The Portuguese explorer Rui de Sequeria, who visited the area that is now Lagos State in 1472, gave it the name ‘Lago de Curamo’ (lago is the Portuguese word for ‘lake’). As a coastal state it was an important commercial centre and thrived on trade between the Europeans and hinterland natives. It was used as a war camp by the Benin Empire who referred to it as ‘Eko’ (the Yoruba name for the state still used till this day). Lagos has been home to a number of different ethnic groups over the centuries. It was originally inhabited by the Awori subgroup of the Yoruba people who were mostly hunters and fishermen. They had migrated from Ile-Ife by stages to the coast at Ebute-Metta. Under the leadership of their Olofin, the Awori moved to an island now called Iddo and then to the larger Lagos Island. In the fifteenth century, the Awori settlement was attacked by the Benin Empire following a quarrel, and the island became a Benin war-camp called "Eko" under Oba Orhogba, the Oba of Benin at the time.
Yoruba people settled in the state in large numbers early in the course of its modern development, followed by migrants from all over Nigeria and other West African nations, as well as returnee ex-slaves (known as Creoles) from Freetown, Sierra Leone, Brazil and the West Indies. The Creoles contributed significantly to Lagos’s modernisation and the influence of their Portuguese heritage can still be seen in the architecture on Lagos Island.
Lagos State was originally part of the Western Region in the three-region structure of 1954. In 1967, with the creation of twelve federal states by General Yakubu Gowon’s military government, it became part of the Western State. With the creation of nineteen states from the existing twelve in 1976 by the military government of General Murtala Muhammed, Lagos was carved out of the Western State. Lagos served as the capital of Nigeria from 1914 until 1991 (when it was replaced by Abuja).
Herbert Macaulay, a politician and anti-colonial activist, spent almost 4 decades campaigning for greater rights for Nigerians. A Lagosian of Krio (Sierra Leonian) descent, he founded the Nigerian National Democratic Party, Nigeria's first political party.