Travails of HID Awolowo (2)
CONTINUED FROM WEDNESDAY 25/11/2015
It is usually limited to his immediate family, and as a rule, he always like to have the day to himself and rarely receives visitors.
But on Saturday, there may be a break with the normal practice. He is bound to receive visitors and if there will be no celebration, it is likely that iced water and orange squash will be served. Mr. Awolowo himself is a teetotaler.”
Since 1951, when Obafemi contested election to the House of Assembly in Ikenne, and all through the first and second Republics, in rain and or sunshine, they were always together and Mama at the soap box, in the Second Republic, will always, lead the Party orchestra with Late Hurbert Ogunde, to sing the UPN’s Anthem, composed by Awolowo- “it is a duty that we owe, to our great dear motherland, to enhance her and to boost her in the eyes of all the world. Egalitarianism, is our natiomal watch word, equality of good fortune and to all each sure reward. Up, Up Nigeria and take thy rightful place, it is thy birth right and thy destiny, Africs leading light to be”.
On the 30th of September 1960, the eve of Nigeria’s Independence, the Prime Minister, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa invited Awolowo, leader of the opposition, for a meeting for 7’O clock, in his official residence in Lagos. He left Ibadan for Lagos the same afternoon and was in the Prime Minister’s residence at 6.45pm prompt.
Mr. Odukale, the Prime Minister’s Private Secretary, told the visiting Awolowo, that he could not see the Prime Minister, despite the invitation. Awolowo left for the Ikeja VIP Rest House and at about 9pm, the Prime Minister rang him to express his apology and offered to come over to Ikeja to see the former Premier.
Awolowo seized the opportunity of the visit, to express his dismay, that he was being relegated in the scheme of things relating to Nigeria’s Independence, of which he was one of its architects and that the likes of Ernest Ikoli, Oba Akinsanya (Odeme of Ishera), H.O Davis, himself, Dr. Nnamdi Azikwe and Ahmadu Bello, all of whom were great pioneers and pathfinders of Nigeria’s Independence, should be properly accorded their rights of place in the Independence Anniversary.
Sir Abubakar apologised for this indiscretion, but despite this apology, Awolowo was equally shabbily treated, when he was dumped alongside his wife-Mama Dideolu, to an obscure corner of the independence anniversary ceremony’s venue in Lagos and was seated amongst Ex-Service men, including Sir John Rankine and his wife. Sir John Rankine was immediate predecessor in office of Sir Adesoji Aderemi, as Governor of the Western Region. He came all the way from the UK, on the invitation of the Federal Government.
Sir Abubakar, who noticed this breach, apologised again to Awolowo and his wife and left him, but nevertheless, the official usher also sat Awolowo and his wife among Ambassadors from African countries. They actually sat near the Ghanian High Commissioner. It was a brewing storm.
On the 16th of June 1962, the Federal Government, set up the Coker Commission of Enquiry to probe the Awolowo Government, headed by Justice G.B.A Coker, to probe six statutory boards in the Western Region. This was sequence to the (Emergency powers, statutory corporation, regulation Act), hurriedly passed by the parliament. On May 29, 1962, the Parliament also passed Emergency Rule Act, for Western Region with Dr. M.A Majekodunmi, as the Administrator of the Western Region.
Awolowo’s first taste of the emergency rule, was the restriction order placed on him by the Administrator of the Western Region, Dr. Majekodunmi, restricting him to a mosquito infested Government Rest House, Lekki Pennisula.
The condition in Lekki was so abysmal and appalling. The accommodation was enough to break Awolowo and his wife’s spirit. Biodun Falade-Awolowo’s indefatigable private secretary, a very resourceful person, ran errands for Awolowo between Epe and Lekki. Awolowo had no choice.
Mama Dideolu suffered this travail in Lekki without qualms. To ease communication and movement of people between Epe and Lekki, Awolowo had to buy a speed boat on the of 21st June 1962, to run errands between Lekki and Epe every morning and every other time to assist Mama in replenishing supply of foods and provisions. It was a gruesome experience to Obafemi and his wife.
Mr. Lynn, an Irish, was an unusual police officer. He was the Chief Police Detective, specifically deployed to humiliate, harass and embarrass Chief Obafemi Awolowo and his wife and perhaps cow them to submission. Lynn was the officer who placed Awolwo and his wife on house arrest at his No 7 Bell Avenue, the official residence of the Leader of the Opposition.
As an harbinger of bad news, he came again to arrest Awolowo for treasonable felony. When he came, Mama had quickly alerted Awolowo- “Baba segun, okunrin o ni jan gbon ye tun ti de o” (Baba Segun, the troublesome man is here again).
Awolowo was formally arraigned before Justice Sowemimo and as already scripted, refused bail and sent to Broad Street Prison.
Mama asked Awolowo “why are they doing all these things to us?” Mama followed Awolowo to the prison gate, with a head unbowed. She came back to the prison much later in the day to bring Awolowo’s four requested books. Throughout Awo’s stay in Broad street prison, Mama Dideolu never missed a day visit to the prison yard.
Mama was solid as the rock of Gibralta, in times of triumphs and tribulations. During Awolowo’s treasonable trial, Segun Awolowo, his eldest son was killed in a tragic motor accident on the 10th of July 1963 on his way to Lagos from Ibadan, to defend his father, as one of the counsels in the treasonable felony case. Awolowo had earlier, heard about this ugly news on his transistor radio.
Awolowo was later relocated to the Calabar Prison, from where he was eventually released in August 1966 by General Yakubu Gowon, who made him the Minister of Finance and the Vice-chairman of the Federal Executive Council.
For the period Awolowo was in prison, both at Broad Street and Calabar, it was a soul that was split-one in prison and the other outside of prison weathering the storm and tide, to preserve Awolowo’s enduring legacies.
On the 21st of September 1962, Mr. Lynn, the Irish police officer came again, for the umpteenth time, to search the Awolowo’s official residence Ikoyi, Lagos. He found on the table, the sum of about 2,000pounds and a letter addressed to Pandit Nehru, who was to come to Nigeria on the 23rd of September 1962 on an official visit.
He found them as subversive. Awolowo resented this misuse of power, to regard Nigerian currency notes and a letter to Pandit Nehru as subversive documents. After much protests and resistance, Mr. Lynn, returned back the money and letter.
Obafemi was a thorough bred Ijebu man. In parenthesis, a pick pocket, at an event, during the Second Republic, at a public function, in Ijebu Ode, saw Bisi Onabanjo, then, Governor of Ogun State, as an easy prey, dipped his hand into Onabanjos pocket, but could not find anything, but rather, Onabanjo caught his hand and retorted –“it is not easy to pick money from an Ijebu man”.
Despite Awolowo’s conviction, Mr. Lynn came again to Awolowo’s residence in Oke-bola Ibadan, on the 30th June 1964 to search the house for the 21st time. Lynn had said “Mrs. Awolowo, we have come to search your house once again”. It was a traumatic experience.
Awolowo, popularly called (Baba Layinka) by the Yorubas and who could be ranked with the likes of Mustafa Kemal Attarturk of Turkey, who laid the foundations for modern Turkey in the 1920s, Mahatma Ghandi- the pathfinder of India and his able son in law and Prime Minister of India-Pandit Nehru, was hurled to jail in Black Maria- a lorry used for common criminals to complete his demystification, public ridicule and humiliation, upon his conviction.
Mama begat five children- Olusegun (1939), Omotola (1940), Oluwole (1942), Ayodele (1944), Tokunbo (1948), but in later life, lost Ayodele (Mrs. Shoyede) a barrister at law and later Oluwole (the unbreakable).
Chief Awolowo attributes three factors for his success in life namely: the grace of God, his spartan self-discipline and his good wife. Awolowo died on the 9th May, 1987 and but for his exit, this unique marriage would have celebrated 50 years of marital bliss on the 26th of December 1987. After all, the immortal sage, was not wrong, when he described Mama Dideolu, as “a jewel of inestimable value.”
Mama, despite high and low moments, in the vicissitudes and journey of life, travails, labyrinths of unexplored mines, detractors and traducers, still kept her faith, joyful and unbroken spirit, fortitude, forbearance and endurance, until she joined the saints triumphant on the 19th of September 2015; and what a joyful passage, at almost 100years! Hannah Idowu Dideolu Awolowo, may your clan continue to increase!
• Kehinde, a former member of the House of Representatives, Ayedire/Iwo/Ola-Oluwa Federal Constituency of Osun State, 1999-2003, is also the Principal Partner, Femi Kehinde & Co (Solicitors), Ibadan