Madam Efunroye Tinubu, Iyalode of Egbaland (c.1805-1887).

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. As a young woman Tinubu married a local man and bore him two sons, but she was widowed following the family’s 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 Adele was temporarily recognized as ruler.

Tinubu arrived in Badagry at a time when the then illegal Atlantic slave trade was peaking on the eastern Slave Coast. Although her sons soon died, she used two slaves, allegedly a gift from her father, to trade between Abeokuta and the coast in slaves and other commodities. Never again blessed with children, she invested her growing income from trade in slaves and other retainers, beginning the process of amassing personal followers and expanding her commercial operations.

In 1835, Adele was invited back to Lagos to become king once again, and Tinubu accompanied him as a royal wife. Following her husband’s death two years later, she married Yesefu Bada (also known as Obadina), a successful Muslim warrior and favored retainer of the new king, Oluwole , ensuring Tinubu continued access to the commercial and other advantages associated with royal patronage.

In the bitter succession dispute between Akitoye and Kosoko that followed Oluwole’s death in 1841, Tinubu and Obadina actively supported Akitoye, who was initially crowned king but was defeated in 1845 and forced with his followers into exile at Badagry. Throughout these years of political turmoil, Tinubu seized opportunities to expand her trade and build a large and powerful household of slaves and other retainers. She also took a keen interest in Islam, which was spreading in Lagos.

When in 1851 the British, encouraged by Akitoye , bombarded Lagos, deposed Kosoko, and reinstated Akitoye as king in the name of ending the Atlantic slave trade and developing new kinds of commerce, Tinubu returned to the town. A fierce defender of African interests and autonomy, she soon ran afoul of the British, however, and was eventually driven by them out of Lagos and into exile at Abeokuta. There Tinubu reestablished a large household and used her slaves and retainers to produce and trade palm produce, a new export, and other commodities. She also began exercising considerable influence in politics in Abeokuta and was eventually recognized as the iyalode, or leading female chief, in the town.

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.

Vintage Nigeria


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Functions Of An Oba In Ancient Yorubaland

By: Bola Olalekan

Oba is a Yoruba term for King, an Oba is the monarchical head of government in ancient Yorubaland. Some Obas ruled supreme over their kingdoms and subjects with unchecked powers while some had checks and balances like the great Old Oyo Empire (OOE), some have their powers checked as a result of their tributary status to OOE.

Their titles vary amongst clans in Yorubaland, for example, the Oba of Oyo is called ‘Alaafin of Oyo’ (Man of the palace at Oyo), some Obas’ titles are attributes to their land, examples are Oluwo of Iwo, Osolo of Isolo and so forth.

There are first class and second class Obas. First class Obas are of the ancient Yoruba kingdoms that had been in existence since the primordial era, the Alaafin, Ooni of Ife, Alake of Egbaland, Eleko of Eko (Oba of Lagos) are all first class Oba.

Second class Obas are the Obas of less popular kingdoms in Yorubaland, the first class and second class Oba do wear beaded crowns and royal regalia, they also hold ‘Irukere’ (fly-whisk).

There are Baale (Father of the land) who are mainly viceroys and do not wear crown as they are affiliates and their towns are tributary to neighbouring Oba.

An Oba title is not necessarily hereditary in Yorubaland, apart from OOE where The Oyomesi cabinet is chooser of Oba, the common method is, once an Oba dies, the Olu-awo (Head of Ifa) of the kingdom is consulted by the Ijoyes (Chiefs) to follow ancestral means of choosing the next Oba, the Olu-awo would consult the Orisa of different deities and after some rigorous sacrifices and rituals, he (Olu-Awo) would pronounce whom is next to become the Oba.

An ancient Oba in Yorubaland would normally be the wealthiest, most influential and most important personality. They enjoyed life to the extreme, Yoruba would often say ‘Oun je aiye oloba’ (living the life of a king) if someone is living flamboyantly.

The Obas of course had many responsibilities and privileges that come with their high-status role. As divine Obas, they had access to special powers and extraordinary wisdom to carry out their thoughtful tasks.

An ancient Oba would have a lot of privileges among them would be ‘gbese le’ (the act of an Oba putting his leg on a kneeling woman’s shoulder). An ancient Oba could marry any woman at anytime, all he needed to do was to gbese le (oral history states this is quite uncommon). That gesture signifies ownership and marriage to the woman. If an Oba was on his forecourt, any citizen who walked pass must stop to greet him. Therefore, any beautiful woman that catches his eyes might become his wife.

In this case, if the woman was married, an ‘Aroko’ (material message) would be sent to the husband to indicate the divorce and remarry of his wife, he would however though be compensated.

Husbands would warn their wives to avoid the palace, not being disrespectful to the Oba, but to avoid the occurrence of ‘gbese le’

Ancient Obas were highly respected and were often referred to as ‘igbakeji Orisa’ (second to the supreme deity), an order of an Oba is of high magnitude and must be strictly adhered to, anyone who flouted their laws might be executed as shown in this saying: “Eni ba foju di oba, Awowo awo” (Awowo would wreck those who disobey Oba).

Awowo was a machete used to execute those who disobeyed the Obas in Ancient Yorubaland.
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I missed the counsel of late Egba chiefs –Alake

The Alake and paramount ruler of Egbaland, Oba Adedotun Gbadebo, has said he missed the contributions of three prominent Egba chiefs – Akogun, Lisa and Otun – whose vacant positions have yet to be filled, four years after the demise of the title holders.

The monarch said this on Friday while receiving chiefs from Oke Ona, who came to him with a complaint that though they had selected those to occupy the positions, they had yet to get official approval from the monarch and the state government.

The late chiefs were Chief Harold Sodipo (Akogun of Egbaland), Chief Adebisi Macgregor (Lisa of Egbaland) and Chief Adekoyejo Majekodunmi (Otun of Egbaland).

Oba Gbadebo noted that he was the most affected by the absence of substantive Akogun, Lisa and Otun, because their counsel as members of the chieftaincy committee of Egbaland, would move Egbaland forward.

He said, “I missed the counsel of the three chiefs at our monthly meetings. Their counsel will definitely help, as two good heads are better than one.”

Oba Gbadebo who said he had received series of letters from the Oke Ona chiefs on the matter, assured them that he would forward the minutes of the meeting to the Osile of Oke Ona, Oba Adedapo Tejuoso, and the state Governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, for them to expedite action on the issue.

Some of the chiefs from Oke Ona, who spoke to our correspondent on the matter, included Akinsegun of Egbaland and the Otun Egba-elect, Chief Azeez Ayorinde; Oluwo of Idumapa and Lisa-elect, Chief Oluyomi Olaogun, and Balogun of Ilaho and Akogun-elect, Chief Adebayo Shoyoye.

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