Like many things in Nigeria, we don’t give our history the attention it deserves. So many Nigerian stories go untold. And some of those told, by others, are coloured by intentional bias. Like the recent movie about Dr. Stella Adadevoh, there are so many Nigerian women who should have their stories told on the big screen. We list some of those we think deserve their own biopics below:
Queen Idia (16th Century)
She was the first queen mother in Benin, the mother of Esigie, the Oba of Benin who ruled from 1504 to 1550 and played a significant role in the rise and reign of her son as king. With her help, Esigie won battles and was respected for bringing peace and tranquility during his reign as king. Queen Idia was known for her political counsel, magical powers and medicinal knowledge.
Queen Amina (16th century)
The daughter and successor (Some say she became queen after her brother Karama’s death) of Queen Bakwa Turuku, who founded the modern city of Zaria (named after Amina’s younger sister). Queen Amina was a great warrior. She created strong earthen walls to surround Zaria and other cities she conquered including Katsina, Kano and Bauchi. It became the prototype for the fortifications used in all Hausa land. These fortifications became known as ‘Ganuwar Amina’ or Amina’s walls.
Efunsetan Aniwura (19th Century)
An Egba trader who settled in Ibadan. She was the second Iyalode of Ibadan, and a prominent and wealthy business woman who had a peculiar brand of boldness, strength and intelligence about her. She sourced for goods from different parts of the country and had her own slaves and warriors. She helped improve businesses in Ibadan with her influence. She was a philanthropist and had good relationship with her workers, contrary to popular believe, until after the loss of her only child. She believed God had failed her, and wanted God to manage His affairs his heaven while she managed ‘her earth’. She decreed that no childbirth, conception, courtship nor marriage must be heard of in her domain. Any woman that conceived would be killed or have the pregnancy terminated by forceful abortion, and the man responsible executed.
Efunporoye Osuntinubu Olumosa (1805-1887)
Efunroye Tinubu was as a shrewd and ambitious business tycoon. A very close friend of Efunsetan Aniwura, she wielded enormous economic powers across Western Africa and political power in Abeokuta and Lagos. Although she started out as a trader in domestic slavery, she eventually fought for the liberation of slaves, sold and bought in Lagos and environs, when she eventually saw the evil in slave trade.
Oyinkansola Abayomi (1897-1990)
Also known as Lady Oyinkan. She studied music at the Royal Academy, London. Whens she returned, she joined The Nigerian Girl Guides Association and became the first Nigerian woman to serve as supervisor. She founded West African Educated Girls’ Club and played an active role in the education of women and girls in Nigeria. With her tremendous input, The Nigerian Girl Guides was recognized supported by the government and she later became the chief commissioner for Girl Guides. She was also an active women’s right activist. She founded the Nigerian Women’s Party, at a meeting at her home with twelve women. The organization got wealthy women to fight for their rights and those of lower and middle class women.
Nwanyeruwa (20th Century)
Many have read about the Aba riots of 1929. The woman at the center of the events that led to the riots – Nwanyeruwa. After a tax related argument with a census man, Mark Emereuwa, Nwanyeruwa met and discussed with other women who were also agitated about the new tax laws. This sparked a short Women’s War with about 25,000 women all over the Igbo lands, protesting both the looming tax changes and the unrestricted power of the Warrant Chiefs. The protest greatly improved the position of women as well as dropped tax plans of the British government. Nwanyeruwa played a major role in keeping the protests non-violent by using songs and dances.
Olufunmilayo Ransome-Kuti (1900-1978)
She was a teacher, political campaigner, women’s rights activist and traditional aristocrat. She was a prominent leader who served tirelessly to see Nigeria stand as a sovereign nation. She was also known for her dogged fights for tje rights of women. She was at the forefront of advocating for women’s right to vote. She headed so many political parties and unions during her time. She also raised three sons, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, Beko Ransome-Kuti, and Olikoye Ransome-Kuti, who influenced the nation significantly.
Susan Wenger (1914-2009)
She was an artist and Yoruba priestess, also known as Adunni Olurisa. She was born as the daughter of Swiss and Austrian parents, but she was attracted to the Yoruba religion when she came down to Nigeria. She married a local drummer in 1959, after divorcing her husband Ulli Bier. And then continued to embrace the Yoruba religion in her adopted hometown in Osogbo. She was a powerful force for encouraging Yorubas to embrace their culture which was almost washed away by the influence of the western world. She spearheaded the task of protecting the sacred grove of Osun, a forest along the banks of the Osun river just outside Osogbo, and turned it into a sculpture garden filled with art which she created and other arts created by other artists. She also adopted more than a dozen Yoruba children, including the artist Nike Davies-Okundaye.
Bisoye Tejuosho (1916-1996)
A prominent business woman from Abeokuta. Aged 18, Bisoye married and relocated to Zaria where her husband was working. That was where she started her food trading business. She used trains to transport foodstuff from Zaria to Lagos. She later expanded to foam, carpets and real estate businesses.
After disagreements with her manufacturing partners, She got a loan and built Teju Industries – her own foam manufacturing business.
She was murdered in 1996.
Margaret Ekpo (1914-2006)
As an activist and feminist, Margaret Ekpo helped change the face of Nigerian politics forever. She encouraged women to protect their interests by taking part in the political advancement of the nation. Irrespective of the ‘side-eyes’ that she got, Ekpo drew strength from being a woman in a man’s world, and earned respect for all Nigerian women by standing her ground till she was appointed to several representative bodies in government, where she used her power and influence to fight for women’s rights. Margaret Ekpo triumphed over her critics by embracing her power as a woman.
Janet Ekundayo (1914 -2009)
A mother and philanthropist in the mold of Mother Theresa. Disregarding the tribal divisions of her day, she housed a lot of children in her small home, fed them, cared for them like her own. As at 2008, she had proudly mothered 470 children! She gave back to humanity with the little that she had until her death in 2009.
Hadiza Ladi Kwali (1925 -1984)
She was the first Nigerian women to appear on a Naira note. The pioneer of modern pottery in Nigeria. Her works were acquired by the Emir of Abuja, through which she met Michael Cardew, an English studio potter who owned a pottery training centre in Abuja. She joined the centre as only woman potter. She became spectacular at making dishes, bowls and beakers but also continued to produce pots using her traditional hand building and decoration using western studio techniques.
Her work became well known in Europe, Britain and America and was shown to great acclaim in London at the Berkeley Galleries. She was awarded a doctorate and was made MBE (Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) in 1963.
Hajiya Gambo Sawaba (1933-2001)
Gambo Sawaba a Nigerian politician and activist. She was poorly educated and forced into early marriage at 16. She disregarded the gender-inequality complex of her times, and fought with everything she had and more to bring about social change, especially in Northern Nigeria. Until her death, she was an indomitable fighter for the liberation of women and the plight of destitute children.
Kudirat Abiola (1952-1996)
Few had a voice as loud as that of Kudirat Abiola in Nigeria’s fight for democracy. One of the Wives of Moshood Kolawole Abiola, winner of the annulled 1993 Presidential elections, she defied Nigeria’s Military dictator, Sani Abacha and fought endlessly for the restoration of her husband’s mandate, fair play and justice, until she was murdered.
Dora Nkem Akunyili (1954-2014)
Only few won’t remember Dora Akunyili. She came to public consciousness as the incorruptible Director General of NAFDAC (National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control). Dora fought doggedly and without fear to eradicate counterfeit drugs and unsafe food and drink products.
Who have we omitted? Tell us who and why they deserve a biopic?
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