Madam Tinubu, the wealthy slave trader
Efunporoye Osuntinubu Olumosa, sometime in the first decade of the 19th century in the village of Abeokuta, in what is now Nigeria, and soon married, but her husband died soon after. She supported herself and two children selling tree bark and medicinal leaves, but always dreamed loud, very loud.
One fine day she met a guy who was visiting the area, an Oba Adele Ajosun guy who came up with the old chat “Hi cat, did you know I’m a King?” And he was an exiled Lagos king but a King. Tinubu did not think twice, made herself Cinderella and married the King, after all it was 1833 and she would not be mocked for saying that she was Adele’s wife.
They moved to the coastal town of Badagry, and since Tinubu was not born to be a housewife, she decided to dig into her husband’s business and found that she was a GREAT trader. Soon she was coordinating a trade network that brought slaves from Abeokuta and traded them for salt and tobacco with the Portuguese in the local warehouse.
Some time later Oba Adele’s successor, Oba Idewu, died and Adele was invited to take the throne back. Tinubu went along and continued to act behind the scenes, influencing politics and doing more and more business with Europeans. At that time she also dealt in guns and ammunition, after all it is Rule 34: War is good for business.
When Oba Adele died in 1837, Tunibu supported their adopted son Oluwole as his successor, and so it was. Soon after she married Yesufu Bada, an army captain, did I?
Madame Tinubu always kept an eye on what was going on behind the scenes, and almost always supported the winning side, winning favor with it. In 1841 Oluwole died, and she indicated as successor Akitoye, her brother-in-law, that unlike that parasite that lives on his couch, was very grateful and when Oba was chosen, awarded several generous commercial contracts to Madame Tinubu.
It in turn invested in cotton presses to sell processed raw materials at better prices, and basically monopolized the slave market.
Her trade in arms and ammunition turned out to be very important during the Abeokuta-Dahomey Wars, when she armed the Egba people to the teeth, achieving a rare victory against Dahomey’s Amazon. The fact that Madame Tinubu employ women in their troops probably helped.
The height of his power was between 1879 and 1881, when Oba Oyekan reigned, but everyone knew that Madam Tinubu was really in charge.
His business was run by no less than 60 slaves and a literate scribe. At the height of her possessions she even had 360 slaves, which is an absurd number for a private citizen.
In the US in 1860 only 11,000 farmers, 3/4 of 1% of the white population had more than 50 slaves. Only 2358 had more than 100 slaves on their plantations. The owner of medium – slaves lived in a wooden hut, was a farmer and not a farmer and had between four and six slaves, rarely someone had more than five.
Detail: All this fortune was made on smuggling basis. The English technically abolished the Atlantic Slave Trafficking in 1807, so all charges that Madam Tinubu negotiated were subject to search and seizure by Her Majesty’s warships. Because of that she got an almost pathological rage from Europeans, missionaries and… Brazilians.
The British Empire was trying to end the slave trade, but it was virtually impossible. The local government, under pressure from London, pretended to patrol the ports and made it illegal to capture slaves for export, but Lagos, out of a population of 25,000 in 1858, 90 percent were slaves. Some common, other domestic slaves, which was a milder form of slavery, where there was a remote chance of the slave being set free, and he might even be related. Sort of like a trainee but with more dignity.
What did not go down the throat of Madame Tinubu were the Saros, the name given to freed slaves from Brazil, Cuba, the West Indies, and Sierra Leone, who emigrated to Lagos. They came up with a number of unpleasant ideas, such as Christianity, and as they were sponsored by the English, they ended up with a number of economic advantages, and were preferred to local merchants.
That many of the Saros ended up buying slaves for their own use and even for trade is an irony that cannot go unmentioned.
In a rare political defeat, Madame Tinubu organized a revolt against the Saros, which did not work, to the delight of her greatest enemy, the British Consul Benjamin Campbell, who hated how she monopolized trade in the region and acted freely with her shamelessness. smuggling scheme of arms and slaves. Campbell demanded that she be exiled, and when Oba hesitated, he showed several British gunboats in port, which we think is an excellent argument.
Madame Tinubu was exiled in May 1856 to her hometown, but they did not interfere with her increasingly prosperous business, with three farms producing clothing, cotton, and a handful of other products that were negotiated with Europeans and other kingdoms of the Nearby.
It was during this time that she helped defend Abeokuta from the Dahomey, financing weapons, training women to work as combat nurses and wearing a warrior costume, and getting herself ready at a guard post. For these and other reasons she earned the title of Iya Lode , “First Lady,” which gave her direct access to political institutions, including being able to sit at the meetings of the King’s Counselors. For the first time she had official political power, other than by backstage or economic influence.
Not that she did not continue to exercise backstage power, choosing the King’s successors and broadening her influence to Lagos, where she was also chosen as Iya Lode by the local Oba.
On December 1, 1887 Madame Tinubu had a sudden illness, and by late afternoon the next day, she was dead. With no surviving children to receive their inheritance, and with most of their properties being known only to their slaves, the estate has become a legal nightmare that runs to this day, with relatives and descendants of relatives vying for properties that do not even know where they are.
Efunroye Tinubu entered history as one of those larger-than-life personalities, a Francesco Matarazzo or a Rockfeller, her deeds helped shape the future of a country that didn’t even exist, she was relentless in her goals, but never cared much about luxury. and opulence. Making money was more fun than spending.
In a time when women were little more than decorative objects, she imposed herself on a relentless continent, starting from nothing.
Yes, making money selling slaves is not something anyone should be proud of, but it was the reality of their time. Does it make much difference not to trade slaves and live in an all-slavery society?
That’s why it’s almost criminal what they are doing with Efunroye Tinubu. Since 2012 a “reputation cleansing” campaign is trying to rewrite history, saying it regretted it when it found out how slaves were treated in the colonies, and went on to fight trafficking.
This is ridiculous. The English abolished trafficking in 1807, even before Tinubu was born, her entire career was made illegally, she knew very well what slavery was, and there was no shortage of freed slaves to tell the story.
Quoting Maria Emília Madeira Santos:
“It should not be surprising, therefore, that the main opponents of Europe’s imperial advance over West Africa were, from Madame Tinubu to Samori, irreducible in their determination to produce and sell slaves. Even after transatlantic trafficking ceased, they continued to have in the enslavement and sale of the enemy the economic basis of their military power . ”
She was once accused in Abeokuta of trying to sell a slave boy. Taken before the authorities, she explained: “I have a big house with a lot of people, I have to feed them, I need money for it”.
In the same biography is told a conversation between Tibunu and the infamous Brazilian slave trader Domingos Martinez, when business went bad, after the 1852 treaty abolishing slavery in Lagos (quá!).
They were talking about a batch of 20 slaves who could not sell. Madame Tibunu says she would rather drown them all than have to sell them at a discount.
Madame Tibunu was honored with Tibunu Square in Lagos, Nigeria, a worthy monument to a complicated figure from a complicated country on a complicated continent. Hopefully she will stay there until Brazilian militancy appears to explain to Nigerians that 167 years later they must still be traumatized by slavery as if they had been directly hit by her, and it’s time to tear down the statue of this evil woman!