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Abayomi, Oyinkansola (1897–1990)

Abayomi, Oyinkansola (1897–1990)

Nigerian feminist and nationalist. Name variations: (nickname) Oyinkan; Lady Oyinkansola Abayomi. Born Oyinkansola Ajasa in Lagos, Nigeria, on March 6, 1897; died in Lagos on March 19, 1990; daughter of Sir Kitoyi and Lady Cornelia Olayinka (Moore) Ajasa; studied at the Young Ladies Academy at Ryford Hall, Gloucestershire; studied music at the Royal Academy, London, 1917; married Moronfolu Abayomi (a lawyer), on May 10, 1923 (died 1923); married Kofoworola Abayomi, in 1930 (died 1979).

Into the cultured and educated Nigerian family Ajasa, a girl was born and given six names, of which the first was Oyinkansola (she also answered to Olaosebikan, Ajibike, Morenike, Ajibati, and Moronkeji). Oyinkan, as her mother and father called her, was the oldest of two children, though her brother Akuisola died when he was two years old. The Ajasa home was busy with the political and journalistic business of her father Sir Kitoyi Ajasa, a lawyer and later inaugural member of the Nigerian Legislative Council and publisher of the newspaper The Standard. Abayomi was schooled at the Anglican Girls' Seminary in Lagos from the fall of 1903 until 1909. Then, as her mother had done, she traveled to England and studied at the Young Ladies Academy at Ryford Hall, Gloucestershire. World war broke out during her time in England, so she continued on to the Royal Academy in London in 1917, where she studied music. In 1920, after 11 years away from Nigeria, Abayomi returned home to Lagos. She took work as a music teacher at her old school, which had been renamed the Anglican Girls' School.

In England, she had been a member of the Girl Guides. After discovering that the first Nigerian chapter of the Guides had been established in Lagos by a native Englander who was teaching there, Abayomi joined and became the first aboriginal supervisor of the group. In August of 1923, she married Moronfolu Abayomi, a lawyer. Following a brief honeymoon, they returned to Lagos and their respective jobs. Two months later, Moronfolu was shot and killed while in court. In despair, Abayomi returned home to live with her parents.

Shortly after studying in England, Oyinkan Abayomi had joined those who demanded that Nigerian women's education be equal to that of their male peers. In particular, activists sought a secondary school for girls, an institution parallel to the boys' King's College. As a member of the Lagos Women's Organization, Abayomi campaigned and raised funds for Queen's College, which was established in Lagos in 1927. She was invited to be a member of the two-person teaching staff, and was the only Nigerian working for the school. In 1930, she married Dr. Kofoworola (Kofo) Abayomi.

Work for the Girl Guides escalated as they sought government support and recognition equal to that of the local Boy Scouts. In 1931, support was granted. Abayomi rose in administration of the Girl Guides, until she received the top posting of chief commissioner. Meanwhile, her husband Kofo cofounded the Lagos Youth Movement, later the Nigerian Youth Movement, intent upon bringing Nigerian government into native, rather than British, hands. Abayomi joined the cause and in 1944 founded the Nigerian Women's Party, which helped unite several diffuse women's organizations. They rallied for nationalism and continued recognition of equal opportunities for women.

On January 1, 1979, Kofo died. Three years later, in 1982, Abayomi retired from the Girl Guides and was given the honorary title Life President. This was not, however, her only title. In 1954, Kofo had been knighted by the king, and she was thus known as Lady Oyinkan. In recognition for her work on behalf of Nigeria and women, Abayomi was also honored with several traditional chieftaincies, receiving five chief titles in all, the last of which was Iya Abiye of Egbaland. Lady Oyinkan Abayomi died in 1990 at the age of 93.


Awe, Bolanle. Nigerian Women in Historical Perspective. Victoria Island: Sankore-Bookcraft, 1992.

Coker, Folarin. A Lady. Nigeria: Evans Brothers, 1987.

Crista Martin , Boston, Massachusetts

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