When Atiku, others eulogised HID Awolowo at book launch
OF all events that have, so far, featured in the rites of passage for the matriarch of Awolowo Dynasty, Chief (Mrs) Hannah Idowu Dideolu Awolowo, her biography presentation, In the Radiance of the Sage: The Life and Times of HID Awolowo held on Wednesday, November 18, 2015 at Ikenne country home of Awolowos could be regarded as outstanding.
Reason? It was an event she initiated herself to mark her centenary birthday anniversary. So, the comment that “this is an event Mama had wished to be part of” by Ambassador (Dr) Tokunbo Awolowo Dosumu in her welcome remarks evoked nostalgic feeling among the guests that included former Nigeria’s Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar who was around as chief presenter.
Several publications in the national dailies have chronicled how the author of the book, Prof. Wale Adebanwi was commissioned by HID Awolowo to undertake the project. She however transited on September 19, 2015 barely three months before her centenary birthday anniversary. She was born on November 25, 1915. Incidentally, the rites of passage, which began eleven days ago, will climax with interment and reception today at Ikenne.
But before Alhaji Atiku performed the duty of chief presenter last Wednesday, he had described HID Awolowo as extraordinary woman who played “key roles in the life of one of the most extraordinary leaders this country has been privileged to have” while devoting large portion of his remarks cataloguing some of the accomplishments of the late Premier of the old Western Region, Chief Obafemi Awolowo.
On Mama Awolowo, the former VP said, “But she was more than a loyal and supportive housewife. She courageously became a leader in her own right and held Chief Awolowo’s political family together during his incarceration. The courage, grace, tenacity and fortitude with which the late Chief H.I.D. Awolowo held forte during Chief Awolowo’s imprisonment and after he passed away, affirm not only what her husband said about her, but that she was a true leader. She showed that she was a leader of people, including her family, and the South West civic and political community. The Awolowo home remained a mecca for political and civic leaders not only from the South West but also from across the country.”
Atiku was of the belief that Chief Awolowo “could not have done all that he did and could not have achieved all that he achieved and perhaps could not have survived those difficult political challenges, without the counsel, support, patience, prodding, and perseverance of his beloved wife, the late Chief H.I.D. Awolowo.
And there is no better qualified person to say so than the venerable Chief Awolowo himself. In his autobiography, My Early Life, published in 1968,he said: ‘Throughout all the changing fortunes of my life … , my wife, Hannah Idowu Dideolu Awolowo (nee Adelana) has been to me a jewel of inestimable value. She is an ideal wife … The outpouring of her love and devotion to me and to our family is exceeding and beyond words … 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, a true haven; a place of happiness, and of imperturbable seclusion from the buffetings of life.’
The book ceremony which ran for one hour, 20 minutes had some of the associates of the late sage in attendance such as Sir Olaniwun Ajayi; Alhaji Lateef Jakande; Chief Ayo Adebanjo; Chief Supo Sonibare among others as well as numerous family friends and political associates.
In her opening remarks, Ambassador (Dr) Tokunbo Awolowo Dosumu acknowledged former VP’s love for Awolowos with emphasis on participating in the family’s programmes. “This is partly because Alhaji Atiku Abubakar shares the same birthday (November 25) with Mama. But also because he has shown to be a politician with progressive ideals,” Dr. Tokunbo said.
The eldest child, Revd (Mrs) Tola Oyediran later prayed for Alhaji Atiku that he would live to celebrate 100 years.
Prof. Adigun Agbaje of Department of Political Science, University of Ibadan anchored the review of the book. In the review, entitled When two became one: Completing the story of HID and Awo, the political scientist said, “It is not in all instances that a book reviewer is also a privileged witness not only to the life of the subject of the book but also to the life and work of the author and the writing of the book itself.
As a pre-teenage boy just entering primary school in Ibadan in January 1963 as some of the most dramatic of events captured in the book under review unfolded, I was ‘witness,’ in the unique manner in which only the fertile mind of a pre-teen boy could ‘bear’ witness, to the unfolding of history and the role of Mama H.I.D Awolowo in all that as wife of Pa Obafemi Awolowo and as a maker of history in her own right.
“As Wale Adebanwi’s former teacher and supervisor at the University of Ibadan, it has been my privilege to watch him work, in the exceptionally profound way that has become the hallmark of his scholarship, on two sides of what he himself calls an entwined story of two lives as one; namely, the story of Pa Obafemi Awolowo and Mama H.I.D Awolowo.
In the process, Adebanwi has given us a rare gift of two seminal books within one year on a most distinguished couple that helped to shape the history of modern Nigeria and indeed of Africa while at the same time providing unparalleled leadership to one of the largest nationalities on the continent, namely, the Yoruba.
“The first, a 295-page book, entitled, Yoruba Elites and Ethnic Politics in Nigeria: Obafemi Awolowo and Corporate Agency, was published to global acclaim in 2014 by Cambridge University Press. Now, Adebanwi completes the story with another 311-page focus on the life and times of Mama H.I.D. Awolowo, described very famously by Pa Awolowo, her grateful husband and life-partner, as his jewel of inestimable value.”
Prof. Agbaje described the book project as “a race against time” while celebrating the strength of the author, “for taking this charge very seriously and acting immediately to secure the materials required to give the world this volume of inestimable value on such a worthy person recently referred to posthumously as a mother of Africa.”
The university don quoted the author, “writing this biography was quite daunting. It was a task I tried to evade unsuccessfully and then embraced enthusiastically when
Mama made it clear that there was no circumvention that would help. Indeed, it remains an honour to narrate the life and times of a woman who defines what I describe in the preface as the grammar of fortitude. The multi-dimensional woman was not only about fortitude; as it is evident in this book she also loved life and lived it to the fullest. I cannot even express how sad I am that she was not able to hold a copy of this book in her hand before she passed on. At the same time, I cannot express how grateful I am to her that, in asking me to extend my gaze from the man with whom I am intellectually and politically obsessed, Obafemi Awolowo, to the woman who was his pillar of strength, I have been immeasurably enriched.”
The reading public, Prof. Agbaje said, “has been extremely enriched by In the Radiance of the Sage in several respects, not the least of which has been its role in capturing for eternity data on the life and times of Chief (Mrs) Awolowo that might have been further lost to mortality. For instance, it was very shortly after the author interviewed the immediate past Ooni, Oba Okunade Sijuwade, Olubuse II, as part of research leading to the writing of the book that the latter passed on to the great beyond.”
Agbaje’s verdict is that this nine-chapter book provides new evidence, fresh insights and compelling reading on Mama’s life in the contexts of the travails and triumphs of her husband and family in the larger context of the political history of colonial and post-colonial Nigeria and Africa.
His words: “It is vintage Adebanwi – copiously and painstakingly researched (even within the context of limited time!), technically presented in a most competent manner, literally a beauty to hold and to read, engaging in its logic and arguments, and above all accessible to all from the academic community in its arcane world to the market women and men (now increasingly educated and informed in western ways) in their open, exciting, every-day world. In its appeal and accessibility to all, the book offers timeless tribute to its great subject and her equally celebrated husband for their life-long commitment to making life abundant for all.”