved them to be. Do this, and the change will come! Live a life of worship”

That was the testimony of Frank Edward at the Church that day. Awesome, isn’t it?

That is not all!  Needless to say the proposed one of a kind album duet between Moen and Edward has been wrapped up to produce a five-track extended play recently in the United States. One of such hit track is “Ka Anyi Bulie” (Let Us Lift Him).

It would be recalled that Edward’s debut album, a 14-track album, ‘The Definition was released in 2008. This was followed shortly by ‘Angels on the Runway’ his second album in 2010. ‘Unlimited’ album arrived a year after that and Tagjam was released in November 2011.

L-R: Frank Edward posing with Joe Egbu, hubby of fellow gospel artiste, Sinach and Sinach herself during Emzor's 2015 annual thanksgiving

The former Enugu Street boy has been described as Nigeria's hottest Gospel Rock artiste of the moment. His rising profile also came to the fore when he appeared on the live performance of Sinach's classic "I know who I am" video in 2013.

In May 2011, Rich Boy was nominated as the GOSPEL ARTISTE OF THE YEAR at the 6th Annual Nigeria Entertainment Awards (NEA). He won the award of the BEST GOSPEL ROCK ARTISTE in the first annual awards and also won West Africa Best Male Vocalist in 2012, Best Hit Single at the love world awards 2012 as well as three awards at the Nigeria Gospel Music Awards (Male Artiste of The Year, Song of The Year and Best Male Vocal).

His last album before the collaboration with Don Moen, “Frankincense,” caught everyone unaware when it topped Beyonce and Adele's albums within few hours of release on itunes album chart.


Wherever you find yourself, whatever the challenge, Don’t Ever Give Up on GOD! Just keep reminding yourself that he is quietly preparing you a place of comfort. He is not through with you yet. Keep the hope alive!

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First Reported Case of ‘419’ In Nigeria Committed By An English Man In 1920 (INTERESTING ARTICLE)

It is not unusual to hear people especially foreigners tag Nigerian as pioneers in the sending of mass letters, messages and emails seeking to defraud any recipient foolish and greedy enough to fall for their tricks. With the deluge of similar cases being reported almost on daily basis, Nigerians have come to christen such scams as “Four One Nine,” in reference to Article 419 of the country’s criminal code, which concerns fraud.

Yet Nigeria’s 419 scammers have a far longer pedigree than most people realise. The first properly documented 419 letter dates from 1920 and was written by one European (whom many history scholars identified as a Brit) named P. Crentsil to a contact in the British colony of the Gold Coast, today’s Ghana. Crentsil launched into a long description of the magical powers that were in his possession and that could, on payment of a fee, be used to the benefit of his correspondent. Crentsil signed himself “P. Crentsil, Professor of Wonders.

According to the evidence at hand, “Professor” Crentsil has to be regarded as the first-known exponent of the modern 419 fraud. He seems to have written a number of similar letters, each time offering to provide magical services on payment of a fee.

In December 1921, he was charged by the police with three counts under various sections of the criminal code including section 419, the one to which Nigerians make reference when they speak of “Four One Nine.” But Crentsil was in luck: the magistrate presiding over his case discharged him with a caution on the first count and acquitted him on the two others for lack of corroborating evidence, as a result of which “he (Crentsil) is now boasting that he got off owing to his ‘juju’ powers,” reported the Chief of Police in Onitsha Province. The same officer stated that he had known Crentsil for some years, during which time the “Professor” “had slipped through the hands of the police so often that I shall soon, myself, begin to believe in his magic powers.”

There is no way of knowing how many similar cases may have occurred, but the colonial authorities became sufficiently concerned by the number of letters addressed to Nigerians from outside the country soliciting money for what the British regarded as fraudulent purposes that they started to intercept items of what was called “charlatanic correspondence.” The Director of Posts and Telegraphs made clear that this term embraced adverts concerning “medicines of potency, and unfailing healing power, lucky charms, love philtres, magic pens with which examinations can be passed, powders and potions to inspire personal magnetism, remove kinks from hair—or insert them—counteract sterility and ensure football prowess.” The Posts and Telegraphs department recorded 9,570 such items in 1947, by which time the amount of money returned to senders was some £1,205. In the mid-1940s there was a spate of financial scams perpetrated by people known as “Wayo tricksters,” some of whom were operating a trick that involved posing as agents of a “New York Currency Note Firm,” selling to a gullible victim boxes of blank paper with a promise that this could be turned into banknotes by application of a special chemical.

Behaviour of a sort that British officials probably would have classified as charlatanic was sometimes recorded on the part of the relatively few Nigerians who travelled overseas at that time. One of these was one Prince Modupe, who spent years in the United States under a variety of fantastical guises. In 1935 he was in Los Angeles presenting himself as a graduate of Jesus College, Oxford, although Oxford University had no record of him. In March 1947 he appeared on the bill at the San Francisco Opera House under the name His Royal Highness Prince Modupe of Dubrica. Seven months later he was still in San Francisco, now claiming to be the “Crown Prince of Nigeria” and representing himself as a successful businessman who had obtained a variety of commercial contracts. Modupe seems to have been in effect a professional confidence trickster. Nor was he the only Nigerian operating in this field in the United States. Another was Prince Peter Eket Inyang Udo, a businessman who lived in America and Britain for 17 years. Eket Inyang Udo attracted the attention of the colonial authorities not only on account of his dubious commercial practices but also because of his political ideas and connections.

Another controversial case, in which fraud and nationalist politics seem to have been mixed, concerned an Igbo man who became a minor celebrity in America under the name Prince Orizu. He was so well known that an Australian official working in New York for the U.N. wondered in his memoirs: “What happened to the Ibo adventurer who called himself Prince Orizu?” Noting that “there are no hereditary chiefs let alone princes in Ibo-land,” the Australian wrote that Orizu “seemed to have no difficulty in getting a write-up in the New Yorker or the New York Times every now and then.” The person he was describing also went under the name Dr Abyssinia Akweke Nwafor Orizu, and it was under this name that he was convicted by a magistrate in Nigeria in September 1953 on seven counts of fraud and theft of funds ostensibly intended to fund scholarships in the United States. Himself U.S.-educated, Orizu had collected over £32,000 in the three years prior to his conviction.

What makes the case all the more interesting is that Orizu was a stalwart of the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCNC), the leading political party founded in 1944, and was also a member of the Regional Government established under Nigeria’s 1951 constitution. He went on to have a distinguished political career, becoming president of the Senate after Nigeria’s Independence. Although it has been alleged that Orizu’s conviction for fraud was a miscarriage of justice, it seems fair to observe that modern politics, which emerged in Nigeria only in the 1940s, offered opportunities for a type of self-fashioning comparable in many respects to that practised by fabulists and fraudsters like Crentsil, Modupe and others.

Some of Nigeria’s new breed of chancers began at a young age. In 1949, the U.S. consul-general in Lagos reported the existence of one “Prince Bil Morrison,” who turned out to be a 14-year old boy who specialized in writing to correspondents in America to solicit funds. The police remarked that this case was just “one more in which generous, but possibly gullible, American citizens have allowed themselves to be taken in by African schoolboys.” The consul-general wrote: “These young Nigerians are stated by the police to be excellent psychologists,” noting that their practice of writing to people in the United States and Canada for money was “widespread.” Frauds by Nigerian students in the United States and Canada in the late 1940s were said to include the offer for sale of diamonds, ivory and other exotic luxuries.

SOURCE: Newsweek
This piece is an extract from the late Stephen Ellis’s book This Present Darkness: A History of Nigerian Organized Crime. The book is published by Hurst in London and by Oxford University Press in New York.

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Tuesday, 31 May 2016

A Detailed Historical Account of How Epe Town Was Founded (Everything You Need To Know)

Gov Akinwunmi Ambode at 2015 Ojude Oba celebration at Epe Recreation Ground

When Uraka and Aramope both hunters left Ile-Ife on a hunting expedition and arrived Ijebu-Ode, little did Uraka know that he was on a threshold of history.

At Ijebu-Ode through Ifa divination, he was told to move southwards towards the sea and should settle anywhere between his crossing of the sixth and seventh river. After crossing the fifth river called “OTERIN” (Cold Water), he got to a place later identified as ‘Poka’ where he used his popoka stick to strike the ground.

Poka town derived his name from Uraka’s popoka stick. At Poka, the Ifa oracle was further consulted for direction which led Uraka to proceeded and after crossing the sixth river, he finally settled in a place called “ETITA”.

A scenic view from Lagos-Epe Bridge - (photo credit muyiwa71)

Upon settling at Etita, Uraka saw smoke emanating from a heavily thick forest towards the lagoon. To see things for himself, Uraka traced the source of the smoke where he met with Opute, Lugbasa, Alaro and Ogunmude - all fishermen.

Alaro and Ogunmude were married but childless. Both later became deities worshipped in Epe to date hence all Epe’s sons and daughters are referred as to “Omo Epe Alaro Ogunmude”

Meanwhile Uraka continued his hunting expeditions until he got to a place called Iboobo (monkey forest), the present site of the University of Lagos, School of Engineering and formerly a military barracks, from where he continued his search for games.

He later discovered a place called Oko-Eepe (Forest of black ants). As it turned out, whenever Uraka set his traps for games, he always returned home empty handed.

The 100-Year-Old Colonial Office In Epe (Photo credit - Festour)

This became a source of worry to him and his wife. Yet he was convinced that Oko-Eepe was home to the biggest games around. He complained to his wife named “PEETA” that the forest was infested with black ants and whenever he tapped his feet to ward off the black ants, animals around would took to their heels. More so, any animal caught by his traps were always eaten up by the ants before he got there.

Each time Uraka sets out for hunting, Peeta would ask if he was still going to Oko-Eepe. Eepe town derived its name from Oko-Eepe in the 15th century and some historians believed Peeta, Uraka’s wife must have played a vital role in the naming of Epe Town.

Epe started expanding and in no time, some people settled at Areke or Aleke while others settled at the other side known as “Apakeji”.

Along the line, an Ijebu prince, son of the fifth Awujale of Ijebu-Ode, Obaloja left Ijebu-Ode and settled in Epe. He took the name Oloja and by 1790, Shagbafara was installed Oloja.

As at 1810, Epe was fairly a large town. The town was relatively peaceful but had its own share of inter-tribal war. However 1848 witnessed the Makun-Omi-Epe war.

It was almost immediately after the end of Makun-Omi-Epe war that King Kosoko of Lagos sought refuge in Epe Land with over 1,500 followers. That was in December of 1851, during the reign of Oloja Olumade.

Kosoko was denied entry into Epe town but after a long plea, he was directed to Ijebu-Ode to obtain clearance and permission from Awujale Anikilaya.

Epe Animal Market (Photo credit -jgcazorla)

The Awujale consequently considered him as a mark of royalty and sent “Oja Ikale” as symbol of permission and caring to Oloja Olumade, asking him to grant Kosoko and his lieutenants’ asylum in Epe.

Kosoko stay in Epe was a subject of controversy.  Some claimed that in his 11 years in Epe, he never had a house of his own, while others think otherwise. But whatever the case might have been, Kosoko’s years in Epe changed the socio-cultural atmosphere of Epe town, because some of his followers to Epe town were mostly Muslims.

Balogun Ajeniya, Oshodi Tapa, Balogun Agbaje, Disu Kujeniya, Braimoh Iyanda Oloko and Posu were some of the brave warriors who were in Epe with Kosoko. Some of these chiefs converted to Islam. For example, Balogun Ajeniya, who later became a great promoter of Islam in Epe was one of them. These converts later formed a community under the leadership of Mallam Idris Saliu Gana, who happened to be an Imam in Lagos.

This was responsible for the spread of Islam in Epe town to date. The term “Epe Onikorani” was as a result of the spread of Islam in Epe. In appreciation for the treatment accorded him in Epe, Kosoko gave one of his daughters named Kusade to an Ijebu Chief, Adebawon of Idogun in marriage; Adewusi was the product of that marriage.

In 1862, Kosoko was pardoned and later returned to Lagos. The bulk of his followers left with him, including his daughter Kusade, and leaving behind his grandson Adewusi. Adewusi’s family is still multiplying in Epe to date. Those left behind by Kosoko formed bulk of what is now referred to as Epe Eko.

AD 1780: Oloja Shagbafara installed Oloja of Epe.

1810: Epe became a fairly large town.

1836: Awujale Figbajoye Anikilaya established Ejirin market.

1848: Makum Omi-Epe war

1851: King Kosoko sought refuge in Epe

1852: Islam was introduced by followers of Kosoko in Epe.

1854: Kosoko and his chiefs signed a treaty of peace with Mr. B. Campbell, British Counsel not to regain Lagos in return to have palma and Lekki as his port.

1862: British negotiated with Kosoko and obtained from him cessions of Palma and Lekki. Koso, Oshodi Tapa and others left Epe and returned to Lagos on 16th September, 1862.

1863: Governor Freeman twice attacked Epe with a force of West Indian Regiment, Hausas and British sailors, Chief Posu Submitted and signed a treaty of cession on 26th March.

1875: Posu, a leading figure among followers of Kosoko to prove his mantle and ceded Epe to the British died in Epe on 14th of December of 1875.

On 29th of December 1882: Awujale Fidipote left Ijebu-Ode in anger unexpectedly to settle at Epe where he remained till his death on the 14th June 1885.

On 15th August 1885: Asani Giwa of Okepopo was killed by the Eko Epes at Ikosi Market.

1886: Some Ijebus who came with Awujale Fidipote to Epe killed Agurin, the guard in charge of Ejirin market.

1888: Balogun Agoro of Epe drowned via Lekki

1892: British Expedition to Ijebu-Ode landed in Epe base of operation. Inspector A. cloud Willoughby was shot dead at Odo-Ragunsen.

May 18th 1892: Christianity was established in Epe

1894: St. Michael’s C.M.S School was established.

1898: Baale Buraimoh Edu, veteran politician sponsored and finance the course of Muslim Education in Epe.

1898: Government Muslim school was opened

1901: Chief Imam Uthman died on January 22nd and Epe Town Council was established

1903: Paul Ogunsanya and others brought Roman Catholic Mission to Ibonwon

1905: Misunderstanding between Ijebu-Epe and Eko Epe became much more acute as a result of Ijaw fishermen, fishing on the lagoon.

1912: War broke out between Ijebu Epe and Eko Epe

1917: July 9th, Baale Buraimoh Edu died

1923: S.A Mejindade Esq opened the Islamic school which became Ansa-ud-deen school in 1946

On March 1930: Daddy Solomon Ademuwagun introduced Cherubim and Seraphim in Epe.

1937: Commissioner of Colony (Captain Emberton) the District Officer (Mr. Childs) Assistant District Officer (Mr. Gilbons) had an important meeting with Baale Abidakun and Kaka, Balogun Abudu Kadiri Oluwo and Amunikaro Mr. T.O. Seriki and A.B. Egberongbe, all of Ijebu Epe and Eko-Epe on the way and means to engender harmony and mutual dealing towards the re-organization to native administration.

1937, September 14 -15: Commissioner of colony, district officers, bales and Baloguns of Ijebu and Eko Epe had important meetings with the baales of adjourning villages to convey to them the decision taken at the meetings of August 28th and to sought their opinions on the proposals set up for the formation of a native administration in District.

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Houseboy To Billionaire: Success Story of Dr. Poly Emenike

Dr. Poly Emenike

There are some levels of grass-to-grace stories that sometimes make one doubt its authenticity. One of such is the sudden turnaround in fortune for Dr. Poly Emenike, chairman of Victoria Island-based Neros Pharmaceuticals Limited.

In a typical African setting, it is expected that a child primary education starts from 4 to 6 years (away from the myth of putting your right hand across the head to touch your left ear) and possibly gained admission into secondary school by the time he attains the age of 11 or 12 years. This is not so in the case of Emenike.

At the age of 32, with a wife, children and a thriving enterprise, the hustling young man reportedly enrolled as a pupil at Ansar-Ud-Deen Grammar School in Surulere area of Lagos, oddly wearing school uniform like his far younger schoolmates.

The butt of jokes at the time, many thought the jeers he sometimes received and the strange looks onlookers gave him would make him throw in the towel. Nay! Emenike forged ahead with the quest for higher knowledge that he missed out during his formative years. And in 1988, the effort paid off as he completed his O’ Level.  His hunger for academic excellence further drove him to University of Lagos where he obtained his BSc and MSc in 1997 and 1999 respectively. Just when you think that the Neros boss has seen it all, he capped his academic laurels with a doctorate degree at the International School of Management, Paris, France in 2012. Also, in his kitty are certificates from Harvard Business School and Lagos Business School / Pan African University.

Emenike with comedian Holy Mallam during his 60th birthday

Before you start thinking What a rosy life he has,’ let us look at his humble beginning and why he had to delay his secondary education until the age of 32.

Born on November 28, 1955, at Nnanka in Orumba North Local Government area of present day Anambra State to a peasant farmer and a petty trading mother, the pharmaceutical icon is the sixth child in a family of eight. He was baptised and enrolled in schools managed by the churches even though his parents were not Christians. In the face of abject poverty that overwhelmed his family, Emenike struggled to attend primary school but his ambition was huge.

“In those days, as we went to Church, we passed through the house of the richest man in the town, Chief Aaron Obijiofor. He owned a Zephyr 4 luxury car, which everybody admired. On the wall of his house was an inscription ‘A. N. Obijiofor & Sons.’ I recalled then that anytime I played on the ground, I would scribble ‘P. I. Emenike & Sons in the sand.”

It was when Obijiofor built and commissioned the biggest house in Nanka town in 1964 that Emenike saw policemen for the first time and he was thrilled by their dexterity at controlling the traffic. This scenario, he admitted, inspired him greatly.

However on completion of his primary education in 1971, the teenager dream of gaining admission into secondary school was cut short despite passing his Common Entrance Examinations in flying colours.

Posted to Uturu Ihie which was considered far from his village, he sought for admission with his mates at a nearby school. To his astonishment, he was not allowed to go. Another attempt to go to Christ the King College (CKC), Onitsha, was also frustrated.

When life was becoming unbearable in the village, he was sent to live with his maternal uncle, Philip Ezebilo Umeadi, a lawyer Onitsha. So in 1972, he arrived in Onitsha to start a new life.

Emenike with Mr. Emeka Onwuka, former chief executive officer of Diamond Bank

“A few days after I arrived in Onitsha, my uncle told me that my new job was to serve as an office boy which entailed going to court with him, where I got most of the law books. He also allocated to me the task of cooking food in his house. He assured me however that he would be saving my salary for me.”

Among other things, the young man was also in charge of collecting transport fares from clients for out of station services, car conductor for his uncle’s right-hand steering car and also in care of his law books. Despite performing his chores diligently, Emenike derived no satisfaction as he sorely missed the classroom he loved dearly. 

The matter was further worsened by his classmates from CKC, Onitsha who occasionally visited him on their way back from school on weekends. Rather than being comforted by their visits, he was emotionally traumatised by them. The return of his uncle’s wife, Nora and their daughter, Nneka in 1973 meant additional responsibility of school runs and hawking pastries for his aunty-in-law.

After spending what looked like eternity (three years precisely) in his uncle’s house without being allowed to go to school, Emenike started putting up an act of resistance. With the intervention of his elder brother, Emenike was sent off to Benin City, Edo State, to learn a trade. But the journey was short-lived as he resolved never to suffer the same fate that befell him during his short spell with his uncle. He returned to Onitsha in 1974 and started apprenticeship in the business of shoe making. A year after, with the meagre sum of N300 his uncle saved for him, Emenike started his own shoe business, trading on rubber slippers. A business he felt would not guarantee a future of wealth and comfort he desired –for he wanted to drive a Volvo car like Alhaji Kadiri and his brother, both of whom he bought wares from in Lagos. To better his lot, he decided to embark on international trade.

“It was difficult to make such painful decision to stop a vocation in which one has been involved for five years and plunge into a new one, which is relatively unknown,” Emenike recollected.

He was convinced he wasn’t going to fail but first he needed to sort out certain things, settle his senior assistant and what was left, he divided into two his savings and jetted out in 1980. That was –for him –the beginning of international trade on clothes.

This explained why he took daring steps when challenged. He kept faith with his plans, allowing nothing or anyone to distract him. His suicidal mission to Vietnam, with only $150, travelling on bikes, tricycles and being harassed by immigration for insufficient funds was a story in determination. It was a journey that brought him breakthroughs and immeasurable wealth.

In the course of his struggling to remain afloat, Emenike’s encounter with Dr. Napoleon Hill’s writings early in his business career completely transformed his outlook on life and business as well. The works of Hill, he disclosed, drove him to the pinnacle of his successes in life. Emenike first came in contact with the work of Hill in 1978, in mysterious circumstances, when he bought a copy of ‘Success Through a Positive Mental Attitude’ co-authored with Clement Stone. With his little level of education then, he was greatly inspired by the teachings that he read it repeatedly for two years. Owing to its numerous references to ‘Think And Grow Rich’, he bought a copy of the book in 1980.

L-R: James L. Oleson and Chief Poly I. Emenike

Since the day of Emenike stumbled on Hill’s writings, he has remained his apostle as he owed about 95 per cent of his success stories to the application of the principles Hill advocated in his various teachings.

The pharma billionaire realised the role of education early in his business life. Despite his educational setback, he took correspondence courses both locally and internationally that could help in his businesses. Luck however ran out on him one day when he wanted to enrol as a member of Institute of Management, he was required to fill details of his O’ Level Certificate. That was the momentary setback that fired up his zeal to complete his secondary school education and reach the pinnacle of his success.

Despite opposition from close friends and relations, he enrolled to continue his secondary education from where he stopped at Ansar-Ud-Deen Grammar School, Surulere, Lagos. 

Today Emenike sits atop immense wealth. There is no gain saying the fact that Emenike has found the wealth and fame he earnestly desired. His ambition to compete with billionaires like the oil mogul like Femi Otedola, telecom guru like Mike Adenuga and Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote has been met. From being poor and hapless, the 60-year-old has advanced from trading in rubber slippers, to clothing and now into pharmaceutical business. Artesunate, the anti-malaria drug he discovered and imported from Vietnam, is today a household brand, amidst other successful pharmaceutical brands.

Far from his ambition of owning a Volvo car, Emenike has added a Rolls Royce Phantom to the collection of classic automobiles in his garage. Besides, Neros Pharmaceutical, the firm he founded, has been rated one of the leading brands in Nigeria. The company has grown into a multi-billion dollar ultra modern factory, located in Ota, Ogun State employing thousands of Nigerians and as well, produce world class drugs with branches in Ghana, Angola, and Democratic Republic of Congo among others.

Looking back to his years of struggle to date, the billionaire has this much to say:
“It is important for people to read my book because Nigeria is a country where people are looking for miracle. There is nothing like miracle. There is nothing like good luck or bad luck. There is nothing like being focused, knowing where you are going, having clear vision, working as hard as possible then follow your line of action, you will make it no matter the time. The caveat there is that enduring success takes time. If you read my book, you will see that I read the Napoleon Hill book in 1978. And since 1978 you will see ups and downs. Like I said, a man’s life is not a straight line graph. It is a moving average; you will be falling. In my case, I fell almost 15 times but I did not lose focus. That was why I was able to make it in life.”

What more can a man ask for?

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