First Women

FIRST WOMEN: First Nigerian Woman To Become A Cabinet Minister




For more stories on Nigerian women who were first in their fields, visit FIRST WOMEN page for our past collections.

Adenike Ebunoluwa Oyagbola is the first woman to be appointed as a Federal Minister under the regime of Alhaji Shehu Shagari in 1979.

Adenike, who is a native of Igan Alade, a town in Yewa North local government area of Ogun State was born on May 5, 1931.

After her education in England, she joined the Federal Civil Service in 1963.

In December 1979, she was appointed Minister of National Planning, a position she held until October 1983. She later became Nigeria’s Ambassador to the United Mexican States of Panama, Costa Rica and Guatemala.

She currently serves as the President of the Nigerian chapter of Attitudinal Healing International.

In a 2014 interview with Taye Ayotunde published on, she spoke on the need for women to be bold and know who they are.

She said,

I think we still have to blame ourselves. We have to blame ourselves. Why should the women fear their own children? Or have we seen anybody born without a woman? We are mothers to all human beings. I have been thinking about this matter. Why is it that women give birth to and if they are males, they now turn back to harass their mothers and make them as if they are servants? Initially, I said you must have love before you can give it out. You also must accept yourself and let people know that you are somebody. Are we not created by God?

If we are created by God, why are we afraid of our males, the ones we give birth to? That was why I said we caused all these things. When they see somebody doing it, instead of joining her, they will begin to abuse that person, fight her. But why do we bother fighting?

 Have you forgotten our lady in Abeokuta here – Mrs. Olufumilayo Ransome-Kuti? I am even happy that I am speaking from Abeokuta. Did she not face whatever that came her way? Did she not do it with the women in Egbaland? She did and till today she will continue to be remembered. So why are we afraid? We are afraid because we do not believe that we have power. Even if you don’t have, you have to look for it. Then you have to accept yourself the way God has created you.

 I told some politicians when I was campaigning at that time, that when you want to do the right things, the beginning of it should be that you accept yourself. You wake up in the morning, look at the mirror and say “this is what God has brought out; I am like this” and you believe that what a man can do, a woman can do better. That means I have accepted myself. In addition to being accepted, I now believe that I must add courage, and that courage must be there.

Madam Ransome-Kuti did not bother whether she was to be taken to the prison or whatever. She believed in what she was doing. She did it and she succeeded. You remember how she died? She was ready. So you have to be yourself and be yourself when you meet with somebody who tells you “don’t do it”.

Immediately I became a minister, there was a plane crash somewhere on the way to this small town near Nigeria. When it happened, they were mentioning the people inside and my friend heard a name and ran from her house to my house and asked what was happening. I was not in and she just fell to the ground and started crying, saying: “Tell her, when she comes, to resign. We don’t want her to be minister. I thought she has died because they were announcing and mentioning her name.” As she was talking, I entered and said: I am here. Then she said: “Okay, if I thought it was your name, it means it can happen to you; just go and resign. We need you more than the government needs you. Go and resign.” I started laughing and said: my friend, if I resign, how actually do you want Nigerian women to behave? I am there for all of you.


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  1. Pingback: First Women: First Woman To Be The Chair Of The British Nigeria Law Forum – Woman.NG

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