It was Andrew Whitworth that once said, “if you’re a true warrior, competition doesn’t scare you. It makes you better.”
Madam Efunroye Tinubu and Alhaja Kudirat Abiola stood as true warriors. Today, we shall x-ray the great exploits of these Nigerian heroines. Nigeria’s history will not be complete without mention of heroines like Queen Idia, Dora Akunyili, Madam Tinubu, Queen Amina, Chief (Mrs.) Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, Gambo Sawaba, Margaret Ekpo, Dr. Adedavoh, etc. The labour of our heroes and heroines past shall never be in vain, Amen.
Madam Efunroye Tinubu
Early Life (1805 – 1887)
Madam Tinubu, a very powerful female Aristocrat, was born about 1805 at Ijokodo in Egba Forest, into a trading family. This was an area in Yoruba land (now in the South West of Nigeria). The name of Madam Tinubu’s father’s was Olumosa, while her mother’s name was Nijeede. The circumstances behind her birth were said to have been a mystery to her parents. A source has it that she was delivered on a journey in a canoe and that at the naming ceremony she was named Efunroye by her father and Osuntinubu by her mother. The name Osuntinubu stemmed from the belief that it was the goddess Osun who gave her the child from the depths of the river. Different writers have ascribed her ancestry to Owu, either through her maternal or paternal angle.
Madam Tinubu’s iconic footprints in the sands of time and her arrival on Nigeria’s consciousness
There is a popular saying that Egba people in the Yoruba tribe are very industrious and hardworking people. They are regarded as influential, wealthy and powerful. Madam Tinubu is one of those who blazed this trail. She got married to her first husband from Owu, and seered two children. The young family thereafter relocated to Abeokuta, shortly after which her husband and mother died. Having learnt the rudiments of trading from her mother and her grandmother, she fell back on her cognate experience and started to gather medicinal leaves and barks of trees for her trade. As a widow and single mother, she frontally took to business and made success out of it. Thanks to her parental pedigree of mother and grandmother who were established business women. In the course of Tinubu’s trading, she encountered an Ifa Priest who gave her some concoction, with the prediction that she will be exceedingly wealthy. What she did not know was that the charm would also make her childless.
In 1833, Madam Tinubu married her second husband, Oba Adele of Lagos, who was then in exile. While visiting Abeokuta, Adele was charmed by Tinubu. She then moved with her new husband to a place called Agbadarigi (Badagry) in Lagos, which was traditionally the place of refuge for Lagos monarchs. In Badagry, she exploited Adele’s vast connections, to build a formidable business empire, trading in tobacco, salt, and slaves. Regrettably, she lost her two sons to malaria there. While in Badagry, news filtered that Oba Adele’s successor, Oba Idewu, had died. Ojulari’s brother, one Prince Kosoko, was a major contender for the now vacant throne. Eletu Odibo, the Chief Kingmaker, thwarted Kosoko’s aspirations and Adele was invited by the Eletu Odibo to become Oba again, a rare historical feat. Madam Tinubu accompanied her new husband, Oba Adele, back to Lagos. By the time she got to Lagos, she had expanded her business empire to encompass dealing in arms and ammunition; while maintaining her profitable trade in tobacco and salt. Most importantly, she became a major slave dealer. Being Queen of Lagos, she used all powers and inflence to promote her business and meddled with politics. Her business empire graduated into land holdings on Lagos Island. She bought lands from the then Oloto at Alakara, Asimowu stream on the South side and Idi Oro on the North side. Her vast lands also included the present Igbobi, Idi-Araba, Idi-Oro, Alakara, etc, all in Lagos.
Madam Tinubu as Iyalode of Egbaland
Iyalode (Queen of Ladies) is a great title usually bestowed on the most prominent and distinguished woman in a community. Madam Tinubu’s head fitted this crown. She became the first Iyalode of Egbaland, due to the vast financial territory she had built, through trading in arms, ammunition, salt and slaves.
Madam Tinubu was to become a widow again four years after marrying Oba Adele, as the Lagos monarch died prematurely. Her marriage with Oba Adele produced no children at all, although the King had children from other marriages. By this time, extensively well-honed in politics, Madam Tinubu used her looming powers and influence to install one of Adele’s sons, Oluwole, as the new Oba of Lagos. She went ahead and married, for the third time, a man called Yesufu Bada, who was Oluwole’s military Adviser. In return for her feat in enthroning him, Oba Oluwole gave Madam Tinubu important stores in choice areas in Lagos. By this time, Madam Tinubu had reached the peak of her achievements. It was said she alone had over 360 slaves of her own. She then built a very palatial residence for herself to reflect her powerful position in Lagos. Tinubu had also by this period invested in trading in coconut, oil and cotton. She became a leading power broker in deals with foreign nations.
Madam Tinubu and Obaship succession crisis in Lagos
When Oba Oluwole died in 1841, Tinubu pitched her tent with Akitoye (her brother in law), in Akintoye’s bid for the Obaship over Kosoko. After Akitoye emerged Oba, he granted Tinubu favorable commercial concessions. Against the wish and advice of his chiefs, Oba Akitoye invited Kosoko back to Lagos and tried to appease him. Soon after, Kosoko dislodged Oba Akitoye from the throne. Considering Madam Tinubu’s known alliance with Oba Akitoye, she and other Akitoye supporters fled to Badagry when Kosoko assumed Obaship in 1845, after dethroning Oba Akitoye.
In 1851, the British bombarded Lagos, and dislodged Oba Kosoko himself, under the pretext of abolishing slavery, and installed Akitoye back as Oba of Lagos. Though Akitoye signed a treaty with Britain, outlawing slave trade, Madam Tinubu was said to have subverted the 1852 treaty and secretly continued trading slaves for guns with Brazilians and Portuguese traders. After Oba Akitoye’s death, Madam Tinubu returned to Lagos from Badagry and gave her support to Akitoye’s successor, Dosunmu. Under Oba Dosunmu’s reign, Madam Tinubu engaged a massive security apparatchik, which comprised of slaves. She occasionally executed orders usually given by the king.
The clipping of Dosunmu’s wings
As a result, Oba Dosunmu grew wary of Tinubu’s expansive influence in Lagos. Tinubu’s monopoly and iron-grip control of power was shattered in May of 1856 when she audaciously challenged the British Consul, Benjamin Campbell. This culminated in her eventual exit from Lagos back to Abeokuta.
Madam Tinubu’s involvement in Obaship in Egbaland
In Abeokuta, Madam Tinubu was not yet done. She got involved in Egbaland traditional king-making politics activities. She threw her weight behind Prince Oyekan over Ademola, for the prestigious Obaship of Alake of Egbaland’s in 1879.
Madam Tinubu: The exit of an iconic warrior, business mogul, politician and kingmaker
This prodigy of a leading merchant, warrior, politician and King maker was said to have fallen ill in 1879. In the noon of the following day, like all mortals, she breathed her last. She was buried at her maternal compound at Ojokodo area of Abeokuta, where her mother (Nijeede) had earlier been buried. The inerasable exploits of this great heroine, Madam Tinubu still re-echo in Lagos, Abeokuta, Egbaland and Badagry and in Nigeria, till this day. Her Statue in Lagos adorns Tinubu Square (formerly called Independence Square by leaders of the First Republic) Madam Tinubu lives on in our hearts.
Alhaja Kudirat Abiola (1951 – 1996); Early life
Kudirat was born in Zaria, Kaduna State, Nigeria. She was a notable politician. She attended Muslims Girls High School, Ijebu Ode, Ogun State, where she was made the Head prefect of her school in her final year. Sources have it that Kudirat did not attend University. She was the second of four wives of her husband, the martyr of our democracy, Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola. She had six children. Their names are Yusau Olalekan, Hafsat Olaronke, Abdul Muman, Hadi, Moriam and Khafila. Her husband had several other children. Abiola was a total family man.
Kudirat’s legendary exploits and arrival on the national scene
Kudirat came to limelight as one who fought for the emergence of a just, humane and democratic society and the end of tyrannical rule by the military. It was this same military that mindlessly annulled the freest, fairest and most transparent and credible election which her husband won on June 12, 1993. As a result of this cancellation, Kudirat valiantly protested against violation of human rights of citizens, especially against the illegality of the incarceration of her husband. Kudirat’s participation and energy soon inspired new level activism in Nigeria’s pro-democracy movement. She seized leadership of the struggle, not because of any ambition to be First Lady, as some people had wrongly suggested, but mainly to save her husband from being illegally killed in detention by Abacha; and then much later, to redeem Nigeria out of the grip of one of the most dangerous military dictatorships and rotten governments ever known to man. I was on the streets with her and other genuine Pro-democracy Activists, not turn-coat-bread and butter Activists that vacillate from one government to another.
Alhaja Kudirat mobilized market women, students, Activists, civil society and other human rights communities to fight for the struggle for democracy and human rights. Despite her vulnerability, Kudirat provided clear leadership in the period of general confusion, fear, suspense and misperception, following the annulment of the 1993 general election. She fought on, went ahead, with the conviction of a wounded lioness, that the military’s treasonable action amounted to violation of fundamental rights of Nigerians to freely elect their government. Her participation led to a new level of awareness and activism in Nigeria, while her husband was still in jail on charges of treason.
Exit of a legend
On 4th June, 1996, at about 3:05pm, one of the most criminal, brutral, absurd and despicable murders in Nigeria was carried out. A sparkling white Mercedes Benz V-Boot was cruising along the streets of Lagos. As the car slowed down around Ikeja, Kudirat and her aids were attacked by six men who suddenly opened fire on the German machine. Mrs. Abiola, her Assistant, Alhaji Lateef Shofolahan (who had just been released by the Police) and driver were in the car.
The assassins approached her car and brazenly opened gunfire. The vehicle came to a screeching halt as the driver was hit. A bullet flying from nowhere lodged itself in Kudirat’s forehead, penetrating her skull and smashing her brains. She was said to have lost consciousness and was rushed in that state to the Eko Hospital for urgent medical attention. All efforts made by the medical team to save her life failed. Kudirat Abiola died, with a gaping bullet wound on her forehead. She was only 44. Her driver too did not survive the attack. She died. But, she is not forgotten. God grant her aljannah Firdaus. Amin.
Thought for the week
“I do what I do because it is the right thing to do. I am a warrior, and it is the way of the warrior to fight superior odds.” (Paul Watson)