Folake Solanke

Folake Solanke making a point
Folake Solanke. Photo: Kolawole Alli

Folake Solanke is a lawyer and women activist, who in 1981 became the first female Senior Advocate of Nigeria. Folake was born in March 1932 in Abeokuta where she, among other intrigues, witnessed the unthinkable exile of the Alake to Oshogbo due to the activism of town women led by Funmi Ransome-Kuti. In 1945, Folake was escorted by her father, Jacob Odulate, inventor of the Alabukun medicine to her new school, the Methodist Girls High School, from where she will proceed six years later to King’s College, Liverpool in the United Kingdom, which had become by then, the family University of the Odulates.

At the Methodist school, Folake acted Lady Macduff in a Shakespearean play done in 1948 in conjunction with the CMS Grammar School. Her refusal to accept an arranged marriage with T.O.S. Benson and consequent loss of her father’s sponsorship at college may have spurred the gender activism for which she is later known. In October 1956, Folake wedded her college boyfriend Toriola Solanke secretly, a young medical graduate from St. Andrew’s University in Scotland who will become a professor of surgery at the University of Ibadan. By acquiring loans, she had cleverly completed her degree program.

Folake also obtained a law degree from the Gray’s Inn in London, called to bar in absentia in 1962. She worked in Ibadan between 1963-64 as a junior of the F.R.A. Williams chamber before starting her own Alabukun chambers. In 1972 she was appointed a commissioner of the Western state of Nigeria. Her public lectures on the trials of Christ Jesus and of Apostle Paul received commendations of the pope and of the archbishop of Canterbury in 1998.

Tope Apoola
Profession: Writer