Popular for being the lioness of Lisabi land, Olufumilayo Ransome-Kuti was a revolutionist, an activist; advocate for woman’s right; a trailblazer in many ways. She was born on 25th October 1900 to Daniel Olumoyewa Thomas (a farmer) and Phyllis Moyeni Dese (a dress maker) as Frances Abigail Olufumilayo Thomas in Abeokuta, Ogun state, Nigeria. In 1906, she attended St. John’s Primary school, Igbe and went further to attend Abeokuta Grammar school as one of the pioneer female students. Fumilayo, as she preferred to be called following her education at Wincham Hall school for girls in Cheshire, England, gained an education in French, Music, Domestic Sciences as well as Literary studies (1918-1921). She married Reverend Oludotun Ransome-Kuti in 1925 and was blessed with Dolupo (a nurse); Olikoye Kuti (a notable professor); Fela Anikulapo-Kuti (the king of Afrobeat) and Beko Kuti (a medical practitioner).
Subsequently, fumilayo Ransome-Kuti returned to Abeokuta were she taught Literacy studies at her alma matter, Abeokuta Grammar school. Whilst her husband founded the National Union of Teachers as the principal of the grammar school, Fumilayo with the help of her sister in-law, Eniola Soyinka, founded the Abeokuta Ladies’ club (1932) known as a civic and charitable group for women which promoted unity between educated women and uneducated market women. ALC metamorphosed to Abeokuta Women’s Union (AWU) then Nigerian Women’s Union (NWU) in 1949. Eventually, it became the Federation of Nigerian Women’s Society(FNWS) in 1953. She also set up the first adult education program for women and pushed for healthcare, social services as well as economic opportunities for women via this platform.
Founding AWU (a 20,000 membered society) was the tip of the iceberg of what the Lioness of Lisabi achieved in her lifetime. In the 1930s to 40s, she fought for fair treatment of market women by initially campaigning against price control then led thousands in protests against a special flat tax on women imposed by the British (via its native authority system). This led to the resignation of the government as well as institutional reforms. She fought for equal rights for Nigerian women advocating for women’s right to vote and be voted for. In the late 1940s to 50s, she became the only female amongst a 28-member delegation that worked on a new constitution and went further to be the only woman in Nigeria’s 1947 delegation to London which lodged a complaint that set the ball rolling for the nation towards its self governance (independence). The ‘Mother of Africa’, as she is also called, served as a member of the Egba Council, was a leader of the National Council of Nigeria and Cameroon (NCNC), the world Vice President of the Women’s International Democratic Federation and an advisor to President Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana. She also received notable awards such as honorary doctorate of laws by University of Ibadan and Lenin Peace prize by the Soviet Union for her work on behalf of the African people.
She died on the 12th of April, 1978 following an attack by a thousand armed military men on her son Fela’s residence (the Kalakuta Republic) where she was dragged by the hair and thrown out a second-story window. She went into a coma and eventually died as a result.
Fumilayo Anikulapo-Kuti as she preferred to be called in her later life said, “May I never let womanhood down” and indeed she never did. She was a great woman; a pioneer in her time who deserves to be remembered for her great works in human rights and not just by the fact that she was the first Nigerian woman to drive a car and ride a motorcycle. Olufumilayo Ransome-Kuti is the Lioness of Lisabi and the Mother of Africa.