In the midst of Nigeria’s cash scarcity and post-election chaos, one of the nation’s female legends was pronounced dead on the morning of March 12. She was Franca Afegbua, Nigeria’s first elected female senator. 

Franca Afegbua, Nigeria’s first female senator [Vanguard Newspapers]

But who was she really and how did she make her mark in Nigeria’s history? Let’s dive into some fun facts about her:

She has roots tracing back to the ancient Benin Kingdom

Afegbua was born on October 20, 1943. She was a native of Okpella, a town in Etsako East Local Government (once known as Bendel). The Etsako people are one of the few tribes in modern Edo land who originate from the Benin Kingdom and maintain some of its traditions. Some of them include dialect, and teeth filing amongst others. 

The Etsako people

She was a badass hairdresser

Franca was known to be a luxury, Bulgaria-trained hairdresser in Lagos in the 70s. She was so good at her job, that she won an international hairstyling competition in 1977.

The young Franca Afuegbu

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She was introduced to politics by a man

Joseph Sarwuan Tarka, a former minister for Transport and then Communications under General Yakubu Gowon was Franca’s friend and plug into the political party, the National Party of Nigeria.

Joseph Tarka 

Women helped her win the Bendel Senatorial seat in 1983

When Franca decided to run for the Bendel Senatorial seat in October 1983, few people thought she could win it. This was due to the high level of respect that both the then Bendel governor and senator had at that time.

Dey play

What they didn’t realise was the fact that she had garnered the trust of enough women to support her. This led to her winning the seat by a slim margin against her opponent, John Umolu.

Her tenure only lasted three months

Afuegbu was only able to serve as Bendel senator from October to December 1983. This was due to Muhammadu Buhari’s 1983 military coup, which caused an end to Nigeria’s 2nd Republic.

Buhari as military head of state [Premium Times]

Franca Afegbua would be forever regarded as one of the first women who inspired women’s participation in politics.


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