Businesswoman Crush -
Madame Tinubu

Efunporoye Osuntinubu Olumosa (often shortened to Efunroye Tinubu) was a shrewd and ambitious Nigerian business tycoon who wielded enormous economic power across Western Africa and political power in Abeokuta and Lagos. She is considered an important figure in West African history due to her political significance as a powerful female aristocrat of feudal Nigeria. She became the first Iyalode of the Egba clan and was able to build a small financial empire through trading in arms and salt. Tinubu Square in Lagos remains one of the major commercial hubs in the city, a lasting tribute to her success. She died in 1887.

Born in the Egba Land of the Yoruba people of West Africa at the beginning of the nineteenth century, Tinubu learned commerce from her grandmother, a successful trader. She also learned business skills from her mother, Nijeede, who had been a food seller. As a young woman Tinubu married a local man and bore him two sons, but she was widowed following the familyís migration to the town of Abeokuta in 1830. Shortly afterward she met Adele, a deposed king of Lagos, married him, and moved with her new husband and sons to the coastal town of Badagry, where Tinabu, using her husbandís connections, built a successful business empire trading salt and tobacco from Europeans for slaves from Abeokuta.

Unfortunately, Adele died just two years later in 1837, making Tinubu a widow for the second time. She helped install Adeleís son, Oluwole, as the new king and married his military advisor, Yesefu Bada. She also continued to expand her trade network by monopolizing slaves and palm oil, and offering firearms obtained from the Europeans, which increased her wealth during the Yoruba Wars of the 1840s and 1850s. After the accidental death of Oluwole, Tinubu arranged for her brother-in-law, Akintoye, to take the throne in Lagos. He in turn rewarded her with ownership of valuable stores in downtown Lagos. She made other investments in Lagosís business district and built a huge personal residence to reflect her new status. Tinubu was also rumored to own three hundred sixty personal slaves. By 1845, as European nations repudiated slavery and turned to commercial crops from West Africa, she expanded her empire by controlling the major new items of commerce: palm oil, coconut oil, and cotton. Tinubu now established foreign trade alliances and brokered deals with European and Brazilian political and military leaders. She was the major conduit in Lagos between European traders and merchants from throughout the Nigerian backcountry.

Although the British represented Tinubu as an inveterate slave trader and fierce opponent of abolition, she was committed more to the success of her own political factions and to African autonomy than she was to a particular kind of foreign trade. Tinubu is significant historically both for her own activities and achievements and as an unusually well-documented example of a type of powerful precolonial West African woman, too often obscured from the historical record.

While I don't condone the owning of slaves by anyone for any reason, I have to look at what Madame Tinubu was able to overcome her economic and social status, as well as, the loss of multiple husbands to make an impact economically and politically in West Africa.

Learn more about Madame Tinubu at the links below.

Sources:
Wikipedia - Tinubu
Black Past - Tinubu
Original People - Tinubu


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