Saro (Nigeria) - Saros - Life in Lagos and Abeokuta

Life in Lagos and Abeokuta

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Lagos was a strategic and important fishing location for the original founders, the Aworis. It was established as a fishing community by Awori immigrants in the sixteenth century. The town later emerged as major economic base nurtured by immigration from nearby ethnic groups led by the Ijebus, then the Ijaws, the Binis, and the Egbas. Trade with Europeans also fueled the commercial rise of the city. By 1880, Lagos had already become a cosmopolitan city. Sierra Leonean immigrants started moving to Lagos in the 1840s. Many of the immigrants were of Egba and Oyo heritage and some were familiar with Yoruba traditions and culture. They assimilated fairly well with the Yorubas, and coupled with an earlier training and interaction with the British in Sierra Leone, they were able to become part of the colonial society with little abuse from Lagos indigenes. The immigrants immediately rose to become commercial middlemen between residents of Lagos, Abeokuta and the Europeans.

In Lagos, the Saros chose Ebute Meta, Olowogbowo, and Yaba as primary settlements. The Saros mostly of Egba heritage established a few of the oldest churches in Lagos and also expanded the missionary work of the British in Nigeria. The Saros also emerged as a dominant commercial group in Lagos. Having developed a migratory forte, they had an edge as travelers who were able to go into the interiors to meet directly with various commodity producers and traders. They were the pioneer Southern Nigerian traders in Kola, a cash crop that later emerged as a viable and important export commodity for the Western region in the early twentieth century. The Saros introduced the crop which was bought from Hausa traders across the River Niger into Southern Nigeria agriculture. The first Kola farm and the dominant trader in Kola, Mohammed Shitta Bey, were orchestrated by Saros. They also did not drop their yearning for western education as they dominated the ranks of professions open to Africans. They were lawyers, doctors, and civil servants.

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    Anyone who attempts to relate his life loses himself in the immediate. One can only speak of another.
    Augusto Roa Bastos (b. 1917)