They were an inimitable pair; more like a Siamese twin: Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Chief (Mrs) HID Awolowo. They shared everything in common even at the days they chose to bid the world a glorious farewell. Papa Awo’s love was Mama’s HID’s’ during thick or thin, they bonded like never before. In fact, the time of adversity strengthened their commonality of purpose and essence as a couple.
Their inseparability is underscored by many factors. Both, literally speaking, chose to die on a Saturday. Whereas Awo, the irrepressible politician, transited on Saturday, May 9, 1987, his jewel of inestimable value passed on Saturday, September 19, 2015. In life, Awo was great; in death, he was greater as the whole human race celebrated the passage of an icon and legend. Till date, Awo remains the issue to quote a former Nigerian leader, General Ibrahim Babangida, as his deeds and legacies constitute a reference point to the human race.
Twenty-eight years ago, Awo’s transition shocked the whole world as he stood like a colossus on the earthly world through his innumerable footprints on the sand of time. Millions shed tears, tears of joy and grieve. The tears of joy were because he lived his life for others nay humanity; tears of joy because she provided the real window of opportunity for self-actualisation by millions of the young and the old. The teras of grieve was because fate has conspired against mankind by taking away a man with an incredible large heart; a visionary leader akin to Mahatma Ghandi of India.
Reminiscent of the thunderous wave that blew across the land when Awo exited gloriously, the demise of HID Awolowo on Saturday came like a thunderbolt to mankind. The high and the low; the strong and the weak were shocked to their bone marrow, because of her distinguished sojourn on earth. She touched lives, rekindling hope in a limitless number of people, first in her private capacity to official capacity that transcended decades.
When Awo transited about 28 years ago, the world did not only stand still because of the great heart that stopped breathing; world leaders scrambled to capture the essence of Papa Awo and his life more graphically. Those details were coughed in an array or amalgam of irresistible expressions. But one of the most captivating and timeless imageries came from a scion of the Awo dynasty, Chief Oluwole Awolowo. This was how he couched the transition of his father: “The king is dead and the king lives on.” And Mama HID sustained the Awo creed, which has become the cornerstone of party politics, policy formulation and good governance.
Late Biafran warlord, Chief Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu described Awo as the best president Nigeria never had. Like Awo, quintessential HID has also been profusely and effusively celebrated by Nigerians and world leaders as a gem and role model. She has been severally recognized and acknowledged as the mother of the nation. Buoyed by the undying spirit of her husband, Mama worked assiduously to avoid any yawning gab of vacuum within the political dynasty and heritage of the Awoist fraternity. Thus, the residence of the Awo in Ikenne in Ogun State, remains a rallying point for all Nigerians, including politicians, top government functionaries and religious leaders. It has become a tradition and convention for the leaders to troop to the place to seek wise counsel, or converge on to discuss painstakingly and distill critical national issues. For example, the key contenders for the presidency in the last presidential poll took time to pay visit to her at her residence. Shea had told Vice President Yemi Osinbajo who visited her as part of his campaign for the election that, “I am very grateful this morning to see that Yemi Osinbajo is going to higher ground and it is my prayer that he will get there. I urge you all to support his aspiration. God will take you there.”.
Just like the enigmatic Awo, HID was unarguably a veritable bridge builder. A woman of strong character and will and capacity to manage tempestuous situation, she was never found wanting, especially when the nation was at the crossroads, owing to excesses of the political elite. For instance, she was able to facilitate the high-level meeting that took place in Ikenne about two years ago between leaders of the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) and Southern leaders, at the height of a looming national political crisis. This is how a leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Senator Bola Tinubu, depicted the symbiotic relationship between the departed couple, in his remarks as chief presenter at the public presentation of Professor Wale Adebanwi’s Yoruba Elites and Ethnic Politics in Nigeria: Obafemi Awolowo and Corporate Agency, in Lagos: “Before I reflect on these lessons, I must especially salute Mama, Mrs H.I.D. Awolowo, and Papa’s “jewel of inestimable value,” who stood firmly by our departed leader throughout his life. Despite our differences, this is also a moment to greet all the members of the Awolowo political family. I greet all the “political agents,” as the author of this book describes them, who made Obafemi Awolowo phonomenon possible and continue to sustain his legacy.”
Behind the success of a man is a woman. Awo’s legacies are innumerable. He was a man with the Midas touch, as almost everything he touched turned gold. He created a niche for himself in forging national unity at most trying moments in the history of the country. He pioneered four cardinal progreammes that espoused or encompassed Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs. The policy and programme of his administration as the Premier of the defunct Western Region guaranteed free access to education health services, shelter, infrastructure, industrialization, rural integration, development and transformation, all of which made the Western Region the epicentre of economic growth development in Nigeria nay Africa. HID Awo gave Awo the necessary support and willpower, as he forged ahead in his chequered political career as a nationalist, deploying his high intellectual prowess, political acumen and political sagacity and economic wizardry in the battle of wits with the British colonialists for the independence of Nigeria It is to the glory of Awo and his wife that the Western Region and indeed Nigeria has the first television station in Africa, first stadium, first university (University of Ibadan), to name but three ground-breaking feats and strides of the Awo administration. Indeed, the demise of Mama HID Awolowo marks the end of an era in Nigeria. This is brought into a sharp focus by the torrents of highly gripping, emotive and arresting eulogies from far and near, celebrating her life and times.
In their uniqueness, Both Papa Awolowo and Mama Awo gave a fascinating account of the beginning of their relationship and how their marriage was consummated, as well as some of the initial challenges, in the following package.
Awolowo on HID
I think it is pertinent that I should, at this juncture, say a word or two about my wife and what she has meant to me. Throughout all the changing fortunes of my life since I married her on 26th December, 1937, my wife, Hannah Idowu Dideolu Awolowo (nee Adelana) has been to me a jewel of inestimable value. She is an ideal wife; and I am sure she too regards me as an ideal husband. The outpouring of her love and devotion to me and to our family is exceeding and beyond words. She is a resourceful business-woman; and in this regard she is a worthy upholder of the traditions of her mother (Madam Elizabeth Oyesile) and grandmother (Chief Adebowale Oyegunle) both of whom were successful women traders. The grandmother at the age of over 100 was still carrying on her business, though only on a token scale. She opened her shop regularly everyday from dawn till dusk. My mother-in-law at 84 would wish to be as active as ever in business, but my wife and I have succeeded in persuading her to slow down considerably.
With my wife on my side, it has been possible for us to weather all financial storms. Due to her charm, humility, generosity and ever-ready sympathy and helpfulness for others in distress, she is beloved and respected by all our friends and acquaintances. She has courage of a rare kind — I have that too. But I am no match for her at all in her exercise of infinite patience and forbearance under all manner of circumstances. She absorbs without a word of complaint all my occasional acts of irritability. By her unique virtues, she has been of immeasurable assistance to me in the duties attached to my career as a public man. She has taken more interviews and listened to far more representations from the members of the public than I have time, or sometimes patience for. I do not hesitate to confess that I owe my success in life to three factors: the Grace of God, a Spartan self-discipline, and a good wife. Our home is to all of us (us and our children), a true haven: a place of happiness, and of imperturbable seclu¬sion from the buffetings of life. It is on record to my wife’s credit that she never made a financial demand on me through¬out my stay in the United Kingdom. Besides, she always sent me good news every week about herself and the children; but when I returned home, I learnt that she had passed through many anxious times with four children, the oldest of whom was only five when I left home, and the youngest of who arrived four months after my departure.
It is a matter of joy and profound gratitude to Almighty God that our mutual love and devotion has been richly blessed. We have five children — two boys and three girls, the eldest of whom, Olusegun, died in tragic circumstances in 1963. The others are Mrs. Omotola Oyediran, Oluwole, Ayodele and Tokunbo.
Excerpts from My Early Life, written by Chief Obafemi Awolowo