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Nzekwe Gerald Uchenn @NzekweGerald
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HISTORY - With Nzekwe Gerald Uchenna


Efunroye Tinubu was a king maker, Business tycoon and Slave Trader.

She is among the most Prominent/Powerful Yoruba women Born in Abeokuta (also known as Egbaland) in Yorubaland, Nigeria.
It is said that Egba people in the Yoruba tribe are very powerful and industrious people.

It is because of their hard work that they end up influential, Powerful and wealthy.

The 19th century business-woman Madam Efunroye Tinubu exemplifies this belief.
In her time she was the wealthiest woman in the Yoruba kingdom.
And the woman who would be make kings.

Not only did she have wealth, she was influential, a kingmaker and Owns so much lands.

Madam Tinubu Owns the Land were LUTH is:

She had many farmlands and plantations in Lagos. The land on with Lagos University Teaching Hospital was built was a part of Madam Tinubu’s estate.
She Owns Igbobi College Land:

Her vast kolanut plantation at Yaba was called Igbo-Obi ( Kolanut Plantation) and the school built on part of the 32 acres of land from her estate taken from this farm by the missionaries was called Igbobi college.
Tinubu Square:

Tinubu Square in Lagos and surrounding lands were also a part of her estate.

And also many houses on mainland Lagos as well.

Though, She hails from Egbaland (Abeokuta), but became so powerful in Lagos.
Let's take a look at the life of this extraordinary Woman.
Madam Efunroye Tinubu's Life:

Her story starts in 1805 when she was born in the heart of Egbaland, Ojokodo.
Her father's name was Olumosa and her mother's name was Nijeede.
Her full name is Osuntinubu because it was believed she was gotten from the water goddess Osun.
As a Young woman Madam Tinubu married a Local man, this was her first marriage,the Union produced two sons.
Not too long, her first husband died.

As a widow and single mother, she took to business and was successful thanks to her grandmother and mother who were business women.
Shortly afterwards, in 1833, Tinubu met Adele a deposed King of Lagos.
She married for the second time.
She married King Adele of Lagos who was in exile.
She moved-in with her new husband and her two Sons to a Coastal place called Agbadarigi (Badagry) in Lagos.
Unfortunately she lost her two sons to malaria there.
While at Badagry, Prince Adele was Temporarily recognized as ruler.

Fortune soon smiled on Madam Tinubu: her husband Prince Adele won the right to the throne and he became the Oba of Lagos.
Also by the time she moved to Lagos, she had expanded her business.
She started dealing on arms and ammunition.
She also established a profitable trade in tobacco and salt.

Most importantly she became a slave trader.
Madam Tinubu arrived in Badagry at a time when the illegal Atlantic slave trade Business was at its peak on the eastern Slave Coast.

By this time,the Slave Trading Business was a highly profitable venture. And as such, Madam Tinubu keyed into the Nefarious lucrative Business.
After She lost her two Sons, she used two slaves, allegedly a gift from her father, to trade between Abeokuta and the coast in slaves and other commodities.

Madam Tinubu was Never again blessed with children, she invested her growing income in tobacco, Palm Oil and salt.
She later expanded her trade to include Slaves who she sold to European slave traders.

As a shrewd businesswoman, Madam Tinubu became the most important middleman in trade between Europeans and the Yorubaland interior by creating large trading networks.
Madam Tinubu’s wealth and connections led her to meddle in politics.

Her portfolio included a near monopoly on many commodities traded in Lagos between Europeans and the natives.
She enjoyed monopoly on Commodities such as gold, spice, salt, tobacco, slaves, guns & ammunition.
She also traded in cotton and profited from the shortage of supply to Europe from Northern America.

As a trusted broker between two continents, Europeans gave her merchandise on credit for future barter exchange. This credit line was a major factor to her wealth.
As Queen Of Lagos:

As Queen of Lagos, She used her royal authority to solidify her business empire.

Ironically, Four (4) years after marrying Oba Adele and two years after he became king, Madam Tinubu became a widow again as the Lagos monarch passed away untimely.
Her Marriage with Oba Adele produced No children,Although the king had children from other marriages.

Using her Power/Influence she helped install Adele's son Oluwole as the new Oba of Lagos.

She then Married for the third time, to Yesufu Bada who was Oluwole's Military adviser
Madam Tinubu continued to grow her business and created a monopoly in the palm oil business and in slave trade as-well.

The ammunition she got from selling slaves were used in the Yoruba wars of 1840s and 1850s.
Her business acumen in this area made her very rich and powerful.
Death soon struck again. The Oba of Lagos Oluwole died.
This time around Madam Tinubu got her brother-in-law Akitoye to become king.

In return, he gave her important stores in a choice area of Lagos.

At this time Madam Tinubu had reached the Peak of her powers.
With her trade and wealth, she was able to lend support to military efforts, which in turn made her more powerful.
Although she was not from Lagos, she was seriously meddling in Lagos politics.
In 1846, King Akintoye of Lagos faced exile and sought refuge in Badagry, Being the woman that she was, Madam Tinubu ignited and supported a movement to return King Akintoye to regain the throne he had lost, she was Successful. King Akintoye was returned back as Oba.
In 1851, after regaining his throne King Akintoye invited Madam Tinubu to Lagos where she further expanded her business and political activities.
Due to her influence in Akintoye’s court, rumours abounded that Madam Tinubu was the real power behind the throne.
Madam Tinubu’s influence was such that when Prince Dosunmu succeeded King Akintoye, she continued to hold a space in Lagos politics.

It was said she had 360 slaves of her own.
She also built a mighty residence for herself at this time to reflect her position in Lagos.
this period Madam Tinubu invested in coconut oil and cotton Business more.

Her Exile Out off Lagos:

Her monopoly and control of power was broken in May of 1856 when she challenged the British Consul Benjamin Campbell.
In 1855, Madam Tinubu took a stance against the British in their efforts to further flex their colonial muscles into Yorubaland she spearheaded a campaign against Brazilian and Sierra Leonean immigrants in Lagos who she felt were actively trying to oppose the King ...
and did not respect local customs. Apparently, her actions against these immigrants worried the British (who had been keeping an eye on her since she helped King Akintoye regain his throne).
By supporting the local king and insisting that foreign residents respect local customs, Madam Tinubu’s activities were getting in the way of British colonial and mission policies.
Madam Tinubu had a negative attitude to the presence of the British in Lagos and resented the British Consul Benjamin Campbell whom She believed was interfering in the sovereignty of Lagos and the royal authority.
The British consul too also disliked her for her reservations towards British presence in Lagos as well as her dominant influence of the trade routes from the ports to the coastal cities and interiors by extension.
Consul Campbell’s goal was to have Lagos ceded to the British and he knew it was impossible for if Tinubu was around. She had enough wealth to mobilize an army and had great influence with European merchants enough to request mercenary fighters and warships.
He plotted to turn her against Oba Dosumu as well as break her monopoly rights to commodity brokerage.
His first move was to restrict the ‘iwofa’ system where a lender could use his son/daughter as collateral for a loan.
Failure to pay, she becomes a property of the creditor. Madam Tinubu had many iwofas at the time and as such, the law was to her disadvantage financially.
Another attempt through the help of another British called Sandman was to finance many saros settled at certain quarters of Lagos to compete and trade in similar commodities dominated by her. in retaliation, Madam Tinubu schemed to get rid of Campbell, the Europeans and Saros.
In the year 1856, she launched a FAILED campaign against her adversaries, And Oba Dosumu ordered the arrest of Yesufu ( her husband) for playing a major role in the campaign.

Tinubu escaped to her farm at Ebute Metta and later fled to her hometown at Egba.
At her exit from Lagos, traders rejoiced to see her go, quite elated by the deregulation of the commodity market bound to take effect after her exit. That same year, Dosumu signed a treaty that ceded Lagos to the British.
Madam Tinubu Back at EgbaLand:

She went back to Egba, her origin.
Madam Tinubu's business continued to flourish.
While at Abeokuta, she traded gunpowder, bullets and other firearms (she also traded in palm oil and food produced on her massive plantations).
She concerned herself with the Abeokuta-Dahomey wars that were taking place at that time, and by doing so, She became involved in Egba politics.
The Egba Vs Dahomey War:

King Gezo, the warrior king of Dahomey ascended the throne in a palace coup and rebelled against Oyo.

For over 100 years, Dahomey paid tribute to Oyo after the defeat of Dahomey by Alaafin Ojigi about 100 years earlier.
Gezo refused to pay the annual tribute and ordered the execution of ambassadors from Oyo. Oyo sent soldiers to suppress the rebellion. Gezo defeated the soldiers and Calvary from Oyo, captured the charismatic general, Balogun Ajanaku and had him executed.
By such defeat of Oyo, Gezo became the strongest monarch in the region and launched a campaign into the coastal areas into the heartlands of Yoruba kingdoms close to the coast. After conquering Mahi and Ketu, he set his eyes on Egba.
Legends of Gezo’s victory and his desperation for expansion indeed worried Egba citizens but the stood up bravely to defend their ancestral home.
The Brave-Heart and nationalist who would later rise to the occasion was Madam Efunroye Tinubu.
The war started about 4 years before her relocation from Lagos but lasted for 8 years after.

She financed the war, built an arsenal in her courts, imported arms/ammunitions and enlisted soldiers in her payroll. Throughout the war, she fed the soldiers.
She was constantly in the battlefields as well monitoring progress. Dahomey lost to Egba in 1864 with a casualty of about 10,000 soldiers, many of them female amazons. Egba’s victory checkmated Dahomey’s expansion into Yorubaland.
In honor of Madam Tinubu and her contribution to the welfare of Egbaland, she was awarded a chieftancy title of ‘Iyalode of Egbaland.’
This was a title she was never given in Lagos.
Her Later Stands Against Slave Trade:

Some believe it was While in Abeokuta that Madam Tinubu developed and adopted a staunchly anti-British stance.
She eventually stopped selling slaves to the Europeans, it seems,after she learnt of the ‘evils of transatlantic slavery’...
that is, the differences between the treatment of domestic slaves and those sold to the Europeans.
She fought European slave traders to liberate slaves in Lagos.
However there is No mention if Madam Tinubu liberated the slaves she owned when she became anti-imperialist
Madam Efunroye Tinubu died in 1887.

Monuments in her Honor:

Today, Madam Tinubu has several monuments dedicated to her, in Abeokuta, Lagos etc, such as;
- One Stands ‘in the town square named after her Ita Iyalode.

- The famous Tinubu Square in Lagos is named after her.
- Madam Tinubu Hall in University of Lagos

And so so many more.

The End...

Sources: Nigerian People and Culture , Onigegewura, Pulse Nigeria Gist, Awon Omo Oduduwa

#Nzekwe Gerald Uchenna (NGU)
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