As the world continues to mourn Queen Elizabeth II over her passing on September 8, 2022, Skabash uses the opportunity to remember Nigerians who the queen has awarded the OBE.
The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE) is a prestigious award that is given to individuals for their outstanding contributions to the arts and sciences, charitable and welfare organisations, and public service outside the civil service. The award was established by King George V on June 4, 1917, and comprised five classes across both civil and military divisions, the most senior two of which make the recipient either a knight if male or a dame if female.
Originally, selected individuals were nominated by the self-governing Dominions of the Empire, later named the Commonwealth and the Viceroy of India. Nominations continue today through the Commonwealth, but most nations commonwealth nations have since withdrawn from nominating candidates after establishing their own national awards.
Nevertheless, the OBE is a prestigious award highly sought after by Nigerians, especially those who live in the United Kingdom. It’s a privilege to be honoured by the British monarch.
10 Nigerians awarded the OBE
1. Sade Adu
Nigerian-born British singer, Helen Folasade Adu, stage name Sade Adu, was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 2002. Adu, who is also a songwriter and composer, was born in Ibadan, Oyo State, Nigeria. Her father was Nigerian, a university teacher of economics, while her mother was an English nurse. Before joining music, Adu worked briefly as a fashion designer of men’s clothing and part-time model. Then she joined a band named after her comprising of band members Paul S. Denman, Andrew Hale, and Stuart Matthewman.
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From her first album, Diamond Life, released in 1982, Adu made history as the first British female artist whose album reached the number one top-selling debut recordings of the 1980s, and the best-selling debut ever by a British female vocalist. Since then, Sade Adu’s songs have sold over 50 million copies, making her the most successful solo British female artist in history. In 2017, Adu was awarded the Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) during the Queen’s 91st Birthday Honours for her services to music.
2. Chiwetel Ejiofor
Chiwetel Umeadi Ejiofor is a British-Nigerian actor who is popular for his outstanding works in Hollywood movies. Ejiofor was appointed the OBE in the 2008 Birthday Honours.
Ejiofor was born to middle-class Nigerian parents in Forest Gate, East London. His father, Arinze, was a doctor, while his mother, Obiajulu, was a pharmacist. His younger sister Zain Asher, is a popular CNN correspondent. He made his film debut in the television film Deadly Voyage (1996). Since then, he has featured in hundreds of Hollywood movies and won many prestigious awards. He was also nominated for the prestigious Oscars after his outstanding performance in 12 Years A Slave.
3. Anthony Joshua
British-Nigerian heavyweight boxer, Anthony Joshua, was awarded the OBE on December 20, 2018. Before that, the two-time heavyweight champion was awarded Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire back in 2013, for his success at the London 2012 Olympics, where he won gold in heavyweight boxing. The 2018 OBE award was handed to him by Prince Charles, now King Charles III.
AJ began his boxing career in 2007 at the age of 18. He is now a two-time former unified world heavyweight champion, having twice held the WBA (Super), IBF, WBO, and IBO titles between 2016 and 2021. Meanwhile, he is the only Nigerian to hold a unified world heavyweight title.
4. Muyiwa Olarewaju
British Nigerian gospel singer, Muyiwa Olarewaju was awarded the OBE in January 2022. The award was presented to him by Prince William, now Prince of Wales. He received the award for his contributions to gospel music.
Olarewaju is BBC One talent show judge, radio host, and award-winning British gospel singer. He is a star of Songs of Praise’s Gospel Choir of the Year. Also, Olaruwaju is best known for putting the gospel music genre on a global scale by mixing traditional gospel music with elements from Africa, the Caribbean, and Asia, with soul, R&B, and pop. He has also toured with legends like Stevie Wonder and Mariah Carey and worked with superstars Bob Dylan and Lauryn Hill.
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5. Nneka Abulokwe
Dr. Nneka Abulokwe is also a Nigerian that Queen Elizabeth II has awarded the OBE. The award was presented to her by Prince William at the investiture ceremony at Buckingham Palace in 2020. The award was part of the 2019 Queen’s Birthday Honours List.
Dr. Abulokwe is the co-founder of Think Tank and also the founder and CEO of MicroMax Consulting. The digital governance and tech entrepreneur was awarded the OBE for Services to Business.
6. Yewande Mayomi-Akinola
British-Nigerian engineer, Yewande Mayomi-Akinola ended 2019 on a high note after she was awarded the OBE by the queen on December 28, 2019. The multi-talented awardee was recognised for services to Engineering and to Diversity in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Design, and Innovation.
Ms Mayomi-Akinola, whose father, J. M Akinola, was Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Works of the old Western Region in Nigeria, holds a Bachelors degree in Engineering Design and Appropriate Technology from the University of Warwick and a Masters in Innovation and Design for Sustainability from Cranfield University. Her vast experience in engineering includes Design and Construction, Innovation and Manufacture of buildings and systems in the built environment. She has also worked on projects in the U.K., Africa, the Middle East, and East Asia.
7. Chi-chi Nwanoku
Chinyere Adah, known as Chi-chi Nwanoku is a Nigeria-British double bassist and professor of Historical Double Bass Studies at the Royal Academy of Music. Born to a Nigerian father and an Irish mother, Nwanoku joined classical music after an injury ended her ambitions as a sprinter. She founded Chineke! Orchestra, Europe’s first classical orchestra, comprises a majority of black and minority ethnic musicians, with whom she regularly performs. The organisation is made up of 62 senior and junior orchestras.
Nwanoku was awarded an OBE for her contribution to classical music in June 2017.
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8. Elizabeth Nneka Anionwu
Professor Dame Elizabeth Anionwu was awarded the OBE for her ground-breaking contribution to British healthcare. She was presented the prestigious award by the Queen herself in 2017. Dame Anionwu founded the first UK specialist centre for treating Sickle Cell and Thalassemia in 1979, and continues to make giant strides despite being in her 70s.
The Professor of Nursing was born to Nigerian parents in Birmingham, UK but had a troubled childhood as she was raised by her mother alone. She joined the British NHS at 16 and worked up to the prestigious position she is in today. In addition, Dame Anionwu acted as vice chair of the memorial statue committee for unveiling the first statue of a named Black woman in the UK, Mary Seacole, at St Thomas’ Hospital, London.
9. Patti Boulaye
British-Nigerian singer, Patti Boulaye was a recipient of the OBE during the Investiture from HRH Prince Charles at Buckingham Palace on January 29, 2016. Boulaye was born to an Efik mother and an Okpanam father. She was among the leading black British entertainers in the 1970s and 1980s.
Boulaye is also known for her acting skills and even hosted her own show – the Patti Boulaye Show. Boulaye first international recognition after starring in Lux commercials in the 1980s. She has since released her memoirs on January 25, 2016.
10. Sophie Okonedo
Sophie Okonedo is a Nigerian-British actress and narrator. She was appointed an OBE in the 2010 Birthday Honours and Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2019 New Year Honours, both for services to drama.
Okonedo was born in London to Joan, a Jewish pilates teacher, and Henry Okonedo, a British Nigerian who worked for the government. She was primarily raised in her mother’s Jewish faith. Okonedo has acted in many popular Hollywood movies and received many awards. Hotel Rwanda remains one of her popular works.
In conclusion, these are the top 10 Nigerians awarded the OBE in our list. If you know more, we’ll be eager for you to share.
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