PELEWURA: Story of Market Woman Who Helped Build Lagos

PELEWURA: Story of Market Woman Who Helped Build Lagos

Goodness Nkechi Sunday

On November 15 2023, Dr Femi Olugbile  launched his book PELEWURA to an enthusiastic crowd of colleagues, friends, family, and mentees at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA), VI, Lagos.

The book, which tells the story of a woman’s journey to self-discovery, has already been receiving rave reviews from early readers. The pdf files (soft copies) of the book PELEWURA were sold at N5,000 while the hard copies were sold at N10,000 for each copy. Some special guests bought the books at the launch at undisclosed prices.

PELEWURA tells the story of a woman, who never went to school, she never learnt to write. Overtime, she picked up and started to discern what was being said in the newspaper of her friend Herbert Macaulay.

She therefore advertised her illiteracy and used it as a weapon because people tended to underrate her, although she was much smarter than those people.

PELEWURA was very crucial with the advancement of Lagos in her lifetime. She said she would change the process of certain things that have become part of the tradition in Lagos State. Surprisingly, she formed the Lagos Market Women’s Association (LMWA), nobody knew where that came from, as she was just the daughter of a fishmonger who took over the trade of her mother.

She then became wealthier and by her leadership, other market women who were much older and wealthier than she was, succumbed and listened to her.

On the bright side, she started organising the association and formally registered the Lagos Market Women’s Association (LMWA). They began to have meetings which were held on Tuesdays, and collected voluntary contributions.

With the money contributed, they were able to do other things like helping the market women who had challenges.

Also, they advertised their businesses. These women had basic intelligent skills which includes being able to use the services of people who were business oriented.

PELEWURA, who could not write down her name, was a founding member of Herbert Macaulay’s party, which was mostly a Lagos based party. When the party was ready to travel round the nation to introduce itself after a constitution had been written which had some objections to, Pelewura hosted the first convention which was the general meeting of that party in Lagos.

In the book, there were other people like Nnamdi Azikiwe, who admired Pelewura after seeing the strength of organisation that Lagos people had deployed, he then told Pelewura that they would travel to other parts of the country. Nnamdi Azikiwe’s concern was how they would survive and get the level of service of Pelewura since there is no Iyaloja Pelewura in the places that they would travel to.

In the story, the King (Oba) of Lagos had a running battle with the Governor over many years. The story had it that the government felt that they had authority to take over any land once the land was designated for public purposes. They made a case out of that with something from Pelewura, the market women and with the technical assistance led by Nnamdi Azikiwe.

However, they lost the case after taking the government to court in Lagos. They took the case to the British Council in London, fought the government and won.

The people who drove that enterprise were Herbert Macaulay, of course, the King was involved and Pelewura, who provided a lot of the funding from the contributions of the market women.

At the book launch, the former Minister of Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola was represented by Mr. Hakeem Bello, who was in attendance and in his remarks, he listed out some few roles the author had had in his career. He said, “first of all, Dr Olugbile had a public illustrious career during which he served among others as a Chief Medical Director, Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH), and Permanent Secretary, Lagos State Ministry of Health and well beyond life as a public servant, Dr Olugbile has continued to apply himself diligently both in the area of his speciality, Mental Health, and quite fascinating as an author of six books, a newspaper columnist, and even researcher to the service of humanity. 

“It never ceases to amaze me how Dr Olugbile balances these tasking engagements.”

Mr. Bello continued his remarks, “I would only say that we should all look forward to buying a copy of the untold story of an inspiring remarkable woman, Chief Alimatu Pelewura. PELEWURA is a dramatised story of a true life character who rose from humble beginnings to become the most powerful woman in Lagos. It is also the story of Lagos and the 19th and early 20th centuries. I cannot go without wishing Dr Femi Olugbile, more prosperity, wisdom and knowledge to continue to function and affect us and our future generation positively.”

Royal father of the day, his royal majesty Oba Abdul Wasiu Omogbolahan Lawal, Abisogun II, Oniru of Iruland, was present at the book launch.

While relating to the roles of Pelewura and Herbert Macaulay in today’s reality, the Oba expressed “both of them are the major contributors to the modern Lagos, whilst Pelewura was in charge of the market women and men then, Herbert Macaulay was the political leader as at then and they both contributed a lot to what we now enjoy as our Lagos.”

He added, “I am very happy with the author for putting it down and we also encourage other Lagosians and some other people that are very knowledgeable and experienced to share the experiences and put it down, so that the generations to come can go back to those books and read.”

Another special guest at the event was Chief Mrs Okoli, the Founder, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Emzor Pharmaceuticals Industries Limited. During the book unveiling, she said “I will launch this book with a reasonable amount that the audience can agree with.”

That is a fine way of supporting one’s friend and a colleague.

Meanwhile, some special guests bought the books at the launch at undisclosed prices.

On the other hand, some of the invited guests bought some copies of both the hard and soft copies of the book PELEWURA. The author himself signed a lot of the books launched after being purchased.

The wife of the author, Mrs Olayemi Olugbile, excitedly commented on the author’s role in the family.

She said “He is a good family man, he loves his children, he loves me. I know he looks after his family. We both come from large families, he has always been a part of the family. He is very deligent in every thing he puts his hands on and you can see that even at work, he is loved from the turn out of the people that are here. I am proud of him.”

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