Obafemi Awolowo

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Obafemi Awolowo
Premier of Western Nigeria
In office
1 October 1954 1 October 1960
Succeeded by Samuel Akintola
Federal Commissioner for Finance
In office
Preceded by Festus Okotie-Eboh
Succeeded by Shehu Shagari
Personal details
Born(1909-03-06)6 March 1909
Ilisan, Western Region, British Nigeria
(now Ilisan, Ogun, Nigeria)
Died9 May 1987(1987-05-09) (aged 78)
Ikenne, Ogun State
Political party Unity Party of Nigeria (1978–1983)
Action Group (1950–1966)
Spouse(s) Hannah Idowu Dideolu Awolowo
Relations Yemi Osinbajo (grandson-in-law)
Oludolapo Osinbajo (granddaughter)
ChildrenSegun Awolowo
Tola Oyediran
Oluwole Awolowo
Ayodele Soyode
Tokunbo Awolowo-Dosunmu
Alma mater University of London

Chief Obafemi Jeremiah Oyeniyi Awolowo, GCFR (Yoruba : Ọbáfẹ́mi Awólọ́wọ̀; 6 March 1909 – 9 May 1987), was a Nigerian nationalist and statesman who played a key role in Nigeria's independence movement, the First and Second Republics and the Civil War. The son of a Yoruba farmer, he was one of the truly self-made men among his contemporaries in Nigeria. As a young man he was an active journalist, editing publications such as the Nigerian worker, on top of others as well. After receiving his bachelors of commerce degree in Nigeria, he traveled to London to pursue his degree in law.Obafemi Awolowo was the first premier of the Western Region and later federal commissioner for finance, and vice chairman of the Federal Executive Council during the Civil War. He was thrice a major contender for his country's highest office. [1] A native of Ikenne in Ogun State of south-western Nigeria, he started his career, like some of his well-known contemporaries, as a nationalist in the Nigerian Youth Movement in which he rose to become Western Provincial Secretary. Awolowo was responsible for much of the progressive social legislation that has made Nigeria a modern nation. [2] Awolowo was the first Leader of Government Business and Minister of Local Government and Finance, and first Premier of the Western Region under Nigeria's parliamentary system, from 1952 to 1959. He was the official Leader of the Opposition in the federal parliament to the Balewa government from 1959 to 1963. In 1963 he was imprisoned under the accusations of sedition and was not pardoned by the government until 1967, after which he assumed the role as Minister of Finance. In recognition of all these, Awolowo was the first individual in the modern era to be named Leader of the Yorubas (Yoruba: Asiwaju Awon Yoruba or Asiwaju Omo Oodua).

Order of the Federal Republic

The Order of the Federal Republic (OFR) is one of two orders of merit, established by the Federal Republic of Nigeria in 1963. It is senior to the Order of the Niger.

Yoruba is a language spoken in West Africa. The number of speakers of Yoruba is approaching 80 million. It is a pluricentric language spoken principally in Nigeria and Benin, with communities in Sierra Leone, Liberia, other parts of Africa, the Americas, and Europe. The non-vernacular remains of the language, Lucumi, is the liturgical language of the Santería religion of the Caribbean. Many Yoruba words are used in the Afro-Brazilian religion known as Candomblé. Yoruba is also used in many other Afro-American religions in the Americas and the Caribbean. Yoruba is most closely related to the Itsekiri language and to Igala.

Nigerian Civil War Conflict

The Nigerian Civil War, also known as the Biafran War and the Nigerian-Biafran War, was a war fought between the government of Nigeria and the secessionist state of Biafra. Biafra represented nationalist aspirations of the Biafran people, whose leadership felt they could no longer coexist with the Northern-dominated federal government. The conflict resulted from political, economic, ethnic, cultural and religious tensions which preceded Britain's formal decolonization of Nigeria from 1960 to 1963. Immediate causes of the war in 1966 included ethno-religious riots in Northern Nigeria, a military coup, a counter-coup and persecution of Igbo living in Northern Nigeria. Control over the lucrative oil production in the Niger Delta played a vital strategic role.


Early life

Obafemi Awolowo was born on 6 March 1909 in Ikenne, in present-day Ogun State of Nigeria. [3] His father was a farmer and sawyer who died when Obafemi was about ten years old. [4] He attended various schools, including Baptist Boys' High School (BBHS), Abeokuta; and then became a teacher in Abeokuta, after which he qualified as a shorthand typist. Subsequently, he served as a clerk at the Wesley College Ibadan, as well as a correspondent for the Nigerian Times . [5] It was after this that he embarked on various business ventures to help raise funds to travel to the UK for further studies.

Ogun State State in Nigeria

Ogun State is a state in southwestern Nigeria. Created in 1976, it borders Lagos State to the south, Oyo and Osun states to the north, Ondo to the east and the Republic of Benin to the west. Abeokuta is the capital and largest city in the state. The state's appellation is "Gateway to Nigeria". It was created in February 1976 from the former Western State. The 2006 census recorded a total population of 3,751,140 residents.

Baptist Boys High School

Baptist Boys’ High School is a secondary school in Abeokuta, Ogun State, south-west Nigeria. It had a student body of 1100 students as of the 2011-12 academic year. The student population has decreased by almost half from the peak of 2155 in 1998-1999 academic year, partly in response to a concern about overcrowded facilities. BBHS is on its permanent site, Oke-Saje.

Abeokuta City in Ogun State, Nigeria

Abeokuta is the largest city and state capital of Ogun State in southwest Nigeria. It is situated on the east bank of the Ogun River, near a group of rocky outcrops in a wooded savanna; 77 kilometres (48 mi) north of Lagos by railway, or 130 kilometres (81 mi) by water. As of 2006, Abeokuta and the surrounding area had a population of 449,088.

Following his education at Wesley College, Ibadan, in 1927, he enrolled at the University of London as an External Student and graduated with the degree of Bachelor of Commerce (Hons.). He went to the UK in 1944 to study law at the University of London and was called to the Bar by the Honorable Society of the Inner Temple on 19 November 1946. [4] [6] In 1949 Awolowo founded the Nigerian Tribune , a private Nigerian newspaper, which he used to spread nationalist consciousness among Nigerians. [7]

Wesley College of Science is a government controlled, co-educational, senior secondary school located in Ibadan, Oyo State. The school was previously called "Wesley College", a teacher training institution that churned out the likes of famous politician, elder statesman of repute, and the First Western Premier in the First Republic, Chief Obafemi Awolowo. Currently known as Wesley College of Science, it educates senior secondary school science students in preparation for Senior School Certificate Examinations. According to Naij.com, it is the 6th oldest secondary school in Nigeria.

University of London federal public university in London, United Kingdom

The University of London is a federal research university located in London, England. As of October 2018, the university contains 18 member institutions, central academic bodies and research institutes. The university has over 52,000 distance learning external students and 161,270 campus-based internal students, making it the largest university by number of students in the United Kingdom.

The Nigerian Tribune is an English-language newspaper published in Ibadan in Nigeria. It was established in 1949 by Obafemi Awolowo and is the oldest surviving private Nigerian newspaper.


Awolowo was Nigeria's foremost federalist [Citation needed]. In his Path to Nigerian Freedom (1947) – the first systematic federalist manifesto by a Nigerian politician – he advocated federalism as the only basis for equitable national integration and, as head of the Action Group, he led demands for a federal constitution, which was introduced in the 1954 Lyttleton Constitution, following primarily the model proposed by the Western Region delegation led by him. As premier, he proved to be and was viewed as a man of vision and a dynamic administrator. Awolowo was also the country's leading social democratic politician. [1] He supported limited public ownership and limited central planning in government. [1] He believed that the state should channel Nigeria's resources into education and state-led infrastructural development. [8] Controversially, and at considerable expense, he introduced free primary education for all and free health care for children in the Western Region, established the first television service in Africa in 1959, and the Oduduwa Group, all of which were financed from the highly lucrative cocoa industry which was the mainstay of the regional economy. [9]

Crisis in Western Nigeria

From the eve of independence, he led the Action Group as the Leader of the Opposition in the federal parliament, leaving Samuel Ladoke Akintola as the Western Region Premier. Disagreements between Awolowo and Akintola on how to run the Western region led the latter to an alliance with the Tafawa Balewa-led NPC federal government. A constitutional crisis led to the declaration of a state of emergency in the Western Region, eventually resulting in a widespread breakdown of law and order.

Excluded from national government, Awolowo and his party faced an increasingly precarious position. Akintola's followers, angered at their exclusion from power, formed the Nigerian National Democratic Party (NNDP) under Akintola's leadership. Having previously suspended the elected Western Regional Assembly, the federal government then reconstituted the body after manoeuvres that brought Akintola's NNDP into power without an election. Shortly afterwards Awolowo and several disciples were arrested, charged, convicted (of treason), [10] and jailed for conspiring with the Ghanaian authorities under Kwame Nkrumah to overthrow the federal government. [11]

The Nigerian National Democratic Party (NNDP) was Nigeria's first political party.

Kwame Nkrumah Pan Africanist and First Prime Minister and President of Ghana

Kwame Nkrumah PC was a Ghanaian politician and revolutionary. He was the first Prime Minister and President of Ghana, having led the Gold Coast to independence from Britain in 1957. An influential advocate of pan-Africanism, Nkrumah was a founding member of the Organisation of African Unity and winner of the Lenin Peace Prize in 1962.


In 1992, the Obafemi Awolowo Foundation was founded as an independent, non-profit, non-partisan organisation committed to furthering the symbiotic interaction of public policy and relevant scholarship with a view to promoting the overall development of the Nigerian nation. The Foundation was launched by the President of Nigeria at that time, General Ibrahim Babangida, at the Liberty Stadium, Ibadan. [12] However, his most important bequests (styled Awoism) are his exemplary integrity, his welfarism, his contributions to hastening the process of decolonisation and his consistent and reasoned advocacy of federalism-based on ethno-linguistic self-determination and uniting politically strong states-as the best basis for Nigerian unity. Awolowo died peacefully at his Ikenne home, the Efunyela Hall (so named after his mother), on 9 May 1987, at the age of 78 and was laid to rest in Ikenne, amid tributes across political and ethno-religious divides.


See also

Ikenne Residence of Chief Obafemi Awolowo

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  1. 1 2 3 James Booth. Writers and politics in Nigeria. Africana Pub. Co., 1981, p. 52.
  2. Historical dictionary of the British empire, Volume 1
  3. Nigerian Political Parties: Power in an Emergent African Nation, R. L. Sklar (2004), Africa World Press, ISBN   1-59221-209-3
  4. 1 2 Harvey Glickman (1992). Political Leaders of Contemporary Africa South of the Sahara: A Biographical Dictionary. Greenwood Press. ISBN   9780313267819.
  5. "then British owned"
  6. Kevin Shillington (2013). Encyclopedia of African History 3-Volume Set. Routledge. p. 197. ISBN   9781135456696.
  7. "About Us". Nigerian Tribune. Archived from the original on 20 May 2011. Retrieved 11 May 2011.
  8. Case For Ideological Orientation, O. Awolowo.
  9. "Obafemi Awolowo: The Man With a Plan"
  10. Siollun, Max. Oil, Politics and Violence: Nigeria's Military Coup Culture (1966-1976). Algora. p. 15. ISBN   9780875867090.
  11. Adventures in Power Book One: My March through Prison, O. Awolowo Macmillan Nigeria Publishers, 1985.
  12. "The Obafemi Awolowo Foundation".