When centenary songs of life meet rhythms of transition
THOSE who scripted the 11-day rites of passage for the matriarch of Awolowo Dynasty, Chief (Mrs) Hannah Idowu Dideolu Awolowo must have planned to realise the late Yeye Oodua’s dream of marking her centenary birthday anniversary in a grand style.
The programme of the burial ceremony, which kicked off, on a lighter mood, yesterday with a Lying-in-State at the expansive Apapa Park Lane, Lagos, the family residence of Awolowos, would climax on Wednesday, November 25, 2015 at Ikenne, Ogun State, coinciding with the 100th birthday of the iconic woman whose late husband described as “a jewel of inestimable value.”
Invariably, Mama, as she was fondly called by all and sundry, will be interred on the same date she was born, November 25, 1915.
That HID Awolowo had looked forward to a unique occasion of her centenary birthday celebration was a fact underscored by certain events that took place on Saturday, September 19, 2015 the day she bade the mother earth farewell.
On that fateful Saturday, reports had it that she woke up, as usual, at 8a.m.; hosted, at 10a.m., the monthly meeting of the Ligu-Ogodo-Adebowale family of Ikenne Remo; and three hours thereafter, participated, briefly, in her centenary birthday committee meeting which drew to Ikenne that very day, Mama’s children, grand children and some great grand children.
On September 20, 2015, Sunday Tribune, one of the titles of the African Newspapers of Nigeria (ANN) Plc, the oldest surviving privately owned newspaper firm where Mrs Awolowo held forte as co-founder/chairman until her passage, chronicled the last moments thus:
“While preparing for the meeting, Mama’s eldest child, Revd. Mrs. Tola Oyeniran said Mama had expressed her wish to be part of the meeting for her 100 years birthday on November 25, 2015.
“Shortly after the centenary celebration meeting began at the Efunyela hall, Mama was brought in and the whole family rose up honouring her with a rousing song, ‘Mama o, Mama o, Mama o, Olorun da Mama si fun wa…’ (May God continue to preserve HID Awolowo’s life for us).
“Mama beamed with smiles, expressing gratitude to her children with prayers in Yoruba – E ku ipalemo o, eyin naa adagba – ‘thanks for the preparation, you will all live long.’
“She listened to various presentations for about five minutes before asking to be excused to go and rest for a while. After retiring to her room, she demanded for her lunch of pounded cocoyam with egusi soup… After lunch, she rested on the bed a while.
“But suddenly, she called out that she would like to be raised up and one of the young men who helped her up was an orphan that Mama had funded his education to Master’s level in the university.
“When those lifting her up saw that she was gasping for breath, they quickly sent for Revd Oyediran and Dr. Tokunbo Awolowo Dosumu, her two surviving children. Mama stopped breathing thereafter.”
But the strong feeling that she might live to clock 100 years began to dawn on her in 2005 after she joined the nonagenarian club. On the occasion of her 91st birthday celebration in 2006, she had shown gratitude to God Almighty for her graceful ageing, noting that longevity runs in her family. “My mother lived to be 95 while my grandmother lived beyond her 100th birthday,” she was quoted to have said in a newspaper report of November 25, 2006.
In fact, the hues and colours of her centenary celebration appeared to have taken a definite shape more than three years ago going by the narratives of Associate Prof. Wale Adebanwi who was detailed to author Mama’s biography whose presentation would have been part of the highlights of the 100th birthday anniversary.
In the story of H.I.D Awolowo: The Grammar of Fortitude as excerpts from the Biography and published in Nigerian Tribune of September 22, 2015, Adebanwi narrated thus:
One July afternoon in 2015, I was interviewing Mama HID in Ikenne in the company of Dr. Segun Olatunji and Mr. Edward Dickson, the Consultant and Managing Director/Editor-in-Chief of the African Newspapers of Nigeria (ANN) Plc, respectively. The ANN plc publishes the Nigerian tribune, the newspaper founded by HID and her husband in 1949. Her youngest daughter, Dr. Tokunbo Awolowo-Dosunmu, formerly Nigeria’s ambassador to The Netherlands, was with us.
I was writing her biography. For three years, she had wanted me to do this. As a student of Awolowo’s public life, she was sure I needed less time than any other person to write the book to mark her centenary. It was a rare honour for someone who had been taught from childhood that ‘Awolowo lo s’aye d’ero’ (literally, ‘Awolowo made life easy’) – a simple acknowledgement that captured, in the early 1970s, the transformation of the Western Region by the unequalled administrative genius of Obafemi Awolowo.
In embracing the project, I didn’t expect that HID would have as much time and energy for interviews as she had when I first met her about two decades earlier. Having visited her Ikenne home many times and interacted with her on a number of occasions, I was hopeful that this task could be accomplished in record time, as she demanded. Mama’s humour was sure to smoothen the process…”
Adebanwi’s concluding remark of the piece, which appeared as his tributes to the late ‘Mother of the Nation’, was both evocative and philosophical.
“On Saturday, September 19, 2015, I called Dr. Tokunbo Awolowo Dosumu on the telephone from the United States. It was afternoon in Nigeria. I wanted to check a few things with her concerning the plans for Mama’s centenary scheduled for November. I knew that the children and grandchildren were meeting that day in Ikenne. I assumed that the meeting would have been over by that time. ‘Mama is gone,’ she announced to me on the phone as the line went dead.
As I learnt from her later, she had just leaned Mama against her on the bed to make her comfortable when she breathed her last. I called at that moment… ‘I think a lot of us are going to miss her in very deep ways… when the time comes,’ Ayotola Ayoyinka Ayodeji, HID’s granddaughter, tells me earlier in the year.
The time has come. One day, the question will be asked: who was the single most important person responsible for Obafemi Awolowo’s capacity to accomplish so much as to be described as ‘the best president Nigeria never had?’ The answer will be uncontested: Hannah Idowu Dideolu Awolowo. Goodnight, Yeye O’odua.”
Ironically, the book, titled: In the Radiance of the Sage (The Life and Times of Mama HID Awolowo) is ready and its official presentation holds on Wednesday, November 18, 2015 at Ikenne from 10a.m. to 2p.m. as part of programme of events marking the “passage of an icon, Chief Mrs. Hannah Idowu Dideolu Awolowo, CON.”
The presentation will be preceded by ‘Lying-in-State’ at Ikenne at 8a.m., and followed by brief performance by Nollywood as well as Service of Songs by Anglican Church of Nigeria, Diocese of Remo Women’s Group from 5p.m. to 7p.m.
Her body is due to depart Ibadan tonight for ‘Lying-in-State’ tomorrow at 8a.m. at Ikenne; Orations/Tributes by Afenifere, Yoruba Unity Forum, Yoruba Council of Elders, National Youth Service Corps members, Oodua Foundation, USA; and Praise the Lord Ministering with Pastor Tunde Bakare as presiding officer at 4p.m.
Last night at Park Lane, Apapa, Lagos, Christian Interdenominational Service between 5p.m. and 7p.m. drew curtains on the flag-off of the rites of passage as her body is expected in Ibadan for Lying-in-State at Oke-Bola, Ibadan, 8a.m. to 8.30a.m.; Commendation Service from 9a.m. to 10.30a.m. at Agbeni Methodist Church where Mama became class leader shortly after she moved to Ibadan after their wedding on December 26, 1937; and thereafter, Lying-in-State at the Tribune House, also in Ibadan.
Certainly, her return to Tribune House this afternoon will provoke nostalgic memories as the occasion coincides with the 66th founder’s day of the Nigerian Tribune by the sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo.
Although, the story of how the newspaper company came into being in 1949 has been told vividly in her autobiography, A Memoir of the Jewel edited by Prof. Moses Akin Makinde and released in 2004, the success story of the print media firm, especially in the last 28 years of the exit of her husband, Chief Obafemi Awolowo is attributed to Mama’s leadership ingenuity and courage to preserve the legacies of her late husband against all odds.
She visited Tribune House last on March 2, 2015. The occasion, which later became her last public outing outside Ikenne, was the inauguration of the newly procured press of ANN Plc, publishers of Tribune titles and as the co-founder/chairman, she was around as chief host receiving eminent personalities, including Oyo State governor, Alhaji Isiaka Abiola Ajimobi who had graced the occasion.
After the commissioning ceremony, Mama also undertook facility tour of the refurbished newsrooms of all the titles. She was impressed with what she saw as she showered warm and superlative accolades on the management for keeping the flag of the sage flying, thereby sustaining his legacy.
As she was being driven out of the premises situated on Imalefalafia Street, Oke-Ado, Ibadan, Mama’s mood was captured in a report headlined ‘What I will tell Papa Awo – HID’ and published in Sunday Tribune of September 20, 2015 thus: “Mama gave a smile of satisfaction. As usual, she told those who were there that she already had another good tiding to relate to her husband.”
The background to the report spotlighted Mama with her regular refrain, ‘What will I tell Papa?’ reminding those who had one thing or the other to do with Papa’s legacies, especially when critical decisions were to be taken.
Mama, it was said, never wasted the opportunity to remind those around her, especially children, management and staff of the newspaper outlet that she was determined to give a positive account of her stewardship to her husband whenever they meet in the afterlife. She would always insist that decisions on issues concerning the nation and the family should be followed religiously as Papa instructed during his lifetime. Her watchword always, was ‘Awo’s imperishable legacy must be kept intact’, and after expressing her satisfaction or disapproval over any particular incident, she would say, “This is good. Now I can tell Papa that his legacy is intact just as he would have wanted it.”
In addition to wearing a refreshingly new look in preparation for this afternoon’s lying-in-state, the management of the Tribune is also cashing in on the transition of Mama to generate additional revenue for the newspaper company.
For any outsider to use its library facility, you have to pay the registration fee of N500 and the traffic to the place since September 20, 2015, one day after the passage of Mama has been large and flowing. That was the experience of this journalist Tuesday, last week when he visited to gather information on the late matriarch of Awolowo family.
No doubt, lockdown on Ikenne is imminent on Wednesday, November 25 to give Yeye Oodua and recipient of countless awards for her selfless service to humanity beginning from her loyalty and commitment to the ideals of the late Premier of the Western region, a befitting burial.
A glimpse of what to expect during the 11 days event emerged recently at the press conference organised by the media sub-committee of the HID Awolowo Burial Central Planning Committee with the information that President Muhammadu Buhari and all the governors of the 36 states of the federation might grace the burial service on November 25.
The conference was jointly addressed by the Secretary to the Ogun State Government, Mr. Taiwo Adeoluwa; the Chairman of the committee, Ambassador (Dr.) Olatokunbo Awolowo-Dosumu; Mama’s eldest child, Revd (Mrs) Tola Oyediran, the head of media sub-committee, Aremo Taiwo Alimi; and the Managing Director of ANN Plc, Mr. Edward Dickson.
Adeoluwa said the invitation letters had been dispatched to the Presidency and that the state governors had equally been invited through the secretaries to the state governments (SSGs).
The Ogun State scribe insisted that the Yeye Oodua deserved a befitting burial, because of the motherly role she played in the history of the nation.
Specifically, he said the state government had dedicated November 23 as a special day of tributes in honour of the deceased.
The event, he disclosed, would hold at the Sagamu International Stadium, Sagamu, between 12 noon and 4p.m. featuring the Fuji icon, Alhaji Wasiu Ayinde and other notable artistes.
Adeoluwa noted further that people from different zones of the state were expected at the programme, saying “the Ogun State government is involved in everything. We are powering the events; we are fully involved in the programmes. Mama belonged to everybody, not just the Yoruba. The governor is the chief mourner. On Monday, November 23, Ogun State government and people would be celebrating the matriarch of the Awolowo dynasty and bid her farewell.
“The governor will be hosting his brother-governors. Letters have been dispatched to 35 state governors and to Mr. President; that they should come and honour Mama. Chairmen and legislative arms of the 20 local government areas have also been invited. It will be an afternoon of tributes from the governors.”
On her part, the Chairman of the central committee, Dr. Tokunbo Dosumu explained that Our Saviour’s Anglican Church, venue of the funeral service on November 25, would only accommodate 690 guests, noting that different designated centres with large television screens had been provided for other well-wishers to participate in the funeral service.
According to her, the church will only accommodate eminent personalities and family members as she appeals to other guests to make do with the provision at the Obafemi Awolowo Square and the Apostolic Church, all in Ikenne for the burial service.
The diplomat said about 60 bishops from the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), 300 priests would be part of the funeral service.
She also disclosed that the General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, Pastor E.A. Adeboye, the presiding pastor of Latter Rain Assembly, Tunde Bakare and other anointed ministers of God, including Muslim community, would be participating in the burial activities.
Her passionate appeal was for guests, especially on November 25, to adhere to the rule of no vehicular movement into Ikenne township, adding that enough shuttle buses would be provided to convey people, so as to ease flow of traffic.
After the book presentation on Wednesday, November 18, the remaining programme of events will run as follows:
Thursday, November 19, will feature orations/tributes by universities that conferred honorary doctorate degrees on Mama Awolowo and Service of Songs by the Christian Association of Nigeria.
There will be traditional dance tagged Ode-Iyalu in the early hours of Friday, November 20, which would be followed by Muslim prayers (Juma’at service); tributes by Ikenne Development Association; Liyangu, Awolowo, Ligu-Ogodo-Adebowale families and Sadeke Descendants. Also, the Ife Council of Chiefs and others would also be on ground.
Saturday, November 21 would be a day set aside for theatre artistes, which include the Ogunde Yoruba Theatre, with songs and play with the theme, “HID Unto Glory” and other theatre groups to be led by Chief Jimoh Aliu and Mr. Adebayo Salami. There will also be service of songs by choirs from various churches.
The Apostolic Church will be conducting a service of songs on Sunday, November 22, while different women organisations would be celebrating HID on Monday, November 23, with a service of songs by the Methodist Church of Nigeria on the same day.
Pastor Adeboye will lead a private prayer session for the Awolowo family on Tuesday, November 24 and a Christian wake-keep to be conducted by the Anglican Communion. These programmes would be preceded by Woro dance in the morning.
Already, newsmen had been assured of comfortable coverage while accreditation process was expected to have been perfected since last Wednesday.
At the briefing, the MD/EiC of ANN Plc, Mr. Edward Dickson had promised the availability of a functional media centre to ease the work of the journalists in reporting all the burial activities.
Earlier, at the same event, Mrs Oyediran had appreciated the journalists for their support since the demise of Mama in terms of adequate news coverage with the hope that such support would be sustained in the days ahead as the rites of the passage unfold and run till November 25.