This list contained some of Nigeria’s most renown celebrities. They range from musicians to authors, to sporting stars to actresses.
Nigerian Hakeem “The Dream” Olajuwon’s domination on the basketball court between 1984 and 2002 has led him to become one of the most celebrated Nigerians. Olajuwon spent his formative years in Nigeria but migrated to the US in order to play basketball at the University of Houston. He had somewhat of a rough start but soon became the star player on his college team.
In the 1984 NBA Draft, the Houston Rockets drafted him to play on their team. In 1994 and 1995, he led the Rockets to NBA Championships. The Dream retired in 2002 as the league’s all-time leader in blocks. He is also one of four NBA players to record a quadruple-double. He is the only player to win the NBA MVP, Finals MVP and Defensive Player of the Year. In 2008, he was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame, and in 2016, the FIBA Hall of Fame.
Playwright and poet Akinwande Oluwole “Wole” Babatunde Soyinka (1934-Present) in 1986 became the first African to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature. His published work since then has brought him much acclaim and recognition. Notable works of Soyinka include The Lion and the Jewel (1959), Mandela’s Earth and other poems (1988) and Season of Anomy (1972)
Soyinka is one of the founders of the Drama Association of Nigeria. He is also a very harsh critic of successive Nigerian governments and even became engaged in politics in 1996. He tried to stop the civil war that was about to ensue at that time and as a result spent 22 months in prison. Released in 1969, his time spent him prison gave him great material and he went on to produce anthologies, a novel, and more plays.
Alhaji Aliko Dangote
You do not have to keep up with business news out of Nigeria to know that Alhaji Aliko Dangote, is the richest man in Nigeria and Africa. The Nigerian billionaire is the owner of Dangote Group, one of the largest conglomerates in Africa. Dangote has an estimated network of $12.5 billion.
Being the grandson of Alhaji Alhassan Dantata, Dangote had a pretty good start in business but this business acumen propelled the Dangote Group into becoming the multi-billion conglomerate it is now. In Nigeria, it is the leading company in sugar production and refinery. The Dangote group also partakes in salt and flour manufacturing and has shares in telecommunications.
Ibiagbanidokibubo ‘Agbani’ Asenite Darego
Agbani Darego is a Nigerian model and in 2001 became the first native African to win Miss World. Born in Lagos and raised in D-Line, Darego grew up in a family of eight children. Before she entered Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria, Darego attended the University of Port Harcourt where she studied Computer Science and Mathematics.
In 2001, she won the Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria. She went on to represent the country in Miss World and became the first native African to win the title of Miss World. Following these successes, she became the second black model to represent L’Oréal. In Nigeria, she became the ambassador for Arik Face. She has appeared in Elle, Cosmopolitan, Vogue and many other magazines and has modeled for brands like Christine Dior, Elle, and Sephora.
Musician and songwriter Ayodeji “Wizkid” Balogun burst on to the music scene with the song “Holla at Your Boy” from his debut studio album, Superstar (2011). He gained international momentum after she collaborated with Drake on the song “One Dance”. One dance took number one position on the charts in 15 countries. With this success Wizkid became one of the most renown celebrities in Nigeria and the world.
Forbes Magazine and Channel O rank him as the 5th richest/most bankable African artist. In February 20014, he became the first Nigerian musician to reach 1 million followers on Twitter. His videos on YouTube have amassed millions of views. The Nigerian musician continues to blaze the music waves with hits like “Daddy Yo” and collaborations with Chris Brown and Major Lazer.
The face of actress and singer Genevieve Nnaji (May 3, 1979 – ) is a common feature on Nigerian television screens. At the age of thirty-eight, Nnaji has appeared in over 80 Nollywood films. Her first foray into acting was at the tender age of eight when she appeared in the then popular soap opera Ripples. Today she is one of Nigeria’s most renown celebrities.
Appearing in the movie, “Most Wanted” at the age of nineteen served as the springboard for a very successful career in Nigerian Film Industry. Her incredible talent made her the first actress to be awarded Best Actress at the 2001 City Peoples Awards. Oprah Winfrey referred to her as the Julia Roberts of Africa in 2009. Movies she has starred in include the award-winning film Ijé: The Journey, Tango and 30 Days.
Chinua Achebe (Nov 16, 1930 – March 21, 2013) novelist, poet, professor, and poet is one of Nigeria’s most famous literary celebrities. His first novel Things Fall Apart released in the 1950s brought him to the attention of literary students all over the world. Many decades later, this book is the most widely read book in Modern African literature.
Born in an Igbo village and an Igbo chieftain himself, Achebe’s novels and short stories reflected traditions of the Igbos, the changes the western society wrought on Igbo societies. Other novels written by Achebe include No Longer at Ease (1960) and Arrow of God (1964). He also served as a Professor at Bard College, David and Marianna Fisher University and Brown University in the US.
Fella Kuti is to Nigeria like how Bob Marley is to Jamaica. Fela Anikulapo Kuti (Oct 3, 1938 – August 3, 1997) was a Nigerian multi-instrumentalist, musician, composer, pioneer of the Afrobeat music genre, human rights activist, and political maverick. Words used to describe Kuti include superstar, singer, musician, Panafricanist, mystic, and legend.
While at Trinity College of Music in London, Kuti formed Koola Lobitos. The band played a mixture of high life and jazz. When he went to Ghana in 1960, he christened his style of music Afrobeat. He sang in pidgin English so that Nigerians and Africans from all walks of life could enjoy his music. On August 3, 1997, Kuti passed away. To this day, his music makes him one of Nigeria’s most renown celebrities.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Nigerian Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is one of Nigeria’s literary celebrities. She is an author of novels, short stories, and non-fiction. Adichie’s first novel Purple Hibiscus (2003) received much acclaim. In 2015, it won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Book. Her second novel Half of a Yellow Sun (2006) won the 2007 Orange Prize for Fiction. It was made into a film starring Chiwetel Ejiofor and Thandie Newton.
In 2016 and 2017 respectively, John Hopkins University and Haverford College conferred upon her honorary degree – Doctor of Humane letters. Times Literary Supplement describes her as “the most prominent” of all young authors who are attracting readers to African literature. Adiche currently divides her time between the United States and Nigeria where she teaches writing workshops.
Bukola Asa Elemide
Bùkólá Asa Elemide’s incredible voice has made her one of Nigeria’s most renown celebrities. Born in France and raised in Nigeria, Asa was inspired by the likes of Fela Kuti and Bob Marley. In 2004, her first single Eyé Adaba started to get heavy rotation on the airwaves.
Her debut album Aṣa won her the prestigious French Constantin Award in 2008.In 2015, she received Headies nomination for “Best “R&B/Pop Album”, “Best Alternative Song”, “Best Vocal Performance (Female)”, and “Best Recording of the Year. Nigerians refer to Asa as Nigeria’s gift to the world.