Madam Efunroye Tinubu was a giant amongst men.
It is said that Egba people in the Yoruba tribe are very industrious people.
It is because of their hard work that they end up influential, powerful and wealthy.
The 19th century businesswoman Madam Efunroye Tinubu exemplifies this belief. In her time she was the wealthiest woman in the Yoruba kingdom.
Not only did she have wealth, she was influential and a kingmaker.
Her story starts circa 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.
Her first marriage produced two sons but her first husband soon died. As a widow and single mother, she took to business and was successful thanks to her grandmother and mother who were business women.
In 1833 Tinubu married for the second time. She married Prince Adele of Lagos who was in exile. She moved with her new husband to a place called Agbadarigi (Badagry) in Lagos. Unfortunately she lost her two sons to malaria there.
Fortune soon smiled on Madam Tinubu. 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 in arms, ammunition. She established a profitable trade in tobacco and salt. Most importantly she became a slave trader.
Now Queen of Lagos she used her royal authority to solidify her business empire.
Four 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 and influence she helped install Adele's son Oluwole as the new Oba of Lagos. She then married for the third time, 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 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. It was said she had 360 slaves of her own. She also built a might residence for herself at this time to reflect her position in Lagos. At this period Madam Tinubu invested in coconut oil and cotton also. She was a power broker in deals with foreign nations.
Her monopoly and control of power was broken in May of 1856 when she challenged the British Consul Benjamin Campbell.
Tinubu was not a fan of Mr. Campbell who she believed was interfering in the sovereignty of Lagos and the royal authority. She tried to oust the British man but failed.
On May of 1856 the British consul confronted Madam Tinubu with gunboats forcing her to exile Lagos.
She went back to Egba, her origin. Madam Tinubu's business continued to flourish and she was given the title of Iyalode of Egbaland. This was a title she was never given in Lagos.
She died in 1887. The famous Tinubu Square in Lagos is named after her.
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