Digging into Lagos as the Centre of Social Clubs in Nigeria

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No doubt, Lagos is living its name and prestige; a festoon of pleasure and panoply, power and complexity. Lagos is Nigeria’s concentration point for social clubs, especially on the Lagos Island axis that Mother Nature has blessed with abundant bodies of water and massive coastline. This natural endowment is a major attraction to quite a number of the clubs who suck in not just the resplendence of the ocean but the cool breeze. Besides, Lagos being the country’s first capital city and a melting pot for the nouveau riche and federal bureaucracy expanded the frontiers of recreational facilities.    

Six decades after Independence, many of these clubs are still full of vibrant activities as their membership continues to grow in leaps and bounds, despite their stringent entry rules. Clubsworld.net takes a look at some of these clubs and their activities over the years.  

The Metropolitan Club

The Metropolitan Club, Victoria Island, Lagos is well above 62 years old. One can say it is young compared to other social clubs in Nigeria. The founding fathers of this great club were gentlemen some of whom had spent their formative years in the United Kingdom and had attended very good public schools and higher institutions, with apparent exposure to the British culture. It is one of the leading social clubs in Lagos and its membership rules are very stringent. It has established for itself an enviable reputation as a Gentlemen’s Club, offering members one of the best facilities for private dining in Lagos.

When the number of its members increased shortly after its founding, the club’s premises at Igbosere Road in Lagos became too small to accommodate them. With the assistance of the late Prime Minister, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa who was the club’s first Patron, a new parcel of land on Kofo Abayomi Street, Victoria Island was approved.

If you are on Kofo Abayomi Street in Victoria Island, there is no signage indicating where Met Club is located. However, there is an “M” which looks more like an envelope, on the gate of the club. To be a member of the Met Club, you must be distinguished in many areas; and your pocket must be deep. The successful construction of the club’s magnificent edifice was made possible by its members’ contributions and support.

The Club had a good start with its early members being among the distinguished and celebrated in the social circles in Lagos. Some of them include its first President Sir Adetokunbo Ademola, who was the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) then.

Others include the late Hon. Justice A. Fatayi-Williams, a former Justice of the Supreme Court and others.

Yoruba Tennis Club

For conviviality, well-lubricated evenings with businessmen and socialites, Yoruba Tennis Club is the place. It is where you have everything at your beck and call.

The club, which started in 1926 with the name Orelodun Tennis Club 75, at Tokunbo Street, Lagos is a unique club governed by traditions, customs, norms and constitution.

The Club places more emphasis on honesty, integrity and industry among members.

After a period at Tokunbo Street, the club moved to the old premises at Golf Links Road now occupied by the National Museum. The new Club House is at No. 2 Yoruba Tennis Club Road, Onikan, Lagos with an additional wing comprising the Dining Hall and the V. Ade Allen Hall.

Also at the Club House are the Tennis Court with flood lighting, Norman-Williams Pavilion, Greetings Hall and an extension that include the Club’s Administrative wing.

To say the Club has recorded giant developmental strides since its inception in 1926, is to say the least. It has also, through its annual lecture series, promoted discourse on contemporary national issues, thereby engendering peace and harmonious relationships in the polity. The wives of members are affectionately referred to as Sisters.

Lagos Polo Club

Lagos Polo Club has changed over the years, being among the premier clubs in Lagos.

Lagos Polo Club no doubt retained its position as the premiere polo club in the country since it came to limelight in 1904 among the social clubs in Lagos.

The Club was introduced by British Naval Officers who played the sport on an airstrip that was shared between the Lagos Polo Club and Ikoyi Club.

The club’s environs in Ikoyi moved from being an essential residential area to a commercial center with development and people increasing in the millions, thereby making the club’s infrastructure outdated and inadequate.

The Polo Club developed rapidly in line with the growth of the city of Lagos; and membership changed from being mostly British Naval Officers to expatriates and Nigerian civil servants and senior citizens.

The club was basically made up of the playing field, the club house and the temporary stables. Apart from the Independence Cup presented by Kaiser Wilhelm ll, the King of Germany in 1914, other cups were played for alongside the Wilhelm Cup until the year 1962 when Dr. Majekodunmi, a member since 1949, donated the now famous Majekodunmi Cup to be competed for by the highest handicap players at tournaments.

Lagos Polo club has attracted world personalities including HRH Prince Charles, Alphonso Pieres, Gonzalo Pieres, Alan Lent and the Hipwood brothers Alan and Julian.

The Lagos Polo Club is a private members’ club and is affiliated with the Nigerian Polo Association (NPA); a body that governs the rule and regulations of polo at LPC and its other affiliated clubs in Nigeria. The LPC adheres to the Hurlingham Polo Association (HPA) rules at all in-house and international polo tournaments.

The Club’s season starts in November and finishes in June, hosting more than 300 matches each year.

Lagos Boat Club

The Lagos Boat Club, which is the only boat club in Lagos, was founded on January 23, 1950 and has been the symbol of the city’s well-to-do.

The club’s initial pre-occupation was to find its own premises and leave Wilmott Point. This was achieved in 1954 when the Club moved to its present site on Awolowo Road beside Five Cowries Creek.

Housed in a white colonial-era building and boasting a view of the serene lagoon, the Lagos Motor Boat Club has an unmistakable nautical theme – the wood-paneled bar with a large boat wheel as its centre-piece. What other way would you have loved to relax after a hard day other than to seat in a serene environment with good music, good food, excellent service, game for the mature mind, guaranteed security and cool fresh air from the lagoon on your skin.

Lagos Boat Club is patronized by all tribes, races, nationalities and cultures. Offering a world-class service with dedicated staff, the Club offers a restaurant with full service for lunch and dinner.

With a restaurant & V.I.P lounge upstairs, the club offers discreetness for those who love being unnoticed. The pool bar on both the V.I.P floor and downstairs with dart boards offers people a game that helps them relieve the tension they’ve had all day. The club also offers the waterfront terrace. Patrons can listen to music that soothes the soul with live band playing jazz, Afro beat, highlife, rock and oldies to one’s ears three times in a week.

In the early days, the club membership had been capped at 100 with an annual subscription of 100 pounds. The dual effects of inflation and the necessity to better utilize the large site saw the membership raised to 250 in the 1980s. In the 1990s, membership was raised to 400, although the actual figure always hovered at about 380. The expansion in membership changed the character of the club somewhat but has not destroyed the underlying social value that the club is a small group of people who know each other.

Lagos Country Club

Founded on August 3, 1949, Lagos Country Club is one of the oldest family clubs in Nigeria. The club has over the years grown to be regarded as one of the top social, recreational and sporting clubs in Nigeria with over 2000 active members cutting across nationalities, tribes and religions.

The original site of the Club was the hanger of the Royal Air Force by the West African Airways Corporation (WAAC) owned by Anglophone West African Countries of Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone and the Gambia. Upon independence of Nigeria in October 1960, WAAC was changed to Nigeria Airways. The Club was to soon move from its original site to a second site sharing its boundaries with the Grange School and John Holt Supermarket at the Air Traffic Section Wing of the Murtala Mohammed Airport. The Club however moved to its present site covering over 5 acres on May 18, 1963.

The first Chairman of the Club was Mr. R. Simpson (a Briton) while the first Nigerian was a Medical Doctor, Dr. Williams. As at 1951, the membership strength of the Club was a modest range of between 75 and 100. With Snooker Billiards and Darts in the early 60s, the club has grown into 10 sporting sections today. Today, it has a nominal membership of about 14,000.

The club is known for its rich sporting activities and a topmost endearment for relaxation.

Aside sports spread across 10 sections and other activities, the hangout offers nourishing local and international cuisines and a Main Bar that has an international fervour. Captains of industries, politicians, top businessmen and sports lovers are regular visitors there.

It is an elitist super-class networking facility. 

Apapa Boat Club

Apapa is arguably one of the finest mini-cities in Lagos due to its numerous creeks, islands and waterfronts, the mini-city of Apapa is sort of a ‘‘Jekyll and Hyde,’’ owing to the fact that it doubles as a tourist delight and a business haven.

It is a tourists’ delight and home to a beautiful coastal harbour and a business haven because it is home to the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) where all shipping businesses are handled. Flour Mills Nigeria Plc, a major producer of Nigerian Foods, BUA Oil, a major company with interests in crude and petroleum and other important chains of business are located close to it.

For fun lovers visiting the Apapa Boat Club is nothing short of the word ‘‘entertainment’’ because one gets the opportunity of participating in games like water skiing, boat racing, swimming etc. Another exciting thing in Apapa is the nightlife of its people. Nightlife in Apapa speaks for itself because of the presence of the club.

Eko Club

The listing of celebrity hangouts would be incomplete without mentioning Eko Club. The club, which is strictly for socialites of all hues, is located in the city of Surulere.

The Club was founded in 1974 and formally launched in May 1975 and its formation was rooted in the early days of Eko as Lagos Island is often referred to, charted the course of Lagos State and working in tandem with any governor for peaceful co-existence of the residents.

Lagos Yacht Club

Lagos Yacht club was founded in 1932 and is also one of the oldest social clubs in Lagos. The club is located right across the bridge leading to Victoria Island. Magazine Point was an ideal location for a sailing club not only because of its picturesque scenery, but also for its convenient location.

Membership of the club has continued to grow. Over the years the Club has been fortunate enough to have good leaders and careful managers.

Initially, the only committees were the Main Committee and the Sailing Committee. As the Club property became more substantial, facilities provided were expanded. Yacht racing is an exhilarating experience, but like most sports you need to know what you’re doing. If you have the ‘need for speed’ and water is your element, then the Lagos Yacht Club is the place for you. Becoming a member of the club is relatively cheaper than other clubs in this category. 

Since its founding in 1932, the basic elements of its precincts have not changed: the harbour, the sun, the wind, the rush and bustle of crews getting boats into the water.

Ikoyi Club

On September 29, 1938, Ikoyi Club 1938 officially came into being through the merger of the European Club and Lagos Golf Club.

The incorporation was entrusted to three nominated trustees namely, Sir Donald Kingdom, Henry Stewart, and David Duncan Gibb. The European Club was first located on the site of what was later known as the Ikoyi Hotel which was then Ikoyi Government Guest House, also known as the Catering Rest House.

The Lagos Golf Club moved from 18, Race Course Road to the present location in 1927, and at one time occupied the land on which the old Federal Secretariat Ikoyi now stands. Long after the amalgamation of the European Club and the Lagos Golf Club, the Ikoyi Club 1938 remained essentially an “expatriates club” run by top European Civil Servants and members of the business communities.

The Ikoyi Club 1938 has metamorphosed from its European only membership into one of the best examples of multiracial clubs in the world with membership drawn worldwide. 

Island Club of Lagos

Island Club was established on Friday, October 29, 1943, in Lagos Island and is one of the oldest multinational clubs in Nigeria.

The Club was established to create and promote interracial harmony in an otherwise discriminatory Lagos. It has grown from its original 50 members from different nationalities, races, religions and political orientations one of whom included the British Governor-General, Sir Arthur Richard, to over 7,000 members spread all over Nigeria. It has welcomed a lot of prominent entities from Presidents to Commissioners, Diplomats and so much more.

In its early stages of development, the club included such members of the Lagosian elite as politicians, lawyers, captains of industry, top military officers and other professionals. This is a leading social club with international and local influence notable for the contribution of its founding members towards Nigerian Independence Movement with Adeyemo Alakija as the first president.

Ikeja Golf Club

Ikeja Golf Club was founded in 1968 by some prominent Nigerians and expatriates such as: Mr. A. O. Sandey, then Commercial Manager, Nigerian Airways; Major Dickson, then Airport Commandant; Air Cdre Dan Suleiman, then Commanding Officer Nigeria Air Force Base, Pfizer, Bobby Benson and Mr. Felix Ibru.

Others were Chief A. Sandey, Mrs. Alakija, Dr Bailey, Duncan Blackwood, Chief Gilbert Olukoya, Chief Sunday Dankoro, John Brown (Pro), Albert Afun Ogidan, Captain John Obianyor and Baba Ahmed.

It started as a 6-hole Golf Course and finally took shape in 1969 when the Matchplay Championship Trophy was donated by Bobby Benson. The competition inspired the founding members to explore the developmental prospects of that time by selflessly committing themselves to ensuring that they succeeded at evolving an enviable golf Club as we have it today. The 6 holes ran from the present Ladies Tee-box, that is, from the road by the Squash Court, to the first brown and then running down to the second brown. Two (2) holes were on the Nigerian Airways’ football pitch.

At that time, only irons were used to Tee off and it was called the ‘pitch’ and ‘putt’ with a very small sized brown. These were managed until 1970 when the members decided to acquire the present day Golf Course under the stewardship of Mr. Sandey as the Chairman of the Implementation Subcommittee.

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