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Dr. Oguntola Sapara

Dr. Oguntola Sapara




Oguntola Odunbaku Sapara (9 June 1861 – June 1935) was a Yoruba doctor, born Alexander Johnson Williams in Freetown, Sierra Leone. His father, a liberated slave from Ilesa, Nigeria, and his mother from Egbaland, influenced his upbringing. Sapara pursued medical studies in the United Kingdom, obtaining qualifications from the University of Edinburgh and the University of Glasgow.

Returning to Nigeria in 1896, Sapara began his medical career as an Assistant Colonial Surgeon in Lagos. Over the next 32 years, he played a crucial role in improving public health. He fought against diseases like smallpox and tuberculosis, advocated for slum clearance, and established initiatives for midwife training and public dispensaries.

Sapara's dedication to public health extended beyond conventional measures. He infiltrated secret societies, such as the "Sopona" cult, notorious for spreading smallpox for extortion. His undercover work led to legislative measures that dismantled the cult's influence and supported vaccination efforts.

Despite his significant contributions, Sapara faced discrimination as an African medical officer. He noted disparities in pay and professional recognition in reports to international organizations. Sapara also supported Pan-Africanist initiatives and publications during visits to London, demonstrating his commitment to social justice.

Throughout his career, Sapara received recognition for his achievements. King George V awarded him the Imperial Service Order for his work against smallpox. Additionally, the Owa of Ijeshaland honored him with the chieftaincy title of Bashemi.

Sapara's legacy lives on through his contributions to Nigerian medicine and public health. His work on traditional herbal medicines, including patented discoveries, continues to benefit communities. A portrait of Sapara by Aina Onabolu is displayed in the National Gallery of Modern Art in Lagos, serving as a testament to his lasting impact on Nigerian society.


Time of Birth:

Freetown, Sierra Leone



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Date of Birth: 9th June, 1861

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