Ashipa: The First Oba of Lagos

Ashipa, the first Oba of Lagos, whom all Obas of Lagos trace their lineage to, was a war captain of the Oba of Benin. Ashipa was rewarded with title of Head War Chief/Oloriogun and received the Oba of Benin’s sanction to govern Lagos.

Some Benin accounts of history have the Ashipa as son or grandson of the Oba of Benin. Other accounts note that Ashipa is a Yoruba corruption of the Benin name Aisika-hienbore (translated “we shall not desert this place”).

Ashipa received a sword and royal drum as symbols of his authority from the Oba of Benin on his mission to Lagos.
Additionally, the Oba of Benin deployed a group of Benin officers charged with preserving Benin’s interests in Lagos. These officers, led by Eletu Odibo, were the initial members of the Akarigbere class of Lagos White Cap Chiefs.

With regard to the question of who were the original owners of Lagos and what the tribal origin was of Ashipa, the first Oba of Lagos, the statements of some historians contain many inaccuracies.

Critical examination of these statements with evidence from traditional history shows that Ashipa was not a Yoruba Prince but a member of the royal family of Benin.

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Omo atiro tó rán bàbá è lésè bàtà kan,òrò ló féé gbó…àti pé eye kïí dédé bà lórùléé

Past Obas (Kings) Oba of Lagos.

Ashipa (1600–1630) died on the way back to Benin
King Ado (1630–1669) first King of Lagos
King Gabaro (1669–1704)
King Akinsemoyin (1704–1749)
Eletu Kekere (1749)
King Ologun Kutere (1749–1775)
Adele Ajosun (1775-1780 & 1832-1834)
Eshilokun (1780–1819)
Oba Idewu Ojulari (1819–1832)
King Oluwole (1836–1841)
King Akintoye (1841-1845 & 1851-1853)
Oba Kosoko (1845–1851)
King Dosunmu [Docemo] (1853–1885)
Oba Oyekan I (1885–1900)
Oba Eshugbayi Eleko (1901-1925 & 1932)
Oba Ibikunle Akitoye (1925–1928)
Oba Sanusi Olusi (1928–1931)
Oba Falolu Dosunmu (1932–1949)
Oba Adeniji Adele (1949–1964)
Oba Adeyinka Oyekan II (1965–2003)
Oba Rilwan Akiolu (2003–present)

Ikadan palace was the home of Erelu Kuti, mother of Ologun Kutere (the fourth king of Lagos, whose reign lasted 25 years from 1750, and the lineage from which the recently late Oba Adeyinka Oyekan) and Sokun (the Fashina-Jinadu-Bombata lineage) emerged.

History has it that there are only two ruling houses in Lagos namely Akinsemoyin and Ologun Kutere. The first Oba of Lagos was Ado, the son of Prince Ashipa (Esikpa) of Benin. Ado had three children, Gabbaro, Akinsemoyin and a female, Erelu Kuti. After the death of Ado, his eldest son, Gabbaro, succeeded him. Gabarro’s line became extinct because he had no child. Therefore, upon his death, Akinsemoyin, his younger brother took over.

While Akinsemoyin was still alive, Erelu Kuti married Alagba, the native doctor who had predicted that Akinsemoyin would become Oba. Alagba, an Ijesha man from Ilesha, was a diviner for Oba Akinsemoyin.

Oba Akinsemoyin built a palace called Iga Alagba at Idumota for Alagba because he could not belong to the Oba’s palace since he (Alagba) was not a member of the royal family.

Akinsemoyin, according to history, had a set of triplets, all boys after having some daughters. Because it was a taboo in those days to have twins let alone triplets, the three boys were smuggled out of the palace. Due to the poor condition under which the triplets were kept, two died, leaving one.

Therefore, when Akinsemoyin died in 1749 after ruling for 44 years, Ologun Kutere, the product of the union between Erelu Kuti and Alagba was made Oba. Though, Akinsemoyin was said to have other sons after the set of triplets, they were said to be very young at the time of the Oba’s death.

It was said that due to Akinsemoyin’s magnanimity, he did not appoint any of his elder daughters as regent pending when the eldest son born after the triplets would come of age. Because of the love he had for his sister, Erelu Kuti, before he died, he sanctioned the appointment of Ologun Kutere as his successor.

However, a slightly different account of the history of succession has been muted which said that when Oba Akinsemoyin died, Gabarro’s son, Kekere, who was in turn succeeded by Ologun Kutere, succeeded him.

From the genealogy of the kings of Lagos it was Ologun Kutere that replaced Akinsemoyin in 1749. Since then, only the descendants of Ologun Kutere have been occupying the position of Oba of Lagos. The late Oba Oyekan II belonged to that house.

How did Erelu Kuti marry Alagba and what role did Akinsemoyin play in the marriage? According to history: On the advice of Alagba, he (Akinsemoyin) performed certain rituals and ceremonies which included putting up a white flag on what is now Victoria Island.

As a result of this, the Portuguese came. This was the first contact with Europeans in this part of the world and it heralded the advent of western civilisation as well as Christianity. The Portuguese in the course of time built Iga Idungaran for Oba Akinsemoyin, part of which is still in existence and is incorporated into the new palace.

Satisfied that all was well with Oba Akinsemoyin, Alagba then expressed the desire to return to Ilesha for the remaining part of his life. Oba Akinsemoyin agreed and in gratitude offered him any of his daughters he fancied as a wife.

While they were talking, a source has it, Erelu passed by and heard what they were discussing. At an opportune time she told her brother that she would gladly marry Alagba.

On one point the two sources agree and that is that Oba Akinsemoyin was jubilant. He blessed his sister, conferred a royal honour on her and predicted that she would bear children who would reign in Lagos. The prediction of Oba Akinsemoyin came to be, as it seems, a vengeance.

How has this affected succession to the obaship? In the first place, the House of Gabarro is extinct leaving the House of Akinsemoyin and the House of Ologun-Kutere.

Generally regarded as the fourth oba of the Benin dynasty, Akinsemoyin – the brother of Erelu Kuti – laid the economic and political foundation of modern Lagos. It was largely through his effort that the process of making Lagos the centre of commercial and hence political activities in colonial and contemporary Nigeria began.

Written By Faluyi Ayokunle Olawale.

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