Nigeria like so many other countries has some people that fought for her existence and helped build the “Giant of Africa” as it I called today. so in line with March being International women’s month, we will give you a list of some of our Heroines.
Chief Olunfunmilayo Ransome Kuti
Born 25th October 1900 in the ancient town of Abeokuta. he was a prominent leader in her time, she was a teacher, political campaigner, women’s rights activist and traditional aristocrat. Olufunmilayo was the first female student to attend the Abeokuta Grammar School. she established the Abeokuta Women’s Union and fought for women’s rights, demanding improved representation of women in local governing bodies and an end to unfair taxes on market women. she also spearheaded the creation of the Nigerian Women’s Union and the Federation of Nigerian Women’s Societies, traveling both nationally and internationally to advocate for Nigerian women’s right to vote. Ransome- Kuti was awarded membership in the Order of the Niger for her work. In her later years, she supported her sons in their criticism of military governments in Nigeria. Olufunmilayo was recorded to be the first woman to drive a car.
Ransome-Kuti often visited her son at the Kalakuta Republic, and she was there on 18 February 1977, when close to a thousand armed soldiers surrounded the property and stormed the compound. As soon as the soldiers broke inside they began destroying property and assaulting the residents. Fela and Bekolari were beaten and severely injured. Ransome-Kuti was thrown from a second-floor window. Following the attack, she was hospitalized and eventually lapsed into a coma. She died on 13 April 1978 as a result of her injuries.
Ransome-Kuti’s remains were interred in Abeokuta in the same vault as her husband. Her funeral services were attended by thousands, and many market women and traders shut down shops and markets across the city to mark her death.
Margaret Ekpo was born in Creek Town, Cross River State on July 27, 1914. a Nigerian women’s rights activist and a social mobilizer who was a pioneering female politician in the country’s First Republic and a leading member of a class of traditional Nigerian women activists, many of whom rallied women beyond notions of ethnic solidarity. She played major roles as a grassroots and nationalist politician in the Eastern Nigerian city of Aba, in the era of a hierarchical and male-dominated movement towards independence, with her rise, not the least helped by the socialization of women’s role into that of helpmates or appendages to the careers of males.
Margaret Ekpo won a seat to the Eastern Regional House of Assembly in 1961, a position that allowed her to fight for issues affecting women at the time. In particular, there were issues on the progress of women in economic and political matters, especially in the areas of transportation around major roads leading to markets and rural transportation in general.
After a military coup ended the First Republic, she took a less prominent approach to politics. In 2001, Calabar Airport was renamed Margaret Ekpo International Airport. Sadly, she died 5 years later in 2006.
Alhaja Kudirat Abiola
popularly known as Kudirat Abiola, She was born in 1951 in Zaria in Nigeria. Alhaja Kudirat Abiola was the second and senior wife of her husband. was a woman of valor, a feminist and activist. Mainly moved by her husband’s arrest, Abiola was an advocate for democracy and fought hard for democracy. She was assassinated whilst her husband was being detained by the Nigerian Government. Her husband was believed to have been the winning candidate in Nigerian elections and he was arrested shortly after the elections. The killing was the subject of an investigation and trial many years later. According to accounts, the murder was ordered and then carried out by six men. Abiola died in her car from machine gunfire. Her driver also died. Her personal assistant who was later accused of being involved with her assassins was in the car but was not hurt.
In 1998 a street corner in New York was renamed Kudirat Abiola Corner, despite protests by the Nigerian Government.
In October 1998 Major Hamza Al-Mustapha appeared in court with the previous President Abacha’s son Mohammed, charged with the murder of Kudirat Abiola. At the trial, the self-confessed killer, Sergeant Barnabas Jabila, said he was obeying orders from his superior, al-Mustapha.
Remembered through the Kudirat Abiola way at Oregun/ Ojota axis, she was a leader by example.
Flora Nwanzuruahu Nkiru Nwapa
Nwapa was born in Oguta, in south-eastern Nigeria, At the age of 22 years, she entered the university in 1953 and earned a B.A degree at the age of 26 years from University College, Ibadan, in 1957. She then went to Scotland, where she earned a Diploma in Education from Edinburgh University in 1958. After returning to Nigeria, Nwapa joined the Ministry of Education in Calabar as an Education Officer until 1959.
She then took employment as a teacher at Queen’s School in Enugu, where she taught English and geography from 1959 to 1962. She continued to work in both education and the civil service in several positions, including as Assistant Registrar, University of Lagos (1962–67). After the Nigerian civil war of 1967–70, she accepted cabinet office as Minister of Health and Social Welfare in East Central State (1970–71), and subsequently as Minister of Lands, Survey and Urban Development (1971–74). She was a visiting lecturer at Alvan Ikoku College of Education in Owerri, Nigeria. In 1989, she was appointed a visiting professor of creative writing at the University of Maiduguri.
At the beginning of Nwapa’s literary career, as a result of the way feminism was viewed and the way it was portrayed, she had no interest in feminism because she felt it was prejudiced against men but she eventually came to terms with it. However, her struggle with feminism is representative of the present conversations about the movement in Africa and the world at large.
Her work was anthologized in publications ranging from Présence Africaine and Black Orpheus in the 1960s and ’70s to Daughters of Africa in 1992.
She said in an interview with Contemporary Authors, “I have been writing for nearly thirty years. My interest has been on both the rural and the urban woman in her quest for survival in a fast-changing world dominated by men.”
Flora Nwapa died of pneumonia on 16 October 1993 at a hospital in Enugu, Nigeria, at the age of 62. Her final novel, The Lake Goddess, was posthumously published.
Hannah Idowu Dideolu Awolowo
Chief Hannah Idowu Dideolu Awolowo (née Adelana; 25 November 1915 – 19 September 2015), popularly known as HID, was a Nigerian businesswoman and politician.
Born to a modest family in the small Ikenne community of Ogun State in Nigeria, she attended Methodist Girls’ High School in Lagos. She was married to politician Obafemi Awolowo from 26 December 1937 to his death in 1987. He famously referred to her as his “jewel of inestimable value”. She was also a successful businesswoman and astute politician. She played an active role in the politics of Western Nigeria. She stood in for her husband in the alliance formed between the NCNC and the AG, called the United Progressive Grand Alliance (UPGA), while he was tried and in jail.
The plans were that she would contest the elections, and if she won, she would step down for her husband in a by-election. To fulfil his dream of becoming president in the Second Republic, she toured the length and breadth of the country with her husband campaigning. She also coordinated the women’s wing of the party and was always present at all party caucuses. A successful businesswoman, she became the first Nigerian distributor for the Nigerian Tobacco Company (NTC) in 1957. She was the first to import lace materials and other textiles into Nigeria. In addition to a variety of other titles, she held the chieftaincy of the Yeye Oodua of Yorubaland. On 19 September 2015, she died at the age of 99 just over 2 months short of her 100th birthday. She was laid to rest beside her husband in Ikenne on 25 November 2015. The Vice President of Nigeria, Yemi Osinbajo, is married to her granddaughter, Dolapo Soyode
Prof. Dora Nkem Akunyili
Dora Akunyili was born in July 1954 in Markurdi, Benue State. She had her West African School Certificate Examination (WASC) in Queen of Rosary Secondary School, Enugu state, where she graduated with Grade I Distinction. she won the Eastern Nigerian Government Post Primary Scholarship and the Federal Government of Nigeria Undergraduate Scholarship
After the death of Vivian her sister, who died after taking fake insulin injection in 1988. Dora came at the forefront of the fight against drug counterfeiters
She was the Nigerian Minister of Information and Communications from 2008 to 2010. She was a pharmacist and governmental administrator who gained international recognition. She won several awards for her work in pharmacology, public health, and human rights.
Akunyili ran for election as Senator for Anambra Central for the APGA in April 2011 but was defeated by Chris Ngige of the ACN. She immediately sent a petition to the Independent National Electoral Commission disputing the result.
Dora Nkem Akunyili is a Nigerian woman with over 100 awards. Some of the awards Prof. Akunyili received in her lifetime were: Time Magazine Award 2006 (“One of the eighteen heroes of our time”), Time Magazine Inc., Person of the Year 2005 Award – Silverbird Communications Ltd, Lagos, 5 January. 2006, Award of Excellence – Integrated World Services (IWS), December 2005, Award of Excellence – Advocacy for Democracy Dividends International, Lagos, 17 December 2005, etc.
She died in an Indian hospital on 7 June 2014 after a battle with uterine cancer. Her funeral took place on 27 and 28 August and was attended by many dignitaries from within Nigeria and beyond, including President Goodluck Jonathan, and a former Nigerian military ruler General Yakubu Gowon. Akunyili was laid to rest at Agulu in Anambra state.
Hajiya Gambo Sawaba
Hajia Sawaba was born on 15 February 1933 She was educated at the Native Authority Primary School in Tudun, Wada. She, however, had to stop schooling after the loss of her father in 1943 who dies complaining of headaches and her mother 3 years after. She was married off at age 13 to a World War II veteran Abubakar Garba Bello who left and never returned after her first pregnancy.
Quite noticeable about her when she was a child, was her unusual interest in mad people. She spoke with them, accommodated some and gave the ones she could money, clothes, and food As a child she was often described as stubborn and heady and almost always got into street brawls. According to her “I could not stand by to watch a weak friend or relation being molested.” She said used to take over such fights. Whenever she got to the scenes of such fights, she would immediately say “OK, I have bought the fight from you” to the weaker person and take over the fight.
Sawaba was involved in politics since she was 17. During that time, northern Nigeria was dominated by the Northern People’s Congress, which had the support of the Emirs and British Colonial Authority but she joined the opposition group Northern Element Progressive Union (NEPU). She was a campaigner against under-aged marriages, forced labor and an advocated for western education in the north. Gambo made a name for herself when at a political lecture during her career in the North, she climbed up and spoke out in a room full of men. She was mentored by Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti and traveled to meet her in Abeokuta years later. She is widely regarded as the pioneer of fighting for the liberation of northern women.
Florence Onyebuchi “Buchi” Emecheta
Emecheta was born on 21 July 1944, in Lagos, Nigeria, to Igbo parents, Her father was a railway worker and molder. Due to the gender bias of the time, the young Buchi Emecheta was initially kept at home while her younger brother was sent to school; but after persuading her parents to consider the benefits of her education, she spent her early childhood at an all-girls Emecheta received a full scholarship to Methodist Girls’ School in Yaba, Lagos, where she remained until the age of 16 when, in 1960, missionary school.
Emecheta began writing about her experiences of Black British life in a regular column in the New Statesman, and a collection of these pieces became her first published book in 1972, In the Ditch. Her second novel published two years later, Second-Class Citizen, Emecheta’s major themes were the quest for equal treatment, self-confidence, and dignity as a woman. From 1965 to 1969, Emecheta worked as a library officer for the British Museum in London. From 1969 to 1976, she was a youth worker and sociologist for the Inner London Education Authority, and from 1976 to 1978 she worked as a community worker in Camden, North London, meanwhile continuing to produce further novels with Allison and Busby – The Bride Price (1976), The Slave Girl (1977), The Joys of Motherhood (1979) and Destination Biafra (1982) – as well as the children’s books Titch the Cat (1979) and Nowhere To Play (1980).
Most of her fictional works are focused on sexual discrimination and racial prejudice informed by her own experiences as both a single parent and a black woman living in the United Kingdom.
Among honors received during her literary career, Emecheta won the Jock Campbell Award from the New Statesman in 1978 for her novel The Slave Girl, and she was on Granta magazine’s 1983 list of 20 “Best of Young British Novelists”. She was a member of the British Home Secretary’s Advisory Council on Race in 1979.
In September 2004, she appeared in the “A Great Day in London” photograph taken at the British Library, featuring 50 Black and Asian writers who have made major contributions to contemporary British literature. In 2005, she was made an OBE for services to literature. She received an Honorary doctorate of literature from Farleigh Dickinson University in 1992.
Stella Obasanjo was from Iruekpen, Esan West, Edo State. Stella Abebe began her education at Our Lady of the Apostles Primary School. She enrolled at St. Theresa’s College, where she obtained her West African School Certificate in 1964 with grade one. Two years later she obtained the higher school certificate. She was admitted to the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University), Ile-Ife, for a bachelor’s degree in English, attending from 1967 to 1969.
She completed her education with a certificate as a confidential secretary from Pitman College in 1976. She returned to Nigeria in 1976 and soon after married General Obasanjo, who had become Head of State and Commander-in-Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces, following the assassination of General Murtala Mohammed. When she became Nigeria’s First Lady in 1999, following the election of her husband as president, Obasanjo established Child Care Trust, for the care of underprivileged and/or disabled children
As first Lady of Nigeria, she joined the Campaign Against Female Genital Mutilation and on 6 February 2003, she declared the day the International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation. Stella Obasanjo died a few weeks before her 60th birthday from complications of cosmetic surgery at a private health clinic in Puerto Banús, Marbella, Spain, on 23 October 2005.
Nana Asma’u was a princess, poet, teacher, and daughter of the founder of the Sokoto Caliphate, Usman dan Fodio. Of all these, Nana is revered as an advocate for the education of Muslim women. She was devoted to the education of Muslim women. She published her first long poem, “The way of the Pious” in 1820, and it was followed by 60 more, which is studied in international academic institutions to date.
Nana became the first pioneer of women’s education in what later became Northern Nigeria. She trained a large network of women as educators and placed a strong emphasis on women leaders and the rights of women within the community ideals of the Sunnah and Islamic law. She was an accomplished author and respected scholar in communication with scholars throughout the sub-Saharan African Muslim world.
Having witnessed many of the Fulani War, she wrote about her experiences in a prose narrative, Wakar Gewaye, “The Journey,” and left a large body of poetry, historical narratives, which also include elegies, laments, and admonitions, which became tools for teaching the founding principles of the Caliphate.