Men and women who by their talent, skill, hard work and commitment have made Nigeria proud, have been honoured in several ways, inspiring others to do more. But how much do you really know about our heroes and heroines? Here are a few interesting facts about 5 of them:
1. PROFESSOR WOLE SOYINKA (FIRST AFRICAN NOBEL LAUREATE)
Akinwande Oluwole Soyinka, born 13th July, 1934, is a Nigerian playwright and poet. His work, “A Dance of The Forest” (1960), a biting criticism of Nigeria’s political elites, won a contest that year as the official play for Nigerian Independence Day on 1st October, 1960. In 1986, Soyinka was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, becoming the first African to be honoured. His Nobel Prize acceptance speech, “This Past Must Address Its Present”, was devoted to South African freedom-fighter, Nelson Mandela.
Wole Soyinka and six other students founded the National Association of Seadogs (Pyrates Confraternity) in 1952 at the then University College Ibadan. He is also a songwriter; he composed Bobby Benson’s song ‘Taxi Driver’ which was a popular song in the 1960s.
2. MRS FUNMILAYO RANSOME KUTI (FIRST WOMAN TO DRIVE A CAR IN NIGERIA)
Mrs. Fumilayo Ransome-Kuti, born 25th October, 1900 in Abeokuta, Nigeria, is the mother of the legendary Fela Anikulapo Kuti. She was a very powerful force advocating for the Nigerian woman’s right to vote and has been described as the doyen of female rights in Nigeria.
In 1947, she was described by the West African Pilot Newspaper as the ‘Lioness of Lisabi’ for her leadership of the women of the Egba clan in a campaign against arbitrary taxation. That struggle led to the abdication of the Egba high king, Oba Ademola II in 1949.
3. ANTHONY ENAHORO (YOUNGEST NIGERIAN EDITOR EVER)
Chief Anthony Enahoro, born 22nd July, 1923 was one of Nigeria’s foremost anti-colonial and pro-democracy activists. He became the editor of Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe’s newspaper, The Southern Nigerian Defender, Ibadan in 1944 at the age of 21, thus becoming Nigeria’s youngest editor ever. He later became the editor of Zik’s Comet, Kano from 1945 to 1949; associate editor of West African Pilot, Lagos and editor-in-chief of Morning Star from 1950 to 1953.
4. EMMANUEL IFEAJUNA (FIRST BLACK AFRICAN GOLD MEDALIST)
Emmanuel Arinze Ifeajuna, born in 1935, was a Nigerian army major and high jumper. Due to his performance at the 1954 Nigerian Athletics Championships, Ifeajuna was chosen to represent Nigeria at the 1954 British Empire and Commonwealth Games
At the Games in Vancouver, he competed wearing only his left shoe; yet managed to clear 6ft, 8in (2.03m) – which was both a game’s record and a British Empire record for the discipline. The resulting gold medal made him the first Black African to win at a major international sports competition.
Ifeajuna received a hero’s welcome upon his return to Lagos and was paraded through the streets before speaking at a civic celebration. His image was later used for the front cover of a national exercise book for Nigerian students designed in his honour .
5. QUEEN SALAWA ABENI (FIRST NIGERIAN FEMALE ARTIST TO REACH PLATINUM)
Salawa Abeni, born 5th May, 1961 is a popular Nigerian singer whose genre of music is‘waka music’. Waka music is an Islamic-influenced, traditional Yoruba music style, popularized by Batile Alake; it is a much older genre than juju and fuji.
In 1976, her debut album titled ‘Late General Murtala Ramat Mohammed’ on Leader Records became the first recording by a Nigerian female artist to sell over a million copies in Nigeria.
She was crowned ‘Queen of Waka Music’ by the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi in 1992.