Obafemi Awolowo

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Obafemi Awolowo
Premier of Western Nigeria
In office
1 October 1954 – 1 October 1960
Succeeded bySamuel Akintola
Federal Commissioner for Finance
In office
Preceded byFestus Okotie-Eboh
Succeeded byShehu Shagari
Personal details
Born(1909-03-06)6 March 1909
Ikenne, Western Region, British Nigeria
(now Ikenne, Ogun, Nigeria)
Died9 May 1987(1987-05-09) (aged 78)
Ikenne, Ogun State
Political partyUnity Party of Nigeria (1978–1983)
Action Group (1950–1966)
Spouse(s)Chief Hannah Idowu Dideolu Awolowo (née Adelana)
RelationsYemi Osinbajo (grandson-in-law)
Oludolapo Osinbajo (granddaughter)
Segun Awolowo Jr. (grandson)
ChildrenOlusegun Awolowo
Omotola Oyediran (née Awolowo)
Oluwole Awolowo
Ayodele Olubusola Soyode (née Awolowo)
Olatokunbo Ayoka Awolowo-Dosunmu
Alma materUniversity of London
ProfessionJournalist, lawyer

Chief Obafemi Jeremiah Oyeniyi Awolowo GCFR (Yoruba: Ọbafẹ́mi Oyèníyì Awólọ́wọ̀; 6 March 1909 – 9 May 1987) was a Nigerian nationalist and statesman who played a key role in Nigeria's independence movement,[1] the First and Second Republics and the Civil War.[2] The son of a Yoruba farmer, he was one of the truly self-made men among his contemporaries in Nigeria.[3]

As a young man he was an active journalist, editing publications such as the Nigerian worker, on top of others as well.[4] After receiving his bachelors of commerce degree in Nigeria, he traveled to London to pursue his degree in law.[5] Obafemi Awolowo was the first premier of the Western Region and later federal commissioner for finance, and vice chairman of the Federal Executive Council[6] during the Nigerian Civil War.[7] He was thrice a major contender for his country's highest office.[8]

A native of Ikenne in Ogun State of south-western Nigeria,[9] 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.[4] Awolowo was responsible for much of the progressive social legislation that has made Nigeria a modern nation.[10] Awolowo also founded the Yoruba nationalist group Egbe Omo Oduduwa.[11] 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.[12] He was the official Leader of the Opposition in the federal parliament to the Balewa government from 1959 to 1963.[13][11] In 1963 he was imprisoned under the accusations of sedition and was not pardoned by the government until 1966, after which he assumed the role as Minister of Finance.[14] In recognition of all of this, Awolowo was the first individual in the modern era to be named as the leader of the Yorubas (Yoruba: Asiwaju Awon Yoruba or Asiwaju Omo Oodua).[15][16]

Early life[edit]

Obafemi Awolowo was born Jeremiah Obafemi Oyeniyi Awolowo on 6 March 1909 in the Remo town of Ikenne, in present-day Ogun State of Nigeria.[17][1] as the only son of David Shopolu Awolowo, a farmer and sawyer, and Mary Efunyela Awolowo. He had two sisters and one maternal half-sister. Awolowo's father was born to a high chief and member of the Iwarefa, the leading faction of the traditional Osugbo group that ruled Ikenne. In 1896, Awolowo's father became one of the first Ikenne natives to convert to Christianity. Awolowo's paternal grandmother, Adefule Awolowo, whom Awolowo adored, was a devout worshipper of the Ifá. Adefule, Awolowo's grandmother, believed that Obafemi was a reincarnation of her father (his great-grandfather). Awolowo's father's conversion to Christianity often went at odds with his family's beliefs. He often challenged worshippers of the god of smallpox, Obaluaye.[18] His father ultimately died on April 8, 1920, of smallpox when Obafemi was about eleven years old.[19] 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.[20] It was after this that he embarked on various business ventures to help raise funds to travel to the UK for further studies.[citation needed] 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.).[21] 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.[19][22] In 1949, Awolowo founded the Nigerian Tribune, a private Nigerian newspaper, which he used to spread nationalist consciousness among Nigerians.[23]


Awolowo was Nigeria's foremost federalist.[24][25] 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.[26] 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.[8] He supported limited public ownership and limited central planning in government.[8] He believed that the state should channel Nigeria's resources into education and state-led infrastructural development.[27] 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.[28]

Crisis in Western Nigeria[edit]

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.[29] 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.[30] 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.[31]

Excluded from national government, Awolowo and his party faced an increasingly precarious position.[citation needed] 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.[32] Shortly afterwards Awolowo and several disciples were arrested, charged, convicted (of treason),[33] and jailed for conspiring with the Ghanaian authorities under Balewa to overthrow the federal government.[34]


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.[35] The Foundation was launched by the President of Nigeria at that time, General Ibrahim Babangida, at the Liberty Stadium, Ibadan.[36] 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.[37] 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.[citation needed]


He is featured in the 100 Naira banknote since 1999.[38][39]

In addition to a variety of other chieftaincy titles, Chief Awolowo held the title of the Odole Oodua of Ile-Ife.[40]


  • Path to Nigerian Freedom
  • Awo – Autobiography of Chief Obafemi Awolowo
  • My Early Life
  • Thoughts on the Nigerian Constitution
  • The People’s Republic
  • The Strategy & Tactics of the People's Republic of Nigeria
  • The Problems of Africa – The Need for Ideological Appraisal
  • Awo on the Nigerian Civil War
  • Path to Nigerian Greatness
  • Voice of Reason
  • Voice of Courage
  • Voice of Wisdom
  • Adventures in Power – Book 1 – My March Through Prison
  • Adventures in Power – Book 2 – Travails of Democracy
  • My march through prison
  • Socialism in the service of New Nigeria
  • Selected speeches of Chief Obafemi Awolowo
  • Philosophy of Independent Nigeria
  • Memorable Quotes from Awo
  • The Path to Economic Freedom in Developing Country
  • Blueprint for Post-War Reconstruction
  • Anglo-Nigerian Military Pact Agreement

See also[edit]

Ikenne Residence of Chief Obafemi Awolowo


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  2. ^ "NATIONAL HERO: Chief Obafemi Awolowo Full Biography,Life And Heroic Works+Quotes". TIN Magazine. 13 October 2015. Retrieved 7 April 2021.
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  4. ^ a b Admin (16 November 2016). "AWOLOWO, Chief Obafemi Jeremiah Oyeniyi". Biographical Legacy and Research Foundation. Retrieved 29 May 2020.
  5. ^ Olalekan, falaye (18 May 2020). "See The PAPA AWOLOWO'S CAR That Toured The Whole 19 States During The 1979 And 1983 Presidential Campaign. |Nig24news". Nig24News. Retrieved 2 June 2021.
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  8. ^ a b c James Booth. Writers and politics in Nigeria. Africana Pub. Co., 1981, p. 52.
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  10. ^ Historical dictionary of the British empire, Volume 1
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  13. ^ "Obafemi Awolowo: Endowed with robust planning capacity, notable integrity, ardent nationalism …". Businessday NG. 14 January 2018. Retrieved 29 May 2020.
  14. ^ "The Generalissimo of western region's politics". The Guardian Nigeria News - Nigeria and World News. 8 March 2020. Retrieved 27 February 2022.
  15. ^ "PNF-Behandlungsverfahren", PNF in der Praxis, Springer-Verlag, pp. 5–22, 2005, doi:10.1007/3-540-27846-x_2, ISBN 3-540-23545-0
  16. ^ "Obafemi Awolowo | Nigerian statesman | Britannica". www.britannica.com. Retrieved 24 February 2022.
  17. ^ Nigerian Political Parties: Power in an Emergent African Nation, R. L. Sklar (2004), Africa World Press, ISBN 1-59221-209-3
  18. ^ "Awo's religious influences".
  19. ^ a b Glickman, Harvey (1992). Political Leaders of Contemporary Africa South of the Sahara: A Biographical Dictionary. Greenwood Press. ISBN 9780313267819.
  20. ^ "then British owned"
  21. ^ Akosa, Amala (31 January 2018). "LIFES AND TIMES OF CHIEF OBAFEMI AWOLOWO". Retrieved 29 May 2020.
  22. ^ Shillington, Kevin (2013). Encyclopedia of African History 3-Volume Set. Routledge. p. 197. ISBN 9781135456696.
  23. ^ "About Us". Nigerian Tribune. Archived from the original on 20 May 2011. Retrieved 11 May 2011.
  24. ^ "Five Independence Day Heroes". The Guardian Nigeria News - Nigeria and World News. 1 October 2017. Retrieved 29 May 2020.
  25. ^ the world
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  27. ^ Case For Ideological Orientation, O. Awolowo.
  28. ^ "Obafemi Awolowo: The Man With a Plan Archived 21 February 2008 at the Wayback Machine"
  29. ^ "IN MEMORIAM: Awo, the sage who named the naira, drew his last breath 30 years ago". TheCable. 9 May 2017. Retrieved 2 June 2021.
  30. ^ "Obafemi Awolowo: Endowed with robust planning capacity, notable integrity, ardent nationalism …". Businessday NG. 14 January 2018. Retrieved 2 June 2021.
  31. ^ Olaiya, Taiwo Akanbi (1 April 2016). "Proto-Nationalisms as Sub-Text for the Crisis of Governance in Nigeria". SAGE Open. 6 (2): 215824401664313. doi:10.1177/2158244016643139. ISSN 2158-2440.
  32. ^ "Accord concondiale: The continuous search for Nigeria's elusive unity and indivisibility (6)". The Sun Nigeria. 25 January 2017. Retrieved 2 June 2021.
  33. ^ Siollun, Max (2009). Oil, Politics and Violence: Nigeria's Military Coup Culture (1966-1976). Algora. p. 15. ISBN 9780875867090.
  34. ^ Adventures in Power Book One: My March through Prison, O. Awolowo Macmillan Nigeria Publishers, 1985.
  35. ^ "About OAF". www.obafemiawolowofoundation.org. Retrieved 2 June 2021.
  36. ^ "The Obafemi Awolowo Foundation".
  37. ^ "Obafemi Awolowo | Nigerian statesman". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2 June 2021.
  38. ^ Nigeria 100 Naira 1999-2014 Bank note museum
  39. ^ Nigeria 100 Naira 2014 & 2019 Bank note museum
  40. ^ "Chieftaincy Title: Buhari Congratulates Adebutu". The Punch. 19 October 2019. Retrieved 3 February 2020.