Remembering Mrs Funmilayo Ransome Kuti, the mother of Fela and how she died tragically in the hands of military men
Children of this dispensation should have heard the name Fela Anikulapo but many may not be abreast of the great roles the mother of this legendary musician had played in Nigeria's independence struggles even as a woman. In this post, I will be taking my readers by arms to walk the memory lane with me. In the course of this article, I will bring to fore the great roles of a woman named Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti.
Born as Frances Abigail Olufunmilayo Thomas on October 25, 1900 in Abeokuta, Nigeria to Chief Daniel Olumeyuwa Thomas and Lucretia Phyllis Omoyemi Adeosolu. Her father was into agricultural business selling palms products while her mother was into dressmaking.
She became the first female student to attend the Abeokuta Grammar School after she got admitted alongside 5 others in 1914. She attended a school in Cheshire, England where she learned different vocational skills. Suffice to add that, it was during his schooling that she decided to adopted her indigenous name 'Funmilayo' in reaction to the discrimination she experienced.
She got married to her heart throb, Reverend Israel Oludotun Ransome-Kuti on 20 January, 1925. They are blessed with four children in which we have Dolapo Ransome-Kuti (daughter), Olikoye Ransome-Kuti (son), Fela Anikulapo-Kuti (son), Beko Ransome-Kuti (son). As a young lady, she worked as a teacher, arranging how lower-income women could get education. She pioneered the first preschool classes in the country.
In the 40s, she founded the Abeokuta Women's Union through which she agitated for women's rights, demanding their representation in local government bodies and an end to the vicious tax imposition on market women. She led different protests in which one of them forced the Alake of Egbaland to leave the throne in 1949.
Also, in Nigeria's bid to get autonomy, Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti played a great role by attending local and international conferences to discuss proposed national constitutions. She brought the idea of creating Nigerian Women's Union and the Federation of Nigerian Women's Societies. She called for the inclusion of Nigerian women in voting. This act caused her to be recognized as a member of international peace and women's rights movement.
She received the Lenin Peace Prize and later got Nigeria's membership in the Order of the Niger in recognition of her contributions.
As she advanced in years, one of her sons named Fela Anikulapo became a musician and criticised Nigeria's military government in the 70's. She later died in 1977 after sustaining injuries from a military raid on family property.
She was the first woman in Abeokuta to drive a car.She was among the representatives who went to London to protest a proposed constitution in 1947. She was even the only woman there! She gave brilliant speeches and wrote articles calling for the rights of Nigerian women in politics and economy.
In 1949, she proposed the creation of Nigerian Women's Union so as to support women's right across the country. She set up different branches across the country. She was also a founding member of the NCNC and later worked as treasurer and president of the party's women's wing.
In the 50s, she got appointed to the Western House of Chiefs from where she got the title of Oloye.She served as a board member of the Nigeria Union of Teachers. She traveled to different countries like England, China, Switzerland, Austria, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Soviet Union amongst others.
She was in her son's compound on February 18, 1977 when over 1000 armed soldiers surrounded the place thereby leading to the destruction of property. She was thrown from a second-floor window and later died following complications from the attack.
She died on 13 April, 1978 as a result of her injury. She was such a strong force during her days.
May her soul continue to find rest. Amen!
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