Nigeria’s Chief Obafemi Awolowo was one of the great Independence leaders of Nigeria – and BattaBox are given an exclusive tour of the prison where was sent after being accused of treason.
The prison, where Awolowo was kept for a few months in in 1963 in Lekki, on the outskirts of the city of Lagos, Nigeria is in the same condition as when he would have been held prisoner. The Lagos state has renovated parts of the building and made it into a museum, but the prison room, the bathroom, his bed, clothes and even his famous spectacles are on display. Our BattaBox presenter is given the tour of the prison where Obafemi Awolowo stayed, where it now has photos of his political colleagues, newspaper clippings and headlines from when he was sentenced to treason, and also a new bust to celebrate and remember Awolowo.
In 1963 Chief Obafemi Awolow was found guilty of conspiring to overthrow the government of Nigeria and sentenced to 10 years imprisonment. A coup d’etat in 1966 led to his release in July.
The prison was originally, over 300 years ago, a slave trade port owned by a Portuguese slave trader named Lecqi. The remains of structures of the slave trade still remain at the compound – including the Point of No Return and the underground prison where slaves were kept before they were sold abroad. The grave of Mr Lecqi also still survives, where he died from malaria and was buried upright.
Chief Obafemi Jeremiah Oyeniyi Awolowo was a nationalist who moved to a position of prominence in the struggle for Independence. In 1945, he wrote his first book entitled “Path to Nigerian Freedom”. After Nigeria gained independence in 1960, Obafemi Awolowo ran for the Presidency three times, but never victorious, nevertheless remained a major opposition figure.
Some of Awolowo’s most notable acheivements include granting free primary education, free healthcare, he built the first skyscraper in Ibadan – Coco House (which still remains the tallest building in the city!), and also established WNTV (West Nigeria Television), the first television station in Africa.
“I love Obafemi Awolowo because he gave us free education,” explains one Nigerian lady. “And free health.”
“I enjoyed free education because of Awolowo. If other leaders had done what he did, the Nigeria would be a better place,” explains a Nigerian trader.
Awolowo died at his home in Ikenne, Ogun state in 1987, aged 78.
What are your thoughts on Obafemi Awolowo and his role in Nigerian history? Do you think he was a good leader?