7 Key Facts About Nigeria's First Female Senator Who Recently Passed Away
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7 Key Facts About Nigeria’s First Female Senator Who Recently Passed Away

The recent passing of Franca Afegbua sends ripples through the hearts and minds of Nigerians. As the first elected female senator in the country, her life was a tapestry of courage, innovation, and relentless pursuit of equality. As the first black woman to become a senator at a time when women’s inclusion in the political process was largely unrecognised in Nigeria, Afegbua was not just a politician, she shattered glass ceilings and challenged the status quo at every turn. 

Her journey from rising as a common individual in the country to becoming a senator is a testament to her indomitable spirit and a source of inspiration for countless individuals. Let’s take a look at some remarkable things about her that are worthy of note.

Afegbua is a pioneer in politics

Before her election to the Senate as the first female senator, Nigeria had never seen a woman in such a high-ranking political position. Afegbua’s victory was not just a personal achievement but a monumental step for Nigerian women, proving that they too could break barriers in a male-dominated political landscape.

She is a beautician turned politician

Before entering the political arena, Franca Afegbua was a successful beautician. She owned a hair care and massage salon in the upscale Ikoyi area of Lagos and even won an international hairstyling competition in London in 1977. She was introduced to politics by Joseph Tarka, a minister under Yakubu Gowon, Nigeria’s former military head of state. 

Her political journey began in earnest in 1983, showing that mentorship can play a crucial role in breaking barriers, thus becoming the first female senator. Her transition from beauty to politics was not just a career change but a transformation of her community’s landscape.

She is deeply rooted in activism and motivated by basic amenities

One of Afegbua’s primary motivations for entering politics was her desire to provide basic amenities like water to her hometown of Okpella, formerly old Bendel State, now split into Edo and Delta State. She was struck by the disparity between the infrastructure in cities where she had lived, like Kano and Kaduna, and the lack of basic facilities in her own community.

As a woman who was deeply involved in grassroots activism, particularly focusing on women’s rights and empowerment. Her early days in activism laid the foundation for her political career, giving her a deep understanding of the challenges faced by ordinary Nigerians.

Afegbua had a slim but significant victory

In the 1983 senatorial election for Bendel North, Afegbua faced off against John Omolu, a formidable male politician. Despite the odds, she canvassed votes through women’s organizations and won by a slim margin, proving that women could hold their own in a male-dominated field.

She spoke on how she was able to secure her senatorial position during an era when the Nigerian political landscape was overwhelmingly male-dominated, which she attributed to having a strong focus and determination. She said, “My advice is that they should be determined and not lose focus. If they remain serious about their ambition to help their people, they should go ahead and run, and they can be successful.”

Her political tenure was cut short by a coup

As a community mobilizer who held chieftaincy titles like Aidotse of Onwoyeni Town and Memisesewe of Okpella, Afegbua’s political career was abruptly halted by the military coup of December 1983 less than three months after she assumed office. Despite this, she expressed no regrets, only the wish that she could have done more for her people. Her short tenure was impactful enough to leave a lasting legacy.

She was elected the senator representing Bendel-North in October 1983 under the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) in Nigeria’s second republic.

She is a beacon for future generations

Afegbua’s life story has become a source of inspiration for many young Nigerian women aspiring to enter politics. Through her journey, she demonstrated that with determination, passion, and a clear vision, one could overcome societal barriers and make lasting change.

As a testament to her prowess, Afegbua’s autobiography was launched In May 2014, detailing her journey into politics and her time in the Nigerian Senate. The book serves as a lesson in perseverance and determination, not just for women in politics but for all Nigerians, detailing her journey into politics and her time in the Nigerian Senate. The book serves as a lesson in perseverance and determination, not just for women in politics but for all Nigerians.

Afegbua has a strong voice against gender discrimination 

In the Senate, Afegbua was known for her vocal stance against any form of discrimination, be it based on gender, religion, or ethnicity while in her role as the first female senator. She often emphasized the importance of unity and inclusivity in a diverse nation like Nigeria.

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