Pencil drawing of Oba Dosunmu
Dosunmu, c. 1857. Photo: Mr. West Daniel. BM Archives

Dosunmu, name spelt Docemo in the Victorian Lagos era, Oba of Lagos between 1853 and 1885. He was responsible for the cession of Lagos to the British crown, thereby making Lagos a colony. His denial, two years later, of this August 1861 deal earned him a levy and lost of his pension but more importantly, rendered his authority null for most of the rest of his reign.

While he remains unpopular in the books of history for his transfer of native pride, it serves well to understand that Docemo was under the most disadvantageous conditions, being faced with possible overpowering from his cousin, Kosoko who once overthrew his father, Akitoye. Also, the British had already displayed their firepower ten years earlier and the defense mounted by Lagos at that time was no longer a possibility. Lastly, there was a real threat to the commercial position of Lagos posed by the 1860 Ibadan-Ijaiye war. The fear of instability that might ensue formed the pretext for British engagement and subsequent annexation.

Group of men sitting in front of Oba Docemo's gate
Group of men sitting in front of King Docemo’s gate © Museum der Kulturen Basel.
Tope Apoola
Profession: Writer