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Know Your Heroes/Heroines: Tai Solarin

Born August 20th, 1922, Augustus Taiwo ‘Tai’ Solarin was a Nigerian educator and author. He established the famous Mayflower School, Ikenne, Ogun State in 1956. In 1952, Solarin became the principal of Molusi College, Ijebu Igbo, a post he held till 1956 when he became the proprietor and principal of Mayflower School.

Solarin’s exact birth date is unknown, but it is assumed that he was born in 1922 in Ikenne, Ogun State, in Western Nigeria. He attended Wesley College in Ibadan. He served with the Royal Air Force in the Second World War, and remained in Britain, studying at University of Manchester, and then at the University of London. Tai Solarin married English-born Sheila Mary Tuer in 1951.

The Mayflower campus, which he established, is made up of hundreds of hectares of land, based in Tai Solarin’s birth Place, Ikenne, Ogun State. Approximately 8,000 students are in attendance.

The campus includes classrooms, administration buildings, and small houses for many of the teachers, dormitory accommodations for about 2,000 boarders, and a farm. The school is noted for very high academic achievement.

Tai Solarin is one of the post-Independence civil rights critics and activists in his native Nigeria; some others were Fela Anikulapo-Kuti (musician) Beko Ransome-KutiWole Soyinka (Nobel Laureate), Ayodele AwojobiDele GiwaGani Fawehinmi (lawyer), and Ken Saro-Wiwa. For the majority of the first forty years after independence, Nigeria had no effective opposition to the mostly military government of the day. These activists acted as an effective opposition to the ruling government. In 1975, when the General Gowon Regime delayed returning power to a civilian regime, Tai published his “The Beginning of the End” statement, which he then physically distributed on the roadside. He was subsequently imprisoned for this act. Throughout his lifetime Tai fought running battles with various governments in a bid to improve the lot of Nigerians.

Mr. Solarin was an intellectual guru for Nigeria’s disenchanted and disfranchised for four decades. His writings in magazines and newspapers, highlighting what he called the hypocrisy and vulgarity of the Nigeria of his day, frequently angered people in power.

He was a vehement critic of military rule in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, and an ombudsman in three states in 1976 and 1977.

As a columnist, Tai was a relentless critic of Nigerian military rule, as well as of corruption in the government and the church. He was often jailed for his public remarks. He died on June 27, 1994.

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