Thursday 13 October 2022

Mama Comfort Tanimowo Ogunlesi nee Okusanya, the Unforgettable Nigerian Activist From Ibadan

Chief Mrs Tanimowo Ogunlesi was a Nigerian women's rights activist & leader of Nigerian Women's Improvement League, better known as WIS. It was an organization for the betterment of women. She established it in 1947 and fought gallantly for women. 

In fact, Mrs Amy Ashwood Garvey, first wife of Marcus Garvey & a fervent pan-Africanist activist, was also present at their first meeting. An amazon of Ibadan, she attended Kudeti Girls' School. Mama Ogunlesi was also an educationist, she was the proprietress of Children's Home School & established Christ High School, both in Ibadan. 

She was one of the leading women activists of her era & co-founded the National Council of Women Societies, the country's leading women's rights organization. She became the council's first president in 1959. She dealt largely on the rights of women to vote & access to educational facilities but like most women nationalists, she never really questioned the male dominance of the Nigerian household. She eventually gained major fame by tying herself to a bull, which then raged through a small village. She was part of a movement to increase domestic science training in Nigeria. Mama Ogunlesi died in 2003. 

Her contemporaries were other great women like Chief Mrs Margaret Ekpo, Chief Mrs Wuraola Esan, Alhaja Humuani Alaga, Mrs Adekogbe, Professor Mrs Ogunsheye (first female professor in Nigeria) and others. Although they belonged to different faiths and tribes, they all worked together & were impressively united. One of the advisers of the leaders of the Action Group, she was one of those who shaped the formation of Nigeria. In these photos I have attached, she was on a visit to London with Awolowo and others in 1957 to discuss the freedom of Nigeria from colonial forces & how the constitution was going to be like. She was the only woman delegate from the southwest.

Oh, let me explain how she & Awolowo met & became very good friends. Awolowo was very passionate about education. In 1947 when Mama Ogunlesi established the school, there was no private boarding house educational institution in Ibadan, especially for girls. She founded the school with four goals. It was this school that got Awolowo impressed & they bonded over education, later she became a politician too. Awolowo told her nothing would be achieved for the children of the southwest without political power, she agreed. They worked together. They became closer when Awo realized she was a Remo woman who grew up in Sagamu, near his own hometown of Ikenne. By the way, one of the people who attended the school she established in Ibadan is Bola Tinubu. This is a very short piece on her but now you know who she is. 

Thanks for reading 🙂

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