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Iyana Ipaja: Lagos community that’s home to all

The popular Iyana Ipaja, as Lagos residents presently know it to be, was hitherto, a community settlements with the Mosakus and the Alaagbas facing each other at the centre of the bus stop. There are also the Okis and the Alaguntans, also in Iyana Ipaja. Initially, Mosaku and Alaagba were under the same local government council. But, with time, the Mosakus remained with Alimosho LGA, the largest local government area in Lagos State, while the Alaagbas found themselves in Orile Agege council.

Aerial view of Iyana Ipaja from atop the bridge on Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway
Aerial view of Iyana Ipaja from atop the bridge on Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway

As the name implies, Iyana Ipaja in Yoruba language means a road or branch off to Ipaja town. The location presently known as Iyana Ipaja, according to the Baale of Mosaku, High Chief Waheed Mosaku, came about its present name after the construction of the Lagos-Abeokuta expressway by the Federal Government.

History

Original Mosaku aborigines were indigenes of Ile-Ife, they were hunters and travelled all the way down to their present location on a hunting expedition. The Mosaku community is named after the grandfather of the present Baale, Mosaku, who, according to the epitaph on his tomb, died on December 12, 1930.

On arrival, they met a virgin forest and late Mosaku then erected his mud house in the middle of the forest. It turned out to be the only house within that vicinity surrounded by a thick forest.  The house, now plastered with cement and painted blue, serves as a rallying point for the community.

In the words of the Baale of Alaagba, High Chief Olalekan Musibau Olatunji, the Ojes who were farmers from Ota town in Ogun State were the first set of Alaagbas that came down to settle in Goli in Alimosho, which also was a forest before relocating to their present abode in Alaagba, while converting Alimosho, their former settlement, to their farm land. Both the Alaagbas and the Mosakus face each other in opposite direction, separated by the Lagos-Abeokuta expressway.

But, it takes an inquisitive mind to actually understand that the heart of where people know as Iyana Ipaja bus stop is partly Mosaku and partly Alaagba. As Baale Mosaku will tell you, there is nothing like Iyana Ipaja; there is Ipaja town, which used to be a quiet town on the far fringes of the mainland, and you have a road that leads to it. But, after the construction of the Lagos-Abeokuta expressway, Iyana Ipaja became a household name in Lagos State.

High points

One of the beauties of Iyana Ipaja is its good road network and central connectivity to Egbeda, Ikeja, Oshodi and, of course, the Ipaja town. This also aided the rapid development of the area, which today boasts of a high population density, a good number of who do not know the origin of the place, but only know they live in Iyana Ipaja. Like in every other part of Lagos State, in addition to the original settlers, Iyana Ipaja is a place where you find different ethnic groups co-existing in peaceful harmony.

Just as the two Baales (Alaagba and Mosaku) variously corroborated each other, visitors are welcomed and easily integrated into their community. As long as they are law abiding, it does not matter their religion or origin.

“There is no difference between us and people who come to settle with us. We get them integrated into our community, irrespective of the religion they belong to. Our concern is the development and betterment of our community”.

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Besides, the buses that ply different routes, the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) transport initiative of the Lagos State government also has loading station at Iyana Ipaja that plies both the Lagos Island and the Mainland alike.

Unlike in major bus-stops where you have between five to 10 garages, Iyana Ipaja is one bus stop that boasts of innumerable garages with each having its distinctive union.

Another strong point of Iyana Ipaja is that everywhere around it is a market place with goods sold at cheaper rates compared to other markets. This attribute, many have concluded, had to do with the fact that goods are displayed along the road. And since the traders don’t have shop rent to include in the cost of their goods, but only settle the touts and Omo oni iles, they sell their goods at a reasonably cheap rate.

This does not imply there are no shop owners, but the ratio of shop owners to along-the-road traders or hawkers is too wide. The shop owners are people who deal on electronics, a few clothing and kitchen wares, a good number of which are also hawked along the roadside and goods that cannot be carried about.

Trepidation 

It is a known fact that population density in any part of the world breeds a lot of social ills. With the presence of garages here and there, which in turn breeds area boys and hooliganism at Iyana Ipaja, there is the tendency for any visitor to the place to be frightened. But, as the Baale of Alaagba, puts it, the touts are very well disciplined and do not take laws into their hands:

“With the presence of those of us, their elderly ones, around, they try to caution themselves because we always call them to order when they attempt to stray. And in most cases, we discipline them. Where a matter appears to be beyond us, we hand them over to the authorities. This instills fear in them. But, I can assure you that they are very cooperative, because, they know we don’t condone any form of indiscipline.

“Once we sense any form of unruly behaviour, we call them to order. One other thing is that we try to get them involved in all the things we do. Where there is a need, we ask them the way forward. It is just about getting their own opinion on issues.

Also, allaying this fear is the former President of the Taxi Drivers’ Association, Alhaji Mukadasi Amusa, who told Sunday Independent: “We have no problems with the activities of touts, they have no business towards us as we only relate with our customers. We only buy tickets for N200 per day, that’s all.

Besides fear of the physical, there is also a likelihood of the fear of the unseen. But the two Baalesassure any visitor that Iyana Ipaja is home to anyone who wishes to make it home.

Baale Olatunji:

“There is nothing we here in this community dread. We have been following our elders through the line and we know the things they do to better and move the community forward, we tow the same path. Here we have the Christians practising their religion, we have the Moslems practising their religion and we also have the native traditional worshippers, who we call on to do certain things to better our community. All these different worshippers pray for the well being of our land. And to be honest, God has been so gracious towards us all”.

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Traditions 

Coming from two different backgrounds, the Alaagbas and the Mosakus, both have their individual traditions, which they observe judiciously. For the Alaagbas, the process of choosing a Baale has nothing to do with the age of the person on whose head the mantle falls, but with the collective agreement of the kinsmen and the person’s antecedents.

The Baale of Alaagba, for one, has elderly ones before him, but is collectively chosen by his elder brothers and the entire kinsmen to become the Baale.

To this, Chief Atokun of Alaagba, who also happens to be his elder brother responded: “You know in a lineage of Baales or other traditional titles, if the kinsmen decide on who they feel is capable of overseeing the affairs of the community, nothing changes that. He has our full support and cooperation to be the Baale of Alaagba.

“And since we have had the Baale stool for a very long time, even beyond us, people have no choice but to respect and honour whoever is chosen, because, people who occupy the position are very law abiding respectable citizens. Their presence is a source of strength to those of us their subjects.

But, though Mosaku is not the eldest son of his father, he also was installed the Baale. The reason, he said, was because his older brothers were full-time civil servants and had no time for the Baaleship.He was appointed by them to take over the stool.

Other factors that earned him the title were his humility and mien. They saw in him, a man that would stir the ship of the community to safety and also bridge the gap between the elderly and youth.

Right at the junction of Alaagba Road and the foot of the bridge connecting the Iyana Ipaja flyover is the Idi Eshu shrine. Here, Eshu translated Devil in English language, is worshipped.

Sunday Independent inquired from Baale Olagunji why they chose to erect an altar for the Devil instead of to God Almighty. In response, the Baale said: “You know when bad things happen in a community, you will discover it is the Devil that is responsible for such. So, it becomes natural for certain things to be done so that such things will not happen any more in that community.

“Since it is coming from the Devil, the only way to avert it will be to meet the Devil to take away such evil. And of course, the power that can easily match the Devil is also that of the Devil itself. There could be a very powerful personality in the community who uses his power for wicked acts, it is only commonsensical to use a Devilish power to match or neutralise his powers? It is not for any evil purpose, but to better our community and move it forward.”

This reporter encountered the Baale of Alaagba and some elderly ones and youth at the Idi Eshu with a pot of goat meat and chicken boiling at the middle of the junction in broad day light. She asked to know why they were gathered there and what was going on.

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Obliging her, the Baale of Alaagba told her a motorist rammed into the shrine and destroyed it. He didn’t need somebody to tell him what to do because he knew the consequences of his action if not quickly remedied.

The motorist bought a goat and chicken and also had to pay for the reconstruction and painting of the shrine. The cooking of the meat, according to tradition, must not be done inside, but outside by the shrine.

After the cooking, a chunk will be put in a plate and deposited inside the shrine to appease the Eshu. Then, the rest will be eaten by all who gather around it.

When asked what would happen to the motorist if he decides to abandon the shrine and run away, since it was not a deliberate act. The Baale said that the community would have swiftly gone ahead to do the necessary sacrifices. But, as for the motorists, hmn…”

Festivities

Both Alaagba and Mosaku have cultural festivals, which they celebrate at different times of the year. Though some of the festivals appear similar, they are celebrated at different times of the year.

The Baale of Mosaku admitted to worshipping Ogun, Ifa, Sango, Igunuko (long masquerade) andObatala. These festivals in Mosaku take place between 12 noon and 6.pm on August 20 of every year. Anybody born in Mosaku in any part of the world is enjoined to either come back home to participate in the festival or set time aside that day to worship these gods. The Oro festival, he said, is celebrated at night, but not on August 20. It could come up anytime, like when the Oba of the land dies.

On this date in Mosaku, different types of animals like dogs and ducks are killed with pounded yam forOgun, ram for Obatala and Sango and several others. The impact of this festival, Baale Mosaku admitted, has been tremendously positive.

The Alaagbas are known for their Egungun festival, and also worship and honour Sango, Obatala, Ogun and Oro deities. But, their own celebration takes place within March of every year.

Government’s influence

The present administration in Lagos State, according to Amusa, has not been doing badly in Iyana Ipaja. The Babatunde Fashola administration, he noted, carved out a portion of land at Iyana Ipaja for them and approved their becoming an association: “Since this present regime we no longer have problems. Previously, we can just be here and the taskforce will come and tow our vehicles away. Now, nobody comes here to molest us. The Lagos State government did the interlocking of the floor. We are free to do our legitimate business without harassment. Our duty now is keeping the place clean and beautiful; that is why if you look around, you will see flowers planted around.

The positive impact of the Fashola’s administration was also echoed by the two Baales who admitted, takes good care of them. But, like this reporter discovered, Fashola can do better for the traditional institution there. The construction of the palace of the Baale of Mosaku is presently halted due to lack of funds. The Lagos State administration can come to his aid by helping to complete the palace.