03 Oct NIGERIA AT 62: THE CONFLUENCE OF THE PAST AND FUTURE
“It is important to remember who we were, as we celebrate who we are and strive to become who we want to be.” Much like our INDEPENDENCE collection, which was a look-back at our past, an appreciation of our present, and a great anticipation of our future, the phenomenal women we celebrate today, come in all shades of splendour with trailblazing scars and stories for years. These are the shoulders we stand upon, the shoulders we share, and the shoulders we are forming. Nigeria marked total independence from Britain when it became a federal republic by adopting a new constitution on October 1st, 1963 with Nnamdi Azikiwe as its first president. Leading to this time, the Aba Women’s riot was the hallmark of the feminist struggle in Nigeria, their goal was for the colonial masters to put an end to unreasonable taxation and for the warrant chief system to be replaced with clan heads who were appointed by the citizens of Igbo land. These were the influences for the likes of Margaret Ekpo but by the middle of the 20th century, the call for independence sweeping across Africa, and the decline of the territories in the British Empire led to Nigeria being granted independence on October 1st 1960. These Nigerian women come in all proud shades and ages, as we look at them, we remember who we were, who we are, and who we want to be.
Some worked and fought for a place at the table, some went on to become the ‘head of the table’ and some even created their own table. They are politicians, artists, educators, entrepreneurs, academicians, homemakers, mothers, grandmothers, single, married, preachers, pilots, athletes, young, old, and in-between. Simply put, they are you and I. This is applause for the ones whose selfless stand in the face of injustice and defiance of society’s limit on women have paved the way for us to keep shattering the glass ceiling. Reinventing the famous line from our national anthem – “The Labour of our heroes past and present shall never be in vain” – these are women we are celebrating as we mark our 62nd year of being an independent nation. Happy Independence Nigeria!
The Aba Riot Women’s
protest against unreasonable taxation and the warrant chiefs resulted in women being appointed to serve on the Native Courts.
“Never ever accept ‘Because You are A Woman’ as a reason for not doing anything.”
-Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
is the founder of Lumination Global Network, a network of Bright lights committed to living a purpose driven life, while positively impacting thousands of others around the world.
An example of grit and hard work,
, the CEO of Ruff ‘n’ Tumble has paved the way for entrepreneurship for women. Her premium children’s clothing brand is by far the leading retailer and manufacturer business in Nigeria, with over 15 physical stores nationwide.
is a beaming light for persons living with special needs. She is the founder of Amputees United Initiative and The Gratitude Hub where she advocates for the rights of the former. In 2021, she was appointed as the senior special assistant on persons living
A pacesetter in the field of education,
Professor Felicia Adetowun Ogunsheye
is a woman activist as well as the first female professor in Nigeria. Through her Research Library designed for research students and her academic pursuits as a woman of her time led the way for many others after her.
Crowned Miss World in 2001,
was a trailblazer in the modelling and pageantry scene. She was the first black African to win Miss World.
was a Nigerian medical doctor and the first West African woman to train and qualify in orthodox medicine. Savage was the first West African woman to receive a university degree in medicine, graduating with first-class honours from the University of Edinburgh in 1929 at the age of 23
Best Actress in a Leading Role and Best Actress in a Supporting Role,
MFR is a leading Nigerian actress, businesswoman and director of Studies at the Lufodo Academy of Performing Arts where she trains the next generation of performing artists.
Amina Jane Mohammed
is a diplomat and politician who is serving as the fifth Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations. Previously, she was the Nigerian Minister of Environment from 2015 to 2016 and was a player in the Post-2015 Development Agenda process.
, professionally known as Asa, is a leading Nigerian-French singer, songwriter, and recording artist. She went on to win the prestigious French Constantin Award in 2008 when she was voted the best fresh talent of 10 singers or groups by a jury of 19 music-industry specialists in Paris.
was the legendary Hausa queen who ruled kingdoms in the savanna region of West Africa. She was the eldest daughter of a high-ranking government official. Amina is remembered not only for her pioneering efforts as a woman warrior but also for her military innovations.
is known for Nigeria’s human rights, legal and social movements, and advocating for democratic reforms. She was the president of the Civil Liberties Organisation and advocated for the actualization of Chief MKO Abiola’s 1993 presidential election victory.
was the first Nigerian female graduate of the Chartered Accountant of England and Wales, and the first female graduate of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN). She was elected the first female ICAN President in 1989, as the 25th president.
is an award-winning Nigerian movie director, theatre producer, and cultural entrepreneur. She is the founder and artistic director of BAP Productions which has produced over 135 theatre plays and 5 Nollywood movies
who believes all females should have equal opportunity to dignify their rights in whatever adventure they choose to do is Nigeria’s first female military pilot of the Nigerian Airforce.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
is a best-selling Nigerian author and literary prowess who uses her work to inspire women around the world in breaking gender constructions, stereotypes, and sexualities that have been made to subjugate women in society.
, first Nigerian female commercial pilot and the first woman to fly an aircraft in Nigeria. She served as the rector and chief instructor of the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology between October 2011 and February 2014.
, is a Nigerian former track and field athlete and football player, notable for becoming the first Nigerian to win gold at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, and the first black African woman to win an Olympic gold medal in a field event. She currently serves in the Nigerian Police Force.
Ndidi Okonkwo Nwuneli
is an expert on African agriculture and nutrition, philanthropy, and social innovation. Through her work in the private, public, and nonprofit sectors, she has led the design and execution of high-impact initiatives focused on policy, strategy, organisational design, ecosystem solutions, and growth.
Ladi Dosei Kwali
, OON, MBE was the pioneer of African ceramic art modernism. She was a Nigerian potter, ceramicist and educator recognized internationally for her art.
Dr. Iphigenia Efunjoke Coker
MA, MFR, was an Amazon, worthy of emulation and recognition, a champion of Nigeria womanhood and education of the girl child. She was the first African principal of Queen’s College, Lagos.
Chief Elizabeth Abimbola Awoliyi,
MBE, OFR was the first woman to practise as a physician in Nigeria. She was also the first West African woman to earn a licence of Royal Surgeon in Dublin.
was a market woman who traded in foodstuffs around the Oba Market in the ancient Benin kingdom during the reign of Oba Uwaifiokun.
Princess Elizabeth Olowu
went against the ancient Benin tradition and saying: Okhuo-ise-eronmwon, “a woman does not cast bronze”, to become the first female bronze caster in Benin’s history. She is also the daughter of Oba Akenzua II.
MON is a Nigerian athlete who specialises in the long jump. She is the current commonwealth champion and a three-time African senior champion in the Long Jump and holds a personal best of 7.17 m She currently holds the commonwealth games record, African junior record, and African record in the event.
Olufunmilola Aduke Funmi Iyanda
is a talk show host, broadcaster, Film and TV producer, media executive, philanthropist, journalist, and blogger. She produced and hosted a talk show, New Dawn with Funmi, which aired on the national network for over eight years.
is a Professor of Security, Leadership and Development at King’s College London and has been founding Director of the African Leadership Centre (ALC), which aims to build the next generation of African scholars and analysts generating cutting-edge knowledge for conflict, security and development in Africa.
Chief Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti,
MON, was a Nigerian educator, political campaigner, suffragist, and women’s rights activist. Fumilayo Ransome Kuti was born in Abeokuta, Ogun State, Nigeria, and was the first female student to attend the Abeokuta Grammar School and first female to drive a car in Abeokuta.
Nigerian author who has been called the mother of modern African Literature.
was the forerunner to a generation of African women writers, and the first African woman novelist to be published in the English language in Britain
Chief Folake Solanke,
SAN, CON, is a Nigerian lawyer, administrator, and social critic. She is the first female Senior Advocate of Nigeria and the first Nigerian female lawyer to wear the silk gown as Senior Counsel.
Hajia Gambo Sawaba
was a Nigerian women’s rights activist, politician, and philanthropist. She served as the deputy chairman of the Great Nigeria People’s Party and was elected leader of the national women’s wing of the Northern Element Progressive Union
is a Nigerian professor of mathematics education, who made history as the first Nigerian woman to receive a doctorate, and the first Nigerian female vice-chancellor at the University of Benin
Grace Atinuke Oyelude
is a retired registered nurse, midwife, and hospital administrator who rose to prominence as the first Miss Nigeria in 1957.
is the founder and creative director of iOpenEye, a Nigerian production company driving social change through performance art. A social impact theatre-maker whose creative activism focuses on gender inequality and empowerment.
is a Nigerian front end developer and Google developer expert. She is Nigeria’s first female Google Developer Expert
Rear Admiral Itunu Hotonu
is a Nigerian naval officer and architect. One of the first women officers and amongst the first architects in the Nigerian Navy, she has served as a staff college instructor. In December 2012 she became the first female admiral in Africa.
Kafayat Sanni is Nigeria’s first female fighter pilot. Emerging as the overall best pilot at the Nigerian Air Force’s 401 training school in 2017
is a Nigerian filmmaker, television director, and music video director, whose works have appeared on Channel O, MTV Base, Sound City TV, BET and Netflix.
Lady Kofoworola Ademola
was a Nigerian educationalist, writer, and advocate for women’s education. The first Black African woman to be awarded a degree from the University of Oxford, she advocated for women’s education and women’s rights
is the founder and chief executive officer at the Cedar Seed Foundation, an organisation that promotes the participation of women with disabilities in human rights based development in Nigeria. She focuses on inclusive legislation for people with disabilities.
Chief Margaret Ekpo
was a Nigerian women’s rights activist and 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
, also known as Mo Abudu, is a Nigerian media mogul, philanthropist, and former human resources management consultant. She has been described by Forbes as “Africa’s Most Successful Woman”, and rated as one of the “25 Most Powerful Women in Global Television” by The Hollywood Reporter.
was a Fula princess, poet, teacher, and daughter of the founder of the Sokoto Caliphate, Usman dan Fodio. She organised a public education system for women and was at the heart of a sisterhood which esteemed service to the community
is a Nigerian-American economist, who has been serving as the Director-General of the World Trade Organization since March 2021. Notably, she is the first woman and first African to lead the World Trade Organization as Director-General.
is a well-reputed artist best known for her cloth work and embroidery pieces. She is an entrepreneur and a philanthropist, who also empowers women by teaching them how to make Adire fabrics. Mama Nike is the Managing Director/CEO of the Nike Centre for Art and Culture, Oshogbo where training is offered free of charge to all Nigerians.
is a lawyer, an author, a pastor, and a woman of diverse interests and skills. A passion for education and a desire to support the less privileged led to her establishing the Bethesda Child Support Agency in 2001
Obiageli “Oby” Ezekwesili
is an economic policy expert, an advocate for transparency, accountability, good governance, and human capital development, a humanitarian and an activist
is a Nigerian business executive and activist. She is the Co-founder of PiggyVest and Feminist Coalition.
Olayinka Olusola Omigbodun
is the first Nigerian female professor of psychiatry. She is Professor, College of Medicine, University of Ibadan, Ibadan, Nigeria. Also, she is the first female provost of the College of Medicine, University of Ibadan
Nigerian Global model,
tries to serve as a role model for other aspiring talents in Nigeria, especially young girls. She volunteers her time and her image for such NGOs as LEAP Africa (an entrepreneurship incubator) and NIPRO
Remi Lagos Osholake
is a top Nigerian Fashion designer, Osholake was meticulous and known for her passion for detail and for the highest quality in the perfect fit. As a creative force, she always drew attention to the silhouette and cut, stressed by her choice of fabric.
Rinu Bolatito Oduala
was a prominent figure during the #EndSARS protest. A human rights activist, she used her platform to mobilise and encourage Nigerians to join the protest and was among the first people out on the street. Following the protest and the setting up of judiciary panels in states, Oduala was chosen as one of the youth representatives of the Lagos judicial panel on police brutality.
is a Nigerian mechanic. She is reported as being the first woman mechanic in Nigeria. She is also the founder of “Lady Mechanic Initiative”, that trains sexually abused and underprivileged women to become mechanics, and fend for themselves.
born Victoria Omọ́rọ́níkẹ Àdùkẹ́ Fọlashadé Thomas, is a Nigerian fashion designer. She is regarded as Nigeria’s first modern fashion designer and pioneer. She was the first fashion designer to open a fashion boutique in Nigeria. Fahm brought attention to the Nigerian fashion industry
is a Nigerian lawyer, speaker and activist. She is the founder of Arise Women Conference, a faith-based Non-Governmental Organization for women empowerment, and Handmaidens Women in Leadership Series.
Ameyo Stella Adadevoh
was a Nigerian physician. She is credited with having curbed a wider spread of the Western African Ebola virus epidemic in Nigeria by placing the patient zero, Patrick Sawyer, in quarantine despite pressure from the Liberian government.
was a Nigerian women’s rights activist and the leader of the Women’s Improvement League. She was one of the leading women activists of her era and co-founded the National Council of Women Societies, the country’s leading women’s rights organisation
is a Nigerian beauty entrepreneur and lawyer. A pioneer in the bridal makeup profession in Nigeria, she launched the first bridal directory in 1999, set up international standard makeup studios and established the first makeup school in Nigeria.
Smashing a world record in the women’s 100-metre hurdles in the semifinals at the World Championships and Commonwealth as well as the record holder in the three competitions,
is a Nigerian athlete.
First female senator,
Chief Wuraola Adepeju Esan
was a Nigerian teacher, feminist, and politician. She combined her political ambitions with those of a traditional aristocrat by serving as the Iyalode of Ibadan
was the first published female Nigerian playwright and dramatist. Sofola was also a university teacher and became the first female Professor of Theatre Arts in Africa.