Funmilayo Ransome Kuti, The Lioness of Lisabi

THE geographical area called NIGERIA, arguably the most populous country in Africa has been well endowed with an array of great personalities, together with their philosophies.

Their evolution had its firm root in the pre-colonial NIGERIA. However, the global events point to one fact that the world longs for people who will stand for what they believe, even if they have to stand alone, leaders whose courage has such strong sense of purpose and security that they welcome the unknown.

FUNMILAYO Ransome Kuti was born in Abeokuta, Ogun State of Nigeria in 1900. Her maiden name was Abigael Olufunmilayo Thomas, having been born by Daniel Olumeyufa Thomas and Lucretta Omoyeni Adeosolu, was indeed, a woman with a rare courage.

She was an African feminist, Nigerian politician, a teacher and women’s right activist. Continuing, she attended Abeokuta Grammar School for her secondary education and later went to England for further studies.

The challenges which drew back our women folk usually like education, gender inequality, finance and cultural assumption which saw them as the best, only for the kitchen and the ‘other room’ are almost put behind by the activities of Funmilayo Ransome Kuti, the ‘Lioness of Lisabi’.

In the forties, after the British Colonial administration had taken measures on meeting the rights and tax policy that drastically affected the economic independence of the women in Nigeria, Funmilayo Ransome Kuti single -handedly organised tax strikes, demonstrations, and series of civilian widespred disobedience. The effect of her organized civil disturbance against arbitrary taxation rocked Egba Kingdom which was then under the firm control of the British government, to its very foundation.

This led to the temporary abdication of the Alake of Egbaland, Oba Ladapo Ademola I in 1949. Interstingly, that incident gained international attention as it was the first time a woman on the soil of colonialised Africa would organize a massive protest that almost brought the Egba Kingdom to its knee and was thereafer tagged historically as ‘Egba Women’s War/ Nigerian Women’s Struggle’. It is to her eternal credit that the first voice against the British Colonial administration on issues of tax policy which affected the economic independent of women in Nigeria sprang out.

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It is, however imperative to note that Funmilayo Ransome Kuti was one of the early modern nationalists of Nigeria who stood shoulder to shoulder with the likes of Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Sir Ahmadu Bello amongst others to fight for Nigeria’s independence abinitio. She stood and fight relentlessly against the colonial administration’s policy of racism, sexism as well as ethnicism. As an activist of no mean order, she introduced the flame of nationalism into the women folks, to the admiration of men folks too for calls for Nigerian independence. It was Funmilayo Ransome Kuti that first organized nationally a ‘Women Organization’ code named ‘Nigerian Women’s Union’ and through it, equally organised a ‘Women’s Parliament’.

With her desire to right societal wrongs, while promoting freedom and social justice, Funmilayo Ransome Kuti later joined the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons, NCNC, the political party led by DR. Nnamdi Azikiwe and instantly became the leader of the women wing of the party. She, also doubled as the treasurer of the party in Egba division. In fact, it was on record that she was the only one who dares ZIK where others could not on issues of party conflict and organised the women folks against what she called the high-handedness of ZIK in some party matters.

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Having realized the relevance of mass political education for Nigerian women if they were to make any significant impact in the political and social economic spheres of Nigeria. Funmilayo Ransome Kuti was always in the vanguard for better education for women in the whole Federal Republic of Nigeria which was dubbed ‘The Social Welfare Club for Market Women’. The grace which gender sensitivity has achieved in all areas of governance and civil society groups sprang from her clamour for betterment for women folks in the polity. Her activities in the emancipation of womanhood as regards the political and socio-economic scenario of Nigeria cannot be quantified, even in monetary terms.

Thus, in 1947, the West African Pilot, a national newspaper dedicated to nationalism described Funmilayo Ransome Kuti as the ‘Lioness of Lisabi’ for her leadership of Egba women on a campaign against arbitrary taxation.

The rights enshrined in the Nigeria’s constitution under the clause of principles of fundamental human rights as well as specific mention of women’s rights had their union in the activities of Funmilayo Ransome Kuti. In a related development, her activism, which led to various reforms in the gender position of women folk both within Nigeria and international community was traced to the impact of her agitation against oppressive taxation for the women folks generated.

On the 20th of January, 1925, the ‘ Doyen of Female Rights’ and ‘the Mother of Africa’, Funmilayo Ransome Kuti as she was variously described, married Reverend Israel Oludotun Ransome Kuti. She was also one of the founders of Nigerian Union of Teachers five years after, 1930s to be precise as well as the Nigerian Union of Students. These two organizations in which she featured prominently were the offshoot of human rights activist in Nigeria.

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Her children included Professor Olikoye Ransome Kuti, the famous Afro beat king and philosopher, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, Dr. Beko Ransome Kuti and a daughter, Dolupo. In 1965, she was conferred with National Honour of Membership of Order of the Niger (MON), while in the same year, the University of Ibadan, UI, honoured her with honourary degree of ‘Doctor of Law’.

According to Edgar Morin, a French philosopher and sociologist, “the certainty of death and the uncertainty of the hour of death is a source of grief throughout our life”. Unfortunately, Funmilayo Ransome Kuti died in 1978 through circumstances related to injuries sustained during a clash between her son’s troupe and some members of the Nigerian Army.

The memories of Funmilayo Ransome Kuti linger in our minds long after her death.



By Idowu Ayodele

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