Leave Bobrisky – Meet Calypso King, First Nigerian Man Who Wanted To Become a Woman and Change His Genitals in the 80s

Bobrisky and Bob Actor
Bobrisky (left) and Bob Actor (right)

If we guess right, you are surprised because you have always thought Bobrisky is the first Nigerian man to publicly take up the identity of a woman. Do not be surprised, long before Bobrisky lived a celebrated crossdresser and self-acclaimed transgender named Bob Actor, popularly known as Calypso King!


Bob actor
Bob Actor aka Calypso King

Who was Bob Actor/Calypso King?

Bob Actor was a Nigerian musician and actor in the 1980s and was known throughout the country. Bob (Calypso King) lived his life quite different from that of other celebrities of his time. He was married with at least a child but still wished to live as a woman and sometimes, he dressed as one.

Bob Actor
In February, 1989, Bob Actor granted Lagos Weekend an interview in which he made it known that he always felt like a woman trapped in the body of a man. He also talked about getting surgery to fully become transgender and live the life he had always dreamed about.

During the interview, he said,

“I do not even bother myself about what people may say after all no one is above criticism. I only got married to prove to people I’m not impotent either”. gathered that Calypso King (Bob Actor) desired to get married to a man after his surgery and then love his wife like a sister after which she can get married to another man of her choice. He said,

“I’ve even received a marriage proposal from a black American man and we intend to have our own children”.

He got several criticisms from the Nigerian public, many even believed he was insane. Bob Actor didn’t get discouraged and still pushed on with the kind of life he wanted. He once said,

“People make history just like history makes people. I know what I’m doing because I’m not insane”.

Calypso King
So, if you’re thinking that the Nigerian Barbie, Bobrisky, is the first celebrated crossdresser in Nigeria, discard the thought for The Calypso King once lived; The Calypso King who wanted to change his male genitals to that of a female.

What do you think of Bobrisky and Bob Actor? Leave a comment below and do not forget to share with friends on social media.

Image credit: Amanda Kirby of Joliba Heritage and Culture.


Malê Revolt of 1835: How Yoruba And Hausa Slaves In Brazil Helped Bring An End To International Slave Trade

The Malê Revolt spearheaded by Hausa and Yoruba slaves in Brazil
The Malê Revolt, spearheaded by Hausa and Yoruba slaves in Brazil

The Malê Revolt was one of the many slave uprisings in Brazil between 1807 and 1835. It was perhaps, the most significant slave rebellion in the history of Brazil.


The Malê revolt featured black slaves who were mostly Hausa, Kanuri and Yoruba people from present day Nigeria and freedmen attempting to usurp the powers of the white authorities of the Brazilian province of Bahia and establish a settlement dominated by freedmen and Islam.

The name given to revolt, Malê, was a parody of the word ‘imale‘ which is a Yoruba term for muslim clerics.

According to reliable data, Brazil is the only non-African country with a population of blacks reaching over 100 million. In fact, blacks take half of Brazil’s estimated population of 200 million and above.

In the early years of slave trade in Brazil, thousands of slaves were shipped in from Africa, most especially, from the Bight of Benin. Slaves brought from the Bight of Benin were mostly the Hausa, Nupe, Tiv and Yoruba People of present-day Nigeria. This brought a heavy concentration of Hausas, Yorubas and other Nigerian ethnic groups, called Nagô, to Bahia in no time.

In Bahia, as at then, the slave system in practice was the Brazil’s urban system which gave slaves the freedom to walk freely on the streets and to even engage in petty trades after working for their masters. They work as ganhadores (slaves-for-hire) who sold their labor on the street of Salvador, Bahia, Brazil.

Some Hausa and Yoruba slaves hauled goods for merchants, sold tobacco and also worked as tailors and carpenters. This made it easier for them to plan their attacks without the knowledge of the Brazilian authorities. They met before and after praying in the mosque, in their homes and briefly at the market.

Trial records show that slave and freed female street vendors also took part in the conspiracy. The Muslim cleric, Dandará, who sold tobacco at Bahia local market, was one of several holy men involved in the movement.

Manoel do Nascimento Santos Silva, also known as Gibirilu, the last known survivor of the Malê revolt in Bahia.
Manoel do Nascimento Santos Silva, also known as Gibirilu, the last known survivor of the Malê revolt in Bahia.

The revolt conspirators, the Malê, planned to execute the attack on the the last Sunday of the Muslim’s month of Ramadan which was also the day set aside to celebrate Our Lady of Bonfim, a Catholic holiday commemorated at a church located eight miles from the city center.

The Malês calculated that authorities would be away at Bonifim, keeping order and that would be a perfect time for them to strike.

Execution of the Malê Revolt

According to Thomson Gale, “the Malê rebellion was set to begin on January 25, 1835 at 5:00am, an hour when Africans fetched water at public fountains.”

Their plans, however, were betrayed. Two African freedwomen, Guilhermina Rosa de Souza and Sabina da Cruz, wife of a Nagô leader, pieced together details of the conspiracy. On the night of January, Guilhermina told a white neighbor about the rebels’ plans.

Upon knowing about the plot, Provincial President Francisco de Souza Martins ordered police forces to search the homes of Africans whom Sabina da Cruz had identified as central to the conspiracy.

Within two hours, forces led by police chief Francisco Gonçalves Martins entered into battle with African rebels in the streets of the upper city, amid the government buildings, theater, and churches frequented by the white slaveholding elite.

Black Brazilian Muslim woman with prayer beads around her neck and wrists
Black Brazilian Muslim woman with prayer beads around her neck and wrists | MARGARITA ROSA

However, the Malê rebels were defeated by the Bahian authorities after the death of over seventy Malês and nine white and mixed race Brazilians. Several people were injured. Slaves found guilty were sentenced to hard labour and flogging which ranged between fifty and one thousand; none of them were jailed in order not to put slave owners at loss.

On the other hand, the freedmen found guilty of involvement in the Malê uprising were sentenced to prison, death and deportation to African coast.

Malê rebellion in Brazil
Holy book belonging to the Malê

For several months, Brazilians live in fear. It was reported that some white families even left their homes to sleep offshore in canoes for the fear of another revolt by the slaves and their cohorts.

The Bahians won but the Hausa and Yoruba slaves left a big impact on the slave life in Brazil. Fifteen years after the Malê revolt, slave trade was eventually abolished.

Thanks for reading,


  1. Goody, Jack. “Writing, Religion, and Revolt in Bahia.” Visible Language 20 (1986): 318–343.
  2. Lovejoy, Paul. “Background to Rebellion: The Origins of Muslim Slaves in Bahia.” Slavery and Abolition 15 (1994): 151–180.
  3. “Malê Rebellion.” Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History. Retrieved August 10, 2018

This Is The Reason No Other Female Has Been Crowned Ooni of Ile-Ife After Queen Luwoo

Queen Luwoo of Ife

Ile-Ife, a town in present day Osun State, Nigeria, has always been regarded as the cradle of the Yoruba race, thus any presiding Ooni (King) of Ile-Ife (also called Ife) holds a high place in the league of Yoruba traditional rulers.

According to a report by highlifextra, more than 70% of Yoruba people do not know that Ife once had a female king and nearly half of that percentage were astonished by this fact because they know the Yoruba culture gives little and in most cases, no room for a woman to be crowned king.


One of the few female Yoruba traditional rulers known in history was Queen Luwoo of Ife whom history said jeopardized all the chances of women ruling over Ile-Ife.

Who Was Queen Luwoo of Ife?

Queen Luwoo was the 21st Ooni of Ife and the only female that has ever sat on the throne till date. She succeeded Ooni Giesi who was the 20th Ooni of Ile-Ife.

According to some historical accounts, Queen Luwoo’s full name is Lúwo Gbàgìdá and she’s a descendant of Otaataa from Owode compound, Okerewe. It was said that she married Chief Ọbalọran of Ilode whom she gave a child, Adekola Telu, who later became the founder and Oluwoo of Iwo town.

During the ancient days in Yoruba land, nothing was known about writing, therefore, many of the histories recorded then were documented in oral form. As they were passed down from one generation to another, details were being dropped bits by bits, thus little is known about Queen Luwoo of Ife.

But, digging deeper into the history of Ile-Ife, it was discovered that Queen Luwoo was a woman of beauty and elegance who loved clean environments exactly like a mother loves her children.

highlifextra gathered that she brought the art of constructing decorative pavements and open-air courtyards paved with pottery shreds to Ile-Ife which was later adopted in some other parts of Yoruba land. Almost all the roads in Ile-Ife were embellished with quartz pebbles and broken pottery some of which can still be seen today.

Queen Luwoo TilesQueen Luwoo didn’t hire builders to beautify the streets of Ife and some parts of the palace with broken pottery, instead, she forced offenders to do the work with bare hands, be it male or female, young or old.

As mentioned earlier, history wasn’t kind to the legacy of Queen Luwoo as it was recorded that she blocked the chances of having another female Ooni in Ile-Ife. Queen Luwoo was seen by her subjects as a high handed, arrogant and mean woman who ruled like there wouldn’t be tomorrow.

She was also accused of being concerned about her beauty and elegance at the expense of the administration of the kingdom. And so, immediately after her death, the kingmakers gathered and decided never to crown a woman the Ooni of Ife till eternity.

Queen Luwoo of IfJe was succeeded by Ooni Lumobi, a male.

Do you think Ile-Ife can still have a female Ooni? Share your thoughts in the comment box below.


Brief History of The Kanem-Bornu Empire

History of the Kanem Bornu Empire

Studying the history of the Kanem-Bornu Empire, one would discover and come to the conclusion that its people are peculiar to various startings, therefore, making their origin unclear.

There are diverse opinions on where the people of the Kanem-Bornu empire truly originated from. Although, in the midst of these uncertainties, one thing is clear which is that at its peak, the Kanem-Bornu empire existed as an area under Chad and Nigeria.

The empire was known to the Arabian geographers as the independent kingdom of Bornu until 1900. The dominance of the Kanem-Bornu empire is not limited to Chad and Nigeria but also included parts of southern Libya (Fezzan ) eastern Niger, northeastern Nigeria and northern Cameroon. Also, their early history is mainly known from the Royal chronicle discovered in 1851.

Fall of The Kanem-Bornu Empire

Aside from the penetration of Islam which came with North African traders, Berbers and Arabs later influenced the history of the Kanem-Bornu empire. Furthermore, In the late 14th century, various challenges had torn the people of Kanem apart. They battled with internal struggles and external attacks. In 1380, the Bulala people frustrated Mai Umar Idrismi to ostracize Njimi and move the Kanembu people to Bornu on the western edge of Lake Chad.

Kanem Bornu Empire

Again, in 1460, a fortified capital at Ngazargamu, to the west of Lake Chad was built, but in the early 16th century, Mai Idris Katakarmabe recaptured Njimi, the former capital.

After having control over both capitals, these made the sayfawa dynasty more powerful than ever. The two capitals were merged, but despite being merged, political authority still rested in Bornu. During the 17th century, the empire began to reprobate, and finally faded at the end of the 19th century.

Thanks for reading,

If you have any question, kindly ask using the comment box below.


Battle of Imagbon: The British-Ijebu war of 1892

Battle of imagbon

Background of the Battle of Imagbon

In 1891, the Ijebu people, dwelling between 50 and 60 miles north-east of Lagos on the Magbon river, set a blockade and charged customs dues on the trade route to Lagos which as at then was a crown colony. The Awujale (traditional ruler of Ijebu) closed down Ejirin market, cutting off Lagos from a source of up-country trade.


The British government persuaded the Awujale several times to open the blockaded route but the Ijebu ruler remained adamant. However, in May, 1891, a British acting governor, Captain C.M Denton C.M.G, together with some Hausa troops (mostly slaves who fled the North to South and were recruited by the British army) went to Ijebu kingdom to convince the Awujale to open the blockaded route and allow the free passage of goods into Lagos.

Battle of Imagbon: The British-Ijebu war of 1892
The Awujale refused at first but after much persuasion and pressure, he agreed in January 1892 on the grounds that he will receive £500 annually as compensation for the loss of customs revenue. Ijebu people were unhappy with this outcome as they did not wish to change their traditional methods and practices, particularly when threatened by foreigners.

Breach of Agreement

However, this agreement did not last long. A white missionary was denied access to pass through the Ijebu kingdom and was sent back. The British government was provoked by the action of the Ijebus and authorized the use of force on their kingdom. Britain gathered troops from Gold Coast (Ghana), Sierra Leone, Ibadan, and Lagos (the Hausa troops nearly 150).

Colonel F.C. Scott C.B was the commander of the troops of 450 men gathered by Britain. On the 12th of May, 1892, the captain and his men, including some carriers, sailed up the Lagos Lagoon and landed at Ekpe. When they got to Leckie, another set of carriers (about 186 in numbers) were recruited.

On the Ijebu side, 8000 men with old rifles would be fighting the British. The British underestimated the fighting prowess of the Ijebus and this gave them a hard time penetrating into the interiors of the Ijebu kingdom.

Course of the Battle of Imagbon (British-Ijebu War)

On the first day, the British army razed down four villages with some of their men sustaining fatal injuries. The next day, they proceeded to Atumba and gunned down the Ijebus with machine guns. Britain lost 12 men, a Briton and 12 Africans. Every Ijebu villages they came across was burnt to the ground. The Ijebus were losing the battle but were determined to prevent the British army from crossing the Yemoyi river.

The goddess of the Yemoyi river was said to have taken human sacrifice in order to prevent the intruders (British) from crossing. The river was dug deeper to make it impenetrable by all means for the British army. However, the British army managed to cross the sacred Yemoyi river and unleashed havoc on the Ijebus. They proceeded to the village of Imagbon.

The Ijebus had lost over 900 men while Britain lost only 56 men and have about 30 wounded. The Ijebus were still determined to fight on but shortly afterwards, the Awujale surrendered and conceded defeat. The British union flag was later raised above Ijebu Ode.

Captain Scot warned his men against pillaging which some didn’t heed to especially the Ibadan irregulars who were later deprived of their arms. The toll gates in Oru built by the Ijebus were destroyed and some of their shrines were also torched.

This war is known in history as the Battle of Imagbon, British-Ijebu war and 1892 Ijebu Expedition.

The British troops were awarded The East & West Africa Medal with Clasp dated ‘1892’. Today, one of these medals can be found in the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge. Ijebu kingdom was later annexed to the colony of southern Nigeria.


  1. Gbola Gboyega, (2019). Operation Danasungbo: An Account of British/Ijebu War of 1892.
  2. Roddy Owen – A Memoir by Bovill and Askwith
  3. Colonel Scott’s Report London Gazette No 26303 dated 1st July 1892

The Cameroons & Nigerian Artillery During An Attack On Mountain Hill Camp During WWI



The Kamerun Campaign – This was part of the confrontation between Britain, France and Belgium on one hand and Germany on the other. The former nations invaded Kamerun (Cameroon), which was then a German colony, in August 1914.


By February 1916, most German military and civilian personnel had fled to Rio Muni, the neutral colony of Spanish Guinea, which today forms the continental portion of Equatorial Guinea.

As was the case in the Middle Eastern theatre, Britain and France shared the spoils of war by agreeing to divide Kamerun along what was called the “Picot Provisional Partition Line” with Britain taking approximately one fifth of the colony situated on the Nigerian border. France acquired Douala and most of the central plateau.

The campaign officially ended the following month, March 1916.


At a meeting on February 23 1916, George Picot “who knew nothing of the lands and peoples he was dividing” drew a line with a heavy pencil” which Sir Charles Strachey, the representative of the Colonial Office, was constrained to accept. As one of Strachey’s colleagues later observed: “If only you had not had a pencil in your hand at the time.”

Thanks for reading,

Excerpt from The First World War: Volume I: To Arms by Hew Strachan, published by Oxford University Press in 2001.


The Story of Olabisi Ajala, The Popular Nigerian Traveller Who Toured The World On A Vespa

Moshood Adisa Olabisi Ajala aka Ajala the traveller on his vespa
Moshood Adisa Olabisi Ajala aka Ajala the traveller on his vespa

Who was Olabisi Ajala The Traveller?

Moshood Adisa Olabisi Ajala, popularly known in Nigeria and across the globe as ‘Ajala the traveler ‘, was the man who toured the United States of America on a bicycle, and the world, on a motor scooter better known as Vespa.


From the ordinary son of a traditionalist, Ajala rose to a global celebrity and his name became a song sang on every lip. During his prime, Ajala was envied and praised by both the young and old for his courage, determination, and success.

Even in 1972, the Nigerian music wizard himself, Chief Commander Ebenezer Obey, immortalized Ajala and his adventures in a song included in his album titled ‘Board Members’. Obey sang thus: “Ajala travel all over the world (2ce), Ajala travel (2ce), Ajala travel all over the world.” Below is highlifextra’s detailed account of the life, career and death of the legendary and iconic Ajala the traveller.

Moshood Adisa Olabisi Ajala was born in Ghana into a Nigerian polygamous family of thirty. He was one out of the twenty-five children produced by his father and his four wives. Shortly after Ajala’s birth, his family moved down to Nigeria where he schooled in Baptist Academy, Lagos and Ibadan Boys’ High School.

At the age of 18, Ajala went to America to further his studies; he was admitted into the University of Chicago where he studied as a pre-medical student. His initial dream was to become a medical doctor and return to Nigeria to disparage the practice of voodoo and the people’s belief in superstitions but Ajala’s lifetime dream changed along the course of his life; he found something more interesting to him than donning lab coats and using stethoscope.

Ajala travel all over the world
Ajala’s lecture tour appearing in a newspaper

Ajala came into the spotlight in 1952 when he went on a lecture tour across the United States of America on a bicycle covering a total of 2,280 miles.

Throughout the lecture tour, Ajala dressed in the traditional attires of Nigeria one of which was described as “elaborately flowered robes with a felt-like head-dresses to match”. He did this in a bid to enhance the purpose of his lecture tour which was to educate Americans about the progress of his country, Nigeria, and Africa in general, and to enlighten them that contrary to the popular belief held in America, Africans don’t walk about naked or covered in leaves and loin clothes.

Ebenezer Obey's Board Members
Ebenezer Obey’s Board Members

The news of Ajala’s bicycle tour spread across the United States of America like wildfire and quickly made it to the dailies and television.

Below is a text of how Ajala was described in Global Television Formats: Understanding Television Across Borders: “Perhaps even more significant for our discussion of the show’s global and local dynamics, however, was the participation of Nigerian contestant, Olabisi Ajala, a sophisticated world traveller and secretary to his country’s prime minister. Olabisi is an attractive and charismatic black man who held a degree in psychology from Columbia University and was an expert in ethnology, the subject he chose for Lascia o Raddoppia? Olabisi recurrently appeared on TV wearing traditional Nigerian clothes, and he managed to transform every night on the show into a celebration of his ethnic and cultural heritage. The final night however, Olabisi entered the TV studio wearing an impeccable tuxedo, while Mike wore the traditional Nigerian costume, demonstrating once more his ability to interact with his contestants’ most genuine aspects of identity, be it regional, Italian or foreign and Other.’’

Alala and Robert Mitchum
Olabisi Ajala and Robert Mitchum going over a movie script

Ajala’s fame also landed him big movie roles. After his bicycle tour across the United States of America, he got his first role (of $300 per week) in the movie White Witch Doctor produced by the popular 20th Century-Fox Motion Picture. He played the supporting role of Ola, a companion of Loni, a famous African hunter played by Robert Mitchum. Also in August, 1955, he signed a movie contract with the Eagle Lion Studios of Hollywood which involved making movies with European and African backgrounds.

Ajala the traveller flanked by Jawarhalar Nehru of India sitting on his scooter
Ajala the traveller flanked by Jawarhalar Nehru of India sitting on his scooter

The already famous Ajala the traveler did not limit his tour to the United States of America, he visited a total of 87 countries with his scooter in six years.

He visited countries such as Israel, India, Australia, Iran, Russia, Ghana, Cyprus, Egypt and so on where he met with some of the greatest leaders in the world such as: Gamal Abdul Nasser of Egypt, Jawarhalar Nehru of India, Niki Khrushchev of the USSR, Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi of Iran, Ronald Reagan of America, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa of Nigeria and many more.

Ajala and his son, Oladipupo (Andre)
Ajala and his son, Oladipupo (André)

Ajala the traveller was known as a man of many women. His marital life featured different women from different parts of the world. In 1953, a Chicago nurse named Myrtle Basset filed a paternity suit against Ajala for denying being the father of ‘their son’ which she claimed Ajala himself named Oladipupo and also signed his birth certificate.

Despite the lawsuit, Ajala held firmly to his ground denying being the father of the boy. Ajala proposed a DNA test but the nurse was reluctant at first and when she eventually agreed to surrender the baby for the test, Ajala disappeared into the thin air which made the court ruled against him. In March, 1953, a domestic court mandated Ajala to pay $10 per week for the upkeep of Oladipupo, also named André.

That year, things did not go down well for Ajala. In March, 1953, he was arrested on the charges of forgery, grand theft and worthless check by the police of Beverly Hills, California. Ajala pleaded not guilty to the charges, he claimed he was duped by one Arnold Weiner who was an ex-bank accountant. Arnold Weiner in turn defended himself, he admitted showing Ajala how to write cheques but claimed he didn’t dupe him.

However, Ajala was sentenced to one year jail term and later deported from America. His deportation was not solely because of the forgery charges levelled against him but also because he had failed to keep up with his studies at the Santa Monica Junior College, thus invalidating his visa. Ajala resisted deportation and protested because, according to American authorities, he feared tribal execution. The authorities said Ajala was scared of being killed by his father if he was deported back to Nigeria which led to his protest.

Ajala had climbed an 80-foot radio tower where he screamed that he would rather leap to his death than be deported. Ajala protested on the tower for about 24 hours turning deaf ears to the pleas of the immigration authorities. He eventually jumped down from a height of 15 feet but was lucky to only have sustained a sprained back. The authorities also said Ajala, after the tower protest, embarked on hunger strike which Ajala debunked. He claimed he was only observing the 30-day Ramadan fasting. However, Ajala was flown to London instead of Nigeria. He had previously requested to be flown to Canada but his request was turned down because Canada refused to approve his application.

By December 1954, Ajala returned to America with his wife, Hermine Aileen who later divorced him in August 1955 on the charges that he was being adulterous. In December, that same year, Ajala married a 19-year-old white London radio-Tv actress, Joan Simmons.

Ajala protesting on a tower
Olabisi Ajala protesting on a tower (Abiyamo)

Ajala the traveler maintained his global celebrity status for a while but soon went out of the limelight though his name still kept ringing in the ears of people. He retired to Nigeria where he lived with some of his children.

Things turned worse for the Ajala in his latter years as he fell from the famous and rich world traveller to a common man struggling to met his ends somewhere in Lagos, a rented apartment in a two-storey building on Adeniran Street, Bariga to be precise.

When Ajala fell sick, he couldn’t get adequate medical care because he didn’t have enough money, and his swarm of children were not there for him, only two of his children lived with him and they are: Olaolu Ajala, a 20-year-old student of Baptist Academy, Lagos and Bolanle Ajala, his 17-year-old daughter.

Ajala travel all over the world
Moshood Adisa Olabisi Ajala

It is sad to know that the once world famous Ajala the traveler died a poor man on the 2nd of February, 1999 at the General Hospital, Ikeja as a result of paralysis from stroke. However, he has found a place for his name in the history of Nigeria and the world.

Thanks for reading,


  • Innovative Travels- The story of Ajala travel all over the world
  • Tunji, Bolaji. ‘Sad End of Olabisi Ajala.’, The Guardian, 20 February 1999, pages 8-9.
  • African Actor Jailed For Worthless Checks, Jet, 12 th March, 1953, page 46.
  • Abiyamo- The Untold Story of AJALA TRAVEL, Africa’s Most Legendary Traveller

If you find this piece worth reading, kindly drop a comment below and share on social media.


Remigio Herrera Adesina: This Yoruba Man Was A Slave In Cuba in the 1830s

Remigio Herrera Adesina was born in Ijesha land, Ekiti, western Nigeria in 1811 as the census record states. Contrarily, his marriage certificate annotates 1816 as his birth year.

Adesina was captured and shipped off to Cuba as a slave in the 1830s. It was in 1833 that his Yoruba birth name, Adesina, was changed to Remigio Lucumi. Lucumi was a common name given to Yoruba slaves in Cuba.

Remigio Herrera Adesina was enslaved for thirty years and worked during his slavery years for a Cuban slave master named Don Miguel Antonio Herrera. He dropped the slave name Lucumi and adopted his Master’s name, Herrera. He was later freed by an ex-slave named Carlos Adé in 1850.

Adesina died in 1905 in Havana, Cuba.

Thanks for reading, highlifextra


Remigio Herrera: The Nigerian slave who heavily influenced Cuba as a mystic in the 1800s – Face 2 Face Africa


Hajia Gambo Sawaba – Story of The Woman Who Survived Forced Marriage at 13 to Become a Powerful Political Activist in The 1950s

Hajia Gambo Sawaba
Hajia Gambo Sawaba

Hajia Gambo Sawaba was a Nigerian politician and activist who was well known for her charitable causes one of which was fighting for the freedom of northern women.


The rights and status of women in Northern Nigeria have to date remained a delicate issue to comprehend or solve although progress is being made. In more recent times, the #MeToo campaign has found its way into the region. Locally known as #AweraMeToo, the movement has stirred up a lot of controversy with women revealing their abusers amidst arrest of activists.

But before the #MeToo campaign or bravery of women in the north to stand up for themselves or go to the extremes of being called a feminist, only a handful of women risked their lives to be in the limelight and stand up for women issues such as early marriage, education and childbirth and one of such women is Hajia Gambo Sawaba.

Who Was Hajia Gambo Sawaba?

As a young girl, Gambo Sawaba, who was then known by her birth name Hajaratu Gambo, became popular both at home and in school for her feisty nature that made her never back down or give up a fight even if it meant a physical one. A personality trait that would lead her to become a pioneering feminist and activist in Northen Nigeria.

Born on February 15, 1933, she was the 5th of six children and was given the name Gambo as tradition demands that the name is given to a child who follows twins. Hajia Gambo’s father was a Ghanaian immigrant who was originally known as Theophilus Wilcox, but later changed his name to Isa Amartey Amarteifio. In 1910, he moved to Zaria to work with the Nigerian Railway Corporation where met his wife Fatima Amarteifio who he married after converting to Islam.

Up until her father’s death in 1943, Hajia Gambo received an education but had to stop at the age of 10 to support her mother who also died 3 years later when she was just 13 years old. She was quickly married off against her will to Abubakar Garba Bello, a World War II veteran who is said to have left and never returned after she got pregnant.

Her early struggles did not make her timid but rather made her more courageous and her experiences feeding into the desire of helping other your girls and women like her who were being oppressed by the society they found themselves in.

At the age of 17, Hajia Gambo took the risk of joining one of the strongest opposing political parties the Northern Element Progressive Union (NEPU) that believed that the Northen Peoples Congress (NPC), which was the strongest party at the time with international support was taking advantage of and oppressing the people.

Hajiya Gambo Sawaba And M.K.O. Abiola
Hajiya Gambo Sawaba And M.K.O. Abiola

She was one of the very few women to be part of the party but what made her unique was the fact that she was young and less educated. Soon after joining NEPU, she was made the female leader in the NEPU Zaria branch and started her vigorous campaign against child marriages and forced labour while advocating for Western education to be fully established in the North and for girls to gain access to it.

She became very popular and targeted by several men and political leaders in power after she walked up the podium in Zaria at a lecture full of men to boldly face them and give a talk, challenging to support women and their rights. Despite gaining several enemies for that, she also gained the nickname Sawabiya which meant the redeemer.

Throughout her career, Hajia Gambo Sawaba was the target of several attacks and escaped many death traps as a means to silence her. In several articles written about her, it is said that she was arrested and jailed over 16 times and exiled from Kano at a point.

Her first arrest was in Kano where she went to meet women to educate them about their rights and get them to join NEPU. She was arrested and sent to jail with two hundred other women for not getting legal permit to hold the meeting.

Soon after her release, she started speaking on the bad state of the prisons and started a campaign for women to be able to attend and speak on issues which was not the case due to the Purdah system.

At a point in time, she was asked to leave Kano by the Emir or face punishment for disturbing social peace and progress.

Greatly influenced by Fela Kuti’s mother, Funmilayo Ransome Kuti, the two became very good friends and Mrs Kuti became Hajia’s mentor.

She went on to hold the position of Deputy Chairman of the Great Nigerian Peoples Party and paved the way for several women from the North to become vocal in the political scene in Nigeria.

Hajia Gambo got married again to Hamidu Gusau but the two would later divorce due to different interests and fights. Hajia was unable to settle in any other marriage or relationship and died on October 14, 2001 at the age of 71.

  • Face2Face Africa
  • Paul, Mamza. “Nigeria’s Unsung Heroes (10). Feminism As a Prowess: The Profile of Chief (Mrs.) Margaret Ekpo and Hajiya Gambo Sawaba”. Gamji.
  • Funmilayo Ransome Kuti –
  • A Brief History Of Hajiya Gambo Sawaba -The Fearless Politician Who Fought For The Freedom Of Northern Women In Spite Of Several Imprisonments –

How and Why Kudirat Abiola Was Brutally Assassinated in 1996

Kudirat Abiola
Alhaja Kudirat Abiola

Alhaja Kudirat Abiola, a politically and socially active woman during her days, was the beautiful wife of late business mogul and respected politician, Chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola. Her struggles, efforts and the tireless support she gave her husband, M.K.O Abiola, when he was incarcerated led to her untimely death.


On the 4th of June, 1996, Kudirat Abiola was assassinated by some gunmen in Lagos who allegedly acted on the orders of the Sani Abacha’s military junta.


After President Ibrahim Babangida annulled the June 12, 1993 election which had M.K.O Abiola as the winner, several riots ensued across the country, especially in the southwest. This led to the demise of President Babangida’s military regime and the birth of the Shonekan-led Interim National Government on the 26th of August, 1993.

Before Babangida stepped down from power, he set up an Interim Government which was to oversee the transition of power to a democratically elected government. M.K.O Abiola did not support the Interim Government as it had no plan of restoring him as the president of Nigeria. The Interim National Government was later sacked by Gen. Sani Abacha in November 1993.

At first, M.K.O Abiola supported Sani Abacha’s military regime hoping Abacha would return the mandate to him, but when the Abacha refused to do so, M.K.O Abiola went ahead to declare himself as the President on the 11th of June, 1994. Twelve days later, he was arrested and charged with treasonable felony.

Kudirat Abiola spearheaded oil workers’ strike against the government which lasted 12 months. She also gathered market women, students and civil servants to fight for their electoral right which was denied on June 12, 1993. Her efforts to get her husband out of jail and restore his mandate brought her across the line of Abacha’s military government. Unknowing to Kudirat Abiola, she had been marked for assassination by an unknown cabal.

The car in which Kudirat Abiola was assassinated
The car in which Kudirat Abiola was assassinated

Kudirat Abiola’s Assassination

On the 4th of June, 1996, Alhaja Kudirat Abiola was in a white Mercedes Benz driven by her driver, Dauda Atanda, and accompanied by her special assistant, Lateef Shofolahan. It was around 9.30 am on the streets of Lagos, she was going for an appointment at the Canadian High Commission.

As her car slowed down on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway past the 7-Up bus stop on Oregun Road in Ikeja, two cars double-crossed them and six heavily armed men opened fire on Kudirat Abiola’s car. The gunmen shot at close range and Kudirat’s driver got his mouth and shoulder pierced by a bullet while Kudirat, their main target, was hit in the forehead and instantly lost consciousness.

She was rushed to the Eko Hospital on Mobolaji Bank Anthony Way in Ikeja, Lagos where she eventually died between 12.15 and 12.30 pm. However, Kudirat’s personal assistant, Lateef Shofolahan, escaped the attack unhurt. He was later accused of being involved in the murder plot of Kudirat Abiola.

highlifextra gathered that prior to Alhaja Kudirat Abiola’s murder, there were two attempts to take her life before the plotters allegedly penetrated her network through Lateef Shofolahan.

Major Hamza al-Mustapha
Major Hamza al-Mustapha freed from prison


The Abacha military government offered the sum of $45,000 to anyone who could give information leading to the arrest of the assassins. Later, Hamza Al-Mustapha, the chief security officer of General Sani Abacha, was accused and convicted. Investigations into the killing traced the killers’ bullets to his (Hamza Al-Mustapha) personal armoury.

In October 1988, Hamza Al-Mustapha and Mohammed Abacha, Gen. Abacha’s son, appeared before the court, both charged with the death of Kudirat Abiola. In the court, Mohammed Abdul, one of the assassins, narrated how the Abiola’s network was penetrated through Lateef Shofolahan, and how Mohammed Abacha gave him and other gunmen $10,000 to flee the country when Obasanjo’s government began an investigation on Kudirat Abiola’s assassination.

He said,

“I was then given a car key to a 504 saloon car. Sumaila Shuaibu was driving the 505 car while I drove the 504. We went to the National Theatre where we met Alhaji Lateef Shofolahan (Kudirat Abiola’s P.A) who took us to Festac town where he pointed at one house. From there, we went to Surulere and then to Mr James Danbaba’s house.

Rabo Lawal asked the security men if the CP was in before he went inside and spent some time there. We then went back to Dodan Barracks. In the evening Alhaji Lateef came to meet us at Dodan Barracks and together we went to Victoria Island where Alhaji Lateef pointed a house to Rabo Lawal who was in the same car with him. From V.I. we went to Surulere and then to Igbosere Road. Alhaji Lateef then went inside one storey building on a street near Igbosere close to Sura market”.


Barnabas Jabila’s confession

highlifextra gathered that another member of the killer squad, Barnabas Jabila aka Seargent Rogers, confessed that he was acting on the orders of Hamza Al-Mustapha and that he (Hamza Al-Mustapha) gave the contract to kill Kudirat Abiola to Rabo Lawal, the head of the mobile police force at the presidential villa. He also said that they were provided weapons for the operation in the presence of Mohammed Abacha.

Mohammed Abacha
Mohammed Abacha

In May 2001, a Federal High Court in Abuja freed Mohammed Abacha on the ground that he was simply roped in on circumstantial evidence. Also, Hamza Al-Mustapha and Lateef Shofolahan who were sentenced to death by hanging on January 30 2012 were later freed on Friday, July 12, 2013, on the ground that there was not enough evidence to prove them guilty.

Alhaja Kudirat Abiola’s assassination remains one of the top assassinations in Nigeria.

Thanks for reading, highlifextra.


  1. Omipidan. Teslim. Real Account Of The June 12 1993 Presidential Election . highlifextra. /2016/12/21/june-12-1993-presidential-elections/
  2. Kudirat Abiola’s murder: Appeal Court frees Mustapha, Shofolahan, Bartholomew Madokwe, 13 July 2013,
  3. VanguardNGR [Retrieved 7 June 2017]
  4. Kudirat Abiola, Wife Of Nigerian Opposition Leader, Murdered By Gunmen In Nigeria; JETMagazine; June 24, 1996; p. 40.President Babangida’s Annulment Speech of June 12, 1993 Presidential Election. /2016/12/21/president-babangidas-annulment-speech-of-june-121993-presidential-election/