How Adunni Oluwole Fought for Workers During the 1945 General Strike & Opposed Independence in 1956

Adunni Oluwole
Adunni Oluwole

Who was Adunni Oluwole?

Adunni Oluwole, born in Ibadan in 1905, was a Nigerian pre-independence politician and human rights activist who strongly opposed the independence of Nigeria in 1960. She was an itinerant preacher whose talent in public speaking contributed to her fame.

 

Adunni Oluwole did not think Nigeria was ready for independence when it was first proposed in 1956, so she struggled to prolong colonial rule in Nigeria.

She grew up in Mushin but spent most of her early years with Bishop Howells, the vicar of St. John’s church Aroloya, Lagos. As a youth, she wrote a very successful play for the Girl’s Guild of St. John’s Church in Lagos which was directed by the Nigerian nationalist, Herbert Macaulay. She later became the only female founder of a professional theatre company in Western Nigeria.

Adunni Oluwole’s Involvement in the 1945 General Strike in Nigeria

Adunni’s political career gradually began in 1945 when she supported Nigerian workers, mobilizing women supporters and donating monetary gifts even though she was not a very rich woman.

Adunni couldn’t bear it when the colonial government stopped paying workers’ salaries in 1945. She helped by donating money to the Workers’ Union.

Adunni’s Anti-Independence Stance

She fully delved into politics in 1954 when she founded the Nigerian Commoners Liberal Party whose members were majorly men. Barely five months after the party was formed, it won a seat in Ikirun, Osun North, defeating the powerful NCNC and AG.

Adunni opposed the vote for independence when a date was first proposed in 1956. One of her reasons was that politicians who abused the powers given to them during colonialism were Africans. She wanted the white men to stay a little longer before handing power over to Nigerians.

Her message resonated with the rural people who were already complaining about heavy taxation and they came to be known among Yoruba-speaking groups as “Egbe Koyinbo Mailo” (the white man must not leave yet). The group did not stay around for long due to inadequate funding.

Adegoke Adelabu Penkelemesi
Adegoke Adelabu Penkelemesi

On 25th August 1955, Adunni carried her campaign to the palace of the Olubadan who invited chiefs and men of affairs to witness her anti-independence submission. There, she was challenged by a prominent Ibadan politician, Adelabu Adegoke Penkelemesi, who called her a “harlot” and threatened to hit her with broomsticks.

Adunni Oluwole was a small-statured but fearless woman and one of Nigeria’s great female leaders in the colonial era. Adunni died of Whitlow in 1957.

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References:

  1. “Adunni Oluwole warned against this independence”. Vanguard News.
  2. The Human Rights Activist Who Fought For Workers During The General Strike In 1945. Woman NG