The Erelu Kuti of Lagos is the traditional noblewoman charged with the bearing of the ritual essence of Oloye Erelu Kuti I, a seventeenth-century Yoruba royal who aided in the consolidation of her homeland, first as the daughter of its paramount king, then as the sister of two of his successors, subsequently as the consort of one of its chiefs, then as a chief in her own right, and finally as its first queen mother. Her life would ultimately be so entwined with that of her family's kingdom that her lineal descendants would go on to feature in its history from her day to our own.
A Series Of Excerpts From The Oral Records Of Lagos
The Ikadan palace was the home of Erelu Kuti, mother of Ologun Kutere (the fourth king of Lagos, whose reign began in 1750 and lasted 25 years, and the founder of the lineage from which the late Oba Adeyinka Oyekan came) and Shokun (the founder of the Fashina-Jinadu-Bombata, Fadu lineage).
The first Oba of Lagos was Ado, the son of Prince Ashipa of the Kingdom 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, succeeded to the crown.
While Akinsemoyin was ruling, Erelu Kuti married Alagba, the high priest that had predicted that her brother would become Oba. Alagba, an Ijesha man from Ilesha, subsequently served as a chief in the court of his brother-in-law.
Oba Akinsemoyin built a palace called Iga Alagba at Idumota for him because he could not belong to the Oba's household as a non-member of the royal family. Akinsemoyin, according to clan history, subsequently had a set of male triplets after having a number of 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 they were kept, two of them died, leaving one alive. This son went on to live an ordinary life as a commoner.
Due to this, 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 in his stead. Though the late king is said to have had other sons after the set of triplets, they are said to have been very young at the time of their father's death.
It is now believed by scholars of tribal history that due to Akinsemoyin's magnanimity, he did not see the need to perpetuate his branch of the dynasty by having one of his elder daughters serve as regent, pending when the eldest of his subsequent sons would come of age. As a sign of the love he had for his sister, before he died, he instead sanctioned the appointment of Ologun Kutere as his successor.
It should be stated at this juncture, however, that a different account of the history of succession has been mooted by some. It states that when Oba Akinsemoyin died, an adult son of Gabarro named Kekere succeeded him. This Kekere was then succeeded by Ologun Kutere.
From the official genealogy of the kings of Lagos, however, it is seen that Ologun Kutere 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 one of his descendant families.
Now it may be asked how Erelu Kuti came to marry Alagba and what role Akinsemoyin played in the events that led to his sister's marriage? Well, according to the narrative:
On the advice of Alagba, Akinsemoyin performed certain rituals and ceremonies which included putting up a white flag on what is now Victoria Island.
It is said that as a result of this, the Portuguese came and subsequently aided in the architectural advancement of his kingdom. This was the first contact with Europeans in this part of the world, and it heralded the advent of both Christianity and its attendant civilisations. The Portuguese built Iga Idungaran palace for Oba Akinsemoyin as a gift, a part of which is still in existence and is incorporated into the new palace.
Satisfied that all was now well with Oba Akinsemoyin and his people, Alagba then expressed the desire to return to Ilesha for the remaining part of his life. Oba Akinsemoyin agreed and, in gratitude for his years of service, offered him any of his daughters as a wife
While they were talking about this, Erelu passed by and heard what they were discussing. At a later time, she told her brother that she would gladly marry Alagba if he wished it to be so.
Oba Akinsemoyin is said to have been jubilant. He blessed his sister, conferred a noble title on her and predicted that she would bear children who would reign in Lagos as its kings. The prediction of the Oba eventually came to pass with, as the White Man says, a vengeance.
The current Erelu Kuti is Omoba Abiola Dosunmu, a princess of the contemporary kingdom of Lagos. She serves as a ranking chieftess of the realm as the ceremonial queen mother, and reigns as regent of Lagos upon the death of an incumbent monarch until a substantive successor is chosen by the college of kingmakers.