The original name of Lagos City is ‘Oko’

Lagos was originally inhabited by the Awori subgroup of the Yoruba people in the 15th century, who called it “Oko”. Under the leadership of the Oloye Olofin, the Awori moved to an island now called Iddo and then to the larger Lagos Island. In the 16th century, the Awori settlement was conquered by the Benin Empire and the island became a Benin war-camp called “Eko” under Oba Orhogba, the Oba of Benin at the time. Eko is still the native name for Lagos.

Lagos, which means “lakes”, was a name given to the settlement by the Portuguese. The present-day Lagos state has a high percentage of Awori, who migrated to the area from Isheri along the Ogun river. Throughout history, it was home to a number of warring ethnic groups who had settled in the area. Following its early settlement by the Awori nobility, and its conquest by the Bini warlords of Benin, the state first came to the attention of the Portuguese in the 15th century.

Portuguese explorer Rui de Sequeira visited the area in 1472, naming the area around the city Lago de Curamo. Another explanation is that Lagos was named for Lagos, Portugal – a maritime town which, at the time, was the main centre of Portuguese expeditions down the African coast. In the 1760s, Portuguese traders settled there and began using Eko as a port for the slave trade. Profits from the slave trade allowed the ruler of Lagos, the Oba, to become the sovereign of a regional power. In 1851, a dispute between Oba Kosoko (and his deposed anti-slavery brother, Oba Akitoye, caught the attention of the British who occupied Lagos and reinstalled Akitoye. In 1861, Akitoye’s successor, Oba Docemo signed a treaty making Lagos a British colony.

Under British rule, Lagos never became a fully colonial city. Commerce continued to expand and many European traders and missionaries came to the city, but there was never any mass European settlement. Lagos’ cosmopolitan nature was further enhanced by the arrival of thousands of white and black Brazilians in the 1850s. Throughout the 19th century the city was plagued by overcrowding and sanitary problems. While some early British officials such as Governor William MacGregor (1846-1919) attempted to improve the health of all of Lagos’ inhabitants, after 1900 colonial officials focused on the European areas. From that point the small European community was segregated and given preference in sanitary measures.

In the twentieth century, Lagos became a center for resistance to colonial rule. Revolts in against water rates and the alienation of indigenous land in 1908 and 1911 served to unite native African elites and working class residents. The period between the World Wars saw further organization with the emergence of nationalist groups such as the Nigerian Youth Movement formed in 1933.

In 1960, Lagos became the capital of a newly-independent Nigeria. In the years after independence the city’s population ballooned from less 100,000 in 1963 to nearly 2.5 million in 1974 as people were drawn in from the country seeking work, education, and freedom from ethnic and religious conflict. Unfortunately the ballooning population occurred in advance of the expanding infrastructure and against a backdrop of widespread corruption driven by new oil wealth. Severe overcrowding, congested traffic, extensive pollution and local graft and crime led Nigeria’s rulers to move the capital inland to the newly created city of Abuja in 1991. However, the complete transfer of power was not immediate and many agencies remained in Lagos. Today, Lagos remains Nigeria’s financial capital and, as home to an estimated 20 million people, ranks behind Cairo, Egypt as the second largest city on the African continent.

If you can browse through the internet, there is a town in Southern Portugal’s Algarve named Lagos. We need to change all colonial names to their original names.

Abu Bakarr Jalloh

I am a Sierra Leonean freelance writer and storyteller. I was born in Sierra Leone, West Africa. I am passionate in telling inspiring African stories across the continent, and also tell the stories of Africans outside the continent. And also tell stories of African civilization. You can contact me on email: On WhatsApp: +23279777058

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s