As a nation celebrated for its diverse culture, it’s no surprise that Nigeria has produced a wealth of famous people—from basketball players to novelists and musicians.
So what better excuse to celebrate these successful people than with a post dedicated entirely to them? Here are 5 fun facts about famous Nigerians.
Helen Folasade Adu (Sade Adu)
The Nigerian-British singer, song woman and frontwoman of the soul band, Sade is one of the most successful female artists in history. Not only has she sold more than 75 million records worldwide to date but she’s also been nominated for 42 awards including Grammys, Brit Awards and BET awards.
Sade’s sultry jazz sound with soul, funk and Afro-Cuban rhythms struck a chord around the world when she first burst onto the scene in the 1980s. Her most well-known songs include No Ordinary Love, By Your Side and Smooth Operator.
Fun fact: Over the years, Sade has turned down some pretty impressive offers to collaborate including Jay-Z back in 2010. It ended well though with the rapper appearing on Sade’s 2011 album, The Ultimate.
Born in Nigeria in 1930, Chinua Achebe is one of the most celebrated African writers of all time. His famous works include the novel Things Fall Apart, which is one of the most read books in Africa, selling over 10 million copies worldwide.
The late writer, who passed away in 2013, has earned many awards and honours including the Man Booker International Prize in 2007. His brilliant flair for writing means he’s often described as Africa’s greatest storyteller with his work centring on African politics, culture, identity and society.
Fun fact: Chinua Achebe is officially the most translated African writer of all time. Things Fall Apart was translated into 50 languages.
With a nickname like The Dream, it’s no surprise that Hakeem Olajuwon is considered to be one of the best basketball players of all time. Born in Lagos, Nigeria, Hakeem immigrated to the USA as a teen in 1980 to play basketball at the University of Houston under Cougars coach, Guy Lewis.
Between 1984 and 2001, Hakeem played for the Houston Rockets, winning two back-to-back NBA championships whilst there. He also played for the US national team during the 1996 Summer Olympics, at which they won the Olympic gold medal, before going on to retire in 2002.
Fun fact: Hakeem Olajuwon may have become an instant star in the NBA but he didn’t actually first play basketball until he was 15 years old.
Often described as one of the best strikers in MMA, Israel Adesanya is a kickboxer, mixed martial artist and former boxer. Born in Nigeria, Israel moved to Auckland, New Zealand in 2010 at the age of 21. There, he began training in mixed martial arts.
Soon after, Israel went on to win multiple championships and is currently the UFC Middleweight Champion. In 2020, he was named Fighter of the Year at the prestigious 12th World MMA Awards.
Fun fact: Not only is Israel Adesanya passionate about fighting, but he’s also a keen dancer. This is clearly evidenced in his walk-outs and celebrations, as well as his incredible footwork while fighting and his ability to move so well inside the octagon.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is one of the most celebrated writers of her generation. Born in Abba but raised on the campus of the University of Nigeria in Nsukka, where her father worked as a professor and her mother was the first female registrar, Chimamanda studied medicine for a year before emigrating to the US at the age of 19.
After picking up a degree in Communication and Political Science and a Master’s in Creative Writing, Chimamanda went on to write her most famous works including the novel, Purple Hibiscus, which was shortlisted for the Orange Fiction Prize 2004, and Half of a Yellow Sun, which won the Women’s Prize for Fiction in 2007.
Fun Fact: Not only did Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie pick up the prize for Women’s Prize for Fiction, but she was also crowned ‘Winner of Winners’ from 25 years of Women’s Prize for Fiction winning books.
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