Remi Sonaiya was born on March 2nd, 1955. She began her schooling in 1961 at St. Luke’s Demonstration School, Ibadan, from where she proceeded to St. Anne’s School, also in Ibadan, for her secondary education. She obtained a Bachelor of Arts in French from the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) in 1977, graduating with the best result in her faculty, did her Youth Service at the Nigeria Military School, Zaria, got married, and proceeded to Cornell University, USA, from where she obtained an M. A. in French Literature. Back in Nigeria, she enrolled for another Masters degree program, this time in Linguistics, which she obtained in 1984, and immediately returned to Cornell University for her PhD studies in Linguistics. She graduated from Cornell in 1988 and returned to continue lecturing in the Department of Foreign Languages of the Obafemi Awolowo University which she had joined in 1982 as an Assistant Lecturer. She became a professor of French Language and Applied Linguistics in 2001.
Among Remi Sonaiya’s academic and professional distinctions are the following:
- Member of the Project Drafting Committee for the Establishment of the Nigeria French Language Village, Badagry;
- Member of the executive committees of some of her professional associations and of the editorial boards of several local and international journals;
- Conference interpreter since 1989 (including for ECOWAS);
- Recipient of various international research grants and fellowships, including the French Government Grant for Advanced Researchers and the German Alexander von Humboldt Research Fellowship;
- First Nigerian to be appointed as the Ambassador Scientist of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, a position she occupied from 2008 to 2014.
Apart from her academic pursuits, Remi Sonaiya is active in and supports several church and para-church organisations, including the Nigerian Fellowship of Evangelical students (NIFES), the Nigeria Bible Translation Trust, Calvary Ministry, Great Commission Movement of Nigeria, etc. She has been a bible study teacher in her church for many years and is on the international faculty of Haggai Institute, Hawaii, USA, where she lectures on Stewardship.
Remi has always been interested in public affairs and is passionate about issues of justice, equity, and African development. She is touched by the plight of all who suffer exclusion and other forms of injustice: children, women, the disabled, the poor and the unschooled. She is concerned that the young people of Nigeria have to bear the brunt of the prevailing culture of corruption and pay for it in mass failure in their educational pursuits, very high levels of unemployment, and feelings of anxiety and hopelessness concerning their future. She therefore seizes every opportunity for engagement, for example, through the conduct of her “Life Skills” Seminar.
Remi’s interest in public affairs and development issues influenced her decision to retire voluntarily from her position at the Obafemi Awolowo University in 2010 in order to devote more of her time and resources to those pursuits. She joined KOWA Party and was elected its National Public Relations Officer. She is KOWA Party’s candidate for the 2015 Presidential elections.
Remi contributes regularly to Nigerian media discourse. For example, she was a blogger for 234 Next until it stopped publishing, and she is currently a columnist with The Niche, a weekly (Sunday) newspaper. She has published three books on the Nigerian (and African) condition: A Trust to Earn – Reflections on Life and Leadership in Nigeria (2010); Igniting Consciousness – Nigeria and Other Riddles (2013); and Daybreak Nigeria – This Nation Must Rise! (2014).
Remi Sonaiya is married to Babafunso Sonaiya, a professor of Animal Science, and they have two grown children and two grandsons. Apart from English and Yoruba, Remi also speaks French and German (as well as some smatterings of Portuguese). She loves to sing, cook, write, and travel.