Erelu Kuti

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Erelu of Lagos
Erelu Kuti IV
HRH The Erelu Kuti IV, of Lagos
HRH Abiola Dosumu, The Erelu of Lagos
StyleHer Royal Highness
Term lengthLife tenure

The Erelu Kuti of Lagos is the traditional noblewoman charged with the bearing of the ritual essence of HRH Oloye Erelu Kuti I, an eighteenth-century Yoruba royal who aided in the consolidation of her homeland, first as the daughter of its paramount king, then as the sister of two of his successors, subsequently as the consort of one of its chiefs, then as a chief in her own right, and finally as its first queen mother. Her life would ultimately be so entwined with that of her family's kingdom that her lineal descendants would go on to feature in its history from her day to our own, thereby creating a second dynasty.[1]

A Series Of Excerpts From The Oral Records Of Lagos[edit]

The Ikadan palace was the home of Erelu Kuti, mother of Ologun Kutere (the fourth king of Lagos, whose reign began in 1750 and lasted 25 years, and the founder of the lineage from which the late Oba Adeyinka Oyekan came) and Shokun (the founder of the Fashina-Jinadu-Bombata, Fadu lineage).

The first Oba of Lagos was Ado, the son of Prince Ashipa of the Kingdom of Benin. Ado had three children, Gabbaro, Akinsemoyin and a female, Erelu Kuti. After the death of Ado, his eldest son, Gabbaro, succeeded him. Gabarro's line became extinct because he had no child. Therefore, upon his death, Akinsemoyin, his younger brother, succeeded to the crown.

While Akinsemoyin was ruling, Erelu Kuti married Alagba, the high priest that had predicted that her brother would become Oba. Alagba, an Ijesha man from Ilesha, subsequently served as a chief in the court of his brother-in-law.

Oba Akinsemoyin built a palace called Iga Alagba at Idumota for him because he could not belong to the Oba's household as a non-member of the royal family. Akinsemoyin, according to clan history, subsequently had a set of male triplets after having a number of daughters. Because it was a taboo in those days to have twins, let alone triplets, the three boys were smuggled out of the palace. Due to the poor condition under which they were kept, two of them died, leaving one alive. This son went on to live an ordinary life as a commoner.

Due to this, when Akinsemoyin died in 1749 after ruling for 44 years, Ologun Kutere (the product of the union between Erelu Kuti and Alagba) was made Oba in his stead. Though the late king is said to have had other sons after the set of triplets, they are said to have been very young at the time of their father's death.

It is now believed by scholars of tribal history that due to Akinsemoyin's magnanimity, he did not see the need to perpetuate his branch of the dynasty by having one of his elder daughters serve as regent, pending when the eldest of his subsequent sons would come of age. As a sign of the love he had for his sister, before he died, he instead sanctioned the appointment of Ologun Kutere as his successor.

It should be stated at this juncture, however, that a different account of the history of succession has been mooted by some. It states that when Oba Akinsemoyin died, an adult son of Gabarro named Kekere succeeded him. This Kekere was then succeeded by Ologun Kutere.

From the official genealogy of the kings of Lagos, however, it is seen that Ologun Kutere replaced Akinsemoyin in 1749. Since then, only the descendants of Ologun Kutere have been occupying the position of Oba of Lagos. The late Oba Oyekan II belonged to one of his descendant families.

Now it may be asked how Erelu Kuti came to marry Alagba and what role Akinsemoyin played in the events that led to his sister's marriage? Well, according to the narrative:

On the advice of Alagba, Akinsemoyin performed certain rituals and ceremonies which included putting up a white flag on what is now Victoria Island.

It is said that as a result of this, the Portuguese came and subsequently aided in the architectural advancement of his kingdom. This was the first contact with Europeans in this part of the world, and it heralded the advent of both Christianity and its attendant civilisations. The Portuguese built Iga Idungaran palace for Oba Akinsemoyin as a gift, a part of which is still in existence and is incorporated into the new palace.

Satisfied that all was now well with Oba Akinsemoyin and his people, Alagba then expressed the desire to return to Ilesha for the remaining part of his life. Oba Akinsemoyin agreed and, in gratitude for his years of service, offered him any of his daughters as a wife

While they were talking about this, Erelu passed by and heard what they were discussing. At a later time, she told her brother that she would gladly marry Alagba if he wished it to be so.

Oba Akinsemoyin is said to have been jubilant. He blessed his sister, conferred a noble title on her and predicted that she would bear children who would reign in Lagos as its kings. The prediction of the Oba eventually came to pass with, as the White Man says, a vengeance.


Her Royal Highness Omoba Abiola Dosumu, the Erelu Kuti IV of Lagos is the queen mother of Lagos. She is a direct descendant of Oba Dosunmu. As such, she is of royal Yoruba and royal Bini origins. The Omoba has been the Erelu Kuti of Lagos for over 40 years.[2]
Born in Kano on July 29, 1947, into the royal family of Omoba Adewunmi and Adejoke Dosunmu of Lagos Island, Abiola Dosunmu is the fourth Erelu Kuti of Lagos. She serves as the ceremonial queen mother, and reigns as regent of Lagos upon the death of an incumbent monarch until a substantive successor is chosen by the college of kingmakers. She has reigned for most of her life and holds a position that only princesses from the ruling houses can attain.[3]

Roles and responsibilities[edit]

The Erelu Kuti of Lagos serves as:

  • A close confidant of the traditional rulers of Lagos;
  • An adviser on all social matters, such as the conferment of traditional and honorary titles;
  • A traditional leader of women organisations including market guilds; and
  • A member of the kingmakers council.

Her business prowess[edit]

Erelu Kuti IV is an astute and accomplished business woman with interests in oil and gas, real estate, and agricultural industries among others, she studied business administration in London. In the petroleum industry, the Erelu - as one of the few early Nigerians in the business - achieved some significant feats to the benefit of the nation. In the same vein, she revolutionized the traditional aso oke business to become a multibillion-dollar industry it is today. She was the first to introduce the weaving of the Aso-Oke in brilliant colours which quickly became a trend back in the 60s and 70s, selling as far as the Middle East. With a shop on the famous Bond Street in London, Abiola Dosunmu promoted the culture of the Yoruba race and indeed Nigeria, through the Aso-Oke. Her beautiful designs and exotic taste for perfection earned her the contract of decorating the Nigerian Embassy in London.[4]

Her cultural values[edit]

The Erelu, a fashion trend comprising a skirt and short agbada worn by women in the 80s and early 90s, is also credited to Abiola Dosunmu.[5] A strong advocate for the recognition, restoration and reward for the indigenous people of Lagos, young Abiola facilitated the upward review of salaries of white cap chiefs in Lagos and helped raise their bar from N6,000 to N20,000.

Her contribution to humanity[edit]

To further her contribution to the society, Erelu Abiola Dosunmu set up a foundation, Erele Abiola Foundation, ERAF,[6] which is specially designed for promoting commerce, art, science, sport, culture, education, research, charity, poverty alleviation and other similar goals. Through ERAF, the queen mother is actively involved in the rehabilitation of street children and school dropouts, a disturbing phenomenon in urban development of Lagos. She also offers free skills training and vocational education projects as well as rehabilitation of drug addicts.
Her emerging project, The Valley of the Kings, is a monumental museum to warehouse the history of Lagos and the kings who have ruled her to date. It is Erelu's belief that this project will further help to preserve the rich culture and history of Lagos and a guide to future generations. A great visioner, Erelu Abiola Dosunmu authored and proposed to the Federal Government the project ‘National Pride Cohesion Commission’ which metamorphosed into project ‘HEART OF AFRICA’ later, ‘REBRANDING’ which is currently domiciled under National Orientation under the Ministry of Information and Culture.
Erelu belongs to several socio-economic organisations which include African Business Roundtable, ABR, where she serves as the Cultural Ambassador for the African Continent. A founding member of NEPAD Business Group Nigeria, NBGN, Erelu was in fact, selected at inauguration in 2004 by former President Olusegun Obasanjo. She has equally served as member of various committees both at state and national levels. She is a member and coordinating chairman, Council of Traditional Rulers and Eminent Persons for Good Governance in Nigeria.

Awards and recognition[edit]

  1. National honour of the Royal Kingdom of Belgium [7]
  2. Life achievement award by vanguard newspaper [8]
  3. Her Royal Highness Omoba (Dr.) Abiola Dosumu was awarded an Honorary Doctorate Degree, D.Cul-Doctor of Culture at the 4th convocation ceremony of Igbinedion University, Okada[9]
  4. Pan African Exemplary Leadership 2016 Honour /Icon of True Silent Mega Philanthropist in Africa - In recognition and appreciation of her immense contribution to Nation building, massive job creation, consistent assistance to the less privileged, excellent mentorship towards youths, youth employment, public service delivery with integrity in her discharge of duty as a Royal Highness, Promotion and Preservation of African culture and values including her selfless service to God, Humanity, Nigeria and Africa
  5. The Common Wealth Journalists Association Award
  6. Nigerian Institute of International Affairs Award
  7. West African Students Union Parliament Award for Exemplary Leadership