Special Announcement



  1. The Early Years

The history of Lagos has received attention from historians and others that a single lecture cannot do proper justice to it.1 However, this lecture shall try to throw some insight into major developments in its history. Lagos Island (Eko), which is the epi-centre of our present Lagos State, is one of the oldest kingdoms on the West African Coast. Incidentally, the kingdom of Lagos was also one of the earliest recipients of European traders and travelers in what is now modern Nigeria. Reportedly, Portuguese merchants who, because of geographical location of Lagos on the lagoon, gave the Island its name Lagos.2 Lagos Island, to the indigenous population, is called EKO; a name whose origin is told in two well-known traditional but controversial accounts.

Nevertheless, it is important to note that one version of the name relates to the advent of Awori, while the other is connected to Benin adventures in Lagos. Our knowledge of early history of Lagos is enriched by the accounts of European travelers, historians and traditional accounts.3What is fairly certain is that the Awori settlement in Lagos was earlier than that of the Benin which eventually subjugated the emergent settlement. Lagos continued to evolve as a veritable place of migration by many Yoruba groups; some of these included the Ilaje and other groups who were attracted to Lagos because of their fishing activities.4

Written records insist that Olofin, the leader of the Awori at Iddo, divided Lagos among his children. Although many versions exist with regards to the number of children of Olofin, these children established various settlements within the Island and beyond. Losi would want us believe that Aromire, as a son of Olofin left Iddo for Isale Eko, while his brothers settled in other areas of Lagos Island. The sons of Olofin, who settled in different parts of Lagos, became the class of chiefs known till this day as Idejo.5

Unlike, the Awori, the accounts of Benin relations with Lagos were fundamental to the evolution and eventual administration of the emergent settlement. A perusal of the various accounts suggests what could be described as hostility and accommodation. After several failed attacks of the Island and later conquest, the Benin first encamped at Enu Owa but eventually moved to Idunganran, not far from their original settlement. The Benin/Edo connection with Lagos had indelible implications for the governance of the emergent city state. As Kunle Lawal has shown, Benin undoubtedly established a monarchical system which borrowed considerably from the Yoruba system of kingship. Thus, the Obaship in Lagos became a centralized one akin to the system in Benin and Idunganran as the seat of government.6

While Oba Ado and Oba Gabaro were busy with consolidating their foot holds on the Island, the business of building a central monarchical system in Lagos was the handiwork of Oba Akinsemoyin. It is important to recall that those who assisted Akinsemoyin in his administration became the class of chiefs known as Akarigbere. These chiefs were Benin/Edo dominated. There were other two classes of chiefs: the Ogalade and the Abagbon. Not only was Akinsemoyin an architect of centralized government in Lagos, he was also good at trading and fostering relationships with Europeans, most especially the Portuguese. Akinsemoyin would seem to have followed this line of action with a view to improving the position of Lagos vis-à-vis other coastal areas of West Africa. Apart from that, Akinsemoyin was also reported to be enthusiastic about Lagos traders who were encouraged to travel to such areas as Badagri, Awori and Egbado areas to buy goods such as cloth, palm kernels, palm oil and other materials for exchange with gunpowder, tobacco and salt among Europeans on the Lagos Island. It is not an exaggeration to say that before the death of Akinsemoyin, Lagos had become not only an entrepot that had become popular in the hinterland of Yorubaland, but also perceived by European travelers as an Island that could yield benefit to European traders.7

  1. The British in Lagos Affairs: Establishment of Colonial Rule

Lagos before the beginning of the nineteenth century was one of the centres of trans-Atlantic slave trade in West Africa. Nevertheless, with the abolition of this trade by the British in 1807 and their determination to effectively eradicate the trade in slaves, British naval ships were sent to West Africa to rescue slaves being transported from West Africa across the Atlantic.8 This action affected, in no small measure, the history of Lagos Island. Many of the rescued slaves were transported to Freetown, a town founded by the British for that purpose. Some of the re-captured slaves by British naval ships, who were of Yoruba descent, decided to resettle in Lagos after the British bombarded Lagos in 1851.9 It is instructive to mention that Lagos Island also received returnees from Brazil and Cuba during the same period. These returnees, apart from increasing the population of Lagos, also added value to the quality of life of the people because many of them had acquired one skill or the other. While some were artisans and craft men, others had taste of western education. Indeed, their contributions to the Lagos Island landscape, in terms of physical developments and struggles against obnoxious ordinances of the British after the imposition of colonial rule on the Island, were tremendous.10

Ambition to ascend the throne after the demise of an incumbent is a common characteristic among princes. Therefore, intrigues, jealousy and unhealthy rivalries always rent the air among them. This ambition to ascend the throne often led to open warfare. The situation in Lagos before and in the first half of the nineteenth century, was not different. Indeed, it became more intense with catastrophic consequences during that period because of increasing importance of Lagos Island and the growing interest of the British in its affairs of Lagos. A case in point was the Akitoye-Kosoko struggle for the throne of Lagos. The struggle was not peculiar in the history of the Island. Even so, our concern is that the Akitoye-Kosoko contention for the throne led to British active involvement in local politics.11The reason for British intervention is not farfetched. The Lagos Island was fast becoming an important sea port for European trade with West Africa. It was therefore, the intention of the British to have a larger share of the trade with Lagos pushing aside other European rivals like the Germans and the French.

The British eventually supported Akitoye against Kosoko and this provided the ground for the bombardment of 1851.12 The success of this bombardment led to Lagos being declared a British Consulate, a status which was imposed on the Island for almost a decade and which prepared the ground for the Treaty of Cession that was obtained under duress from Oba Dosunmu on 6th August, 1861. This treaty led to the imposition of British Colonial rule over Lagos Island. In other words, the Island was annexed to the British Empire.13

With the Treaty of Cession, Lagos became a British territory. This was a big blow to the powers and authority of the Lagos monarch who had to take orders from the British colonial officer on the spot. The fact was that the Oba was now an employee of the British and he was put on a paltry sum of one thousand pounds (£1000) as his annual pension.14 In order to facilitate British rule in Lagos, a direct form of administration was adopted with a view to reducing the cost of administration. This was the Crown Colony System. In addition, the colonial administration did not waste time in creating structures that could consolidate their hold on Lagos.

Apparently, colonial rule was not a humanitarian venture, therefore, measures were taken to generate revenue and ensure movement of goods and services. Instead of taxation, the colonial administration employed a practice that was not completely unknown to the people. That was the collection of levies and duties on imported goods. This system was adopted because the administration wanted to avoid disaffection from the people who were just experiencing foreign rule. The drive for revenue was uppermost in the minds of the colonial government that the courts that were set up in the colony were not only to dispense justice but also to increase the administration’s revenue base.15 These developments eroded the powers and the prestige of the Oba because the sources of revenue for which the Obas of Lagos were known as Olowo Eko had been taken away. The situation, which Oba, Dosunmu found himself, was such that he could not exercise any power on his own accord.

Meanwhile, in 1862, the administrative and legislative arms of government were established for the colony. Namely, the Governor, the Executive and the Legislative Council.16 A perusal of those appointed to particularly, the Legislative Council, shows that the traditional political elites, who were in charge of Lagos before the imposition of colonial rule, were schemed out of decision making process with regards to the affairs of their people. As Olusanya pointed out, the traditional elites were not appointed to the Legislative Council because they had not acquired any form of western education.17 It should, however, be remembered that by the time the Legislative Council was composed, there were people in Lagos who could be interpreters for this class of traditional political elites in the Legislative Council if some of them were appointed to the Council. After all, those appointed by the colonial administration to the Legislative Council could not be described as representing the interest of the people they were to make laws for.

Within a year of taking over Lagos, the colonial administration was eager to reconcile with Kosoko, who they had driven out of power for Akitoye, It is, perhaps, relevant to note that the tension, which permeated the air because of the bombardment of 1851 and the futile attacks of the British by Kosoko had thawed by 1854 when Oba Akitoye was succeeded by his son Dosunmu. Kosoko, who had been in exile in Epe with his supporters, was also anxious to return to Lagos. Through the efforts of some chiefs in Lagos and the elders of Epe, the matter was resolved and sealed with an agreement between Kosoko and the colonial administration.18Kosoko returned to Lagos and was given a parcel of land at Ereko and his supporters were settled at Epetedo, both on the Lagos Island. The return of Kosoko to Lagos deserves some comments. It settled the struggle for the throne of Lagos between Kosoko and the descendants of Akitoye because Kosoko had to recognize Dosunmu as the Oba of Lagos. It also brought Kosoko within the preying eyes of the colonial administration. In addition, the return of Kosoko and his supporters enlarged the population of Lagos.

In relating with the colonial administration, the people of Lagos, in conjunction with the few African educated elites, were always quick at reacting to what they considered inimical to their interests. In one breath they accepted the encouragement given to the spread of western education although the type of education was to serve the need of the colonial administration, at the same time, was also useful to the people. In another breath, the people reacted negatively to the idea of ruling Lagos as part of British West African settlements. In carrying out colonial administration reforms in West Africa, the British adopted several administrative strategies, possibly with the aim of reducing cost of governance. Thus, in 1874, Lagos was put under the Governor of the Gold Coast Colony.19 This action was tantamount to the reduction of status of Lagos. This reduction in status could be perceived in the designation of British officers that were posted to Lagos.

The reaction of the people of Lagos to this move was swift because they detested the action of the colonial government and requested for the separation of uniting the Crown Colony of Lagos with the Gold Coast Colony. The administration was forced to reverse the situation through petitions, memoranda and several public debates in favour of separating Lagos from the Gold Coast Colony. Lagos indigenes, who, seemed to have lost their voices in their affairs since the annexation, joined forces with the African educated elites in Lagos to oppose the reduction of the status of Lagos. The protestations against the measure were so strong that the Lagos press joined in the attack of the colonial administration over the issue. For example, the Lagos Observer, advised the government to listen to the people because failure to do so, the newspaper would not relent on its effort until the right thing was done.20 It is necessary to add that the Lagos press took the opportunity of the request to separate Lagos from the Gold Coast to address other acts of injustices being perpetrated by the colonial government. With the barrage of protests, the colonial administration had no choice but to accept the demand of the people and separated the Lagos Colony from the Gold Coast Colony in 1886.21

Please permit me at this juncture to say that the protest that led to a change of heart by the colonial administration shows that Lagos had, before the creation of modern Nigeria in 1914, been nurturing some democratic ethos which grew as many people acquired western education and values. Really, the separation increased the representation of Africans in the Legislative Council22 which in our own opinion was a training ground in democratic practice.  Perhaps, the most important implication was that the colonial government laid the foundation that was followed when Lagos State was created over eight decades later. This was the adoption of a divisional system in which the colony was divided into four administrative districts. Lagos Island, as we have it today, was the nerve of the Lagos metropolis; the eastern and the north eastern had their headquarters in Epe and Ikorodu respectively. While Badagry was the headquarters of the western district.23

In the meantime, Lagos continued to experience migration to it from the hinterland, socio-economic developments were also taking place parripassu.

Well before Lagos lost its independent status to the British, Islam and later Christianity had flourished in the city.24 However, Christianity brought with it western education which received considerable assistance from the colonial government when Lagos became a British colony. In 1859, the Church Missionary Society (CMS) established a grammar school in Lagos and were followed by other Christian Missions such as the Wesleyan, known as the Methodists, the Baptists and the Catholics. With the growth of nationalism native African Churches were also established in Lagos. It was almost at the end of the century that Muslims also benefited from government support with the establishment of Government Muslim School in June 1896. This is not to say that Muslims in Lagos began to acquire western education towards the end of that century, there is evidence to show that Muslim children attended the Christian schools; although many Muslims did not send their children to these schools because they believed Islamic education was enough for them, and more importantly, they feared that their children would be converted to Christianity.25

Apart from development in the sphere of education, there was expansion in commercial activities because the administration encouraged the flow of European firms, mostly British, to start business in Lagos. Thus, ordinances were promulgated to put order and method to business transactions. The commercial activities in Lagos also attracted large movement of people from Yorubaland to Lagos, in a way expanding the geographical extent of the town. Different agricultural products reached Lagos from different directions. For example, Ikorodu served as the centre of Ijebu cloths. The trade with Ikorodu, Ejinrin and Epe were not important to the traders alone, it also provided revenue to the purse of the colonial administration. Hence, the colonial Governor of Lagos J.H. Glover had to ensure that a road was constructed from Lagos to Ikorodu. Really, the colonial administration extended the frontiers of Lagos Colony to Ikorodu, Bayeku, Ejirin and Epe in 1894 mainly because of the growing trade with Lagos Island.26 Within Lagos Island itself, British and other European firms such as Holt & Welsh, Hotton & Osborn, G.L. Gaisser, Witt & Busch, and many others, opened business on the Island.27 Markets like Ebute-Ero, Ebute-Elefun, Obun Eko and Faji, all within the Island, continued to experience increased patronage from traders who flocked into their markets from other parts of Yorubaland during this period.

III.      Colonial Government and Traditional Politics

One of the important episodes in Lagos at the dawn of the twentieth century was the Eleko Affairs whose origin can be traced to the Treaty of Cession of 1861 on the one hand, and the dynamics of Lagos politics of that period on the other. As stated earlier, with the cession of Lagos to the British, the administration usurped the powers held by the Oba, while leaving him to use the title ‘king’ only in its “African signification’. Furthermore, the Oba could only settle disputes amongst his people with reference to the laws of England.28 In essence; the Oba’s position was nothing more than power without authority. When Esugbayi Eleko was made the Oba in 1900, Governor W. Macgregor, in his statement of recognition, saw him as no more than a chief of the Dosunmu Oyekan’s house.29 In spite of this, the colonial administration still needed the support of the Oba because the Oba normally mobilised support of the people for colonial policies. Initially, Oba Eleko Esugbayi was loyal to the colonial administration, and when the British initiated the idea of payment of water rate, the Oba was in support of this colonial initiative. However, Oba Esu gbayi Eleko changed his position when he discovered that many people in Lagos were against the payment of water rate.30

It is pertinent to note that the issue of payment of water rate divided every segment of Lagos socially into two opposing camps. For instance, the Muslim community of the Lagos Central Mosque was, during this period, engulfed in crisis over issues pertaining to administration of the Mosque. The issue of payment of water rate helped to escalate the crisis because the Chief Imam, Ibrahim and some members of the Muslim Community supported the colonial government on the issue, while other notable members of the Muslim Community who were not in agreement with the chief Imam over affairs of the mosque vehemently opposed the payment of water rate.31 Rather than stay clear of the Mosque crisis or make attempts to reconcile the two warring factions, Oba Esugbayi Eleko played into the hands of the colonial administration by ratifying appointments into chieftaincy positions in the mosque, for those who were opposed to the Chief Imam, and by implication, did not support the colonial administration on the issue of water rate. Infuriated by the action of Oba Esugbayi Eleko, the government opted for his suspension in November 1919. His salary was also stopped. However, after the condemnation of the suspension of Oba Esugbayi Eleko by the people and a section of the Lagos Press, especially the Lagos Weekly Record, the colonial administration reinstated the Oba.32

Reinstating the Esugbayi Eleko did not stop him from getting involved in matters he considered inimical to the interest of his people. A case in point was the Oluwa Land Case, the details of which are well-documented. Still, it is necessary to draw attention to the main gists of the matter. Chief Ahmadu Tijani, the Oluwa of Lagos who had dragged the colonial administration to the law court over compensation for the land taken over by the British, condemned failure on the part of the administration to pay compensation.33 Chief Oluwa lost the case but he was not satisfied with the judgment. He took the case to the Privy Council in London, which was the highest court of the land at that time. To demonstrate his support for Chief Oluwa, Oba Esugbayi Eleko gave the Chief his staff of office which was carried behind him to wherever he went to in London by Herbert Macaulay, who was Private Secretary. A statement was made by Herbert Macaulay to the British press during his visit to London with Chief Oluwa over the status of Oba Esugbayi Eleko which the colonial administrations in Lagos was not happy with.34 The Governor of Lagos, Hugh Clifford requested the Oba Esugbayi Eleko to dissociate himself from the statement Herbert Macaulay made to the British Press. Yet, Eleko was aware of the implication of dissociating himself from the statement made by Macaulay, which was slightly different from the one Governor Clifford told the Lagos public. The refusal of the Oba Esugbayi Eleko to do the wishes of the administration earned him another suspension, de-recognition and stoppage of his stipend in December, 1920.35 Meanwhile, those who were in support of government action continued to pressurize the colonial administration to replace Oba Esugbayi Eleko. This feat was achieved in 1925 when Ibikunle Akitoye was installed the Oba of Lagos and Oba Esugbayi Eleko was sent on exile to Oyo.36 The exile of Oba Esugbayi Eleko to Oyo did not deter the supporters of the Oba from their opposition to the colonial administration; rather it galvanized support for him as his case was lodged with the Privy Council in London. The case had not been disposed off by the Privy Council when Donald Cameron became the Governor of Lagos in 1931 and advised that the case be withdrawn from the court and allowed Oba Esugbayi Eleko to return to the throne of Lagos in 1931.37The Eleko Affairs, apart from other effects created great political awareness among the people of Lagos.

It is convenient to mention here that in spite of the foregoing events, Lagos continued to undergo political changes within the Colony. Babatunde Williams had identified three stages between 1861 and 1951, namely; direct administration, local government and elective representation38. Thus, in 1917, Lagos achieved the status of a Town Council. Also, representative government within the council became operational with the promulgation of Lagos Town Council Ordinance of 1941. The politics of Lagos became more interesting in 1950 not only because of the debate at the General Constitutional Conference at Ibadan, over the merger of Lagos with the Western region, but also the creation of the office of Mayor of Lagos among elected members of the council. This office which was held by Alhaji Olorunimbe was abolished in1953.39

  1. Lagos: Nigeria’s First Capital City

The emergence of Nigeria as a country in 1914 necessitated the question of where the capital of the new country would be located. Sir F.D. Lugard, the Governor-General, who master-minded the amalgamation was opposed to Lagos as the capital, instead he preferred Kaduna and wanted Lagos to be the centre of trade.40Lugard himself had his office in Lagos. The Nigerian Council which he established for the discussion of Nigerian Affairs, in spite of being a talking shop was in Lagos. Indeed, political and economic issues about Nigeria always originated from Lagos to the extent that the issue of Lagos as the colonial capital of Nigeria became a fait accompli. However, it was during the period of decolonization that Lagos as capital of Nigeria became an issue again. When Nigeria was divided into three regions under the Richards Constitution. Lagos retained her colony status. But the status of Lagos changed in 1951 when the whole of Lagos Colony was merged with the Western region.41 This was not to endure as there were series of agitations in Lagos, because as Pauline Baker put it, “For the first time in its history, Lagos lost its identity as a separate political entity”.42 It was not until 1954, under the Lyttleton Constitution that Lagos was separated from Western Region, leaving the other parts of the Lagos Colony in Western Nigeria. 43

This status as Federal Capital had several implications. Lagos had to cope with challenges of serious population drift from other parts of the country. Many suburbs that were part of the Colony before fell under Western Region. Places like Somolu, Mushin, Agege, Ojo, Ajegunle received population that posed serious challenges to the services provided by the Lagos City in terms of social services because many of the people who lived in these areas worked in the Federal Capital. In Lagos before and during the early 1960s, the fear of the Sanitary Inspector was the beginning of Wisdom because environmental sanitation officers of the City Council were effective in the performance of their duties. The City Council was able to cope with disposal of wastes; public toilets were provided in various strategic locations, especially near markets and other public places. However, the City Council found it difficult to cope with a population that was growing in leaps and bounds. Apart from gradual degradation in sanitation in Lagos, the capital city of Nigeria, all the services provided by the local government such as, transportation, construction and repair roads, environmental sanitation were adversely affected by the influx of Nigerians and West Africans to the Federal Capital.

The point should be made, however, that there was increased economic activities as many industrial layouts with large and small medium scale manufacturing companies were established. These industries provided job opportunities as Nigerians arrived in droves in Lagos by the middle of the 1960s. What was perhaps lacking in the expanding economic base of Lagos at that time, was inadequate payment of taxes by the people, especially those in the informal sector of the economy.

Despite the political turbulence that the country was going through during this period, the Lagos skyline was changing. The change which began in 1950s with slum clearance changed the face of Lagos Island. Most Lagos families that were affected by the slum clearance were rehoused in a new ‘town’ referred to as New Lagos, but popularly known from that time as Surulere. There was continued development and re-development in Lagos, most especially, the Marina and the popular Broad Street. Building that were built in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, were demolished for sky scrapers. Nevertheless, the Lagos Marina began to loose its environmental beauty in the 1960s when the then popular Love Garden on the Marina where Lagosians escaped to for their weekend relaxation became a shadow of its former self. This was because of the expansion of infrastructural facilities.44 Also the Lagos Race Course, now called Tafawa Balewa Square was a place where Europeans and Lagosians used for their sporting activities. But on the eve of Nigeria’s independence, a twenty storey building was erected in a section of the Race Course which reduced the quality of the place. In addition, the Federal Military Government turned the Race Course partly to a shopping mall, a football field-like gallery with concrete slabs and the place was commercialized.

By the end of the civil war and return of normalcy to Lagos, the status of Lagos as both the Capital of Lagos State and the Federal Republic of Nigeria returned to the front burner principally because the social services, from housing to transportation within metropolitan Lagos, became increasingly inadequate, despite measures by the new state government to alleviate the problems. Newspapers were replete with articles calling for the relocation of the capital of Nigeria to a more central place in Nigeria. The debate over continued use of Lagos as the Federal Capital of Nigeria had not subsided when the coup that removed General Yakubu Gowon took place in July, 1975.45

The issue of Lagos as the Capital of Nigeria again became an issue of importance when the new military administration took over. At the same time, there was increasing demand for the creation of more states in Nigeria. The military administration approached the two issues promptly by setting up two panels. One headed by Justice Irikefe, to examine the question of the creation of more states and the other panel with Justice Aguda as Chairman, to address the question of Lagos as both Capital of Nigeria and Lagos State. The recommendations of the Aguda panel to move the capital of the state from Lagos Island to Ikeja and to move Federal Capital out of Lagos were accepted by the military administration. A new Federal Capital Territory (FCT) was created and named Abuja.46 While Lagos ceased to be the capital of Federal Republic of Nigeria from 1976 because of the decree, it was not until December 1991that Abuja effectively became the Federal Capital.

It is, important to note, that the movement of the capital of the country from Lagos to Abuja did not reduce the political and economic importance of the place. The Head of the Federal Military Government, General Muritala Muhammed, attested to this, when he urged for continued support of the Federal Government for Lagos. To be sure, Lagos was designated a ‘Special Area’.47Unfortunately, successive administrations in the country have up till now, failed to recognize this designation.

  1. The Creation of Lagos State

The idea for the creation of a Lagos region could be traced to a suggestion by C.D. Temple, who was Lieutenant Governor of the Northern Protectorate in 1914 when Nigeria was created. He suggested that Nigeria should be divided into seven regions, the Lagos Colony being one of the regions.48Conversely, the Governor-General of Nigeria, Sir F.D. Lugard, rejected his suggestion. It was not until after the Second World War, during the process of decolonization that the thought of dividing Nigeria into regions or states resurfaced on the political scene. As noted earlier, Lagos became a Federal Territory with the Lyttleton Constitution of 1954. As a federal territory and Nigeria’s capital, Lagos, had its own Town Council, at the same time, it was also under the supervision of Minster of Lagos Affairs, who, during this period, was always a non-indigene.

Among Lagos indigenes, there was growing sense of being neglected in the scheme of things in Nigeria. ‘Gedegbe L’eko Wa’,49 which was the term Lagos indigenes used to assert the autonomous nature of Lagos during the attempt to merge Lagos with the Western Region increased the awareness of many Lagos indigenes to have their own region or state. When Lagos became a Federal Capital in 1954, a sense of urban “communal nationalism” to borrow Pauline Baker’s words, increased tremendously because of perceived injustices in the appointments to federal positions.50 Indigenous associations began to clamour for the rights of Lagos indigenes. Such associations included Lagos Aborigines Society, Egbe Omo Oba and Egbe Omo Ibile Eko.

In 1962, the Lagos Citizens’ Rights Protection Council (LCRPC) was formed when two communal associations Egbe Omo Ibile Eko and the Lagos Aborigines Society joined together to become one under the leadership of Chief T.A. Doherty.51 Apart from such communal associations, some elements added religious flavor into the politics of Lagos by forming the United Muslim Party (UMP). Though a minority party, the party was particular about promoting the interests of indigenous Lagosians.52 Like many Lagosians who did not belong to the party, members of the party were not satisfied with Lagos being a federal capital as this was seen to be negatively affecting their political aspirations within the context of Nigeria. Thus, the U.M.P among other things requested for the creation of a Lagos region. Yet, the failure of the party to secure representation at the 1957 Constitutional Conference did not deter it from forwarding them its own proposals that included the creation of a Lagos region through the Governor-General of the federation.53

The struggle for the creation of a Lagos State continued despite the fact that the 1957 conference did not recommend a change in statusquo of Lagos as the Federal Capital. Meanwhile, pressure continued to mount on government to create a Lagos region at the Minorities Commission, which was established to look into the fears of minority elements in Nigeria and how such fears could be allayed. This commission did not change the political structure of Nigeria as no new region was created.54When Nigeria became and independent country in 1960, the wish of indigenous Lagosians to have their own state or region had not been achieved.

Meanwhile, the politics of Nigeria between 1960 and 1966, led to military intervention in Nigerian politics which was responsible for the fall of the First Republic in January1966. A counter coup in July of the same year, almost led to the breakup of the country. The new Head of State of Nigeria, Major General Yakubu Gowon (then a Lieutenant Colonel), set up an adhoc constitutional review committee to review the Nigerian constitution.55 This was a good opportunity for indigenous Lagosians to renew their agitation for creation of Lagos State. Certainly, there was a rethink by those who were initially opposed to the separation of Lagos from the Western Region as they reportedly gave their support for the creation of a Lagos State. Support from the youths and elders of Lagos and pressure from every segment of Lagos society, including the Military Administrator of Lagos, Mobolaji Johnson must have convinced the federal military administration to yield to the demands of the people of Lagos. It is important to mention that the ad-hoc committee on the constitutional review had not completed its work when Yakubu Gowon promulgated a decree in which Nigeria, was divided into twelve states with Lagos as one of the states.56 In creating the state, the composition of the Lagos Colony before the emergence of modern Nigeria in 1914 would seem to have guided the decision, as the state was made up of Lagos-federal territory, Ikeja, Ikorodu , Epe and Badagry.

With the creation of Lagos state on 27th May, 1967, the task of administering the state fell on Brigadier (then Colonel) Mobolaji Johnson, who had earlier been appointed the Administrator of Lagos before the State was created. In his first broadcast to the people of the state, he alluded to the history of relations that had existed among peoples of the state since the imposition of colonial rule.

In the colonial days, Lagos colony and colony districts were administered as one. The people regarded themselves as brothers and sisters. With the introduction of regionalization, the colony area (Ikeja, Badagry, Ikorodu and Epe) were carved out and merged with the west. Now, by the grace of God and the handiwork of the military government, an end has been put to this. I sincerely, and whole-heartedly welcome you all back to the fold.57


This speech was meant to bring the people together again so that they could facilitate the speedy growth of the state as well as ensuring order and good governance in the newly created state.

It is necessary here to draw our attention to the fact that, from 1954 when Lagos became a federal territory, the administration of Lagos and its metropolis was a tripartite one. The federal government administered the town through the Ministry of Lagos Affairs and later Federal Ministry of Internal Affairs. Lagos Island, Ebute Metta, Surulere and Yaba, were administered by the Lagos Town Council which became Lagos City Council in 1963. And the metropolitan areas of Ikeja, Mushin, Agege, Ojo, Ikorodu, Epe and Badagry were under the administration of Western Nigeria. The creation of Lagos State put an end to this tripartite arrangement. Governor Bolaji Johnson began work by establishing an Advisory Committee which was chaired by Oba Adenuga I. Oshokeeji II Alaketu of Ketu-Epe to formulate administrative functions for the State.58 He also set up a management team made of technocrats. The State, as one political entity, began effectively in April, 1968, with Lagos serving as dual capital of the state and the Federal Republic of Nigeria.59

The military administration under Mobolaji Johnson issued an edict on 1st May, 1968 which divided the state into five divisions, namely Lagos, Ikeja, Badagry, Ikorodu and Epe. These administrative divisions represented, in our view the old Lagos colony and province and this was perhaps why the term IBILE being the first letters of the names of the five administrative divisions. 60 Thus, the acronym IBILE signifies the long standing administration and socio-cultural relations which had existed among the divisions before, during and after colonial rule.

The executive arm of the state’s military administration was put in place also in 1968 when seven ministries and seven commissioners were appointed by Governor Mobolaji Johnson.61 Without doubt, those appointed as commissioners served the state dutifully. In concrete terms, by 1968, the administrative structure of the state had been properly laid, even though Lagos remained the federal capital as well as the capital of the state. This dual capital nature of Lagos was not peculiar to Nigeria. Yet, there were calls for the movement of the federal capital from Lagos to a more central place in Nigeria and this became a matter of concern to many Nigerians because of the challenges posed by social services in Lagos when a coup removed the Gowon administration in July, 1975 as mentioned earlier.

  1. Lagos: The Era of Action Governor, Jakande Years

Between 1967 when Lagos State was created and 1979, Nigeria was under military rule. However, a new civilian dispensation began on October 1st 1979. In Lagos State, the civilian administration was headed by Alhaji Lateef Jakande who was the first democratically elected Governor of the State. Alhaji Jakande with great ardour and zest immediately began to actualize his electoral promises, some of which included challenges which Lagos had been contending with before the creation of the state. In a little over four years he set the path for others to follow, military or civilian.

Apparently, Jakande, unlike Brigadier Johnson was not constrained by central military command and the distraction of the two and a half years of Nigerian Civil War. He only had to deliver on his electoral promises to the people of the state which were achieved to a large extent. A few examples will convey the flavour of this point. Jakande changed the face of education in Lagos by abolishing the shift system which had bedeviled primary school system in Lagos for decades. Indeed, his belief that every child must have access to education influenced his government to adopt a policy of free education from primary to university level in Lagos state. This was perhaps why his government established the first state University in Nigeria.

Perhaps the greatest achievement of Jakande’s administration was in the area of provision of lower and medium housing units in many parts of the state. These housing units alleviated the chronic problem of housing caused by continuous drift of people from other parts of Nigeria to Lagos. Some of the housing units were located in Amuwo Odofin, Iponrin, Iba, Abule-Nla, Agege, Lekki and some other locations in the state.62Apart from these, Jakande like Johnson before him, confronted challenges posed by transportation in Lagos state, but what could have been his major contribution on transportation was put on hold when the Lagos metroline which was conceived in 1982 by his administration was truncated by the military that terminated the life of Nigeria’s Second Republic. With the fall of the Second Republic, military governors were posted to the state between 1983 and 1999, although for a short period in the life of the state. Chief Otedola was elected the second civilian governor of the state.

VII.     Tinubu to Ambode Revolution

If previous administrations in the state had raised the bar of governance, Lagos State began Nigeria’s Fourth Republic with a Governor whose administration can best be described as revolutionary. A man of ideas with insightful political camaraderie, Bola Ahamed Tinubu revolutionized governance in Lagos state with the effective blending of politicians with technocrats in the ultimate goal to deliver on his campaign promises. More revolutionary was the introduction of politics with parameters. There were demarcations between being a politician and having a duty to perform in the administration.

Lagos state that had been known as “Center of Excellence” became more outstanding with the innovations introduced by the Governor. Agencies, such as LAMATA, LASTMA, LASWA etc, along with other parastatals, were established not only to provide employment for the growing populace, but also to increase revenue generation for the state.63 There is no doubt that these agencies supplanted federal agencies in the state that were performing parallel functions. It is not surprising that some states in the country have been copying the Lagos example. The contributions of this political juggernaut to the development of Lagos state and Nigeria at large, have been colossal. Lagosians cannot forget his pioneering of the Bus Rapid Transit System and the creation of thirty-seven (37) Local Council Development Areas in the State. It is only a highly visionary and imaginative leader, imbued with the spirit and zest to bring succour into the hopes of the populace at large that can carry out all these in the life of his administration.

Good leaders always plan for the present and the future. Thus, beyond the outstanding record of performance of Tinubu’s administration, the choice of a credible successor to continue the revolutionary ideas was of paramount importance. Therefore, the succession of Tinubu by Fashola meant the continuation of revolutionary ideas. These ideas were translated into action with great rapidity by Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola. His infrastructural renewal of Lagos, namely: the transformation of the highways with flyovers and modern-day pedestrian bridges, coupled with Lagos-Badagry Road expansion for BRT light rail and many other social development projects, are all these are symbols of continuity and commitment to the ideas and ideals of the administration he took over from.

This legacy of achievements has continued under the present administration of Governor Akinwunmi Ambode. In actual fact, his core areas of focus in the first two years of his administration, notably; food security, massive road construction, reduction of unemployment, generation of revenue and ensuring adequate security, to mention but a few, have proved to represent the legacy of continuity. The Governor has demonstrated so far his commitment to the revolution in administration and service delivery began by Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, and consolidated by Babatunde Raji Fashola, and being currently sustained by Governor Akinwumi Ambode with fervor, would take Lagos to a “Much Greater Height of Excellence”.

VIII.   Lagos of the Future

In historical terms, the past defines the present, and invariably, the present will define the future. Lagos is what it is today by the actions of men and women in the past. Therefore, our deeds today are preparations for what tomorrow of Lagos will be. I make bold to say that the commitment which those in government have been giving to the state since the state was created in 1967, has continued to give Lagos state a central position when compared with other states in the Federal Republic.

The expanding economy of the state, the infrastructural growth and continued investment on human capital, will lead to rapid growth of Lagos state in the future. The mega city that Lagos has become is a result of encouragement given to organized initiatives that contribute to social and economic development of the state. This must continue, if Lagos must be among the frontline mega cities in the world.

Without doubt, Lagos state has a lot to learn from older cities in the Western world. On a point of fact, our histories and experiences are different. Yet, human goals in terms of living standards are not quite different. Consequently, one of the lessons that we can learn from these cities is strict adherence to rules and regulations by both the general public and those who are supposed to enforce the rules. In other climes, rules and regulations are respected to the letter because failure to do this attracts different punishments depending on the nature of offence.

For Lagos to reach greater heights, there must be adherence to development plans. Development plans assist governments to achieve their focus within a particular lime line. Furthermore, development plans allow for measurement of growth. Two examples will help to illustrate this point. Nigeria and India were almost at the same level of development in 1960, but India has left us behind because of her strict adherence to development plans. India is currently on her own 17th development plan. Also, Malaysia was behind Nigeria in terms of development some decades ago, however, through development plans, Malaysia has overtaken Nigeria. I do know that Lagos State is a part of a whole, but as a state, Lagos can show leadership for others to emulate.

The cities of the Western World are what they are today because they have formidable technological backup. Indeed, their cities are run on technology. It is therefore very important for Lagos state to pay attention to the development of technology. With adequate technology Lagos of the future will be a place of pride. I need to add that older cities of Europe and the Americas practice infrastructural renewal of their cities to make them relevant to technological development. Their experience should be taken into consideration for Lagos State to be among the top economies in Africa and the world at large.

For Lagos State to continue to be a reference point for other states to follow, there is need to utilize to the fullest our God given geographical environment. The developed cities of the world have turned their natural environments not only to improve movement of people, but also to generate wealth. In this regard, Lagos State is blessed with rivers and lagoons that could be developed for transportation and tourism.

In all these, the roles of the three levels of government are important. As of now, Nigeria operates a unique type of federation which, in my opinion, makes Lagos State to be short- changed. I do hope that this will be reviewed in future. Be that as it may, the federal government must co-operate with any government in Lagos State to fast-track development which, I have no doubts, the federal government will reap benefits from. Finally, local councils in the state are the nearest to the people. They therefore need to be fully operational by way of adequate funding if they are to contribute their quota to the expected future developments of the state.

  1. I By Way of Conclusion

In this lecture, I have attempted to highlight developments in Lagos history from its early beginnings. In doing this, I have also drawn the attention of the audience to its unparallel growth despite its changing status in the last few decades. This growth has been achieved because Lagos is blessed over the years with men and women of vision, who have been well able to effectively shepherd developments in the state from conception to implementation with much vigour. I am fully convinced that Lagos of the future will be a place of delight for all of us.

Thank you for your Attention.


H.O. Danmole, formerly Professor of History, University of Ilorin and Lagos State University, currently Professor and Dean, Faculty of The Humanities and Social Sciences, Al-Hikmah University, Ilorin.


Notes and References

  1. There are many existing studies on early history of Lagos that only a few are mentioned here. See Losi, J.B. (1914) History of Lagos, Tika Tore Press, Lagos; Aderibigbe, A.B. “Early History to 1980” in Aderibigbe, A.B. (ed. (1975) Lagos: Development of An African City, Longman pp.1-26; Agiri, B.A. & Barnes S. (1987) “Lagos Before 1603” in Adefuye A., Agiri, A. & Osuntokun J.; A Histotory of Peoples of Lagos State, Lantern Books, Lagos; Fasinro, H.A.B. (2004) Political and Cultural Perspectives of Lagos, Academy Press, Lagos; Talbot, P.A. (1962) The Peoples of Southern Nigeria 2 vols, London; Egharevba, J.U. (190) A Short History of Benin, Ibadan University Press.
  2. Leard, P.C. (1953) Nigeria Magazine pp. 257-260; see also, Kunle Lawal (1993) “Background to Urbanization Lagos Society Before 1900” in Lawal, Kunle Urban Transition in Africa: Aspects of Urbanization and Change in Lagos, Pumark Nigeria Limited pp. 1-24.
  3. See Note 1
  4. Lawal, ‘Background to………..op.cit.
  5. Losi, History of…….op.cit, Aderibigbe, ‘Early History’ op.cit. Folami Takiu (1982) A History of Lagos, Nigeria, Exposition Press Southampton, New York. pp. 3-6; Lagos Island has four classes of traditional chiefs. They are Akarigbere, Idejo, Ogalade and Abagbon.
  6. Kunle Lawal, Background to ……..op.cit.
  7. Adefuye, A. (1987) “Akinsemoyin and the Rise of Modern Lagos” in Adefuye (et al.) A History of ……op. cit.
  8. There are several works on slave trade and slavery on the coast of West Africa. Some of them are Akinjogbin, I.A. (1967) Dahomey and its Neighbours 1708-1818 Cambridge University Press; Curtin, P.D, (1972) The Atlantic Slave Trade: A Census, University of Wisconsin Press: Fage, J.D. (1961) ‘Slave and Slave Trade in the Context of West African History’. Journal of African History (hereafter referred to as JAH) 10(3) 393-404; Klein Martin (1978) The Study of Slavery in Africa JAH 19(4) pp. 599-609; Manning Patrick (1990), Slavery and African Life: Occidental, Oriental, and African Slave Trades. London. Inikori, J.E. and Engerman, S.L. (1992) The Atlantic Slave Trade: Effects on Economies, Societies and Peoples in Africa, the Americas and Europe. Duke University Press, USA; Mann, K. (2007) Slavery and the Birth of an African City, Lagos, 1760-1900. Indiana University Press, Bloomber, U.S.A; Lovejoy, P.E. (2012). Transformations of Slavery. A History of Slavery in Africa, Cambridge University Press. Reynolds E. (1985) Stand the Storm: A History of Atlantic Slave Trade, London.
  9. Smith, R.S. (1969) “To the Palaver Islands: War and Diplomacy on the Lagos Lagoon 1852-1854” Journal of the Historical Society of Nigeria. (JHSN) Vol. 1; Smith, R.S. (1978) The Lagos Consulate 1851-1861 The Macmillan Press Limited.
  10. Laotan, A.B. (1961) ‘Brazilian Influence on Lagos’ Nigeria Magazine No.69, pp.157-165.
  11. Smith, R.S. The Lagos……………op.cit.
  12. Ibid; Payne, J.A.O. (1893) Table of Principal Events in Yoruba History, Lagos, p3.
  13. There are several works on the British annexation of Lagos; some of them are Burns, A.C. (1955), History of Nigeria London, George Allen and Unwin, Aderibigbe, A.B. (1959) ‘Expansion of the Lagos Protectorate 1863-1900’, Ph.D. Thesis, London; Ade-Ajayi, J.F.A. (1961) ‘The British Occupation of Lagos, 1851-1861: A Critical Review’ in Nigeria Magazine; Tamuno, T.N. (1972) The Evolution of the Nigerian State, Longman; Asiwaju, A.I. (1980) “The Western Provinces Under Colonial Rule’ in Obaro Ikime (ed Grandwork of Nigerian History Heinemann Educational Books. A letter shown to me by Hon. Ali, clearly indicate that Oba Dosunmu was harassed into signing the Treaty. The title of the letter is “British Naval attack on December 1851-1863 pp 8-9. For more details see Shashore, O. (2014) Possessed: A History of Law & Justice in the Crown Colony of Lagos 1861-1906, CLRN Publishing, Lagos.
  14. Ibid; Possessed:…….P.176; Mann, Slavery and …..op.cit p.114.
  15. Payne Table of ….op.cit. p28.
  16. National Archives Ibadan, Chief Secretary’s Office (hereafter referred to as (NAI) CSO 1/1 Freeman to Newcastle, 9 October, 1962. See also T.N. Tamuno (1966) Nigeria and Elective Representation 1923-1947, Heinemann, p.67; Okafor, S.O. (1981) Indirect Rule The Development of Central Legislature in Nigeria, Nelson African p.18; Olusanya G.O. (1980) “Constitutional Developments in Nigeria 1861-1960” in Obaro Ikire (ed) Groundwork of Nigerian pp. 518-544 History pp. 518-544.
  17. Ibid; Olusanya ‘Constitutional Developments’
  18. Losi, History of …..p. 42.
  19. The National Archives, London (Colonial Office) C.O. 380 Vol.65 Draft of Royal Charter 24th July 1874.
  20. The Lagos Observer, June 1882.
  21. The National Archives, London. C.O. 380 Vol.152 Draft of Royal Instructions, 13 January 1886.
  22. National Archives, London. C.O. 147 Vol.10 From Siv. C.A. Moloney to Lord Knutsford, Secretary of State for the Colonies 8th March 1889.
  23. Asiwaju, A.I. (1976) “The Western Provinces Under Colonial Rule” in Ikime ed. Groundwork of ……..op.cit. pp.429-445.
  24. On Islam and Christianity in Lagos, during Hub period, see Gbadamosi, T.G.O. (1978) The Growth of Islam Among the Yoruba, 1841-1908. Longman; Ajayi, J.F.A. (1965) Christian Missions in Nigeria 1841-1891: The Making of New Elite, Longman.
  25. Danmole, H.O. (2011) A Protagonist of Western and Islamic Education in Colonial Lagos: Sheikh Ode Akinola Animashaun 1853-1918. West African Book Publishers. See also “Danmole, H.O. (2007) Lagos: Its Metamorphosis from A Settlement to a Megacity” 14th Convocation Lecture, Lagos State University. Ojo.
  26. National Archives Ibadan (NAI) C.O. 879/41 No. 475 Carter to Ripon Correspondence Respecting Affairs of the Interior, June 14 1894. See also Agiri, B.A. (1987) “Lagos – Ikorodu Relations 1894 – 1950” in Adefuye et al., History of …..op.cit. pp. 204-215.
  27. Payne, Table of ……op.cit. p.28.
  28. See Article II of the Treaty of Cession
  29. Letter from Resident to Eleko, Esugbayi November 1900, Herbert Macaulay’s Collection Box 40, File 2 Africana Section, University of Ibadan Library.
  30. National Archives Ibadan, Chief Secretary’s Officer CSO 26/14962/vi Paper 1219.
  31. Danmole H.O. (1987) “The Crisis of the Lagos Muslim Community 1915-1947” in Adefuye et al. (eds.) History of ……. Pp. 290-305.
  32. Ibid, see also Lagos Weekly Record 6th December 1919.
  33. For details of this case, see Cole, P.D. (1975) Modern and Traditional Elites in the Politics of Lagos. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
  34. Ibid
  35. NAI CSO 26/14962/Vol. v Paper 951. Herbert Macaulay’s Papers.
  36. Ibid; Kunle Lawal ‘Politics in an Emergent’. op.cit.
  37. Ibid.
  38. Babatunde Williams (1975) “The Federal Capital: Changing Constitutional Status and Intergovernmental Relations” in Aderibigbe (ed.) Lagos: the Development of …….p.61.
  39. Kunle Lawal Hakeem Tijani (1993) “The Search for a Viable System of Administration: The Era of Mayoralty in Colonial Lagos 1950 – 1953” in Kunle Lawal (ed.) Urban Transition…….op.cit pp. 79-87.
  40. Lagos State History Committee (2015) “A History of Lagos State from Earliest Times (Vol. I, Manuscript Version) p.235.
  41. Ibid, p.236, see also Ezera Kalu (1964) Constitutional Development in Nigeria. Cambridge University Press, 1964; Olusanya, “Constitutional Development”…op.cit.
  42. Baker, P.H. (1974) Urbanization and Political Change: The Politics of Lagos 1917-1967, University of California Press p.248.
  43. Ibid, p.255
  44. On Infrastructural Development in Lagos, see, Olukoju, A. (2003) Infrastructure Development and Urban Facilities in Lagos, 1861-2000. IFRA, Ibadan.
  45. Lagos State History Committee, A History of …….op.cit p.252.
  46. See Decree No.6 of 5th February 1976.
  47. Lagos State History Committee: A History of op..cit p.252.
  48. Ibid.
  49. Baker, Urbanization and Political…..p.254, Gedegbe L’eko wa means Lagos is Autonomous.
  50. Ibid; p.255
  51. Ibid; p.258
  52. Danmole, H.O. (1990) “Islam and Party Politics in Lagos: A Study of United Muslim Party (1953-1966)” Journal Institute of Muslim Minority Affairs, London Vol 11:2 pp. 334-346.
  53. Ibid.
  54. Nigeria: Report of the Commission to Enquire into the Fears of Minorities and Means of Allaying Them. London (HMSO), 1958.
  55. Lagos State History Committee: A History of…….
  56. The States (Creation and Transitional Provision) Decree No. 14, 1967.
  57. Togetherness in Lagos State, Information Division Governor’s Office, Lagos State.
  58. Lagos State History Committee: A History of p. 246.
  59. Ibid.
  60. Ibid, see also Lagos State Diary 2014.
  61. Lagos State History Committee: A History of…… .
  62. Folami: A History of…….op.cit p.155
  63. H.O. Danmole and Olakunle Lawal, “Along the way to a Mega City Status: The Challenges of a Government Driven Process, Lagos Since 2000” in Chibis Duke (ed) 2013 Cities Learning Together. E.U. Centre, RMIT University Australia.
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