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“You have denied me the opportunity to put things aright… You may no more see or know anything call democracy.”- Obafemi Awolowo

Early Life:

Obafemi Awolowo was born on the 6th of March, 1909 in Ikenne now known as Ogun State to David Sopolu Awolowo and Mary Efunyela Awolowo.

His father was a farmer and sawyer, he died of smallpox when Obafemi Awolowo was 10 years old.


He attended various Christian Schools in Ikenne, Ibadan including Baptist Boys High School, Abeokuta.

He worked as a teacher in Abeokuta, shorthand typist and subsequently served as a clerk at the famous Wesley College, Ibadan.

He was also as a correspondent for the Nigerian Times.

After raising enough funds, he enrolled at Wesley College Ibadan in 1927.

In the 1930s, he became an active member of the Lagos Youth Movement (later known as the Nigerian Youth Movement) and he later became its secretary for the Western Province.

During that period he came to bemoan the ethnic divisions within the nationalist movement and the political inequalities between some of Nigeria’s ethnic groups and regions.

In 1944, Awolowo decided to complete his formal education by studying law in the University of London.

While he was there he founded the Egbe Omo Oduduwa meaning the Society of the Descendants of Oduduwa. It was to promote the culture and unity of the Yoruba people.

He was called to Bar by the Honoyrable Society on the 19th of November, 1946. He returned to Nigeria in 1947, where he successfully practised in Ibadan as a barrister.

In 1948 – 1949, he established the Egbe Omo Oduduwa in Nigeria and also founded the Nigerian Tribune, which he used to spread nationalist consciousness among Nigerians.

His Political Career:
He founded the Action Group political party in 1951 with some of the members of the Egbe Omo Oduduwa society as the nucleus and he became the party’s first president.

The party called for an immediate end to the British rule and development of several welfare programs.

In 1951, they won the first elections held in the Western Region and Obafemi Awolowo served as the Minister of Local Government Structure where he established various elective councils.

From 1954-1959, he worked as the Premier of the Western Region.He worked hard to improve education, social services and many agricultural practices and policies.

His administration introduced a program that provided free health care and primary education for children.

The first television station in Africa was established in the Western Region by his Administration as well.

However, he tried building the Action Group into nationwide party by making alliances with other ethnic groups in their regions.

In 1959, after Obafemi Awolowo resigned from his post of premier to run for a seat in the Federal House of Representatives the Action Group was defeated when the other two major groups formed a coalition.

He became the leader of the opposition in the Federal House of b while the deputy leader of the group, Chief SL Akintola remained Premier of Western Region.

This situation led to a power struggle within the party which eventually erupted in 1962 in disturbances in the Western Region House of Assembly.The Federal Government intervened and suspended their regional constitution.

In 1963, he was accused of conspiring to overthrow the Government of Nigeria and was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment.

He was released after a second millitary coup took place in July 1966.

Later that year Obafemi Awolowo was on a National Conciliation Committee which was created to mediate the rift between the Federal Government and the Eastern Region.

When the attempts failed, he threw his support behind the Federal Government.

He was appointed the Federal Commissioner of Finance and Vice President of the Federal Executive Council by Yakubu Gowon’s military administration during the Civil War.

In the mid-70s he was Chancellor of the University of Ife (the brainchild of the Action Group) and University of Northern Nigeria.

He was also a Senior Advocate of Nigeria.

When the 12- year ban on political activity was lifted in 1978 in preparation for a civilian rule, Awolowo emerged as the leader of the Unity Party of Nigeria.

In 1979, he lost the presidential election to Alhaji Shehu Shagari in a heavily rigged election of about 400,000 votes.

The election result was decided when the Supreme Court refused Awolowo’s plea that 2/3 of 19 is 13 states and went ahead to declare Alhaji Shehu Shagari instead of allowing a runoff election.

In 1983, he contested again and lost to the same candidate, this time losing with over 4 million votes.

Because the results of the elections were questionable, he described it as fraudulent and laid the curse on the Nation during a Newspaper interview.

He said “You have denied me the opportunity to put things aright. What remains for you is that you will take your destiny in your hands. You may no more see or know anything call democracy”.

Three months later a military coup disrupted Alhaji Shehu Shagari’s tenure, seizing power and banning all parties for the next 15 years.

Obafemi Awolowo then retired from politics.

Obafemi Awolowo died peacefully at his home in Ikenne on the 9th of May, 1987 at the Age of 78 and was laid to rest in Ikenne, Remo.


In recognition of his contributions, Awolowo was honoured by the: University of Nigeria, Nsukka, University of Lagos, University of Ife, Ile- Ife, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, University of Ibadan, University of Cape Coast,Ghana.

He was also awarded the Grand Commander of the Order of the Federal Republic (GCFR) in 1982.

He was also awarded some chieftaincy titles: Asiwaju of Yoruba, Asiwaju of Remo, Losi of Ikenne, Lisa of Ijeun, Apesin of Osogbo, Odole of Ife, Ajagunla of Ado-Ekiti, Odofin of Owo, Obong Ikpan Isong of Ibibio Land.

He was also awarded the Grand Band of the Order of the Star of Africa by the Republic of Liberia in 1968 and made Grand-Officer de l’Ordre National du Lion, Republique du Senegal in 1972.

Obafemi Awolowo was a man who delighted in the pursuit of knowledge, he made his mark by standing firm and fighting for his beliefs. He was survived by his wife, 4 children, their spouses and grandchildren.

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