Stories of My Fatherland: A Thing or Two About Lagos Once Upon A Time

Victoria-Island-Lagos

Did you know that Lagos was at one time a colony of the Benin Kingdom ruled by Edo viceroys?  Conquered by Oba Orhogbua, son of Oba Esigie sometime in the sixteenth century, Lagos was originally called “Eko” by the Binis meaning, war camp. History has it that the Bini Invasion of Dahomey and modern-day Togo (in today’s Benin Republic) were largely planned and executed from Eko.

Oba Orhogbua understood the importance of controlling the coastline from Lagos all the way to Accra, having undergone training at a naval school in Portugal. Albeit, his primal motivations were continuing with his father’s (Oba Esigie) kingdom expansion plans while maintaining a grip on their very viable trade in slaves, oil palm and gun powder.

Oba Orhogbua commenced his campaign sometime around 1582; laying siege and taking Lagos. He however returned home almost immediately due to a falsely rumoured mutiny back in Benin, sending his grandson, Prince Esikpa, the first Eleko of Eko to administer the colony.

Beginning with Esikpa, bodies of the first few Elekos were returned to Benin for burial as were the Chiefs of Badagry.

Shortly after the amalgamation of Nigeria, an Eleko crisis erupted in Lagos with the indigenes demanding a restoration of their traditional monarchy prior to Bini annexation. In response, Oba Eweka II sent Iyase Obaseki and Obazuaye in 1915 to mediate between the Eleko and the indigenes, and to explain that there was a direct blood link between the royal families of Lagos and Benin.

Till date, both royal families of Lagos and Benin relate very closely. The performances of rites such as the coronation of new Obas in Lagos are not without the consultation the Benin establishment. And until about 200 years ago, the Binis actually determined who was installed as Oba in Lagos. History also has it that the heads of dead Obas of Lagos were taken to Benin for proper burial as far back as the 1750s.

Eko was later named Lagos being a derivative of the original Lago di Kuramo given by Portuguese explorers in the seventh century.

Places like Iga-Idugaran(which translates to mean , pepper farm in Bini Language) where the palace of the Oba of Lagos is situated; Idumota, Idumagbo and Eleko Beach in Badagry  all point to a time once, when Lagos was  vassal to Benin.

Albeit, once upon a time.

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