Madam Efunroye Tinubu

Madam Efunroye Tinubu was born around 1805 at Ijokodo in Egba Forest. Her father’s name was Olumosa and her mother’s name was Nijeede. Efunroye was delivered on a journey in the canoe and at the naming ceremony she was named Efunroye by her father and Osuntinubu by her mother. The name Osuntinubu stemmed from the belief that it was the goddess Osun who gave her the child from the depths of the river. Osuntinubu followed her mother alongside her brother to Abeokuta after the 1821 war that broke out in which several villages fell.

Tinubu got married to an Owu man who she had two sons for. The young family moved to Abeokuta as well. Shortly after moving to Abeokuta, her husband and her mother died. Since she had learnt the rudiments of trading from her mother and grandmother she proceeded to fall back on the experience and started to collect leaves and barks of trees for her trade. Tinubu had the Midas touch, anything she touched turned to success and she began making sufficient money with the help of her father. During her cause for leaf collection, she met an Ifa priest who gave her some charms to use and told her she would become a wealthy person in due course.

Tinubu became wealthy but she didn’t get the message that the charm would make her childless. She found herself an object of attraction to Prince Adele who was visiting Abeokuta on a goodwill visit in 1833. She was a widow then. She accepted the Prince’s hand in marriage and moved to Badagry. When leaving Abeokuta for Badagry she took her two sons with her. The two sons died while in Badagry from malaria; Badagry being so mosquito infested at that time. The charm prepared by the Ifa priest was later revealed to her as an unusual one. Thus, she was wealthy, but it was at the expense of child bearing which the Ifa priest did not disclose to her because not many people subject themselves to its use. Her marriage to Adele and her arrival in Badagry brought her to limelight of politics and commerce. Efunroye Tinubu came to Lagos for the first time when her husband Adele became Oba but his reign was brief because he died in 1837 without her bearing him any child.

Her marriage to Adele and movement to Badagry brought her a relief. She started her trade from Abeokuta to Badagry which was mainly on foot then and she sold items like salt and tobacco. On arrival in Lagos in 1835 she engaged in trading in war items, this was also the period of slave trading. As a shrewd businesswoman, Madam Tinubu became the most important middleman in trade between Europeans and the Yorubaland interior by creating large trading networks. Her business manifested into land holdings on Lagos Island. She bought land from the then Oloto at Alakara, Asimowu stream on the South side and Idi Oro on the North side and it stretched to the present Papa Ajao, the land also includes the present Igbobi, Idi-Araba, Idi-oro, Alakara.

Madam Tinubu became the first Iyalode of the Egba clan due to the financial empire she had built through trading in arms and salt. She is considered an important figure in West African history because of her political significance as a powerful female aristocrat of feudal Nigeria. She had her kolanut farm where the present Lagos University Teaching Hospital is built and it was later bought from the Tinubu family. At Abeokuta, she owned a large land in Ita-Iyalode (Iyalode plaza). Her commercial empire had become so successful that by the year 1855 she had few rivals among the traders in Lagos.

She came into political limelight when Akintoye and Kosoko (Nephew and uncle) engaged in a battle struggling for the throne of Lagos where Madam Tinubu supplied Akintoye’s forces with arms and ammunition. Akintoye regained his throne on Thursday January 1, 1852.

Tinubu was an active adversary of the British Colonial Government of what is now Nigeria. She became an active opponent to all slave trading, having realised the relative differences between domestic slaving and the inhumane treatment of slaves in Europe and the Americas. She enjoyed good health throughout her years in Badagry, Lagos and Abeokuta. There is no record of her having health problems. In the last quarter of 1887 she stopped attending meetings of the Alake and Council of Chiefs of which she was a member by virtue of being the Iyalode of Egbaland.

In the year 1887 on the 1st of December, she was said to have fallen ill and in the afternoon of the following day she breathed her last. She was buried at her maternal compound at Ojokodo area in Abeokuta where her mother had been buried. The tales and exploits of the great Madam Tinubu still re-echos in Lagos, Abeokuta and Badagry till this present day. Her Statues in Lagos can be found at the Tinubu’s Square on the Lagos Island and also at the Tinubu square in Abeokuta.

Madam Tinubu is remembered and celebrated by DAWN Commission for her heroism in Yoruba history.

– Adeyinka Grandson’s wall

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