ANNOUNCEMENT: Due to extenuating personal circumstances, this seminar has now been rescheduled. Please check back here and on our social media pages for more information as to the new rescheduled date. Apologies to all who have signed up for the session.
Don’t miss the last of our special Black History Month special seminars!
Journalist and independent researcher Omotayo Agunbiade will be sharing her work in a talk on ‘Rediscovering Nigeria’s Women Suffragettes: Five Women on the Frontline’.
Wednesday, 26 October 2022, 4pm BST/GMT+1
Sign up on Zoom here.
‘Rediscovering Nigeria’s Women Suffragettes: Five Women on the Frontline’
The story of how Nigerian women won their voting rights has not been fully told. From the 1940s to the 1960s, several women challenged the colonial government, as well as the three regional governments about voting rights and electoral representation. Through their actions, we have insights into the journey towards the attainment of universal adult suffrage in Nigeria. But in historical texts, there is no comprehensive compilation of what they said and did during this period. Omotayo’s presentation seeks to draw a fuller picture of five women on the frontline.
Their activism which was covered by the press has been pieced together from newspapers found scattered across several branches of the archives in Nigeria. Her archival research shows that the women wrote letters, articles and petitions; spoke at press conferences and during public hearings; and also issued press statements, resolutions and memos. The evidence reveals that in the Eastern, Western Regions and the Colony of Lagos, universal adult suffrage was initially granted for municipal elections, before regional and federal elections.
But in the Northern Region, the state through the courts pushed back-and hard too-against several activists who dared to advocate for voting rights and raise consciousness about amongst the women folk. In so-called anti-prostitution raids, the women activists suffered arbitrary arrests, imprisonment and fines. Abductions were not unheard of too.
While the colonial government was reluctant “to force on the large Muslim North, something alien to their tradition,” the local and foreign press amplified the women’s cause. For example, the BBC made it a focal point in interviews with the Premier of the North. His response made front-page news. A number of columnists in national and regional dailies also offered their views.
Bitter though the experience was, especially for the women in the Northern Region, their perseverance, kept the issue in the public space. It turned up on the agenda of the 1957 London Constitutional Conference, although roundly rejected. Still, the women in Southern Nigeria also joined voices with their Northern sisters to keep up pressure on the North’s regional rulers.
So who were these women who persisted in their advocacy for voting rights and why is there no comprehensive study of their roles? Omotayo’s research has uncovered their voices and deeds in order to historicise how Nigerian women became enfranchised.
About Omotayo Agunbiade
Tayo Agunbiade is an independent scholar who has conducted extensive research about women across several archives in Nigeria and Britain. Her collation of information has been compiled into the first volume of a women’s history book, Untold Histories of Nigerian Women: Emerging from the Margins.