Table of Principal Events in Yoruba History

This article briefly captures some of the key events from the book titled, “Table of Principal Events in Yoruba history with certain other matters of General Interest” was complied principally for use in the courts within the British Colony of Lagos, West Africa by John Augustus Otonba Payne, F.R.G.S.

The book above titled, “Table of Principal Events in Yoruba history with certain other matters of General Interest” was compiled principally for use in the courts within the British Colony of Lagos, West Africa by John Augustus Otonba Payne, F.R.G.S published in January 1893 is full of intriguing events that will hold every avid Yoruba man spellbound. Albeit, the main objective of the book was to enable the British Judged, District Commissioner, Practitioners to effectively deliver their judicial functions while engaging the natives, the contents were intellectually captivating and very insightful with compelling facts and key event dates. This document is quite comprehensive, insightful and thought provoking and worth every effort invested in reading it.  

While reading the book, I discovered that the Colony of Lagos extend from as far as French Settlement in Kutonu and to "British Protectorate of the Niger or Oil River". Does this suggest that oil might have been discovered within Southern Protectorates the 19th century? This question will not be answered in this article. I will focus on the key events in Yoruba history. 

According to the book, the Benins and Àwórìs were the original settlers of Lagos but were later joined by other settlers. 


Governance in Yorubaland

The document covers civil and criminal matters, social, economic and political system in Lagos Colony and other Yoruba towns, including, directories of trading, banking, international trade, religion, schools, streets, Public Offices, agricultural products, articles for exportation, Currency, Banking and interest tables, scale of cowries and exchange rates in silver and gold coins, Census, tribal wars etc. Popular streets in Lagos were named after the British Consuls.

The British Consuls are called Ajeles by the natives. For instance, Consul W McCosckry was referred to as Ajele Apogbon that was eventually named after the popular Lagos Island area, Apogbon. The document detailed captivating chronology of social, economic and political events in Yorubaland. Some are remarkably interesting while some aren’t too palatable. For instance, King Oluwole was killed by lightning in 1844.


Yorubaland Cities as country

One thing that also struck me from the book was that each City or domain was referred to as Country, for example, Jèbú country, Ègbá country, etc. This suggested that Yorùbá people had indeed existed within a well organised society headed by Kings and supported by council of chiefs. What this suggests to me is that Yorubaland had well established and functional political, economic, social, judicial and defence systems within each country.

Yorubaland Export trade

Yoruba Countries were economically active with cash crops exportation mainly to West Africa (including Gambia, Sierra Leon), Europe (including Great Britain, Germany, and France), South America (Brazil).

  • In 1890, African banking Corporation (ABC) Limited was established with Head Office at 43 - 46, Threadneedle Street, London, E.C with a registered Capital of £2 million pounds sterling and subscribed Capital of £601, 670.00.
  • Current accounts were opened at its Lagos Branch to handle all Bills of Exchange purchased for exportation trade. The Lagos bank also handled and cabled remittances.
  • Lagos Branch handled all Banking business transactions. "Deposits received at 4% per annum at 6 months’ notice withdrawal; and 5% at 12 months’ notice of withdrawal.

It would appear that African banking Corporation Limited might have had sizeable liquid cash to conveniently do the exportation business within the 6 to 12 months’ notice period applied to customers in Lagos.

  • In 1893, the Directors of African banking Corporation Limited released a circular that transferred their Lagos business to the Bank of British West Africa (BBWA), which was formed to deal exclusively with business on the West Coast. Messrs established by A.L. Jones and Elder Dempster established the bank. African banking Corporation Limited would act as London Agents of the new bank.



Yoruba history is full of intriguing and remarkable events. It is my lofty dream and desire to see Yoruba History well codified, documented into series and widely circulated and taught as a compulsory subject in Primary, Secondary and Tertiary Institutions in our new Oduduwa nation. No doubt this book will be an interesting, educational and stimulating read for every Yoruba sons and daughters around the world.

Ayodele Ojo

Ayodele Ojo

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