There is a popular conjecture amongst Lagos residents that it’s “no man’s land”. While this is far from the truth, the fallacy can be understood since Lagos is the economic capital of West Africa, home to many and all. Lagos has quite an interesting story to give.

According to historical findings, the name Lagos was given by a Portuguese of the 15th century. Its geographical elements were quite befitting of the name (Lagos means Lake in Portuguese). However, the land was then within the domain of the Benin Empire and due to its proximity to the commercial exchange route – the port, it became a frontier town. With time, trade moved past the border and to the island. Then, Lagos was known as Onim to the Portuguese and Oko to the Aworis. In the 19th century it was no longer under the Benin kingdom but a tributary to the Oyo Empire.

After the collapse of the Oyo empire, the settlement could already maintain its autonomy thus, didn’t cease to exist. Notwithstanding, when it comes to the first set of people who called it home or made it an official settlement, the Aworis are to be pointed at. The traceable origin to the Aworis can be seen in the names of some places such as Iddo (for it was an island) and Eko (the native name of the state which was given by Oba Ado during the stay of the first traditional settlers).

Slave trade

From the reign of Oba Ado to the reign of Oba Akintoye, the town has been known for its prominence in slave trade until Oba Akintoye put an end to it in 1841 with the support of the British Council upon ascending the throne after his exile to England when he attempted to ban it in earlier years

Flipping through the pages of Lagos history, names such as Beecroft, Dosunmu and King George shows up and in making a link, there are places called as such in the current Lagos. While the state was the first to see the light of civilization due to its status as a colony, there are some structures whose status can’t be ignored.

Tinubu Square

Formerly known as Ita Tinubu before being changed to Independence Square, Tinubu square can be found on Broad street, Lagos Island. The now park and garden were constructed to serve as a commemoration for the aristocrat and slave trader, Madam Efunroye Tinubu whose statue is at the center of the square. The square has been situated in its current spot for over 5 decades since it was built in 1960.

Tinubu Square

Freedom Park

Formerly, this location was for the other side of the coin as it was a prison yard. It was constructed as Her Majesty’s Broad Street Prison in 1861. The prison had some nationalists like Herbert Macaulay, Anthony Enahoro and Obafemi Awolowo as its resident. The walls of the park were initially as they are at the moment but were studier. The prison was destroyed in 1979. In 2010, with the approval of Governor Babatunde Fashola, Freedom park was rebuilt by Theo Lawson. The intent behind the rebuilding was to preserve the rich history of the park. Now, it is one of the go-to tourist sites in Lagos.

Freedom park

Tafawa Balawa square

Known by some persons for its polo game due to the horses’ statue at its entrance and the location being formerly a sporting arena hence its original name; racecourse. It is known by some others as the arena in which the national independence meeting was held in 1960 with the Prime Minister, Tafawa Balewa giving his speech. Verily, this location can’t be erased from the books of Lagos. The square’s construction was completed in 1961.

Tafawa Balewa square

some other notable locations in Lagos include;

National Stadium Surulere which was built in 1972 and was one of the stadii used in the African cup of nations 2000.

National Theatre Iganmu, Lagos which was built in 1977 during the Obasanjo administration to mark the Festival of Arts of Culture (FESTAC’77). Also in line with FESTAC ’77 is the Centre for Black and African Arts and Culture whose headquarters is also in Lagos.

The Third Mainland Bridge was constructed in 1990 during the administration of General Babangida. At completion, the bridge was the longest bridge in Africa but was overtaken by the October Bridge in Cairo. The third mainland bridge is an 8-lane bridge that connects Lagos Island to Lagos mainland with many diversions and connections in between.

Lagos is also blessed with numerous beach fronts. This list will be incomplete without the mention of Badagry, which was the epicenter of slave trade in the 19th century. Badagry is also a rich location for lovers of Nigerian history at large.  

First story building in Nigeria located in Badagry

It is therefore obvious that Lagos indeed has quite a lot on its plate when it comes to back-in-the-day affairs and over the years the stories and structures will continue to be areas of interest to people.

Fathia Abolore Yusuf

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September 5, 2022 9:42 pm


September 5, 2022 9:43 pm

Makes sense, dropping this on my birthday too