“Lagos must be invaded by force” was allegedly the command Consol John Beecroft got from London.
A few years ago when HBO premiered the what would later become one of the most sensational series films of all time, only a few really understood the Game of Thrones was based on almost seemly historical incidents that happened in Britain a while ago. Unknown to most people, similar incidents happened in Lagos in 1851: a bitter rivalry between two contestants (Akitoye and Kosoko) to the throne of Eko that would later tear the soul of Lagos apart.
After Oba Oluwole died in 1841 in an explosion triggered by lighting at the Palace, the throne of Lagos was left vacant. The battle for the soul of West Africa’s most powerful and busiest slave port was between the vigorous Prince Kosoko, the seemly rightful heir to the throne and Prince Akitoye, his uncle. One was a man of the people (Kosoko) while the other was a man for the people also, but a “friend” to the British (Akitoye). Meanwhile, the order had been given to Beecroft to invade Lagos by all means necessary.
Kosoko, having tried to take the throne for himself and failed, went on exile at Port Novo and was asked to return to Lagos, 4 years later. In July 1845, Kosoko seized the throne in a coup. Akitoye was ejected out of Lagos and he went on exile in Badagry.
As the seemly rightful heir to the throne, Kosoko wanted the throne at all cost and was having a field day as one of the biggest slave traders in the West Africa region and he was not going to give up the throne with a fight.
Later on, the British government moved in to have Akitoye restored back to Lagos as the Oba.
Akitoye, who had been the Oba of Lagos from 1841-1845, made several attempts to stop the slave trade in Old Lagos, but sadly, this made him lose popularity amongst his Chiefs. Powerful slave trade merchants and traders wanted him out of the picture, at all costs. They would later aid the ascension of Kosoko to the throne from 1845-1851. While Kosoko was the Oba of the powerful city of Lagos, with its major slave ports situated all around the coast of the city, slave trade in Lagos rose like never before making him lose favour with the British government who wanted to put an end to the slave trade business by all means necessary.
On January 1851, Consul Beecroft, who was the British consul for the Blights of Benin and Biafra, met with Akitoye in Badagry and promised to help facilitate his return to the throne of Eko in return for a treaty banning all slave trade activities, human rituals and other similar activities.
14th of November 1851- the HMS Bloodhound berthed at Badagry with its cargo. This act was to counter the reign and trade policy of Oba Kosoko who was co-operating with the slave traders in Lagos – the likes of the well-known slave trader Domingo Martinez was having a field day in Eko with the backing of Oba Kosoko.
Beecroft proceeded to the shore of Lagos which was heavily guarded by the Brazilians and 100 soldiers of Kosoko. His meeting ended with a “NO” from the Oba who rejected his parley. He would not leave the throne of Lagos without a fight – especially not after the fight that broke out in June 1851 between his supporters and that of Akitoye.
After the refusal from Kosoko, Beecroft wasted no time in telling Commander Forbes of the HMS Bloodhound to get ready for battle as he had used up all his options in persuading Kosoko to give up the throne peacefully.
November 23rd of 1851- Beecroft showed Commander Forbes a dispatch from London and it was agreed that they enter the Lagos waters with as large a force as could be gathered. By this time the H.M.S Bloodhound with 23 ships of soldiers and marines were already approaching the east side of Marina, Lagos.
The shore of Lagos at this time was heavily guarded by the Lagos soldiers under the Command of none other than General Oshodi Tapa. The general was not going to allow any white man to take the soul of Lagos, not under his watch. He knew the terrain of Lagos better and he was ready to protect the city that had been his home with his life.
It is important to note here that two battles were fought for the soul of Lagos in 1851. The first one was in November; it saw the Kosoko army defeating the British army, killing scores of its men. The second one happened a month after, and this involved the introduction of the Canon guns that gave birth to the “Agidingbi” sound.
The gunfire was so loud that it was heard as far away as Badagry. 23 boats with gunners formed a circle around the HMS Bloodhound Naval ship which had docked on the shores of Lagos. Receiving fire from the Lagos army, they proceeded on the attack with caution. The British were ready to engage and so were Kosoko’s5000 armed men who were ready to take back Lagos, bloodthirsty and battle ready.
26th of December 1851-the full slaughter commenced and the big guns of the Teazer and the Bloodhound made Kosoko’s men’s guns look like toy guns. The slaughter was awful. The battle raged for 5 days and finally, Lagos fell into the hands of the British. An Italian consul and trader, Giambattista Scala who visited Lagos after the invasion noted in his journals that the city was in ruins and its population has been reduced from 22,000 to 5000, leaving mostly children and the aged.
28th December 1851- Kosoko was forced to flee to Epe with some of his high-ranking Chiefs who went with him. Leaving his beloved Eko, with most of the city on fire, for Beecroft, Captain Jones and the British forces it was a well-deserved victory, for the people of Lagos, it was tragedy, sorrow, tears and blood.
On New Year’s Day 1852, the now fully-restored Oba of Lagos, Akitoye, signed a treaty with the British in which he banned all slave trade activities in Lagos. Oba Akitoye was on the throne till 1853 when he died (some historians actually would say and believe that he was poisoned). His son, Dosunmu became Oba after Akitoye’s death in 1853. 10 years after the 1851 Invasion of Lagos, Lagos became a British crown colony.
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