top of page

Unveiling the Forgotten History: How the Edo Empire(Bini,Esan & Etsako) Shaped the Founding of Lagos

-Portuguese-Edo Collaboration: The Genesis of International Trading Ports Along West Africa’s Coast that was later named “EKO” by the Edos meaning camp

-Lagos’ True Founders: Deforestation of Eko and Swamps by the Edos, Decoding Names and Narratives through the Lens of Esan Edo Influence

-How Eko(Lagos) became a fully yoruba land barely 150years ago with the support of the British Government

-Lagos’ True Founders: Deforestation of Eko and Swamps by the Edos, Decoding Names and Narratives through the Lens of Esan Edo Influence

There are documented history of the founding of Lagos by the EDOS(Binis, Esans & Etsako) as recorded by the ancient German Surgeon, Joshua Andreas Ulshaimer, in 1506. They were the first to deforest the land, settled, lived, named and traded there.

Please read more and be educated. We Are all “ONE NIGERIA” and the Yoruba might claim ownership of the land today due to recent precedents which cannot be undone, but we must tell true history for the sake of posterity. The EDOS had the highest population in Southern Nigeria but were massively murdered, drowned in the Atlantic, and forced out of Eko for almost 20 years during the “Lost Era” until the final battle at their ancestral homeland in Benin invasion(British Punitive Expedition) of 1897. This drastically reduced their population to what it is today and though they fought back the British finally defeated them in 1897.

However, the Esan Tribe who are more militaristic and organised were never defeated until 1906 were they submitted in a joint agreement against fight and force to British rule in a truce.

The Portuguese visited West Africa at a time when the Edos had an empire that was largely in control of a very vast portion of West Africa. The empire of the Edos spread from today’s Nigeria to Ghana. The Edo people were already living in present-day Lagos Island and the surrounding dense mangrove swamp and adjourning rainforest now called the Islands across the Atlantic shore thus the Atlantic Ocean was called Bight of Benin whilst the Aworis lived mainly on the mainland areas bothering present-day Ogun State. The Esan Edo soldiers broke up the whole area of Edo into territorial sub-divisions or quarters called Idumus, Idus, Ekos and Idis (Idumota) (Idumagbo) in the Esan Edo dialect. To this day, Lagos is still broken up into Eko, Idumus, Idus and Idis.

To this day, Esanland, Edo state Nigeria is still broken up into Ekos, Idumus, Idus and Idis. The Oba of Benin, back then, Omo N’Oba N’Edo Uku Akpolokpolo Orhogbua was represented in Portugal by an Ambassador and the King of Portugal, back then King Emmanuel was represented in Edo Empire’s administrative capital Benin City by an Ambassador sent from Portugal. The King of Portugal and the Oba of Benin agreed that international trading ports should be built in some locations along the West African coast where the Oba had influence and control. The international trading ports became the matrix cornerstones for some of today’s major cities along the west coast of Africa. The Edo citizens who lived in this vast area called Esale-Eko were the Esans whilst the Binis lived in the axis around the mangrove forest called present-day Eti-Osa & Victoria Island. Lagos is one of the international trading ports built then as a result of the joint Portuguese-Edo venture. The Edos called the settlement where the port was built Eko, meaning camp in Esan Edo. The Portuguese called the settlement Lagos, which means lakes in Portuguese. Back then, there was already a city in Portugal also known as Lagos.

To have a better understanding of what the Edos did in Lagos, we should consider a modern example, very near home. There were folks in Abuja and the other settlements that constitute Nigeria’s federal capital territory. However, the genesis of the Abuja that we have today is directly traceable to the decision of the federal government of Nigeria under General Murtala Muhammed to relocate Nigeria’s federal capital from Lagos to the present location.

Thus the founder of Abuja as Nigeria’s federal capital territory is the Federal Government of Nigeria. Today, the Federal Government of Nigeria runs Abuja. The Federal Government of Nigeria has broken up Abuja into districts and zones and has named the zones and districts. The Federal Government of Nigeria is running Abuja now.

The above is exactly, the story of the Edo people in Lagos. In as much as there was already an existence of Edos in Lagos, the monarchical system of Governance which was newly in force by the Edos had just started after the Ogiso era. In an expansionist move, they had officially instilled the same amongst their indigenes in Eko just like they had already done in their ancestral root of Edo. The Edos and the Portuguese settled on Lagos Island as a choice location to build an international trading port and thereafter, the Edos “possessed” the place. An ancient port was built, and for hundreds of years, the Edos developed, controlled and managed Lagos.

Research has shown that the Edos extended their control, influence, dominion and suzerainty over Eko from Lagos Island to all that area now known, called and referred to as Lagos State. Thus, the gist of this article is not about who discovered Lagos, but who founded Lagos. The era of the founding of Lagos is over now. This article is not about the ownership of Lagos, based on the Edo's past occupation of Lagos. The British came after the Edos, but they too have since left the scene. This article is about the aspects of the Edo founding of Lagos that have been forgotten or have been undetected by Historians' radar.

The experiment of the Edos and the Portuguese in Lagos (Eko) is reminiscent of the experiments that created New York, Los Angeles, London and Chicago among many other global cities. The above-named locations are all cities that were built on the platform of trading ports and exploded around such ports. These cities and many other global cities all grew exponentially as a result of the development or building of ports in such locations. Chicago did not grow into a major city until an inland waterway port was built in Chicago.

Lagos which was initially a camp (Eko) established by the Edos for the development of a trading port, has now grown into a major cosmopolitan settlement.

Unfortunately, the story of the founding of Lagos has suffered severe mutilation, by many who had hitherto attempted to tell the story of the founding of Lagos with a jaundiced perspective. The oral version of the founding of Lagos has been so tampered with, that the names of places in Lagos today are meaningless in any language whatsoever. These names are only meaningful if reversed back to the language of the original founders of Lagos. The language of the original founders of Lagos is the Esan Edo language. The history of early Lagos is embedded in the names of places in Lagos. A good understanding of that language, which is the Esan dialect of the Edo language will throw open the doors to the history of early Lagos.

It is important to state that A prominent trader who worked to give Britain the intelligence of all that culminated in the capture of Benin, Madam Efuroye Tinubu was rewarded with land in the acquired area called Esale-Eko where the Edos were sacked by the British for her effort in ensuring the EDOs were defeated. This made her acquire the first land title in Nigeria`s history. All Yoruba occupation of present-day Lagos dates back to the last 100-150 years. Britain renamed it Lagos and rewrote the history but some areas still hold Edo Names and meanings to date. It is manifestly obvious that the early history of Lagos Island can be very easily deciphered by an accurate understanding of the names that have remained in Lagos from the time of the founding of Lagos. Eko is not a general Edo word. Eko and Idumu as in Idumota and Idumagbo and all the Idis and Idus are specifically Esan Edo names. They are not Bini Edo nor Afemai Edo. The Benin alternative for Idumu is Idunmwun. In Lagos, we have Idumu as in Idumu-Ota and Idumu-Agbo. Thus Lagos was originally founded by the Esan Edos. However, we should recognize that while the Esan soldiers were founding Eko and many other parts of what is today known as Lagos State, under the auspices of the Edo army; the Bini army was contemporaneously founding Etin Osa, Agidingbi, Oshodi et al. (All Bini Edo names). IDU-GARRAN (Quarters of Igarra [soldiers] confirms the presence of Etsako Edos in the Eko project. Without a doubt, all the members of the Edo family i.e. Esans, Etsakos (Osakon) [meaning Dental Surgeons] were in Lagos at the invitation of Emperor Orhogbua.

In Uromi and other Esan towns, Idumu Idis, Idus and Eko are still in vogue. To this day in Uromi, there is still Idumu Okojie and Eko Imiokolo. In Uromi, there is Idumu Eka, Ukoni, Uromi. That is the quarters of immigrants from Ika. In Uromi, there is Idisaba, which is the quarter of immigrants from Asaba. In Uromi, there is Idumu Oshodi, which is the quarters of Oshodi family members who immigrated to ancient Uromi from Benin. In Uromi, there are Aga–Ausa (Hausa) quarters for Hausa immigrants.

In Uromi there is Agi-Igbo (Quarters of Igbo immigrants. Agi-Yo-Oba (Aga-Azanama) (Quarters of the Yoruba immigrants). Aga is used here like Idu, Idi or Eko i.e. Aga-(Enegbode) Ga Aga Accra, Ghana; which was equally founded by the Edos.

On its official website, the government of Lagos presented its own version of the history of the founding of Lagos Island“Until the coming of the Bini’s, Lagos’s geographic boundary was what is known now as Lagos Mainland. Lagos Island, the seat of the Oba of Lagos then consisted of a pepper farm and fishing posts. No one lived there though. The name Eko was given to it by its first King Oba Ado during its early history, it also saw periods of rule by the Kingdom of Benin. Eko was the land area now known as Lagos Island where the king’s palace was built.”

In his piece, captioned Brief History of Lagos Island, Michael Uchebuaku, wrote on Yahoo Contributor Network “However, there is another account of Lagos before 1603 that comes from a Western visitor. In 1603, Andreas Joshua Ulsheimer, a German surgeon, aboard a Dutch merchant ship, visited Lagos. According to his accounts, Lagos was a large frontier town surrounded by a strong fence and inhabited by “none but soldiers and four military commanders, who behave in a very stately manner.”

The Lagos visited by Ulsheimer and his trading colleagues nearly four centuries ago was in many ways highly developed. Each day its four commanders came together as a court and each day two envoys were dispatched to take decisions back to their ruler in Benin. To do so, Ulsheimer wrote, was a common practice in all towns under the suzerainty of Benin…

Ulsheimer’s accounts seem to confirm Benin's oral traditions of conquest and occupation of Lagos during the sixteenth century. How Oba Orhogbua of Benin (1550-1578) occupied the island of Lagos, established a military camp there and from that base waged wars on some people described as rebels against his authority, in the immediate interior.

Ulsheimer gives the first account, documenting the transformation of Lagos from a fishing camp to a trading centre, and from an autonomous settlement to a Benin tributary. Lagos Lagoon was known to European traders by 1485 when it first appeared on maps, but the town of Lagos was not included.”

“If Ulsheimer’s account is correct, then it appears that the daily gathering of Lagos governors was one of the military commanders from Benin and not heads of local settlement. Gradually, however, additions were made to that body. The vehicle via which accretion took place eventually was called Ose Iga a ceremonious meeting of Lagos held at the palace every seventeen days.”

OSE-IGA as recorded by the ancient German Surgeon Andreas Joshua Ulsheimer, after his 1603 visit to Lagos is ESAN EDO. OSE is from OSENOBULUA which is ESAN EDO. BINI EDO would be Osa(lobua). IGA means worship in Esan Edo. IGA is in contradistinction to EGUA (PALACE in Esan Edo) [Yorubanized in Lagos to IGA]. OSE-IGA as written by Andreas Joshua Ulsheimer, the 1603 German Surgeon visitor to Lagos means (WORSHIP OF GOD) / CHURCH in Esan Edo. OSE-IGA as used by the Edos in 1603 in Lagos is a connotation of the spiritual instrumentality of assimilation of the local Awori’s into the politburo of state leadership in the early days of the Edo tributary of Lagos. For easier understanding by the reader of the concept of OSE-IGA, we will now consider an Esan Edo alternative for OSE-IGA. ISODELINMI which means knocking on the doors of the spirits is a variant of OSE-IGA. ODE means door in Esan Edo. ELINMI means Spirits. Members of Esan IGBABONELINMI (applauding the Spirits via clapping of hands) masquerade dance group, induct new members through the instrumentality of ISODELINMI. The fact that the Esan Edo army commanders in Lagos as far back as 1603, assimilated the local Aworis into the institution of governance in Lagos via OSE-IGA and not ISODELINMI is a vindication of the success of the early Portuguese Catholic Reverend Fathers cum Missionaries, who originally settled in IDUN-FADA, Lagos, later Islamized and or Yorubanized to IDUN-TAFA.

In a piece captioned Erelu Kuti: A Series Of Excerpts From The Oral Records Of Lagos, the author wrote “While Akinsemoyin was ruling, Erelu Kuti married Alagba, the high priest that had predicted that her brother would become Oba”

The Esan Edo soldiers who were invited by Emperor Orhogbua to help overcome the Awori military opposition in the area now called Eko, came with their war god called Agba and his priest was the Chief Priest of Agba. Alua-Agba means the altar of Agba.

The prominence of Chief Priest Alagba in the oral accounts of the founding of Lagos as corroborated by the name in the article Erelu Kuti: A Series Of Excerpts From The Oral Records Of Lagos proves this fact. The name of Chief Priest Alagba is a latter-day Yorubanisation of the Esan war god Agba. Alu-Agba in Esan means the shrine of Agba.

Agba was the Uromi King who fought Oba Ozolua of Benin for about seven years till their tired and frustrated soldiers conspired to kill both the Oba and the Onojie to put an end to the war. Some historians believe King Agba of Uromi did not die immediately and that was the reason for the war between Idah and Bini under Oba Esigie. Onojie (King Agba) was deified as a God of war by the Uromi Army. The presence of Alua Agba in Eko (Lagos) is a confirmation of the fact that the ancient Uromi war machine, as an integral part of the ancient Edo Empire military campaigns, played a prominent role in the founding of Lagos. Alua Agba is unique to Esan. Based on the uniqueness of the Alu-Agba deity to Esan (god of war); Esan warriors were certainly part of the reason Lagos Island acquired the name Esale Eko (Camp of the Esans). This development was the genesis of the founding of Lagos] The Esan army had previously helped the Oba to re-conquer Akure. Esan soldiers had also previously helped the Oba to subdue and rule Ondo and gave Ondo town the title Osemawe of Ondo. Osemawe in Esan means It is God that installed you. The Uromi army had also previously helped to defend and re-take Ekiti after an Ibadan military invasion.

To properly understand the story of Lagos, one must try to understand the meaning of all the prominent names of the key persons, events and quarters (places) in ancient Lagos. These names make no sense and are meaningless in any language, even the Yoruba language which has now become very dominant in Lagos, Awori dialect or even the Bini dialect of the Edo language.

The names that have survived adulteration or pronunciation corruption indicate that the names were originally Esan Edo names. The Portuguese were the international trading partners of the Edos. A trading camp for the exchange of goods was founded and called Esale Eko (Camp of the Esans) after the Esan Edo soldiers that founded the camp. The Portuguese called the camp Lagos (meaning settlement by lakes). The Esan Edo soldiers broke up the whole area into territorial sub-divisions or quarters called Idumus, Idus, Ekos and Idis (Idumota) (Idumagbo) in the Esan Edo dialect. To this day, Lagos is still broken up into Eko, Idumus, Idus and Idis.

To this day, Esanland, Edo state Nigeria is still broken up into Ekos, Idumus, Idus and Idis.

To have a better understanding of the military cooperation between the Esans and the Binis, that probably led the ancient Esan army to Lagos; this little snippet of history culled from the declassified colonial British intelligence report on the Esan people would be relevant. To Be Continued……..

16 views0 comments


bottom of page