Tinubu was born in Ogun State, western Nigeria in 1810. In the 19th century, she was the wealthiest woman in Yorubaland.
In her prime, she was a business tycoon, she held political power, and was prominent in her community in colonial and pre-colonial Nigeria. She learnt business and marketing skills from her mother and grandmother – her grandmother was a trader, and her mother was a food seller.
The skills transferred to her by the women in her life paved the way to her economic success. However, her ultimate success came in the 1830’s, when she utilized her husband’s connections and began a successful business empire in trading salt, tobacco and slaves. Her husband, Adele, was an exiled oba (king) of lagos. After her husband’s passing in 1837, she began selling firearms during the height of the Yoruba war in the 1840’s/50’s. In the mid 1840’s, she expanded her business empire to include the sale of cotton and coconut & palm oil.
She is often recognised for her massive input in slave trading with europeans.
tinubu was born into a society where slavery was a norm. However, the West African slavery system was different to the transatlantic slavery system lead by Europeans. The transatlantic slave-trade was run through a chattel system, meaning slaves were treated as non-human like properties that can be bought, sold, and inherited. On the other hand, West African slaves were viewed as human beings. Some people became slaves to pay off debts, and some would later become a member of their master’s family – slaves in africa had rights, and did not remain slaves their entire life.
According to historian John Henrik Clarke, Efunroye made it her life’s mission to stop Africans selling other Africans as slaves to Europeans, after finding out the harsh realities of the transatlantic slave-trade. Her efforts led to many African kings abolishing the sale of africans as slaves to British forces. She was also against the British colonisation of Nigeria. Her opposition of British rule eventually led to her being exiled twice in the 1850’s.
Nonetheless, Efunroye continued to influence politics, and continued trading firearms up until her death in 1887. In 1864, while still in exile, she received the chieftaincy title of the lyalode (first lady) OF ALL OF EGBALAND.
Tinubu remains an important figure in Nigeria to this day. Her influence in economic growth and commerce is evident in Tinubu Square, a major commercial hub in Lagos.