The death has been reported of Senator Franca Afegbua, the first elected female senator in Nigeria. She died on Sunday, according to family sources at the age of 79.
Born on October 1943 in Kano, she was a native of Okpella in Estako-East Local Government Area of Edo State. Afegbua was introduced into politics by Joseph Tarka, who served as a minister for Transport and Communications in the military administration of General Yakubu Gowon.
In 1983, she contested the senatorial election for Bendel North under the National Party of Nigeria, NPN against John Omolu, a formidable politician and a trade unionist and won.Afegbua said her interest in politics was triggered by her desire to provide water and basic amenities to the people of Okpella. “The great inspiration was that I wanted to fight for my people because Okpella is in Nigeria and we had no water to drink. We were so backward,” she said.
“I stayed in Kano and I just came to Okpella, no water. I lived in Kano, Kaduna, Zaria and I thought, how come they have pipe-borne water and we don’t have it? What is wrong? Did the government neglect us? I said what will stop me from going there and getting these things right? So, I decided to go into politics for that purpose.”
In a recent press interview, Afegbua said, “Nigerian politics now is more political; it is come and chop. The politics of my time was to come and work and get something to your people. Some people worked for the betterment of their environment, and some it was a money-making affair but I didn’t see it as a money-making affair.
“I saw it as an opportunity to fight and get something done for my people and if every politician fights for the country, there will be progress, and this country will be more progressive than it is now.”Afegbua was a community mobiliser who was highly admired by her people. She was a trailblazer in her community and a passionate advocate of education and women’s right. This earned her the chieftaincy titles, Aidotse of Onwoyeni Town and the Memisesewe of Okpella.
During her 76th birthday, Godwin Obaseki, the governor of Edo State said Afegbua was a role model to men and women. His wife, Betsy, described her as “a great woman, a trailblazer, and a mentor to many”.
“What she did was to pave the way for women all around the world to believe that such a feat was possible. The senator did the impossible in 1983 and since then, women all over the world have come to see it as a possibility”.
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