History of Lagos

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Aerial view of Lagos in 1929

Lagos is the largest city and former capital of Nigeria and the largest megacity on the African continent in terms of population " Approx. 21m (2016 est), It is also the 4th largest economy in Africa.


Modern-day Lagos is now a state in South-Western Nigeria. It is bounded on the west by the Republic of Benin, to the north and east by Ogun State with the Atlantic Ocean providing a coastline on the south. Lagos is made up of a collection of islands surrounded by creeks that fringe the mouth of the Lagos lagoon on the southwest. It is separated from the Atlantic Ocean by a stretch of loosely connected barrier islands and sand spits.

Names of Lagos[edit]

Lagos means "lakes" in Portuguese, the language of the first European immigrants known to visit the settlement, then already inhabited by the Awori and Bini.[1] From the first contacts with the region until the early 20th century, another Portuguese name for the city that was interchangeably used was Onim,[2] finally abandoned in favor of Lagos. Another theory is that Lagos was named after the city of the same name in Portugal which at the time was a major maritime hub for seafaring activity on the Atlantic Ocean. Although Lagos translates to "lakes" in Portuguese, there's no lake in the proximity of Lagos; Lagos is an Island. "Lagos" comes from the Portuguese word "Lagodikuramo", (meaning "Calm-water"). Consistent with the serenity of coastal water. And, as usual practice, it was the British colonialist Lord Lugard who suggested abbreviating the name to "Lagos" as to rhyme with their tonal preference.[clarification needed][citation needed]

Lagos as a tributary to the Benin Empire[edit]

From the crowning of Ado as its first Oba, Lagos (then called Eko) served as a major center for slave-trade, from which then Oba of Benin Ado and all of his successors for over four centuries supported - until 1841, when Oba Akitoye ascended to the throne of Lagos and attempted to ban slave-trading.

Local merchants strongly opposed the intended move, and deposed and exiled the king, and installed Akitoye's brother Kosoko as Oba.[3]

At exile in Europe, Akitoye met with British authorities, who had banned slave-trading in 1807, and who therefore decided to support the deposed Oba to regain his throne. With the success of the British intervention, in 1851 Akitoye was reinstalled as Oba of Lagos. In practical terms, however, British influence over the kingdom had become absolute, and ten years later, in 1861, Lagos was formally annexed as a British colony.

Colonial Lagos as capital of Nigeria[edit]

The British annexed Lagos as a colony in 1861. The remainder of the Benin Empire - i.e., modern-day Nigeria - were seized by the British in 1887, and when the British established the Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria in 1914, Lagos was declared its capital.

Lagos maintained its status as capital when Nigeria obtained its independence from Britain in 1960. Lagos was therefore the capital city of Nigeria from 1914 until 1991, when it was replaced as Federal Capital Territory by planned city of Abuja, built specifically for such purpose.


Until today, the Oba of Lagos is the head of all the Kings in Lagos State and his status is different from other Obas most of whom were later given back their crowns and staff of office only within the last 40 years except for the Alahun of Imoore Oba Haruna Okikiola who went to late justice Savage enquiry to proof that the Oba of Imoore is a first class Oba that had his crown from ile-ife that should not be classified amongst Obas that only got their crowns recently. Those who got their crowns back were the original land owners (Olofin's children).

The present day Lagos state has a higher percent of this sub-group who allegedly migrated to the area from Isheri along the Ogun river. History has it that the Awori were actually from Ife, the cradle of Yorubaland. The Awori people are a peaceful people initially not taken to warfare. Due to war, those from the hinterlands, like the Ekiti, ran towards Isheri, which at that time had more than one Olofin who were heads of settlements about 1400AD.

When the people fled from the hinterlands most of them scattered again, some to Iro, to Otta, Ado, others to Ebute Metta i.e. three landing places - Oyingbo, Iddo Island and Lagos Island (Eko). The Olofin that brought those who went to Ebute-Metta was Ogunfunminire, later known as Agbodere. With the full commencement of the war about 2000 moved to Iddo Island, others to Otto Awori or Otto Ijanikin towards modern-day Badagry. Those from Ekiti Aramoko came to Ebute-Metta, Iddo and then Ijora.

After the demise of Agbodere, the name Olofin became the name used to remember him; the title of Oloto was given to his successor. When one of his sons becoming the Oloto his other children parted ways to what is known as visible settlements in present-day Lagos.

Until the coming of the Benins, Lagos's geographic boundary was Lagos Mainland. Lagos Island, the seat of the Oba of Lagos, then consisted of a pepper farm which belonged to the Aromire family (One of Olofin's sons) and fishing posts. No one lived there. The name Eko was given to it by its first king, Oba Ado, during its early history; it also saw periods of rule by the Kingdom of Benin.

Eko was the land area now known as Lagos Island where the king's palace was built. The palace is called Iga Idunganran, meaning "palace built on the pepper farm". Oba Ado and the warriors from Benin, as well as some of the indigenous people who sought safety, settled down in the southern part of Eko, called Isale Eko. "Isale" literally means "bottom", but must have been used to indicate downtown (as in Downtown Lagos).

Notable events[edit]

The first king of Lagos, Oba Ado, apart from having two sons also had a daughter Erelu Kuti, who begat Ologun Kutere, who later became king. Shokun his brother, who was more aggressive and whom the Erelu suspected could plan a palace coup, was given a chieftaincy title, "Onile-gbale", and a palace just behind the king's palace. This was the first time that a Chief would be appointed and installed at the same time as a King's coronation. See also http://www.eraffoundation.org/erelukuti.php

Oba Akitoye who ceded Lagos to the British was Oba Kosoko's uncle. Oba Akitoye was the first Oba not to be buried in Benin. Prior to this, all the Kings of lagos were buried in Benin. They passed on taxes to the Oba of Benin until the British came and explained that there was no need to send taxes to Benin anymore since they were no longer under Benin suzerainty. It was during his reign that the direct influence of Benin on Lagos ended.

Oba Kosoko believed in the slave trade and was at loggerheads with the British, hence his dethronement and flight, first to Badagry and later to Epe, Nigeria where he founded kingdoms that still exist today.

Past Obas (Kings)[edit]


Modern-day Lagos was founded by the Awori in the thirteenth century. It was later called Eko. The Portuguese explorer Ruy de Sequeira who visited the area in 1472, named the area around the city Lago de Curamo; the present name is Portuguese for "lakes". An alternate explanation is that Lagos was named for Lagos, Portugal - a maritime town which at the time was the main center of the Portuguese expeditions down the African coast and whose own name is derived from the Celtic word Lacobriga.

Flag of Lagos Colony

It was a major centre of the slave trade until 1851, and the Bombardment of Lagos. Britain, which had banned slavery in 1807, signed a treaty which ushered in the British consular period.[4] Lagos was annexed by Britain via the Lagos Treaty of Cession in 1861 ending the consular period and starting the British colonial period. The remainder of modern-day Nigeria was seized in 1886.[5]

Post colonial[edit]

Lagos street, ca. 1910

When the Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria was established in 1914 Lagos was declared its capital. Lagos experienced rapid growth throughout the 1960s and 1970s as a result of Nigeria's economic boom prior to the Biafran War. This continued through the 1980s and 1990s up to the present date.

Lagos was the capital of Nigeria from 1914 - 1991 when the capital was moved to Abuja. Abuja is a capital like Washington, DC in United States and Brasilia in Brazil in that it was built from scratch specifically to be a capital.

In 1991, Ibrahim Babangida, the Military President and other government functions moved to the newly built capital. This was as a result of intelligence reports on the safety of his life and what was later to be termed his hidden agenda, which was the plan to turn himself into a civilian president. He finished what was started by the Murtala/Obasanjo regime. The change resulted in Lagos losing some prestige and economic leverage. However, it has retained its importance as the country's largest city and as an economic centre.

In 2002, accidental explosions killed more than 1,000 people. In 2012, 163 people died when a McDonnell Douglas MD-83 crashed into a local furniture works and printing press building.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ http://www.hubert-herald.nl/NigeriaL.htm
  2. ^ http://global.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/327849/Lagos
  3. ^ http://www.hubert-herald.nl/NigeriaL.htm
  4. ^ "The Reduction of Lagos:Introduction". Retrieved 1 February 2015.
  5. ^ {{L. Bigon (2009), A History of Urban Planning in Two West African Colonial Capitals: Residential Segregation in British Lagos and French Dakar (1850-1930), Lewiston, NY: The Edwin Mellen Press. }}

Victorian Lagos: Aspects of Nineteenth Century Lagos Life by Michael J. C.Echeruo London: Macmillan 1977. 124 pp.
Chapters: Introduction, The Lagos Scene, The Intellectual Context, The Education of Lagosians, The Musical Culture, The Religious Culture, Lagos and Hinterland Politics, Conclusion
Appendices: Native Literature and the Native Language, European Civilization and the West African Native

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