Alimotu Pelewura was the strong and radical woman who led the Lagos Market Women’s Assossiation (LMWA) in its oppositions to the taxation policy and other unfavourable ordinances of the British colonial government.
Alimotu Pelewura was born in 1865 in Lagos to a polygynous family. She was the elder of the two children born by her biological mother. She took over her mother’s occupation of fish trading and rose from being an ordinary fish trader to the most important market woman in Lagos. In 1910, she was given a chieftaincy title by Oba Eshugbayi Eleko. In the 1920s, she became the head of the meat market and later, with the help of her political ally, Herbert Macaulay, she became the leader of the Lagos Market Women Association (LMWA).
As the leader of LMWA, Alimotu Pelewura used her position and influence to oppose any unfavourable policy passed by the then British colonial government. Alimotu Pelewura, an uneducated fish trader, wielded so much power that she became a source of concern to the colonial government. Disregarding several jail threats, Alimotu Pelewura continued her activism and struggles to make life easier for women, market women especially. In 1932, she led other market women in the protest against imposed taxation, and the price control plan which was popularly called the ‘Pullen Scheme’ after Captain A.P. Pullen, its director. Also in the 1930s, she led a strong protest against the relocation of Ereko market to the Oluwole area of Lagos. She got herself jailed but was eventually released after several rallies and protests by Lagos market women.
Also, Alimotu Pelewura was politically conscious during her days. In 1939, she joined the Nigerian Union of Young Democrats (NUYD), a political party closely associated to NNDP of Herbert Macaulay. She was also a member of the Nigerian Women’s Party led by Oyinkan Abayomi. In 1947, few years before her death, Alimotu Pelewura was given the title of ‘Erelu’ for radically representing and promoting the interests of women.
Alimotu Pelewura died in 1951 and was succeeded by Abibatu Mogaji, the mother of Bola Tinubu. Alimotu Pelewura will forever remain one of the greatest women in the history of Nigeria.
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* Johnson, Cheryl (1978).Nigerian women and British colonialism: the Yoruba example with selected biographies(Ph.D.). Northwestern University.