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Adeola Sowemimo is one of a growing number of Nigerian female pilots breaking through to the frontlines of what is still a male dominated profession. Just recently, she became the toast of the media and positive spirited Nigerians when news broke that she had become a pilot with Qatar Airways. That made her the first Nigerian woman employed by that airline to fly its planes.

It turns out that Sowemimo, who hails from Ogbomosho in Oyo State, has already gathered a number of other firsts under her belt. She’s become the first Nigerian woman to fly the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, one of the newer aircrafts manufactured by its American parent company. She’s also the country’s first woman to fly the Boeing 767 (an older plane) over the Atlantic Ocean.

News of Sowemimo’s accomplishment spread rather quickly across the Nigerian corner of the web, with public figures sending her congratulatory messages, and media outlets moving swiftly to find out as much about her as they could. It was a local success story, a bright spot in the midst of a knotty, sometimes uncertain reality.

But back in 2011, there wasn’t any sign of fanfare around her, apart for the goodwill expressed by family and friends. A throwback photo on her Facebook page from that year shows her seated in a class, apparently an aviation school, with a number of other students.  Above the shared post, she speaks of being thankful for the start of something with the potential to grow bigger.

“Days of little beginning,” the post says. “God be praised.”

The picture was in fact from a private pilot ground school class at Sunrise Aviation, a training institution in Ormond Beach, Florida. There, Sowemimo gained some of the knowledge she needed to get ahead on her journey to becoming a captain.  

The commendation Sowemimo has received extends beyond words of praise and congratulatory messages, to honorable mentions. Business Day Newspapers, Nigeria’s leading business news publication, has named her one of the 50 most inspiring women in the country.

Sowemimo isn’t oblivious of the fact that news of her accomplishment has thrust her into the public spotlight. She says she’s grateful for the large volume of messages she’s gotten in the wake of her story becoming a nationwide talking point.

“To all the people that celebrated and are still celebrating me… I say a big thank you for making me and my story an inspiration to women out there.” She said in a Facebook post on International Women’s Day. “I have received overwhelming [words of] admiration, praises and goodwill messages beyond my wildest imaginations over the past few days.”

The trailblazing captain has expressed her belief that women should reach beyond apparent mindset and social limitations to attain their full potential.

“I celebrate every woman across the globe today and pray that we wake up to the facts that we could be more”, she said in her Facebook post marking International Women’s Day. “We are not defined by marriage or gender and …we are only limited by our dreams.”

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This article was first published on 12th April 2019


Ikenna Nwachukwu holds a bachelor's degree in Economics from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. He loves to look at the world through multiple lenses- economic, political, religious and philosophical- and to write about what he observes in a witty, yet reflective style.

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