Past and present rulers of Lagos.
The period usually associated with the life and times of Ashipa is 1570-1630, but there is no consensus among historians as to when exactly the Eko Dynasty took off. Though many agree that the first Oba was Ashipa.
Oba Ado (1630-1669)
At the time of his father’s death, Ado was the only son of Ashipa. Consequently, there was no contest for the Oba’s title, which thus passed directly from father to son. He was crowned by Eletu Akinwon. Iddo Island, formerly referred to as the House of Olofin, was named after Oba Ado, he has three children-Gabaro, Akinsemoyin and Erelu Kuti, who however had different mothers. He exerted his authority on the people of Lagos and continued like his father to collect tributes from them. Iga Olumegbon was founded during his reign.
His efforts to move the seat of his government to Lagos Island did not materialize before his death in 1669.
Oba Gabaro (1669-1704)
When Oba Ado died in 1669, there was no contest for his succession, as succession passed from father to son. Oba Ado was succeeded by his eldest son, Gabaro, who was crowned by Eletu Akinwon. However, his brother, Prince Akinsemoyin, rose and fought against him and was, as a result, banished to Apa.
During his reign, Oba Gabaro established chieftaincy institutions and conferred chieftaincy titles on the Idejos. He succeeded in moving the seat of his government from Iddo to Eko (Lagos island). Oba Gabaro was the first Oba to occupy Iga Idunganran which was built on a piece of land given to Oba Ado by Aromire, one of the children of Olofin. Oba Gabaro, like his predecessors on the throne continued to collect tribute for his subjects. His only son Eletu Kekere died without a scion. Thus. The Gabaro line to the throne became extinct. In other words, Lagos was freed from the legacy of direct patrilineal succession practised by the Bini. Oba Gabaro died in 1704.
Oba Akinsemoyin (1704-1749)
On the death of Oba Gabaro, there was no contest. Akinsemoyin (his brother, who rose against him and was exiled) was recalled to succeed him. Another account states that he was assisted, apparently by the Portuguese traders he contacted while in exile, to regain the throne by force of arms. He was crowned by Eletu Orisajo in 1704.
It was during the reign of Oba Akinsemoyin that the Europeans, principally the Portuguese traders, came to Lagos on the invitation of the Oba. Slave trade was booming, as was trade in commodities such as palm oil and palm kernels; which were exchanged for gunpowder, salt, tobacco, cloth and articles that were required for domestic consumption. Lagos thus became a major trading centre. Knowing that his nephew, Eletu Kekere, prince of Lagos, and son of Gabaro, (the third Oba of Lagos) died childless and that the descendants of Oba Gabaro could no longer aspire to the Oba title of Lagos, Akinsemoyin created the Eletu Omo chieftaincy title in the Akarigbere class of chiefs for the Eletu Omo family.
A remarkable incident occurred during the reign of Oba Akinsemoyin, which made people conclude rightly or wrongly that Akinsemoyin had cursed his children and that none of their descendants would reign as the Oba of Lagos again. Akinsemoyin’s reign was said to be peaceful until he incurred the displeasure of the chiefs. He became sad and felt insecure on the throne. Consequently, he sought the counsel of his friend Chief Aromire. The latter advised him to consult his (Aromire’s) Ifa priest named Alaagba Alagbigba (who later became the father of modern Obas of lagos. Starting from Ologun Kutere) which he did. Alaagba, a powerful diviner from Ilesa, predicted that unless if he went on self-exile for a period of one month until a new moon was sighted after which he would be restored to the throne. Akinsemoyin obeyed and accordingly left for Apa (his mother’s hometown) with his half-sister, Erelu Kuti, amd some chiefs who were loyal to him. Notably: Suenu, Egbe and Sasi.
The prediction came to pass and Akinsemoyin was recalled by his chiefs. He was so pleased with the turn of events that he decided to give the hand of one of his daughters, Fiji, in marriage to Alaagba as a reward. But Fiji, supported by her brother Pinisin, refused to marry Alaagba on grounds that he was an Ifa priest. This made him very sad and displeased with them. The situation was saved by Erelu Kuti who volunteered to marry Alaagba. The marriage was blessed with three children-Ologun Kutere, Sokun and Olamiseran. Ologun kutere and Sokun were loved by Akinsemoyin. Though Alaagba was not made a chief by Akinsemoyin, a palace was constructed for him at Idunmota (near the present SCOA site) as a mark of respect and to enhance his status of marrying a princess. Up till today, only the descendants of Alaagba/Erelu Kuti are addressed as Omo Balufon being the deity worshipped by Alaagba.
Isale Eko tradition relates that on a certain occasion when Ologun kutere was still a child and Akinsemoyin was seated on the throne, he ordered that Ologun Kutere be brought to the palace. He then dressed him in the full royal regalia, sat him on the throne and blessed him; thus leaving no one in doubt that Ologun Kutere was the heir-apparent to the throne. This incident coupled with the fact that for two-hundred and fifty-four years after the demise of Oba Akinsemoyin in 1749, all the Obas that have reigned in Eko descended from the Erelu Kuti branch of the Ado royal family tree, may have given rise to the speculation regarding the perpetual curse on his descendants stated in the foregoing. The following chieftaincy houses were founded during the reign of Oba Akinsemoyin: Onisemo, Modile, Eletu Ijebu, Egbe, Suenu, Sasi and Faji. Eletu Ijebu as the name implies, was a commercial ambassador of sorts and the title was handed to him as a reward for his loyalty to the king. Oba Akinsemoyin joined his ancestors in 1749. He was the longest reiging Oba of Lagos to date, having ruled for forty-five years.
Oba Ologun Kutere (1749-1775)
At the demise of Oba Akinsemoyin, it was the turn of Erelu Kuti his immediate sister, to rule but being a woman she only ruled briefly as a Regent. Thereafter, Sokun and Ologun Kutere (both children of Erelu Kuti) contested the throne of Eko. Sokun was highly favoured and supported by the chiefs and the people of Eko. Erelu Kuti intervened and persuaded Sokun and the chiefs to let his elder brother be made the Oba. It must be pointed out that there were no kingmakers as such during the time of Erelu Kuti. So, she had the prerogative to appoint the Oba for the people of Eko. Sokun was appointed the first Ogboni Iduntafa, second in rank to the Oba as compensation.
Ologun Kutere, Sokun and Erelu Kuti were installed on the same day in 1749 as Oba of Lagos, Ogboni Iduntafa of Lagos and Iya Oba of Lagos respectively in the Akarigbere class. They were crowned and capped by Eletu Kumaifo. Ologun Kutere thus succeeded his uncle. Like his junior brother Sokun, Ologun Kutere was also known for his wisdom and statesmanship. His reign was peaceful and prosperous. He established the hereditary titles for his chiefs in the Ogalade and Abagbon classes with the counsel of Sokun and their mother.
It was during his reign that Lagosians refused to pay tributes to the Oba of Benin which then led to war. The war was lost and the people continued to pay tributes to the Bini monarch. This situation, a paradox of sorts was fraught with tension.
From all indications, it appears that Erelu Kuti was involved in the governance of Eko. For, she was indeed a very powerful woman, revered and held in highest esteem. Singularly she had changed the course of history. Dissension thus arose between Sokun and Ologun Kutere when the latter suggested to the former that they should find a means to eliminate their mother who, according to Ologun kutere, did not allow them to fully enjoy the royal offices to which they had been appointed as much as they would have wished. In other words, Ologun Kutere hated their mother’s frequent interference in governance, which he felt made him a rubber stamp monarch, as the Obaship title without authority amounted to nothing. Sokun did not support the idea, and through one means or the other, the secret leaked to their and thus, conspiracy failed. Ologun Kutere suspected that the secret as leaked by Sokun and this strained their relationship. Nevertheless, because the family bond was fundamentally strong, they were reconciled. Ologun Kutere had a successful and significant reign before he died in 1775. To date newly selected Oba of Lagos cannot ascend the throne of his forefathers, located at Iga-Opo-Ide (a site within the Iga Idunganran) without, first and foremost performing certain traditional rites at the shrine of Ologun Kutere.
Oba Adele Ajosun (1775-1780) (1832-1834).
When Ologun Kutere dies, Sokun the darling and charming prince of Lagos was approached to become the Oba of Lagos. It was said that Sokun replied that he was too old for the Obaship and he would not be capable of performing the duties of the office at such an old age with a health ravaged by senility. He would have nominated his first son, Jose, to take his place but he was not old enough to become an Oba of Lagos. By freak irony, the father was too old and the son was immature for the throne. It is not unreasonable to conclude that Sokun declined the offer because he did not wish that on his demise, the great stool of Ogboni Iduntafa become extinct. He then appointed Adele Ajosun, his nephew and second son of Ologun Kutere, as a break in tradition that could have resulted in the extinction of a line to the throne.
Esilokun, the elder brother contested the choice of his brother as successor instead of himself but was not accepted. Adele thus succeeded his father. He was crowned by Eletu Kumiafo. Oba Adele was noted for his tenacity but his reign was threatened by Esilokun who waged several wars against him in order to wrest the throne which he felt was his due.
It is noteworthy to recall that Islam was established in Lagos during Adele’s reign. Although he was a traditionalist, the religion of Islam fascinated him so much he asked three of his wards-Ligali, Ibrahim and Umoru (who begot Dawuda) to propagate Islam in Lagos. Both Ligali and Ibrahim were based at Oko-faji, while Umoru was based at Isale Eko. For the first time, the three of them held a joint prayer at the present site of Idoluwo mosque before Umoru moved to Isale-Eko to establish the King’s (Okiti) mosque.
The first jumat service was held in 1841 at Bankole Street where the Animasaun mosque now stands. Regular prayers were also held at the same place before Ligali and Ibrahim moved to the present site of the Lagos Central Mosque.
The Balogun Okolo chieftaincy title, a warlord responsible for the defence of traditional Lagos and for processing the aggressor in the outbreak of war was created during the reign of Adele. Oba Adele fell out with the chiefs and elders because of his behaviour towards them and was deposed in 1780. He left for Badagry with his aged mother and carried with him the skull of his father. Oba Ologun Kutere. He was letter restored to the throne in 1832 when Oba Idewu Ojulari died. Owing to old age, his second reign was short lived lasting only two years.
Oba Esilokun (1780-1819)
In 1780, when Oba Adele 1 was deposed from the throne, Esilokun, (his elder brother) who had in 1775 contested the throne with him, was installed. No one contested with him as the chiefs and elders were just bent on having a replacement for Adele 1. Esilokun was crowned by Eletu Kumaifo.
His reign was reportedly peaceful, and incidentally, nothing significant happened. In accordance with the practice of all the Obas of his era, he too collected tributes from his subjects on behalf of the Oba of Benin. Later, because he disregarded their advice and did not consult with them, the elders were so displeased with him. He died in 1819.
Oba Idewu Ojulari (1819-1832)
On Esilokun’s demise, the stool became vacant. Idewu Ojulari and Kosoko (both offspring of Esilokun) contested. It was a stiff competition but Ojulari was installed as the Oba. He crowned by Eletu Kumaifo.
There was nothing significant about his reign, except that it was peaceful as there were no internal wars. He was credited for his intransigence in dealing with the Benin royalty on the issue of annual tributes. For undisclosed reason, the elders lost interests in him possibly due to his alleged avarice. They peddled all sorts of rumours about him, saying as well that he had not fathered a child and as such, could not be a good ruler. They equally complained that after his death he would have no one to succeed him. When the rumours leaked to Ojulari, he did everything possible to appease the elders but they remained adamant. He was eventually reported to the Oba of Benin who examined the allegations levelled against him before sending the Igba Iwa (sacred skull of his predecessor) and a sword to punish for his transgressions. According to oral history, Oba Ojulari looked into the sacred skull and committed suicide out of sheer frustration. He was the first and only Oba in Lagos history to open and look inside the Igba Iwa. In ancient times, an Oba was dethroned by hounding him to exile or forcing him to commit suicide by looking into the Igba Iwa (sacred skull).
Oba Oluwole (1834-1841)
At the death of Adele, after his second reign there were two contestants – Oluwole son of Adele 1 and Kosoko, son of Esilokun. Oluwole was installed as the Oba. He was crowned by Eletu Jose.
As typical of Kosoko, he threatened Oluwole’s reign on several occasions, thus the latter’s reign cannot be said to be peaceful. Knowing that the incumbent Eletu Odibo hated him, Kosoko decided to dethrone Oba Oluwole and then proclaim himself Oba. That actions plunged Lagos into a civil war. The fighting was fierce and prolonged but the Oba’s army was victorious. Knowing the consequence of his action, Kosoko fled to Apa and later Ouidah in Dahomey (now Benin Republic). The botched armed uprising is now known as Ogun Ewe Koko (the coco-yam leaves war).
After his memorable victory, Oba Oluwole was said to have exulted in self-praise, irritating Kosoko’s supporters who were exiled in Epe. Oba Oluwole was commended for the way he dealt with the Bini people on the issue of annual tributes. He died under mysterious circumstances in 1841, as a result of an explosion of gun-powder in his palace which was ignited by lightning. His body was shattered beyond recognition, would have remained unidentified, but for the royal beads he was wearing at the time of the incident.
Oba Akitoye 1 (1841-1845) (1851-1853)
In the year 1841, on the death of Oba Oluwole, five Lagos princes – Akitoye, Olukoya, Akiolu, Kosoko and Olusi, all descendants of Ologun Kutere contested. Akitoye was selected and installed as the Oba. He was crowned by Eletu Osobule.
Apart from the incessant harassment by Kosoko, the reign of Oba Akitoye was prosperous. Trade boomed in the latter part of his reign so much that an English merchant named McCokskry got the appellation ‘Oyinbo Apongbon/Oba Apongbon’. The treaty of cession of Lagos to the British Crown was first initiated by Oba Akitoye. However, it was not actualised before his death. Nevertheless, he signed a treaty that was supposed to have ended slave trade and human sacrifice.
Still nursing the ambition to become Oba. Kosoko succeeded in driving Oba Akitoye from the throne in June 1845. This was engendered by the return of his arch-enemy, the formidable Eletu Odibo, from the voluntary exile. Kosoko was not pleased with the development and insisted that the Eletu should remain in exile, but Akitoye was unyielding.
The reception given the Eletu Odibo on his arrival in Lagos led to a military encounter which lasted for twenty-two days. The Oba’s troops were encircled on all sides at Isale-Eko and had no access to clean water. In order to quench their thirst, they resorted to drinking the only available waters in the wells which was brackish, and which the Oba himself drank. It was on account of this incident that the war was known as “Ogun Olomiro – the battle of the salty water. Akitoye lost to Kosoko and escaped to Badagry.
However, Oba Akitoye and his entourage were taken from Badagry to Fernando Po by Consul Beecroft alias Ajele Onirungbon’ (the bearded consul). They returned triumphantly to Lagos on 27th December, 1851 when Akitoye was restored to the throne for his second reign. Having lost control of state’s affairs, it was reported that he committed suicide. He died on the 2nd of September, 1853. He was aged sixty years.
Oba Kosoko (1845-1851)
The rivalry between Prince Kosoko and the formidable Eletu Odibo was deep-rooted. It was reported that the rivalry was based on personal animosity and vendetta. Thrice Kosoko, an eligible prince in his own rights, failed to win the throne of Lagos – in 1819, against Ojulari; in 1834 against Oluwole; and in 1841 against Akitoye. Kosoko failed because had stiff opposition from the crafty and vengeful Eletu Odibo. He was said to have seduced a beautiful lady betrothed to the Eletu mother’s hometown (Owu) in Abeokuta. When Kosoko heard of the development, he dispatched Chief Osodi Tapa to waylay him at Agboyi creek, with orders to kill him and bring his head. When Akitoye arrived at the creek, Osodi Tapa did not harm him. Rather, he returned to Lagos and told Kosoko that Akitoye charmed them and none of them was awake whilst he waded through the creek.
As expected, Kosoko ruled with the use of force for about six years. He was a dreaded monarch, fearsome and tyrannical. It was a reign of terror and nothing significant happened. Civil strife was rife. He dealt severely with all his political opponents. Eletu Odibo, who had brought about the conviction and drowning of Opolu, (Kosoko’s sister) on accusations of witchcraft, was set ablaze. Obanikoro, who was said to have conspired with the Eletu Odibo to deliberately manipulate the most important part of the kingmaking machine, the Ifa Oracle against him, suffered a similar fate. There was no peace and stability in Lagos. Akitoye sought the support of the British against Kosoko. Indeed, as is well known, religious and business pressure informed the decision of the British government to support Akitoye and his Badagry allies against Kosoko. It was a fierce battle called Ogun Ahoyaya (the boiling battle), on account of the cannon shells fired by the British army. Kosoko’s forces could not resist the onslaught and he was eventually driven away by the British in 1851.
Kosoko fled to Epe which reportedly the Ifa Oracle had predicted to be his ordained destination. On arrival, he met with some fishermen who had come from the Ijebu waterside to fish. They usually rested and relaxed at the beach before returning to their villages and were obviously awed at the sight of a fleeing Oba who was heavily armed and had a very large entourage. Nonetheless, he was given the usual traditional obeisance.
Upon fathoming that the area must be under the control of another monarch Kosoko made enquiries from the fishermen. They directed him to the Awujale Fidipote of Ijebu-Ode to whom he sent emissaries. The Awujale sympathised with Kosoko’s predicament and granted him absolute powers and more importantly lordship over the entire Epeland. He even ordered the fishermen to leave the beach exclusively for Kosoko. However, Kosoko prevailed upon the Awujale to allow them stay. Kosoko thus founded a new settlement called Eko-Epe. The fishermen from the Ijebu waterside who remained at the instance of Kosoko were regarded as Ijebu-Epe citizens. Epe thus became a twin city.
When Kosoko was given permission by Her Majesty’s government to return to Lagos on the 26th September, 1862, most of his followers who were tired of a wandering refused to follow him and indigenized as Eko-Epe citizens, under the leadership of the irreconcilable Possu and Ajeniya, where they still form a large element community in the town today. Those who accompanied him back to Lagos were resettled at Epetedo. On the 2nd of February, 1863, Kosoko ceded the ports of Palma Orimedu and Lekki to the British government. He died on the 16th of April, 1872. During his second reign, Oba Akitoye 1 created the Oloja chieftaincy title in the Akarigbere class for Kosoko, thus excluding his descendants from becoming the Oba of Lagos. The Asajon Kosoko has ever since become a very powerful high chief.
Oba Dosunmu (1853-1885)
In 1853, after Oba Akitoye joined his ancestors, there were three contestants for the vacant throne. Namely: Atin (son of Adele 1), Tadeyo (son of Olusi) and Dosunmu (son of Akitoye). Oba Akitoye 1 however left a will, in which he named his son, ( Dosunmu) as his successor, (contrary to Isale- Eko traditions on the selection process of a new Oba). The British colonial government capitalized on the cited will and used it as a springboard to impose Dosunmu on the people of Eko. Dosunmu, a prince of about thirty years of age, ascended the throne at a time of crisis. He was crowned by Eletu Adao-Gbelege on the 8th of September, 1853.
The most significant event that took place during his reign of Oba Dosunmu was the slave trade, which led to the surreptitious imperialist incursion, and the nucleus it formed for its influence in Lagos. On the 30th of July, 1861, Oba Dosunmu went on board the HMS frigate Promotheus” commanded by Captain Beddingfield, where he was received with a thirteen-gun salute. The cession to the British crown (during the reign of Queen Victoria), of Lagos and its environs, was then negotiated. The treaty of cession was signed on 6th of August, 1861. Lagos automatically became a British colony amidst protests and violent reactions to the treaty by the Idejo chiefs, the original land owners of Lagos, who held that the king could not cede land to the British government, since he had no land to cede. Besides, none of them had signed the treaty of cession to which Dosunmu and his kinsman Talabi and Chiefs Apara, Asogbon and Obanikoro had agreed. Subsequent events involving Oba Dosunmu suggest quite clearly that the Oba did not quite agree to cede Lagos to the British Crown or at least, that he did not so freely.
On September 12, 1863, according to the Anglo-African, Oba Dosunmu denied ceding Lagos to the British Crown. The text of his denial was reported in the Anglo-African of September 19, 1863 by a correspondent:
The remark: –
Mo ofi ilu me torreh. (“I have not gifted my town away”).
The ex-king also affirmed: –
Did I not in the Government House refuse to sign the treaty?
Did I not refuse on board “The Promotheus”?
At my palace, did I not also refuse to sign?
The Lt Governor, J.H Glover took this denial seriously enough to issue a proclamation on September 13, 1863, which virtually declared a state of emergency in the town. The “Excitement of the 13th” as this incident came to be called, ended with the shelling of parts of the town by British gunboats, the surrender of Oba Dosunmu, the loss of his pension (for breaking the treaty of cession) and a fine of fifty pounds to defray the expenses of the steam tugs – the employment of which was rendered necessary as a consequence of the trouble he has induced. It was a most arrogant display of power in the truest fashion of gunboat diplomacy.
Opinion in Lagos was said to have been sharply divided over the handling of the episode by Governor Glover, especially since he excluded Africans from the special commissions he set up. The harrowing effects of the incident was that it virtually made impossible any possibility of the efforts by the natives to reclaim Lagos for themselves and their Oba.
Other events of note that place during the reign of Oba Dosunmu include the performance of the funeral obsequies of his father, Oba Akitoye, in 1854 and the expulsion of Madam Tinubu from Lagos on April 17, 1857 for insubordination. Her confidence bolstered by wealth, she dared to issue orders which normally would have come only from Oba Dosunmu. She was also accused of secretly passing information of happenings in Lagos to her friend the King of Dahomey. When her behaviour became intolerable, Oba Dosunmu reported her to Consul B. Campbell who gave orders that she be banished from Lagos. It is on record that Consul Campbell even assigned policemen to assist Oba Dosunmu in driving her out and she was compelled to return to her hometown, Abeokuta. Nevertheless, Tinubu Square, in central Lagos was named in her memory. The grating of permission to the Egba refugees (converts to Christianity) – who came into Lagos as a result of the Ijaiye war – by Governor Glover to stay at Ebute Metta and Yaba areas in March 1868, and the holding of a grand customary funeral ceremony in honour of his mother in 1876 were other memorable events that place during his reign. Oba Dosunmu died on the 16th February, 1885, at the age of sixty-two years.
Oba Oyekan 1(1885-1900)
When Oba Dosunmu died, Atin (the son of Adele), Oduntan (the son of Asi Akitoye), Oyekan (the son of Dosunmu), Jose Dawodu (the son of Akitoye) and Tadeyo (the son of Olusi) contested. Oyekan was selected however, and was installed as the new Oba, he received the blessing of the British Colonial government and ascended the throne on March 12, 1885 and was crowned by Eletu Ogabi.
The most memorable event of his reign was the celebration of the golden jubilee of Queen Victoria on the 21st of June, 1887. It was also during his reign that the British in 1896 formally declared a protectorate over Yorubaland as part of their administration in Lagos.
This was the when the “Pax Britannica” was vigorously imposed on Yorubaland by sheer force of superior European weaponry, a watershed of the colonialization process and naked exploitation of the natives. Oba Oyekan tried to maintain balance of power in the territory. As a result of his ill-health, (after fifteen years’ reign of the throne) Oba Oyekan 1 died on the 19th of September 1900 at the age of forty-six years.
Oba Esugbayi Eleko (1901-1925); (1931-1932)
When Oba Oyekan died in 1900, the contestants to the throne were Jose Dawodu (son of Asi), Oke Olusi, Braimoh Adele, Oduntan, Akitoye and Adaramaja. Nonetheless, Governor Macullum selected Esugbayi Eleko as a compromise candidate and was installed on the 12th of February, 1901. He was crowned by Eletu Alli Idosu. His Iwuye ceremony was performed on the 7th of June, 1910 – nine years after he was installed as Oba.
Surprisingly, Esugbayi Eleko did not tow the British line. His reign was marked as one of the most interesting episodes in the history of the anti-colonial struggles in Lagos. The Oba sought to assert his independence by going into alliance with the indigenous educated elite. He supported the trip of elite led by Prince Oluwa and Herbert Macaulay, to London to agitate for institutions of higher learning in Lagos.
He did not associate himself much with British policy, so much that in 1925, there was a political rift and incessant disagreements between the British colonial government and Esugbayi Eleko over water rate levy. Also the Oba was accused of granting the legendary Herbert Macaulay, “Ejo ni gboro” (the snake in town), use of the Oba’s staff of office in London during the proceedings of Oluwa’s land case at the Privy council when Governor Glover sought to acquire Chief Oluwa’s land in Apapa(a suburb of Lagos) thus giving the impression that Oluwa was acting on behalf of the Oba. Oba Esugbayi Eleko was asked to apologise but he refused. He was also accused of meddling in the affairs of Lagos Central Mosque by involving himself in the appointments and approvals of the principal chiefs of the cited mosque such as Balogun, Giwa, Olori Giwa, Basorun etc. which the British colonialists considered to be purely muslim affairs. This dramatic irony seems to question if these affairs concerned the colonial government. Surprised that he ignored orders, the colonial government removed him from office, announcing his banishment to Oyo on August 6, 1925, but Esugbayi Eleko was a popular monarch and was so greatly loved by his subjects that there was vehement protest against his banishment, undoubtedly, he challenged his disposition.
A commission of inquiry was set up on the “House of Docemo”. It was apparent that the purpose of the inquiry was to put a stamp of legitimacy on the illegal removal of Oba Esugbayi Eleko. The colonial government had no right or legislation to banish a King thus. It was an arbitrary act which had its processes in traditions. All applications made to the courts to seek his release from exile were either refused or dismissed by the courts. The case was eventually taken to the Privy Council (as it was then known) in London and the ruling was in Esugbayi’s favour. He was re-instated by Sir Donald Cameron, (a popular British Colonial governor) and returned to Lagos amidst fanfare on July 4, 1931. However, he did not savour this great victory for a long time as he joined his ancestors in 1932, at the age of seventy-two years. His reign remains the most eventful, most spectacular and most successful. He fought and confronted the British Colonial government for his rights and that of his people and won.
The British style of governance, which was alien and forcefully imposed on Lagos, was unacceptable to him. What was uppermost on his mind was the welfare of his subjects. He was a truly great, determined and progressive Oba: first among equals, in the history of Eko. Such is the legacy left behind by the popular Oba Esugbayi Eleko. It is significant to note that it was during the reign of Oba Esugbayi Eleko that the political and geographical entity known as Nigeria came into existence with the amalgamation of the southern and northern protectorates in 1914 thus came under a unitary colonial administration presided over by Lord Lugard as Governor.
Oba Ibikunle Akitoye II (1925-1928)
In 1925, when Oba Esugbayi was deposed, there were two contestants namely Sanusi Olusi and Ibikunle Akitoye. The lot fell on Ibikunle Akitoye and he was installed accordingly. Oba Akitoye II was the first Oba to be unusually crowned by Obanikoro Akeju(in the Ogalade group of chiefs) contrary to tradition on the 8th of August, 1925. He also was the first Christian Oba of Lagos.
Oba Akitoye II and his chiefs had a close relationship with the colonial government. Unlike Oba Esugbayi Eleko who reigned before him, he was pro-colonial government. He was a successful businessman and it is on record that he was the first merchant prince to travel to the United Kingdom on business. Oba Akitoye’s significant achievement was the establishment of a native court in Lagos.
His reign was shortlived. He died on July 27, 1928 at the age of fifty-six years, under mysterious and arguably suspect circumstances, without performing his Iwuye ceremonial rites, despite strong pressure mounted on the colonial authorities to have him undergo it.
Oba Sanusi Olusi (1928-1931)
In 1928, at the demise of Oba Akitoye II, and at the time when Oba Esugbayi Eleko was still in exile, there were two contestants to the throne of Lagos: Sanusi Olusi and Buraimoh Balogun of the Esilokun Family. Olusi was chosen and he was installed as the first Muslim Oba of Lagos. In the same manner as his predecessor in office, he too was unusually crowned by Obanikoro Akeju (in the Ogalade group of chiefs) contrary to tradition, on August 20, 1928.
Oba Sanusi Olusi’s reign was short-lived as he was made to abdicate the throne for Oba Esugbayi Eleko when the latter returned from exile in 1931 and was re-instated.
It is on record that in 1931, Oba Olusi opened the Jankara market and the Jumat central in Lagos before he abdicated the throne. He was known as a successful trader before his installation and his reign marked the significant influence of Islam in the Lagos monarchy. Also because of his right to the throne, Oba Olusi was allowed to have his own palace (Iga Alakoro) which is still in existence at the Oke-Arin district of Lagos. On his demise in 1945(at the age of seventy-five years), he was not buried at the palace but at the Okesuna Muslim Cemetery. He also did not perform his Iwuye ceremony.
Oba Falolu Dosunmu (1932-1949)
When Esugbayi Eleko died in 1932, Sanusi Olusi contested the throne again with Falolu Dosunmu. The Ifa Oracle was consulted and Falolu was picked and installed as the new Oba of Lagos. He was crowned by Eletu Bamgbopa on July 3, 1933. But it was not a smooth journey as Oba Falolu did not readily gain government recognition.
The Obanikoro group and supporters of Sanusi Olusi, (including traditional chiefs who were capped when Eleko was deposed and banished to Oyo) registered their opposition to Falolu’s selection and appealed to the colonial government of the day not to recognise him as the new monarch. Falolu’s supporters equally did not rest on their oars. Notable personalities that were paraded included well-meaning members of the society like Herbert Macaulay, Baba(Chief) Sanni Kotun, Chiefs Oluwa, Eletu Odibo, Olumegbon, Oloyo, Onitolo, Bank Anthony, Egerton Shyngle and members of prominent political organisations like the Nigerian National Democratic Party and the Ilu committee (a sub-group of a major political parties like Ponlo and Panla of a later body polity).
Interestingly, the government (which had been backed by the Obanikoro group, during the water rate colonial levy crisis) took a reverse turn and granted recognition to Oba Falolu. He then ran a modest administration in collaboration with the British Colonial Government and enjoyed a peaceful and quiet reign before he died on September 2, 1949, at the age of seventy-eight years.
Oba Musediku Adeniji Adele II (1949-1964)
In 1949, when Oba Falolu joined his ancestors, there were ten contestants namely; Adedoyin Dosunmu, Adeyinka Oyekan, Noah Esilokun, B Asiru Bolaji Ologun Kutere (he as not presented by the family), Hamid Sule A. Akinsemoyin, Yesufu Olusi, B. Adele (Musediku Adele was omitted), Adetunji Akitoye, B. Ila Lawal Akinsemoyin and Adewunmi Akitoye.
Musediku Adeniji Adele was however chosen and installed accordingly. He was crowned by Eletu Gbadesere on the 1st of October, 1949 amidst cheers, pomp and ceremony at Enu-Owa (a well-recognised shrine traditionally called “Ojubo”). He was the second Muslim Oba of Lagos.
After the ceremonial installation had been concluded and Adele arrived with this supporters at Iga Idunganran, they discovered that the gates were firmly locked and all efforts to push them open proved unsuccessful. Miraculously, however, the gates were opened from the inside and Adele in a royal triumphal entry, took possession of the Iga. According to traditions, if he had failed to enter the Iga after his capping, he would have ceased to be the Oba and his selection would have become nullity. In 1950, Prince Adeyinka Oyekan and some notable persons took legal action against Oba Adele, contending that the Iga Idungnaran as the exclusive property of members of the ‘House of Docemo’. It was a protracted legal battle for the crown but Oyekan eventually lost the case at the Supreme Court of Nigeria, having previously fought at the West African Court of Appeal and the Privy Council in Britain. The Oyekan vs Adele legal tussle was one of the most celebrated cases of the colonial days. It lasted for a period of sixteen years.
Lagos witnessed a lot of dramatic changes during Oba Adele’s reign. It was Oba Adele who in the 1950s, initiated the custom of conferring honorary chieftaincy titles on deserving Lagos indigenes. He thereby gave rise to the new non-traditional class of chiefs known as “titled chiefs or honorary chiefs” as distinct from the traditional chieftains who possess palaces. He sought to protect the interest of Lagos in the various constitutional processes. He was much loved and respected because of his concern for the welfare of his subjects, particularly for his knack of getting involved in the resolution of family conflicts. On the throne, he was also known to have conducted himself in a dignified and respectable manner.
Oba Adele was a member of the Lagos City Council and later became President of the Council in 1953. He was also a senator and deputy president of the Nigerian Senate and later Senate President when Dr Azikwe became the Governor-General in 1963. Remarkably, he was the first Oba of Lagos to be Knighted by Queen Elizabeth II, and it was during his reign that Nigeria gained her independence from the British on the 1st of October, 1960. It is to be noted that during the latter half of Oba Adele’s reign and the earlier part of Oyekan II reign (1960-1966), the Tafawa Balewa government ruled Lagos Island and the Mainland through a Minister for Lagos affairs, Alhaji Musa Yar’adua(the father of late General Shehu Musa ans President Umar Musa Yar’adua). Other areas of greater Lagos like Agege, Badagry, Ikeja, Ikorodu, Ketu were then administered as part of the Western Region. Sir Musediku Adele died on the 12th of July, 1964 at the age of seventy years.
Oba Adeyinka Oyekan II (1964-2003)
On the 13th of March, 1965, after the stool became vacant (when Oba Adele II joined his ancestors), Prince Adeyinka Oyekan II was made the 19th Oba of Lagos. He was the second Christian to be installed. There were twenty-one contestants in all – later shortlisted to six by the kingmakers. The names of the six contestants; Princes Adeyinka Oyekan, Professor Oladele Ajose, Tajudeen Olusi, B. Afolabi Modile, Adesagun Esilokun and Musiliu Adele were sent to the Ifa Oracle. Adeyinka Oyekan, was chosen and installed as Oba (Oba Oyekan II). He was crowned by Eletu Bajulaiye, Jiyabi II and his Iwuye ceremony was performed on June 30, 1965.
It is pertinent to recall that before Oba Oyekan was installed, Chief Aminu Kosoko (the Asajon of Lagos) and eleven traditional chiefs: Onilegbale. Saba, Oniru, Onisemo, Olorogun, Suenu, Eletu-Iwase, Ojora, Faji and Erelu, petitioned the late Alhaji Musa Yar’adua, (at the time Minister of Lagos Affairs) against his installation. Their protests hinged on the premise that Prince Adeyinka Oyekan had previously installed himself as Oba in 1949 (contrary to Isale-Eko traditions) and had thus forfeited the chance of being accorded any such recognition again.
The cited kingship rituals were performed at Ogunmade compound and did not receive the support of the generality of Lagosians, but Prince Oyekan swiftly rebutted the argument and cited instances of Princes who had fought for their crown and lost eventually became Oba. He specifically cited the case of Oba Akinsemoyin who rose against Oba Gabaro and was exiled. The former was later recalled and crowned as Oba of Lagos, after the demise of Gabaro. The installation of Oba Oyekan II was finally confirmed when the Minister of Lagos Affairs, after having considered the petition dismissed the objection.
Oba Oyekan’s reign was proved to be peaceful and eventful. Significantly, Lagos State was formally created during his reign on May 27, 1967, when the geographical entity was first restructured into a federation of twelve states. A Council of Obas and Chiefs was also formed in Lagos State in 1969 under his chairmanship and he regularised the conferring of honorary chieftaincy titles, which later received statutory backing from Lagos State government in 1981. The Lagos State University was founded during his reign.
He was the first Oba of Lagos to become the Chancellor of a University – the Federal University of Agriculture, Makurdi. Later he was again appointed Chancellor of the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta. In 1966, he was appointed to serve as adviser to the Military Administrator of Lagos State. Many indigenes of Lagos excelled (within and outside of Eko-land) during his reign.
Oba Adeyinka Oyekan, however was heavily criticised for his playboy lifestyle and insouciance. He was accused of dragging the office of the Oba of Lagos into disrepute. His critics cited incidents when he would appear at a supermarket in person, would place orders for goods and have them loaded into his vehicle, before refusing to pay on the grounds that ‘an Oba is exempted from paying for supplies’. He claimed that as his royal right. They have also cited traits which can be considered unbecoming of royalty i.e. giving the same chieftaincy title to different persons at the same time; his ejection from a restaurant during a visit to the U.K for his drunkenness; his easy manner with the opposite sex; and his appearance in pyjamas before a delegation of American legislators who had come calling, despite having given early notification of their visit. Many prominent Lagosians claimed to have heard the Oba confess;
“We have ruined it (the Oba institution.
It is now left for you to repair it”
Oba Oyekan died on the 7th of March, 2003 at the age of ninety-two years. The Eyo Oba Oyekan II festival was celebrated on the 2nd of August, 2003 as a mark of respect and honour for the demised monarch.
His Royal Majesty Alaiyeluwa, Oba Rilwanu Babatunde Osuolale Aremu Akiolu I (2003 – till date)
When Oba Oyekan II died on the 7th of March, 2003, the great stool of the Eko Kingdom became vacant. The way was thus paved for the appointment of his successor. Twelve princes vied for the stool: Rilwanu Akiolu, Kunle Ojora, Tajudeen Olusi, Ademuyiwa Dosunmu, Kola Balogun, Sammy Adebiyi, Rasheed Modile, Adetutu Eko, Mansur Williams, Kwam Said, Fola Awobode-Pearse and Taju Akiolu.
Traditionally, the choice of Oba lies in the hands of the kingmakers and more importantly, from the divination results of the Ifa Oracle. Prince Rilwanu Akiolu was unanimously chosen by the six kingmakers as directed by the Ifa Oracle. His appointment was approved by the Lagos State Executive Council on Thursday 22nd May, 2003 and by the special grace of Allah, he was installed and capped as the twentieth Oba of Lagos by Eletu Odibo, Chief Tajudeen Gbadesere, on Saturday 24th May, 2003. He is the third Muslim Oba of Lagos to be installed. The traditional Iwuye (coronation ceremony) took place on Saturday, 9th of August, 2003; the high point of the occasion took place on Saturday 30th August, 2003 – event that attracted eminent dignitaries, the cream of the society, prominent royal fathers and Princes in Nigeria and envoys from outside the country.
Oba Akiolu I was born on the 29th of October, 1943, to Prince Tijani Akiolu and Madam Simbiat Akiolu. Though he was born and bred in Lagos, he started his primary education at Sabo Memorial Primary School, Ibadan. He later returned to Lagos where he completed his secondary education at Ansar-Ud-deen Grammar School, Surulere, Lagos. Subsequently, he joined the Nigeria Police force as a cadet inspector and rose to the rank of Assistant Inspector-General of Police before he retired in March 2002. He is lawyer by profession. He is also a member of the National Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies.
According to the new monarch, he had worked and prayed for his coronation “that great moment in his life” even since he was twenty-one years old. The mammoth crowd that witnessed his installation was unprecedented in the chequered history of Lagos and the ceremony was more or less a carnival. The outpouring of affection and tributes towards the new monarch since his ascension to the throne of his fore-fathers is a measure of his acceptance.
As the Oba of Lagos and Head of the Royal House of Ado, he presides over a city that seems to be growing by the minute. As Lagos grows, multiple social problems arise; central Lagos Island has fallen prey to the ‘area boys’ phenomenon which constitutes a threat to business and the once-peaceful social order. In addition to this, Lagos has become an urban developer’s nightmare with the increasing pollution, the menace of traffic, the population explosion and the alarming, rising crime rate. The urgent challenge to the cherished traditional institution in the Eko Kingdom is therefore one of collaboration with constituted authority to initiate a process or urban renewal, that would help to restore the dignity and sanctity of Eko. Oba Akiolu I, a man who once headed the MOPOL (Mobile Police Unit) has the reputation of a person who will not brook any nonsense. Yet, known to be very compassionate and humble.
Culled from “History of the Eko Dynasty –Prince Bolakale Kotun, Pages 32-63