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Top 5 popular and Indigenous Nigerian Authors

Updated on July 19, 2015
Chinua Achebe and Wole Soyinka at a workshop conference
Chinua Achebe and Wole Soyinka at a workshop conference

Chinua Achebe

Popularly known and called the father of African literature, Albert Chinualumogu Achebe was born in the Igbo town of Ogidi in Anambra State, South-Eastern Nigeria on 16th November 1930 to his Nigerian-Ibo parents Isaiah Okafo Achebe and Janet Anaenechi Iloegbunam Achebe. He is a Nigerian novelist, poet, professor, disciplinarian and critic who has won so many awards including, The Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize award worth $300,000, one of the richest prizes for the arts in 2010.

Chinua Achebe Receives the Gish Prize Award
Chinua Achebe Receives the Gish Prize Award

As one of the most internationally-acclaimed and recognized writers from Africa, Chinua is well known for his audacious open criticism of the West as regards to racism against black Africans. One remarkable event about Chinua was when he openly criticized and challenged a famous English author, Joseph Conrad who wrote the book, An Image of Africa: Heart of Darkness. Achebe called Conrad a bloody racist during his presentation in a Chancellor's Lecture at Amherst on 18 February 1975, caused a storm of controversy, even at the reception as many English professors in attendance were upset by his remarks. This event later led to him being denied the Nobel Prize award on several occasions. Back home in Nigeria, Achebe has twice refused the Nigerian government’s attempt to give him national honours (first in 2004 by President Obasanjo’s regime, then again in 2011 during President Goodluck’s regime) in protest against the political instability and corruption in his country.

Chinua Achebe at Old age
Chinua Achebe at Old age
Chinua Achebe's collections
Chinua Achebe's collections

Notable among Chinua’s famous literal works are; Things Fall Apart (wrote in 1958 which has been translated into over 50 languages worldwide), No longer at ease (1960), Arrow of God (1964), Man of the people (1966) and recently the controversial There was a country (2012).

In November 1961, Achebe got married to his wife Christiana Chinwe and together they have four children; Chinelo, Ikechukwu, Chidi and Nwando with six grandchildren: Chochi, Chino, Chidera, C.J. (Chinua Jr.), Nnamdi and Zeal.

On 21 March 2013, Achebe died in Boston USA after a short-illness as he was in a wheel-chair for the remainder of his old age after a car accident left him partially paralyzed and was laid to rest in his hometown in Ogidi, Anambra State.

Wole Soyinka:

Originally known as Akinwande Oluwole "Wole" Babatunde Soyinka, is another foremost indigenous and respected Nigeria and African playwright and poet. He was born in the Yoruba land of Abeokuta, Ogun State in Western Nigeria to his Nigerian parents Samuel Ayodele and Grace Eniola Soyinka on 13th July, 1934. He studied both in Nigeria and abroad while at university, Soyinka and six others founded the Pyrates Confraternity, an anti-corruption and justice-seeking student organization.

Wole Soyinka
Wole Soyinka

Just like Chinua Achebe, Soyinka is also a strong critic but this time to the successive Nigerian governments, especially the country's many military dictators, as well as other political tyrannies in Africa, including the President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe. In 1965, he seized the Western Nigeria Broadcasting Service studio and broadcast a demand for the cancellation of the Western Nigeria Regional Elections. He was imprisoned for 22 months by the Federal Government of Nigeria during the outbreak of civil war because he was seen as an enemy of the state when he secretly met with Military Head of Eastern Nigeria and breakaway Republic of Biafra Odumegwu Ojukwu to try and avert the war. There was another attempt on his life during the military regime of Abacha in 1997 who charged him for treason but Soyinka escaped from Nigeria via the "NADECO Route" on a motorcycle to Benin Republic.

Wole Soyinka receiving the CFR honour  from General Babangida in 1986
Wole Soyinka receiving the CFR honour from General Babangida in 1986
Wole Soyinka and family
Wole Soyinka and family

But many say he later was controversial when he eventually compromised by accepting to be decorated with the National Award, Commander of the Federal Republic (CFR) by President Ibrahim Babangida in 1986. Kassim Afegbua, Babangida’s spokesperson says, "The professor is suffering from intellectual (senility) which is unfortunate. This is a man who after creating crisis in the country will run abroad. He is a man of dual personality and contradicting posturing." Someone also said “Why should a respected critic or writer serve as a spokesperson for a man or woman who had hijacked the leadership of his or her country?”

The professor served the military junta of Babangida regime as Chairman of the Federal Road Safety Commission. Although I respect and admire the literary giant, I would never buy any argument as to why he chose to serve under the military dictatorship he always criticize. In retrospect, perhaps the worst mistake this giant has made in his life.

The Lion and the Jewel (1959) by Wole Soyinka
The Lion and the Jewel (1959) by Wole Soyinka

He made history by becoming the first African to win the Nobel Prize Award in Literature in 1986 for his contributions. Notable among his play books are Keffi's Birthday Treat (1954), A Quality of Violence (1959), The Lion and the Jewel (1959), and A Play of Giants (1984), etc.

In 1958, Soyinka first got married to the late British writer, Barbara Dixon, whom he met at the University of Leeds in the 1950s. Ever since then Soyinka has been married thrice and divorced twice and has children from his three marriages. Barbara was the mother of his first son, Olaokun and his second marriage was to Nigerian librarian, Olaide Idowu, in 1963. His marriage with Olaide produced three daughters, Moremi, Iyetade (deceased), Peyibomi, and a second son, Ilemakin. He later married Folake Doherty in 1989.

Soyinka is currently a Professor in Residence at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, California, USA

Cyprian Ekwensi

Born on September 26, 1921 in Minna Niger State of Nigeria, Cyprian Odiatu Duaka Ekwensi is a short story writer and author of children's books who hails from Enugu state in South-eastern Nigeria. He attended Government College in Ibadan Oyo State, Yaba College of Education in Lagos State where he read pharmacy and then travelled to London to study in University of London.

Cyprian Ekwensi's books
Cyprian Ekwensi's books

Ekwensi is also Pharmacist and broadcaster. He taught at the famous Igbobi College and in the Nigeria’s First Republic, Ekwensi was appointed the head of features in which he later became the Director at the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation which was under the Ministry of Information before the Biafran War broke out in 1967.

He has written so many short stories and notable amongst them are; When Love Whispers (1948), An African Night's Entertainment (1948), People of the City (London: Andrew Dakers, 1954), The Drummer Boy (1960), Jagua Nana (1961), Jagua Nana's Daughter (1993) and Cash on Delivery (2007, collection of short stories). In 1968 he was awarded with the Dag Hammarskjold International Prize in Literature and in 2001 he was conferred with Member of the Order of the Federal Republic (MFR) of Nigeria by the then President Olusegun Obasanjo.

Ekwensi got married to his lovely wife Eunice Anyiwo, and together the marriage produced they five children with many grandchildren, including his son Cyprian Ikechi Ekwensi, who is named after his grandfather, and his oldest grandchild Adrianne Tobechi Ekwensi.

Ekwensi died on 4 November 2007 at the Niger Foundation in Enugu, where he underwent an operation for an undisclosed ailment.

Ola Rotimi

Fully Known as Olawale Gladstone Emmanuel Rotimi was born on 13 April 1938 in Sapele Delta State. His father Samuel Gladstone Enitan Rotimi was a Yoruba steam-launch engineer and his mother, Dorcas Adolae Oruene Addo an Ijaw drama enthusiast. He was one of the leading and most promising Africa playwrights and theatre directors before his death. Rotimi was also an actor, choreographer and designer who had a dream of making history by directing a play of 5000 cast members. Rotimi often examined Nigeria's history and local traditions in his works.

Ola Rotimi
Ola Rotimi
The Gods Are Not to Blame by Ola Rotimi (published 1971)
The Gods Are Not to Blame by Ola Rotimi (published 1971)

He is the Author of the popular drama The Gods Are Not to Blame (produced 1968; published 1971). Other of his popular works includes; Ovonramven Nogbaisi (1971), Our Husband Has Gone Mad Again (produced 1966; published 1977), A Tragedy of the Ruled (1983), Hopes of the Living Dead (1988), The Epilogue (2002). Rotimi was awarded two Fulbright Scholarships

In 1965, Rotimi got married to her wife Hazel Mae Guadreau, originally from Gloucester in Southern England; who he met while studying at Boston University. In 2000 he returned to Ile-Ife, joining the faculty of Obafemi Awolowo University where he lectured and founded the Ori Olokun Acting Company before his death on 18 August at age of 62. Hazel (his wife) died in May 2000, only a couple of months before Rotimi's death.

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Elechi Amadi:

Amadi is a prominent and one of the indigenous Nigerian authors who was born on 12 May 1934 in Aluu town, Port Harcourt, Rivers State. He attended his primary education in Nigeria and graduated from University of Ibadan with a degree in Physics and Mathematics. He served in the Nigeria Army during the Nigerian Civil War and retired with as a Captain.

His novels and plays are filled with an idea about the virgin African village life, customs, beliefs and religious practices before the advent of British Colonial masters.

Elechi Amadi
Elechi Amadi
Amadi granting an interview
Amadi granting an interview
Elechi Amadi's books
Elechi Amadi's books
Sunset in Biafra, a war diary (1973)
Sunset in Biafra, a war diary (1973)

One of his famous pieces was The Concubine, 1966 which has been regarded by many as "an outstanding work of pure fiction". Other of his popular plays and novels include; The Great Ponds (novel) - 1969 Sunset in Biafra, a war diary (1973), Dancer of Johannesburg, a play (1978), The Slave, a novel (1978), Estrangement, a novel (1986).

In 2003, Elechi was awarded with Member of the Order of the Federal Republic (MFR) by the then President Olusegun Obasanjo and later that same year with Fellow of the Nigerian Academy of Education.

Currently, Elechi has been writer-in-residence and lecturer at Rivers State College of Education, where he has also been Dean of Arts, head of the literature department and Director of General Studies.


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    • Arthur Nwokolo profile imageAUTHOR

      Factable News 

      3 years ago from Lagos


      Yes, indeed. This is simply because you never get noticed easily in this part of the world except you work very hard

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      It seems that these authors each strived to find their own voices in literature and got noticed for standing up for what they believed in!

    • Arthur Nwokolo profile imageAUTHOR

      Factable News 

      3 years ago from Lagos

      Thank you, Sam.

      I am happy you found my hub interesting to read

    • Sam Tumblin profile image

      Sam Tumblin 

      3 years ago from Eunice, La.

      Enjoyed reading your Hub on the "Top Five Most Popular Nigerian Authors". Very interesting article and well arranged.


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