I met the First Female Professor in Nigeria

Prof Adetowun Ogunseye in her younger years

I and my colleagues had the privilege of paying a visit to the home of a woman of note(The first female professor in Nigeria): Prof Adetowun Felicia Ogunseye. She insists that her first name is Adetowun and not Adetoun as many people tend to believe. This post is not intended to narrate her history but simply a short piece on my impression of this visit. But if you do want a little bit of Adetowun’s history then take a peep at Prince Tunde’s site.  It was an exciting and memorable  trip for me. So I’d like to share it with you.

We entered the old architectural building in a beautiful and serene neighborhood. It was neatly kept, flowers wave their blades as  a cool breeze welcomed i and the team who went to interview Mama at the entrance of the door.

we were ushered into a room full of books on shelves all line up around the room. It held books that told the story of Adetowun’s journey to becoming a professor. All kinds of literature ranging from African history, European history, Who is Who in Africa, music and more … they all stood like soldiers on the shelves with their dusty boots….A rich collection of knowledge neatly cataloged and labelled. I sat with my colleagues on a wooden round table basking in the wealth of knowledge that surrounded us. I wondered if she had read all these books…that’s a whole lot of books to read for anyone! Well Professors are supposed to be readers, aren’t they? Never mind everyone should cultivate the habit of reading books and it has been proven time and time again that Great people, change makers read a lot.

As we waited for Professor Towun to get set for the interview we found out that the house held a collection of over 2000 records of classical music! In her words later she revealed that while her late husband was alive in their hay days they would often have a mini  concert together in their living room. So madam Professor’s life was not all filled with books, she was also romantic at heart and a lover of good music by my judgement.

I and Damola Tinubu interviewing Prof Adetowun Ogunseye

Finally we were asked to come up to the living room upstairs where she was waiting for us. While going up the stairs we started to discuss how this soon to be 90year old woman manage to go up and down the stairs, soon we found out. I had expected an old woman bent over having to move around with a walking stick in a shaky hand. Instead out came a woman walking confidently towards us from one of the rooms smiling brightly. I couldn’t hold myself from expressing my surprise and then paid her a compliment that she looked beautiful. And seriously she still looked good.

Prof Ogunseye soon to be 90years old

Lessons from Madam Adetowun Ogunseye’s wisdom

When asked her about the secret of her healthy good look she revealed that she was from a humble background. Born 1926, her parents were teachers. Adetowun was born in a village in Edo state because at that time there was a festival which pregnant women must not hear the drums so her mother and father were sent to the village.  her parents ensured that she and her siblings were properly fed. So for me as a mother…what I sow now in terms of feeding my children properly with nutritious food will remain embedded even at old age…(words of the elders there)

 In her words, “They say it gives wrinkles but I am lucky no wrinkle…(laughter). Laughter Cheers you more when you are angry before you blow up. Smile more and laughter refreshes not just the soul but the way you look on the outside”. She always smiles because it opens doors for her.

She learned how to use the computer at 70years old. Now she also keeps busy surfing the social media in order to keep abreast of what is happening in the world and also get rid of loneliness: Age is not a hindrance to learning new things; keep up dating yourself

She is first in so many ways: First Nigerian Female to get a degree from Cambridge University; First Female student Yaba High College, Ibadan and First Female Professor in Nigeria. To me this says women can become anything they want to.

Photo Credit: Funmi Chima

Adebisi Adetunji

9 thoughts on “I met the First Female Professor in Nigeria

  1. Let me add to the series of ”firsts’ about her: She wrote the first academic article on Nigerian Women in a 1958 issue of Presence Africaine – a Francophone African journal. I have a copy of the journal. She organised the first pan-African conference on African Women in 1960 in conjunction with the International Women Alliance in University of Ibadan with the theme : ‘African Woman Designed Her Future” She was the first General Secretary of the National Council of Women Societies (NCWS) – Nigeria’s women flagship society… Adetowuni Ogunsheye (Nee Banjo) is indeed an icon.

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