Some of Nigeria’s notable heroes and heroines in history

Nigeria Heroes

Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, is one of Nigeria heroes. He is also one of Nigeria’s most famous musicians, who rose to prominence in the 1970s. He was known for using his music as an art form to protest. Fela built resistance towards the Nigerian socio-political discourse and dictatorship. His music was also used as a means of reflecting and commenting on political events.

Fela had a shrine, ‘Afrika Shrine club’ where he performed three times every weekend. His Friday show was named ‘Yabis Night’. On Yabis Nights, Fela would diligently point out a new government effort. Typically a different effort each week, highlighting its failings and then break into his legendary free-flowing Afrobeat.

Fela was habitually arrested and beaten over his opposing views by the Nigeria Federal Military government who ruled at the time, but that never deterred his course. It was said that soldiers frequently conducted raids on his Lagos commune; which Fela had named the Kalakuta Republic.

Since his death in 1997, Kuti’s legacy lives on and has birthed a new generation of activists. These activists idolize his resilience in fighting the tyranny of the system. He has also become a musical idol for lots of musicians who infuse his genre into their music craft.

Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti

Nigeria Heroes

Funmilayo, one of Nigeria heroes is a founding mother of Nigerian independence. She was part of the delegations to discuss the proposed national constitution; her contributions to Nigerian society as a women’s rights activist are immense and present to this day.

There are few women in Nigerian history who are as commanding or accomplished as Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti. Before Nigeria’s independence of 1960, Funmilayo founded the Commoners Peoples Party in an attempt to challenge the ruling NCNC. Her action ultimately denied the NCNC victory in her area.

In the 1940s, she co-founded the Abeokuta Women’s Union; alongside Yoruba heroines ‘Alimotu Pelewura’ and ‘Grace Eniola Soyinka’ which led to a women’s protest against colonial taxation in 1946. Ransome-Kuti also co-founded the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) with her husband Reverend Israel Oludotun Ransome-Kuti in July 1931.

In 1965, Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti received the national honour of membership in the Order of Nigeria. She was also bestowed the honorary doctorate of laws by the University of Ibadan in the year 1968. In 1970, Funmilayo was awarded the Lenin Peace Prize. Throughout her career, Funmilayo was known as an educator and activist.

She died from coma complications in 1978 at the Kalakuta Republic; after soldiers threw her from the second floor of her son Fela’s Lagos home during a 1977 raid.

Funmilayo and her family

Gani Fawehinmi

Nigeria Heroes

Ganiyu “Gani” Oyesola Fawehinmi born in 1938, was a Nigerian author. He was also a publisher, philanthropist, social critic, human and civil rights lawyer and politician in his lifetime. Indeed, Nigeria heroes can not be mentioned without mentioning his name

While in college, Fawehinmi was popularly known as “Nation” because of his passionate interest in national, legal and political affairs. He was also known as “the people’s lawyer”, because of his commitment to representing those who couldn’t afford his services.

Gani played the role of human rights campaigner for 40 years, constantly provoking over-mighty military rulers and defending their victims.

He had a recurring habit of getting arrested, detained and charged to court. His international passport was seized on many occasions and his residence and Chambers were searched several times too.

To prevent him from being able to effectively reach out to the masses among whom he was popular; the government deported him from one part of the country to another. . His books were confiscated by the Federal Military Government and his library at Surulere, Lagos was set ablaze.


He believed in media freedom, and often took on journalists’ cases. The most notable case of his was the still-unsolved case of Dele Giwa; a magazine editor who was killed by a parcel bomb in 1986.

On 11 June 1993 Fawehinmi was awarded the biennial Bruno Kreisky Prize. This prize is awarded to international figures who advance human rights causes. In 1998, he received the International Bar Association’s ‘Bernard Simmons Award’ in recognition of his human rights and pro-democracy work.

In 2008, Fawehinmi rejected one of the highest national Honours that can be bestowed on a citizen by the government; the ‘Order of the Federal Republic (OFR), in protest of the many years of misrule since Nigeria’s independence. He was later posthumously awarded Nigeria’s second-highest Honour, the ‘Order of Nigeria’

He died on September 5, 2009, after a long battle with cancer.

Wole Soyinka

Nigeria heroes

Unlike many others, Wole Soyinka had the blood of activism in his blood. His mum Grace Eniola Soyinka was one of the leading women activists of her time. Truly heroes existed in his lineage. Wole Soyinka’s achievements in literature and political activism confirms this.

In 1967, as a 33-years-old, Wole was for 22 months imprisoned by the military government for speaking against the Nigerian civil war. By 1994, he fled the country after the dictatorship in power charged him with treason for criticizing the military junta.

Soyinka was un-relentless in criticizing the undemocratic governments of the day. He pointed out oppressions melted on Nigerians even to this day.

In 1986, he became the first African to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. In his acceptance speech, Wole took the opportunity to focus the world’s attention on the continuing injustice of white rule in South Africa and dedicated the award to then-imprisoned Nelson Mandela.

Soyinka is indeed a symbol of Nigerian resilience and a true generational impact leader.

Chief Anthony Enahoro

Nigeria Heroes

Chief Anthony Eromosele Enahoro, an Edo man born in 1923, was one of Nigeria’s foremost anti-colonial and pro-democracy activists heroes.

In 1953, Enahoro became the first to move the motion for Nigeria’s independence. However, his motion for Nigeria’s Independence suffered setbacks in parliament on several occasions. Some of which were caused by the northern members of parliament staging a walkout as a consequence of the motion.

He attempted the motion again in 1957 and 1958 which failed again at both times. Nigeria was eventually granted independence in 1960 with motions raised by Tafewa after several political setbacks and defeats in parliament. Enahoro has been regarded by academics and many Nigerians as the “Father of Nigeria State”.

He died in 2010 at the age of 87.

Margret Ekpo

Chief Margaret Ekpo born in 1914, was thrust into politics by chance after her husband had sent her to a protest. The protest was organized by Nigerians to fight against the discriminatory practices of the colonial administrators of Aba General Hospital.

Margaret Ekpo was a Nigerian women’s rights activist and a social mobilizer. She was a pioneering female politician in the country’s First Republic. Margaret was also a leading member of a class of traditional Nigerian women activists. In the 1950s, she joined Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti to protest killings at an Enugu coal mine.

In 1953, Ekpo was nominated by NCNC as the regional house of chiefs. Ekpo was an elected politician in 1960 until the start of the Nigerian civil war in 1967. During the war, she was detained by Biafran authorities for three years. She at one point became quite ill for lack of adequate food.

She lived her life without bitterness despite the outcome of the war. When asked why she was detained in an interview conducted by Onyeka Onwenu in 2004, she replied; “they never told me. I guess it had to do with our agitation for Calabar and Ogoja states to be carved out of the Eastern Region.”

In 2001, Nigeria’s then-president, Olusegun Obasanjo, renamed the airport in Calabar after Ekpo as a tribute to her. It is now called the Margaret Ekpo International Airport. During her lifetime, she earned the respected title of being named one of Nigeria political heroes

Chinua Achebe

Achebe is one of Nigeria most acclaimed novelists. Achebe is famous for his unflinching depictions of the social and psychological disorientation that occurs as a result of the encroachment of Western customs and values on traditional African society. His first novel Things Fall Apart (1958), is the most widely read literature in modern African literature.

He is also one of Nigeria Political Heroes. This heroism is evident when he openly supported the secessionist Biafra movement. He even took a position as head of the Biafra Broadcasting Service risking his life and career. After the civil war, he became active with the left-leaning People’s Redemption Party (PRP).

In 1983, he became the party’s deputy national vice-president. Achebe continued to pull discourse toward Nigeria’s corrupt polity, notably in his book The Trouble with Nigeria.

Achebe remained a resilient champion of the ordinary person and equality in Nigerian society. He was a champion of fairness in society. Achebe constantly advocated for a more equal Nigeria through literature, despite being paralyzed after an accident in 1990.

He lectured over 10 universities in his career years, some of which are outside the shores of Nigeria

Achebe died after a short illness in March 2013 in Boston, United States. He died as one of the world’s celebrated Heroes, died a great man

Florence Nkiru Nwapa

She was a Nigerian author best known as Flora Nwapa. Her novel Efuru (1966) is among the first English-language novels by a woman from Africa. Born in Oguta, Nwapa was the forerunner to a generation of African women writers.

While never considering herself a feminist, she is best known for recreating life and traditions from a woman’s viewpoint. In 1966 her book Efuru became Africa’s first internationally published female novel in the English language. She has been called the mother of modern African literature. Flora went on later to become the first African woman publisher of novels when she founded Tata Press. She would surely not be missed out when discussions of Nigeria Heroes are being made mention of.

She also is known for her governmental work in reconstruction after the Biafran War. In particular, she worked with orphans and refugees that were displaced during the war. Furthermore, she worked as a publisher of African literature and promoted women in African society. Flora Nwapa died on 16 October 1993 in Enugu, Nigeria

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