Obafemi Awolowo was born on 6 March 1909 in Ikenne, Ogun State of Nigeria. His father was a farmer and sawyer who died when Obafemi was about seven years old. He attended various schools, including Baptist Boys’ High School (BBHS), Abeokuta, and then became a teacher in Abeokuta, after which he qualified as a shorthand typist. Subsequently, he served as a clerk at the famous Wesley College Ibadan. It was after this that he embarked on various business ventures to help raise funds to travel to the UK for further studies. Following his education at Wesley College, Ibadan, in 1927, he enrolled at the University of London as an External Student and graduated with the degree of Bachelor of Commerce (Hons.). He went to the UK in 1944 to study law at the University of London and was called to Bar by the Honorable Society of the Inner Temple on 19 November 1946. In 1949 Awolowo founded the Nigerian Tribune, the oldest surviving private Nigerian newspaper, which he used to spread nationalist consciousness among his fellow Nigerians.
Awolowo advocated federalism as the only basis for equitable national integration and, as head of the Action Group; he believed that the state should channel Nigeria’s resources into education and state-led infrastructural development. He introduced free primary education for all and free health care for children in the Western Region, established the first television service in Africa in 1959, and the Oduduwa Group, all of which were financed from the highly lucrative cocoa industry which was the mainstay of the regional economy.
In 1992, the Obafemi Awolowo Foundation was founded as an independent, non-profit, non-partisan organisation committed to furthering the symbiotic interaction of public policy and relevant scholarship with a view to promoting the overall development of the Nigerian nation. The Foundation was launched by the President of Nigeria at that time, General Ibrahim Babangida, at the Liberty Stadium, Ibadan. However, his most important legacy (styled Awoism) are his exemplary integrity, his welfarism, his contributions to hastening the process of decolonisation and his consistent and reasoned advocacy of federalism-based on ethno-linguistic self-determination and uniting politically strong states-as the best basis for Nigerian unity.
Awolowo died peacefully at his Ikenne home, the Efunyela Hall (so named after his mother), on 9 May 1987, at the age of 78 and was laid to rest in Ikenne, amid tributes across political and ethno-religious divides.