Women of Valour
The month of March is Women’s History Month, which is a celebration of the contributions of women to events in history and contemporary society. It also aligns with International Women’s Day which is annually held on March 8th to celebrate women’s achievements throughout history and across nations. This is a list of women who have stood their grounds in the face of danger and have written their names in the sands of time.
- Funmilayo Ransome Kuti
Mother of the king of afro-beat, Funmilayo Ransome Kuti was a politician, women’s rights activist and aristocrat. She was a woman of “firsts” being the first woman to drive a car and first female student at the Abeokuta Grammar School and one of the few women to be elected to the house of chiefs, one of her homeland’s most influential bodies at the time. Ransome-Kuti’s political activism led to her being regarded as “Lioness of Lisabi” by the West African Pilot. She led the women of the Egba people in a campaign against the arbitrary taxation that was hurting the women of the land, which led to retirement of the high king Oba Ademola II in 1949. She campaigned heavily for women’s right to vote organised workshops for illiterate women. She will remain that woman that made us believe as Nigerian women that we could speak up and effect change in our community.
2. Stella Ameyo Adadevoh
In 2014, a daughter of our past heroes and a true patriot Dr Stella Ameyo Adadevoh was immortalised. Her father was Babatunde Adadevoh, a former vice chancellor of the University of Lagos and her great-grandfather was Herbert Macaulay, who was the grandson of Samuel Ajayi Crowther. The late Adadevoh was an endocrinologist at First Consultant Hospital, Lagos where she was the lead doctor that attended to Patrick Sawyer, patient zero in July when the Ebola epidemic surfaced in Nigeria. When she diagnosed him with the Ebola disease, she held her ground when it became a diplomatic issue that she release Sawyer to attend a conference in Calabar, Cross River state. She quarantined him, contacted the authorities, and ensured the provision of protective materials and Ebola educational material to hospital staff. In a country where it is very easy for one to look the other way, Nigeria is highly indebted to the sacrifice of Dr. Adadevoh and her commitment to her oath as a doctor which limited the impact of the dreaded disease to 19 other cases traced to Sawyer. Her actions and those of her colleagues led the World Health Organisation to declare Nigeria free of Ebola three months later, an important landmark in the battle against the diseas
3. Margaret Ekpo
One of Nigeria’s pioneering female political icons, Margaret Ekpo helped restructure Nigerian politics as a women’s rights activist, social mobiliser and a female politician in the first Republic. Her first contact with politics was in 1945 when she replaced her husband at meetings to discuss discriminatory practices of the colonial administration in the city as well as fighting cultural and racial imbalance. Along the line, she attended a political rally where she met Mbonu Ojike, Nnamdi Azikiwe and Herbert Macaulay. By the end of the decade she had organised a Market Women Association in Aba to unionise market women in the city. She later joined the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons (NGNC), as a platform to represent a marginalised group. In the 1950s, she teamed up with Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti to protest killings at an Enugu coal mine. In 1953, Ekpo was nominated by the NGNC to the regional House of Chiefs, and in 1954 she established the Aba Township Women’s Association where she used her position to turn it into a political pressure group. By 1955, women in Aba had outnumbered male voters in a city-wide election. She won a seat to the Eastern Regional House of Assembly in 1961, a position that allowed her to fight for issues affecting women at the time.
4. Annkio Briggs
Annkio Briggs is a highly respected environmental and human rights activist based in Port Harcourt, Rivers state. She is the founder of non-governmental organisation Agape Birthrights where she assists with developing areas, documenting, cleaning oil spills and fighting against injustices and marginalisation of the Niger Delta. As of 2011, she was spokesperson of the Ijaw Republican Assembly (IRA) as well as the United Niger Delta Energy Development Security Strategy (UNDEDSS). Her stance on the issues of the Niger Delta have put her in the forefront of the tug of power between the government and the Niger Delta people. She was recently part of the peaceful protesters who were assaulted over the controversial allocation by the state government of 1,200 hectares of land to Fulani herdsmen for cattle grazing. She is relentless in her fight as an activist and is constantly changing the narrative about the Niger Delta.
5. Aisha Bakari Gombi
Best known as her title “Queen Hunter” of Boko Haram, Bakari Gombi a descendant of game hunters, is now on a mission to root out the terrorist group from the forest in which she grew up in. Bakari Gombi who used to hunt antelopes with her grandfather now hunts one of the deadliest terrorist sect in the world with her band of hunters in her hometown, Gombi, Adamawa state. She also happens to be one of a handful of women that have been enlisted by the Nigerian military to fight Boko Haram on an ad hoc basis. In a recent interview with The Guardian UK she said, “Boko Haram know me and fear me.” With her band, she has been responsible for rescuing hundreds of people from their abductors and protecting her town from invasion. Their tracking skills and knowledge of the terrain have helped the army’s counter-insurgency in the region. When she is not defending her town from unknown danger, she doubles as a tailor. She was recently celebrated in a “turbaning” ceremony recognising her as “Queen Hunter” and heroine of Northern Nigeria.