Chief Obafemi Awolowo (1909-1987) was a Nigerian nationalist, a political leader, and a principal participant in the struggle for Nigerian independence.
Obafemi Awolowo was born in Ikenné, Western State, Nigeria, on March 6, 1909. He received his early education in the mission schools of Ikenné, Abeokuta, and Ibadan. Often he worked at odd jobs to raise money for tuition fees, and his entrepreneurial spirit continued to express itself in the various careers which he subsequently sampled: journalist, teacher, clerk, moneylender, taxidriver, produce broker. His organizational and political inclinations became evident as he moved to high-level positions in the Nigerian Motor Transport Union, the Nigerian Produce Traders’ Association, the Trades Union Congress of Nigeria, and the Nigerian Youth Movement, of which he became Western Provincial secretary.
Awolowo was Nigeria’s foremost federalist. 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. 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. He supported limited public ownership and limited central planning in government. He believed that the state should channel Nigeria’s resources into education and state-led infrastructural development. Controversially, and at considerable expense, he introduced free primary education for all 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. Read more