Do we know where our great forefathers and mothers lived? What about the schools they went to? Why aren’t we as a people, interested in preserving our history? Why do we do nothing whilst our heritage and legacies are being destroyed?


Just yesterday, my pastor was admonishing us to love one another as Christ taught us; and I thought about “Marwa” and “Okada” drivers/riders and how it is impossible to obey that commandment. Drive through some parts of Lagos – Yaba and Ebute Metta – and you cannot but mentally travel back in time into Old Lagos, wondering how life must have been then. I bet the well-to-do at that time were the ones who lived in the old architectural bungalows that we see today, the remains at least. Those bungalows must have been to Lagos in the early 19th century, what the beautiful houses in Banana Island are to Lagos today. Drive down Third Mainland Bridge towards the island and on your right, you cannot miss the old storey buildings that stand Lagos Island out.

I remember time back, must have been 1993 or ’94, and I was going with a friend to Balogun market. I was going to get Christmas presents and I wanted to buy lace fabric for my mother. My friend and I took a drop, that’s what we called taxis in those days. That was also the days when “area boys” roamed (owned?) the Marina.

Two of them approached our vehicle. I was terrified. My parents did not know that I had gone to the market. These violent-looking area boys approached us, tapping the windows so hurriedly. One of them asked us to wind down and pass our bags and watches. I was rather irritated, wound down a bit, and then said, in the best spoken English that I could muster in the circumstances, that I was not in the mood because I had only just removed my tooth and had a headache. I waved my hand in a dismissive way.

He looked at his fellow area and said in Yoruba, with great cynicism and irritation, “Look at this joker! What is our business with your tooth? If you don’t remove your watch and give us your bag, I will not only remove your teeth, I will remove your mouth!” More than 30 years later, I still remember the chills that I felt that day.

My friend saved us. She spoke “street Yoruba”, dropping some Lagos Island names and hinted at a granddaughter relationship with these great names. Our would-be assailants then asked why we didn’t say so initially rather than have this “’Suegbe’ blow English for them”. That was the first time anyone would ever refer to me as such. “Suegbe” is a derogratory slang for a slow person. My friend asked them to excuse me saying that I was a lost granddaughter returning home to see my Lagos Island grandparents. What a lie! Anyway, it was enough – the two hooligans went their way.

Why do we keep jumping from hot water into hot oil? We fix, but don’t ensure the sustainability of our solutions. We should be interested in old architecture. We should preserve our heritage. Why don’t we care?


Today, the Marina is a beautiful place to look at, especially at night. It almost feels like you are anywhere in the world. However, we may have replaced area boys with “Okada” and “Marwa” riders/drivers as our hooligans-of-choice. They are a menace. They are our “area fadas”. They drive/ride against traffic. They are kings of the road. They can park right in the middle of the road. They can cordon off any part of a road into a car park. They dent your car and then call their cohorts to gang up against you in the consequent argument/negotiation.

And nobody has done anything about them. Why do we keep jumping from hot water into hot oil? We fix, but don’t ensure the sustainability of our solutions. We should be interested in old architecture. We should preserve our heritage. Why don’t we care?

The other day, I was conversing with a very senior colleague, and to buttress his point he used a Yoruba proverb. At that point, he reminded me of my late father. I was impressed. There are not many left who still speak our local languages. Even those who do, speak cannibalised versions. We are losing so much of our essence.

Those who are lucky to have parents or grandparents who grew up in the early 1900s, may know what I am talking about. My father spoke impeccable English and Yoruba. He used Yoruba proverbs and then translated them into English. As a young girl, I adored my father, and often disagreed with my mother. I thought she was too strict and too ready to dish out the legendary “Nigerian mother slap”. The one that helped “reset” your brain. One day I upset her and my father called us and said “Bi omode ban gun iyan eeru, agba o gbodo ro oka iyepe” (“If a youngster is preparing pounded yam with ashes; an elder ought not to prepare yam-flour meal with sand”). That was his way of telling her to give me a break.

All around me, the deeper meaning of our culture and tradition seem to be evaporating. Once upon a time, Igbo songs were the best coral melodies. Speaking to your inner self, as it were. These songs were our motivational speakers. Alas, we don’t have these songs anymore.


Unfortunately, I didn’t pick up this trait. All around me, the deeper meaning of our culture and tradition seem to be evaporating. Once upon a time, Igbo songs were the best coral melodies. Speaking to your inner self, as it were. These songs were our motivational speakers. Alas, we don’t have these songs anymore.

I understand that Bishop Ajayi Crowther translated the Bible into Yoruba, Igbo and Nupe languages. I wonder how many Nigerians can speak their languages at its core.

On a visit to South Africa a few years ago, I took my kids to Soweto to visit the home Nelson Mandela lived in before his incarceration. The house was largely intact!

Do we know where our great forefathers and mothers lived? What about the schools they went to? Why aren’t we as a people, interested in preserving our history? Why do we do nothing whilst our heritage and legacies are being destroyed?

‘Lande Omo Oba is a lawyer and everyday girl.