EBUTE METTA LODGE - NO. 3973 (1919)
The Petition to form a Lodge at Ebute Metta was signed by no less than thirty-one Masons amongst who were Hon. Kitoyi Ajasa who became D.D.G.M. in 1928; R. Acheson-Webb who became D.D.G.M. in 1924; and G. Munn Gray who became D.G.M. in 1926. The Petition was sponsored by St. George’s Lodge No. 3065. The Warrant to form the new Lodge was issued on 26th May 1919, and the Consecration took place at Ebute Metta on 17th January 1920. The Consecrating Officer was H. G. Hyde-Johnson, D.D.G.M.
The first Master of Ebute Metta Lodge No. 3973 was J. F. Willans. The first Senior Warden was D. Gaskin, and the first Junior Warden was A. Gibbons.
It is of interest to note that Bro. D. Gaskin became the first Master of Kano Lodge No. 4975 in 1928. The early history of Ebute Metta Lodge covering the period 1919— 1935 was written by H. Weightman who was initiated in the Lodge on 10th July, 1920, and who became Master of Port Harcourt Lodge No. 3881 in 1934.
The history was later printed and issued in booklet form in 1940, and a further short record of the Lodge from 1936—1940 was also compiled by J. C. Morris (W.M. 1940) and included in the booklet. This booklet records that prior to the Consecration Ceremony on 17th January 1920, a craft Lodge was opened (by special dispensation) at Quarter No. 15 B in the Railway Compound by the D.D.G.M. assisted by officers of District Grand Lodge.
A procession was then formed which proceeded to the site of the present Temple for the laying of the foundation stone by the D.D.G.M. Beneath the foundation stone in a cavity in the concrete blocks, is placed a sealed glass receptacle containing one copy each of the three local newspapers of the latest issue available, a copy of the latest Government Gazette, a brief description of the Ceremony to be performed with a list of the officers and Brethren expected to take part, and also current coins of all values in use on that date in the Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria. After the ceremony of laying the foundation stone, the procession returned to Quarter No. 15B for the Consecration and Installation Ceremonies.
At the Installation Ceremony, the District Grand Secretary read the Dispensation granting powers to Ebute Metta Lodge No. 3973 to hold their meetings in Quarter No. 15B in the Railway Compound until such time as the new Temple was ready for use.
The first regular meeting to be held in the new Temple took place on 11th September, 1920. By 1940 the cost of building the Temple had been fully discharged; and in 1961 a Past Master of the Lodge. J. Mandilas, P.D.G.W., with great generosity donated an air-conditioning plant for the Lodge room. Ebute Metta was thus the first Lodge in Nigeria to hold its meetings in an air-conditioned Temple.
The name Ebute Metta means “the third shore” or “third landing place” and the association with the third number is perpetuated in the Motto of the Lodge “Tria Juncta in Uno”— “Three in One.” The Lodge Banner and Jewel were designed by a son of the first Master (J. F. Willans) and depicts the six pointed star which was the badge of the former Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria, and which forms the groundwork Superimposed thereon are three designs, representing the three landing places. In the first design Apapa, the first landing place, is emblematically represented as the mainland of Africa rising from the sea shore and depicts an elephant standing amidst “bush country” near to a single palm; the second design represents the Island of Iddo surmounted by two palms, emblematically indicating the natural wealth of the island; in the third design are depicted a locomotive crossing a bridge, an Ocean Liner alongside a wharf, and an Obelisk to commemorate the landing place of Mota, the whole surmounted by three palms.
Weightman in his history of the Lodge records that: “Ebute Metta Lodge No. 3973 was established at Ebute Metta within ‘Railway Limits’ to unite under one banner the Brethren stationed at Apapa, Iddo and Ebute Metta, the three stations at the ‘Coast’ terminus of the Nigerian Railway.” The Obelisk at the “third landing place” not only depicts the landing place of the old celebrity Mota but also marks his tomb which is nearby and it is understood that, in days gone by, the immediate neighbourhood was known as Ebute Mota or the “landing place of Mota.” With the efflux of time, this name has changed to Ebute Metta.
1977 was a year to be remembered in the history of Ebute Metta Lodge when the compulsory acquisition of the Lodge Premises in the Nigerian Railway compound was ordered by the Federal Military Government on behalf of the Nigerian Railway Corporation. The Lodge, a citadel of many years standing, being the Venue of the demonstration of all of the principles inculcated in the Craft, and which was built on a solid foundation of contributions from all of its members, was to be torn from their grasp.
It all started on the 3rd of October 1977, when a detachment of Nigeria Police entered the lodge premises; sealed them by securing the gates and posted guards to prevent access by the members. One member attempting to collect mail was, on – the following day, threatened with arrest for trespass. On the day in question a meeting was scheduled for Cryptic Council Academic, and on arrival and being denied access, some brethren had their remarks misconstrued, which resulted in Press reports of Secret Cult meetings with members from places as far apart as Abeokuta and Calabar. It was even more difficult during that time since the Worshipful Master and Senior Warden were on Overseas Leave, and the burden fell squarely on the shoulders of the Secretary and other officers and brethren who were in Lagos at the time. Instructively, E.O. Johnson, PDDGDC, JP, PZ, the father of Chief Babatunde Johnson, PG Swd B, PDDGM, P Dep G Supt, was the only Nigerian member of Ebutte Metta Lodge at that time.
The Secretary was escorted from his place of work to the Head Quarters of the Special Branch of the Nigeria Police and subjected to rigorous questioning culminating in a visit to the Lodge Premises, where the Temple was forcibly entered and a search conducted by a formidable force of some 25 officials of the Nigerian Army, Police and Railway Authorities. The Temple was obviously the prime subject of interest. Copies of various summonses were removed for scrutiny and particular attention paid to the Grand Lodge certificates of Chapter, photographs and names of members of the private lodges who used the premises.
Surprise was registered by the Officials and police in that the Lodge were in possession of a valid Deed of Lease and that Government and Council dues had been paid to-date, but this did not prevent the acquisition exercise being pursued and brought to the unhappy ending of a Lodge without its rightful premises. It is interesting to note that the Deed of Lease was in fact signed by the father of the then Chief of Staff, Brig. Shehu Musa Yar’ adua.
The discussions that were held with the Authorities were all conducted in an amicable and courteous manner. A deadline was set for final vacation of the Lodge by noon on the 12th October, 1977. The resultant problem could be imagined! It was not an easy task by all members to achieve the security and safe custody of the furniture, fittings and stocks of ‘3973’. Votes of Thanks could not be recorded to all brethren and Sister Lodges that came to the rescue, but the mammoth task was achieved and most especially a note of appreciation must be made for the Ladies who so nobly assisted in the exercise which proved to be a remarkable feat of the practical application of the principles of freemasonry. Despite concerted efforts to reach a compromise with the Authorities, by offering to construct an alternative access to the Railway Compound and trying to gain an extension of time, all proved futile and the lease was surrendered.
Happily, after about 30 years sojourn, Ebutte Metta Lodge regained and relocated back to its premises in 2007 following its re-acquisition. The ceremony of re-dedication was performed by Chief Adediji Adedoyin; then District Grand Master, assisted by Chief J.O. Duggan, PSGD, PDDGM who was then DDGM, Chief Babatunde Johnson PGSwd B, PDDGM who was the District Grand Secretary at the time and other District Grand Officers.
Mention must be made of the brethren who contributed in no small measure towards the re-acquisition of the Lodge’s premises. They include Mr. Wilcox, PM of Traveller’s Lodge No. 3726 EC who was at same time, General Manager/Managing Director of the Nigerian Railway Corporation. Others were Chief Elie Rossek, PAGDC, ADGM, PZ; Otunba Olusola Mogaji, PAGDC, PDSGW, PZ; Babatunde Johnson, PGSwd B, PDDGM, PDep. G Supt; Chief Charles Adebiyi, PDSGD and J. W. McEwen, the then District Grand Master who gave a lot of support and encouragement.
Since relocating back to its premises at 22, Odaliki Street, Ebute Metta the Lodge has been enjoying undisturbed, unrestricted and uninterrupted use of its premises, having secured a 99 – year lease from the Federal Government of Nigeria. The Lodge continues to host both the Lodges that were meeting in the premises before the acquisition and some other lodges and chapters. The Lodge premises also houses the Secretariat of the newly inaugurated District Grand Lodge of Mark Master Masons of Nigeria since 2011.
Lodge Venue and Meeting Days
Second Friday of each month.
Installation second Saturday
22 Odaliki Street,
Mail: P.O. Box 26, Ebute–Metta, 101012, Lagos state.