Women in Power: Madame Efunroye Tinubu-1st Iyalode of Egba land.
The amazing thing about legends and myths is this,apart from the fact the stories have been passed down from one generation to another, and facts are either added to or taken away from it…It’s true,they once existed on the same earth we are walking.Great men and women who possess some metaphysical powers,rare knowledge and at the same time have exhibited some very rare form of courage and bravery.
Unlike most people of her time,she was born with the responsibility to lead a new world order,she was a mother,a business woman,a warrior and also a king maker.Brilliant,energetic,fearless,she even toppled governments at that time and fought one on one with the Brazilian and British colonial masters…
The history of Lagos is never complete without her,and the Egba (Abeokuta) will always remember her.Her reign was between Lagos,Abeokuta and Badagry
|Born around 1805 at Ijokodo in Egba forest. Ijokodo was in Gbagura home stead of the Egba. Her father’s name was Olumosa and her mother’s name was Nijeede. The name of Nijeede’s mother was Osunsola(Efunroye’s Grandmother) who was a big trader in her days. She sold herbs, barks and root of trees and skin of animals. Nijeede usually followed her mother to the coast on trading trips, and on one of these trips in which they were in a canoe coming back from the coast, she began to labour( she was pregnant at that time). She was delivered of the child right there in the canoe and on the naming ceremony she was named Efunporoye by her father and Osuntinubu by her mother and the name Osuntinubu stemmed from the belief that it was the goddess Osun who gave her the child from the depths of the river. The name was broken-down to Osun-ti-inu-ibu-wa, “Osun goddess has come right from the depths of the water (to present this baby to us).The war of dispersion started in 1821 and resulted in the fall of orile Owu (Owu Homestead), as well as the sacking of several Egba townships which spread to Egba original homeland. Some of the towns that fell were Gbagura township, Ojokodo and Ido and during this Nijeede and her two children Sobowale and Osuntinubu were staying at Ojokodo. Because of this war, several Egba townships, under Sodeke’s leadership migrated to re-settle in Abeokuta.About 150 of them moved and finally found refuge under Olumo Rock at Abeokuta. Tinubu had been married to an Owu man and had two sons. 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. One day as she went out to collect some leaves, an Ifa priest begged her for water and she gave him and also fed him some cornmeal which she brought for her son. The Ifa man was surprised, thanked her and promised to visit her. He did and gave her some charms to use and told her she would become a wealthy person in due course, she became wealthy but she didn’t get the message that the charm would make her childless (as both of her sons later died when she got to Badagry).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 married 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. She had no child for him.
She married a minor chief warrior Yesufu Bada,and also Momoh Bukar an Arabic scholar of Bornu origin but both unions were childless Since she could no longer bear children, she faced her business squarely. 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 which was the period of slave trade and war item. Also a credit system was introduced where foreign slave buyers did not need to bring hard currency to do business. They merely exchanged goods like cloth, gin and tobacco for slaves.
The African Times of 23rd April 1862 said Trust (credit) system only served to enable the unprincipled native trader to obtain large goods. Her business manifested into land holdings limited to Lagos Island. She bought land from the then Oloto at Alakara ,Asimowu stream on the south side and Idi Oro on north side and stretched to the present papa Ajao, the land also includes the present Igbobi, Idi-Araba, Idi-oro, Alakara. She had her kolanut farm where the present Lagos University Teaching Hospital is built and it was later bought from the Tinubu family for 11,700 (N23,400). 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.
Madame Tinubu 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. Only her family and house hold members knew about her illness, it is reported that her death fell on a Friday and was received with shock by the high and low in Abeokuta. It was said that she had told her family members she should be buried at her maternal compound at Ojokodo area in Abeokuta where her mother had been buried.
The tales and exploits of the great Madame Tinubu still re-echo 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.
Growing up I remember this song that was sang in her honour.
SONG-Efunroye Tinubu Iya olola ni Iya waa
Egbe leyin omo oru kan,Eko o ni gba gbe re,fun Ise rigbi rigbi ti o se
Egba Olumo a san e ooo Eko ni gba gbere rara.
Efunroye Tinubu our great mother,wealthy and strong
A backbone for the orphaned,Lagos will not forget you for the great works you’ve done
Egba Olumo will protect you,Lagos will never tolerate any rubbish