Efunroye Tinubu

Madam Efunroye Tinubu (c. 1810 – 1887), born Efunporoye Osuntinubu[1], was a politically significant figure in Nigerian history because of her role as a powerful female aristocrat and slave trader in pre-colonial and colonial Nigeria.[2][3][4] She was a major figure in Lagos during the reigns of Obas Adele, Oluwole, Akitoye, and Dosunmu.

Madam Efunroye Tinubu

Life and careerEdit

Early lifeEdit

Tinubu was born in the Ojokodo forest area of Egbaland. Her father's name was Olumosa.[1] She was allegedly of Owu ancestry, either through her maternal or paternal side.[1] Madam Tinubu was reportedly married multiple times. Her first marriage was to an Owu man. It bore two sons.[5] After her Owu husband died, she remarried the exiled Oba Adele Ajosun in 1833 who, while visiting Abeokuta, was charmed by Tinubu. She moved with the exiled Oba to Badagry, which was traditionally the place of refuge for Lagos monarchs. At Badagry, she exploited Adele's connections to build a formidable business trading in tobacco, salt, and slaves.[6]


The exiled Oba Adele was still in Badagry when his successor, Oba Idewu, died. Prince Kosoko, Idewu Ojulari's brother, was a major contender for the now vacant throne. Eletu Odibo, the chief kingmaker, thwarted Kosoko's aspiration and Adele was invited by him to become Oba again.[7] Tinubu accompanied Adele to Lagos, but the Oba died 2 years later. After Adele's death in 1837, Tinubu reportedly supported Oluwole (her stepson) in his bid for the Obaship of Lagos over that of Kosoko's.[8][9]

Oba Oluwole had recurring conflicts with Kosoko, who felt that he was the true heir to the throne.[7] Consequently, Kosoko was banished to Ouidah. During Oluwole's reign, Madam Tinubu remarried one Yesufu Bada, alias Obadina, who was Oluwole's war captain and with the support of Oluwole, Tinubu and Yesufu's trading activities in Egbaland grew .[10]

When Oluwole died in 1841, Tinubu supported Akitoye (her brother in law) in his bid for the Obaship over Kosoko's.[8] After Akitoye emerged Oba, he granted Tinubu favorable commercial concessions.[6] Against the wish of his chiefs, Akitoye invited Kosoko back to Lagos and tried to placate him. Soon thereafter, Kosoko dislodged Akitoye from the throne. Considering Tinubu's alliance with Akitoye, she and other Akitoye supporters fled to Badagry when Kosoko became Oba in 1845.[11] As a wealthy woman, Madam Tinubu was able to influence economic and political decisions during her time in Badagry. She tried to rally Akitoye's supporters to wage war against Kosoko.[10]

In December 1851 and under the pretext of abolishing slavery, the British bombarded Lagos, dislodged Kosoko from the throne, and installed a more amenable Akitoye as Oba of Lagos. Though Akitoye signed a treaty with Britain outlawing the slave trade, Tinubu subverted the 1852 treaty[12] and secretly traded slaves for guns with Brazilians and Portuguese traders.[13] Further, she obtained a tract of land from Akitoye which now constitutes part of the present-day Tinubu Square and Kakawa Street. Later, a conflict developed between Tinubu and some slave traders including Possu, a Kosoko loyalist. Consequently, Possu, Ajenia, and other traders tried to instigate an uprising against Akitoye because of Madam Tinubu's influence in Lagos. In the interest of peace, Benjamin Campbell, the British Consul in Lagos, asked Akitoye to exile Tinubu [14]. After Akitoye died, Tinubu returned to Lagos and gave her support to his successor, Dosunmu. Under Dosunmu's reign Tinubu had a massive security force composed of slaves and she sometimes executed orders usually given by the king. As a result, Dosunmu grew wary of her influence in Lagos.[10] A new development was the colonial government's support for the return of repatriated captives (mostly of Yoruba heritage) to settle in Lagos. Many of the returnees, also called Saro, were favored by the British in commerce and soon began dominating legitimate trade in Lagos.[15]

In 1855, when Campbell traveled to England, Tinubu tried to influence Dosunmu to limit the influence of the returnees. Dosunmu was noncommittal to her request and consequently, Tinubu was alleged to have played a part in an uprising against the returnees in which her husband, Yesufu Bada, was a major participant.[16] When Campbell returned in 1856, he asked Dosunmu to banish Tinubu. In May 1856, Tinubu was banished to Abeokuta.[17]>[11]


In Abeokuta, Madam Tinubu traded in arms and supplied Abeokuta with munitions in the war against Dahomey. Her activities in the war earned her the chieftaincy title of the Iyalode of all of Egbaland.[11] While in Abeokuta, she allegedly opposed colonial policies in Lagos.[18] In 1865, a fire engulfed the shops of some traders including some of her properties in Abeokuta. This doesn't appear to have weakened her financially, however.[18] Tinubu became involved in Abeokuta king-making activities as well, supporting Prince Oyekan over Ademola for the Alake of Egbaland's title in 1879.[citation needed]

Personal lifeEdit

Tinubu appears to have had another marriage with one Momoh Bukar, an Arabic scholar.[19] Momoh's children from other wives later adopted the Tinubu name.

Death and legacyEdit

Tinubu died in 1887.[20] Tinubu Square on Lagos Island, a place previously known as Independence Square, is named after her. Ita Tinubu (Tinubu's precinct or Tinubu Square) had long been known by that name before the country's independence, but it was renamed Independence Square by the leaders of the First Republic.

She was buried at Ojokodo Quarters in Abeokuta.[21]

Opinions on the Trans-Atlantic Slave TradeEdit

Some publications[22][23] have asserted without any substantiation that Madam Tinubu became a changed person after learning about the evils of the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade.[24][25][26]

However, an often cited hagiography about Madam Tinubu by Oladipo Yemitan paints a different picture of an unapologetic and profit minded stance.

On one occasion, during her final sojourn in Abeokuta, she was alleged to have sold a young boy into slavery and was accused of it. When arraigned before Ogundipe Alatise over the matter, she reportedly explained: 'I have a large house-hold and I must feed them well. I need money to do that, that's why'.

— Oladipo. Yemitan, 'Madame Tinubu: Merchant and King-maker'[27]

Another section of Yemitan's Tinubu biography, referred to as the Amadie-Ojo Affair, captures a slave trading deal gone sour in 1853 (notably after the 1852 Treaty abolishing slavery in Lagos) wherein Madam Tinubu tells another slave trader (Domingo Martinez) that "she would rather drown the slaves [20 in number] than sell them at a discount". [28]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c Adams 2002, p. 6.
  2. ^ Bonnie G. Smith (2004). Women's History in Global Perspective, Volume 3. University of California, Berkeley (University of Illinois Press). p. 40. ISBN 9780252072345.
  3. ^ "Madam Tinubu: Inside the political and business empire of a 19th century heroine". The Nation. Retrieved July 29, 2016.
  4. ^ Judybee (2011). Madam Tinubu: Queens of Africa. MX Publishing. ISBN 978-1-908-2185-82.
  5. ^ "Women in Power: Madame Efunroye Tinubu-1st Iyalode of Egba land". Asiri. Retrieved 23 December 2016.
  6. ^ a b Qeturah. "Madam Tinubu". Guardian Life. Retrieved 23 December 2016.
  7. ^ a b Adams 2002, p. 7.
  8. ^ a b Kaplan, Flora S. Queens, queen mothers, priestesses, and power: case studies in African gender. New York Academy of Sciences, 1997. p. 8. ISBN 9781573310543.
  9. ^ Nelson & McCracken. Order and disorder in Africa: papers of the A.S.A.U.K. Biennial Conference, hosted by the Centre of Commonwealth Studies, University of Stirling, 8-10 September 1992, Volume 1. SOAS, University of London, 1992. p. 26.
  10. ^ a b c Adams 2002, p. 8.
  11. ^ a b c Akioye, Seun. "Madam Tinubu: Inside the political and business empire of a 19th century heroine". The Nation. Missing or empty |url= (help)
  12. ^ Smith, Robert (January 1979). The Lagos Consulate, 1851-1861. University of California Press, 1979. pp. 73–74. ISBN 9780520037465.
  13. ^ Johnson-Odim 1978, p. 80.
  14. ^ Fasinro 2004, p. 83.
  15. ^ Johnson-Odim 1978, p. 82.
  16. ^ Johnson-Odim 1978, p. 83.
  17. ^ Johnson-Odim 1978, p. 84.
  18. ^ a b Johnson-Odim 1978, p. 87.
  19. ^ Yemitan, Oladipo. Madame Tinubu: Merchant and King-maker. University Press, 1987. pp. 9–10.
  20. ^ Foster, Hannah. "Tinubu, Madam Efunroye (ca. 1805-1887)". The Black Past. Retrieved 29 October 2014.
  21. ^ Yemitan, Oladipo. Madame Tinubu: Merchant and King-maker. University Press, 1987. p. 72.
  22. ^ "After making a fortune in the slave trade, this african woman ended it". Push Black. Retrieved 3 July 2018.
  23. ^ Wilson, Kimberly. "The Root Disruptors: 11 Black Women Who Changed History". The Root. Retrieved 3 July 2018.
  24. ^ Jubril Olabode Aka (2012). Nigerian Women of Distinction, Honour and Exemplary Presidential Qualities: Equal Opportunities for All Genders (White, Black Or Coloured People). Trafford Publishing. p. 19. ISBN 9781466915541.
  25. ^ Catherine Eagleton; Harcourt Fuller; John Perkins (2009). Money in Africa (Issue 171 of British Museum Research Publication). London: British Museum. p. 47. ISBN 9780861591718. ISSN 1747-3640.
  26. ^ Charles Chinedu Lion Agwumezie (2010). The Sins of Our Fore-Fathers. America. ISBN 978-1-456-0589-75.
  27. ^ Yemitan, Oladipo. Madame Tinubu: Merchant and King-maker. University Press, 1987. p. 28.
  28. ^ Yemitan, Oladipo. Madame Tinubu: Merchant and King-maker. University Press, 1987. p. 21.


  • Gloria Chuku, "Tinubu, Efunroye," Dictionary of African Biography, Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Emmanuel K. Akyeampong, eds. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008)
  • "Tinubu, Madame (1805-1887)," New Encyclopedia of Africa, John Middleton and Joseph C. Miller, eds., 2nd ed. Vol. 5 (Detroit: Charles Scribner's Sons, 2008)
  • Adams, Lawal Babatunde (2002). The history, people and culture of Ita-Tinubu community. Lagos: Tinubu Foundation.
  • Fasinro, Hassan Adisa Babatunde (2004). Political and cultural perspectives of Lagos. University of Michigan.
  • Johnsonn-Odim, Cheryl (1978). "3". Nigerian women and British colonialism : the Yoruba example with selected biographies (Thesis). Northwestern University.

External linksEdit