The Creme de la Creme of Nigerian Women Celebrates HID Awolowo

…She was the quintessential political spouse —Bisi Fayemi

imageWIFE of the Minister of Solid Minerals, Chief ‘Bisi Fayemi, has described Chief Hannah Idowu Dideolu Awolowo as the quintessential political spouse, who performed all the roles expected of her with legendary grace, perseverance, fortitude and unique wisdom.
She made the remarks on Monday, in Ikenne, Ogun State, at an event tagged: “Womanhood celebrates HID Awolowo,” organised to celebrate the life of the iconic Nigerian woman, whose burial is slated for tomorrow.
The event was attended by the creme de la creme of Nigerian women in politics, business and the professions, as well as members of women groups, trade associations and advocacy organisations.
They included wife of the Ogun State governor, Mrs Olufunso Amosun; first female lawyer in the country, Chief (Mrs) Folake Solanke (SAN); former member of the House of Representatives, Honourable Abike Dabiri-Erewa; Olori Ladun Sijuwade and former Minister of Aviation, Mrs Kema Chikwe.
Others were women rights activist, Dr Joe-Okei Odumakin; National President of the National Council of Women Societies (NCWS), Chief (Mrs) Nkechi Mba; the Iyalode of Yorubaland, Chief Alaba Lawson; former deputy governor of Lagos State, Alhaja Sinatu Ojikutu; former deputy governor of Ekiti State, Professor Modupe Adelabu; the Iyaloja of Lagos, Chief Bintu Fatima Tinubu and renowned gospel singer, Evangelist Funmi Aragbaiye, who administered the music while the event lasted.
Speaking on “The Role of Political Spouses in Our Evolving Democratic Space,” Mrs Fayemi encouraged wives of politicians to always draw from the spartan lifestyle of Mama HID Awolowo if they must pass the test of public life, especially now that activities of politicians and their spouses are under intense scrutiny by virtue of the “dark side” of social media.
She said political spouses should endeavour to see life through the eyes of the matriarch of the Obafemi Awolowo political dynasty, so that they could fully understand the nature of their role within the political space.
She said Papa Awolowo appreciated her contributions, hence his reference to her as his “jewel of inestimable value.”
Fayemi said from the things Papa Awolowo said about Mama in his writings and revelations in her recently launched biography, it was clear that Mama’s role went beyond that of a traditional partner, who, she said, was always expected to be on the sidelines as the world passes her by.
According to her, “in a society where women are not always given their due respect, at a time when gender issues were not on the agenda, Mama occupied political space in her own right as a leader, strategist, mobiliser and inspiration to many. This led her hussband, Chief Awolowo, one of the greatest sages Nigeria ever produced to describe his wife in the most romantic and poetic way ever heard at the time and even up till now.”
Mrs Fayemi expressed unhappiness that wives of political leaders in Nigeria were often treated with suspicion and disdain, but noted that this was mostly because the track record of some political spouses had left a lot to be desired and had turned people against the idea of them being visible.
She, however, expressed the belief that a lot of vituperation against political spouses was less about their actual or potential misdeeds, but more about the perceived place of wives.
In underlining the significance of a political spouse, she said “a political wife is more than ‘just’ or ‘only’ a wife. There is no substitute for a politician’s wife; no personal aide, women leader or political appointee can take the place of a spouse.”

However, the lives of political spouses, she said, were not all about glamour, wealth and endless ceremonies.
She said the human cost of public service could be very high and some even had to make the ultimate sacrifice, either by experiencing the death of the spouse on the job or being killed themselves, citing the late Kudirat Abiola as example.
She underlined the need for women who found themselves in public life by virtue of marriage to adjust their compass so that they would not lose their bearings.
The former Ekiti State governor’s wife also cautioned men against going on the prowl for political heiresses to marry as their path to glory, urging them to allow their wives to grow and become more empowered.
Therefore, she urged women who found themselves in constant public glare like Mama Awolowo to be prepared for the possibility of becoming “receptacle for all kinds of foul matter.”

She was Papa’s loudest cheerleader –Dr Ogunsanya
Similarly, the keynote speaker, Dr Olufemi Ogunsanya, urged contemporary women to learn from the dedication of Mama Awolowo to the success of her husband, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, in all spheres of life, particularly on the political scene.
Dr Ogunsanya, who figuratively referred to Mama Awolowo as Papa’s Awolowo’s loudest cheerleader, even though she was ever so soft-spoken, described her as a true nationalist, who believed in social justice for all.
According to her, Mama Awolowo’s strong will and self-discipline which intertwined with her political persuasion made her an icon and a complete person.
“There is no way we can begin to measure Papa’s success as Premier, leader of the Action Group, leader of the opposition in the Federal House and Federal Minister of Finance without the support of Mama.
“So, in essence, you could say Mama was Premier, opposition leader, party leader and Finance Minister, because she and her husband were two-in-one, inseparable and totally dedicated to the same cause.
“There is a great lesson we, women, can learn from this unwavering dedication to Papa from Mama. She was always Papa’s loudest (figuratively as she was ever soft-spoken) cheerleader.
“We believe Mama has gone to join Papa in heaven. What an explosive reunion that must have been – Papa, again, having in the heavenly fellowship, his jewel of inestimable value!
“Mama was easily one of the most successful in business in Africa. Everything she touched literally turned to gold. She was the first importer of lace fabrics among others through her Dideolu Stores in Balogun. Energetic, industrious, she was a true Proverbs 31 woman, unparalleled,” she said.
She testified to Mama’s strength saying “there aren’t many women who could survive so many great tragedies in a lifetime. But in spite of all these, Mama’s Christian faith was unshaken. She prayed every morning and evening.”

She’s an undying legend –Mrs Amosun
In her own speech, wife of the Ogun State governor, Mrs Olufunso Amosun, said it was difficult to describe Mama Awolowo’s amazing personality in a few words.
“Mama will forever be a legend. She impacted positively on the life of everyone that she made contact with during her lifetime. She is a reference point for many women and an encyclopaedia for others to consult and learn from.
“She was a virtuous woman in the true sense of it, a committed and dedicated wife, a loving and kind-hearted mother, a pillar of support for the weak, a refuge for the poor and an inspiration to women from all walks of life.
“Mama’s patriotism, generosity, achievements and contributions to the service of humanity were second to none. Her tireless clamour for the unity of our nation is admirable, commendable and completely unforgettable. In life, you were a colossus, Mama and in death, we pray that your legacies and memories shall not diminish,” she said.
In her welcome address, Ambassador (Dr) Olatokunbo Awolowo Dosumu, said the event was originally conceptualised as part of the centenary celebrations of her mother, as an attempt to showcase her industrious life.
“We had hoped that this event would afford Mama the opportunity to witness just how much she is loved and valued by so many. Sadly, that was not to be. But today, we celebrate her anyway and lift her up as a shining example of a life truly well spent.
“This event is also, of course, an opportunity to celebrate all women everywhere and what they mean to the advancement of any community or nation,” she said.
She described her mother as a trailblazer and examplar, to whom many women, who wielded tremendous influence in their generation without seeking undue attention for themselves, owe their opportunities and breakthroughs.
The Yeye Oodua, during the programme, bagged 10 posthumous awards from various organisations.
The awards were presented by the International Women Society, Zonta Club International; WINBIZ, Women Arise, Young Women Christian Association (YMCA), Remo Diocesan Women Organisation, Fashion Designers Association of Nigeria (FADAN), Market Women and Men Association of Ogun State and the National Council of Women Societies (NCWS).
The awards were in recognition of her exemplary qualities and contributions to nation building.
National President of FADAN, Mrs Funmi Ajila-Ladipo, led the gathering into Mama’s world of fashion through the display of some of the clothes she wore over time.
She was described as a woman of style who was always modest in her dressing.

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