Obadaih Johnson

Dr. Obadiah Johnson with wife and brother with own wife.
Dr. Obadiah & Mrs. Mabel Emily Johnson and his brother, Nathaniel with own wife. Photo: Church Times NG/ Akinpelu Johnson

Obadiah Johnson was a 19th Century Nigerian Author and physician. Obadiah was born in 1849 and he became, after studies at Kings’ College, London, the second Yoruba medical doctor. In 1889 Johnson was appointed an Assistant Colonial Surgeon in Lagos. Although he hoped for a long blissful career, he resigned in July 1897, because of the racial prejudice that was rife in his time, and with his typical gracious disposition, gave no reason for doing so. Four years later, he was brought at the instance of the colonial governor of Lagos, to the Legislative Council where he served for thirteen years, recording immense achievement for the sanitation and environmental health of Lagos. With glowing appraisal of the local, uneducated medicine men, Johnson wrote a thesis on West African therapeutics in 1889 for which he was awarded the postgraduate M.D. at Edinburgh University. He also wrote from his own experiences growing up in Lagos.

Obadaih was collaborator with his brother, the author, Reverend Samuel Johnson, in the writing of the History of the Yorubas, which is one of the earliest attempts at chronicling the Yoruba past. Obadiah learnt, on his visit to England in 1900 that his brother’s effort of twenty years has come to naught, as the manuscript sent to London for printing could not be found. When Samuel died the following year, he felt obliged to rewrite the whole book from the author’s scribbles, a task he completed sixteen years later. Obadiah died in London in the year 1920. Although he made his contribution in public health, he is more known for the great literary piece that he and his brother had composed.