Eulogies for the jewel, HID Awolowo
• Prominent Nigerians pay tributes to the late matriarch
WITH her final commitment to mother earth only about one week away, there has been no let to the outpourings of encomiums and accolades for the matriarch of the Awolowo Dynasty, Chief (Dr) Mrs HID Awolowo.
The avalanche of commendations which began when the news of her death on September 19, 2015 , just two months short of her centenary, broke continued yesterday when prominent Yoruba groups and personalities gathered at the Efunyela Hall, Ikenne Remo, Ogun State home of the Awolowos to pay tribute to late matriarch .
Those present included Afenifere, Yoruba Council of Elders (YCE) and the Yoruba Unity Forum (YUF).
Also present were the Ogun State chapter of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), members of the 1980 batch sponsored on holy pilgrimage by the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, as well as prominent and not-so-prominent persons.
Afenifere leader, Chief Ruben Fasoranti, who was first to pay tribute, described HID as an “irreplaceable, indefatigable, unforgettable” mother “whose worthy deeds will be imperishable as long as the earth itself remains.”
Fasoranti, whose speech was delivered by his deputy, Basorun Seinde Arogbofa, noted that there was no way the story of Chief Obafemi Awolowo would be completely told without reference being made to HID, Awo’s pillar of support.
“Mama was a keen businesswoman and philanthropist whose early ventures in trade grew into a business empire that generated fortunes which allowed her husband to devote himself to politics as a nationalist and a great leader.
“The fortress she thus provided enabled Papa to return from abroad to concentrate on the arduous task of building the Action Group (AG), a critical intervention that changed the history of Yoruba people for good and for life.
“But Mama was not just a woman beside her husband in the days of prosperity. She showed the real woman in her as Papa’s First Lady in adversity, as she never wavered in all his years of persecutions- the Coker Inquiry, the treasonable felony trial and the period of imprisonment.
“In fact, the death of Olusegun Awolowo was enough for any woman to pile pressures on her husband to quit politics.
But Mama still went ahead to campaign for her husband in two unsuccessful bids for the national presidency in skewed electoral processes in 1979 and 1983.
“We cannot but thank God Almighty for blessing us with Awo and HID who changed our lives, fired us to noble heights and directed us to the path of higher ideals.
“With Mama’s exit, we have been physically robbed of these wonderful gifts of God. But we are consoled that the legacies left behind will be kept aglow by the nuclear godly children and us the extended members of the family,” Afenifere said.
Speaking for the Yoruba Unity Forum, Senator Femi Okurounmu said: “True heroines are like meteors. They traverse our celestial space once in a very long while, their light brightly shinning upon all terrestrial existence.
“It is most appropriate, if not an understatement, to describe Mama HID Awolowo as the quintessential heroine, one of only a very few that have emerged from within Nigeria in the last century.
“By her life, she has demonstrated the qualities of a truly virtuous wife and a dutiful mother. Papa Awolowo intended no hyperbole when he described her as his Jewel of Inestimable Value.
“Looking back into history, Mama HID may be compared with Queen of Isabella I of Carlisle who, with her husband, Ferdinand II of Aragon, unified the hitherto separate territories of Carlisle and Aragon and through their efforts, brought many improvements to what is now modern Spain.
“Today, we speak glibly of the Yoruba nation, but many do not often realise that, up till the early 20th century, what we now call the Yoruba nation was little more than an academic concept based solely on a common myth of origin of the Yoruba.
“The component parts of the supposed nation barely understood one another linguistically and were constantly waging wars against one another, as they would, against total strangers and enemies.
“It was the effort of Papa Awolowo and his colleagues, ably supported by Mama HID Awolowo, and using the instrumentality of the Egbe Omo Oduduwa formed in London in 1945, that forged these warring tribes and clans together into a nation.
“The Nigerian Tribune, a newspaper founded by Papa Awolowo and Mama HID in 1949, is one of those means by which Yoruba unity and ideals were to be fostered.
“The newspaper continues to play this role till date and is the longest functioning private newspaper in Nigeria, remaining profitable even almost three decades after Papa Awolowo’s transition, thanks to Mama HID’s managerial and business prowess.”
Patron of the Oodua Foundation, United States, Professor Banji Akintoye, also saluted the courage as well as the stoical qualities, he said were demonstrated by HID during the travails of her husband in the hands of the powers-that-were from 1962.
Akintoye, whose funeral oration was read by Senator Babafemi Ojudu, commended the departed matriarch for the hand of fellowship she extended to all, irrespective of creed and political affiliation.
“Our nation saw your dignity and poise even more powerfully from 1962, after the Federal Government of Nigeria chose to foment a crisis in the Western Region and plunge our lives into instability and turmoil.
“You were only 47 years old in that year – though most of us are used to thinking that you were already a very old mother by then. To the shock and disbelief of all of us in the Western Region, our great leader and your husband was whisked from detention to criminal trials and then to prison.
“Your son, Segun Awolowo, who belonged to the same age as many of us who are now members of Oodua Foundation, died suddenly in the terrible storm.
Most of us today in Oodua Foundation who were old enough to understand these devastations at the time thought that our whole life was collapsing.
“But, through the darkest hours of it all, you stood like a rock behind your great husband, behind our father and leader, behind us suffering youths, and behind the weeping and mourning millions of our people.
“In the pitch darkness of the time, the light which you held bravely up reflected the great light from our great leader to all corners of our homeland,” he said.
A former governor of Ogun State, Gbenga Daniel said he would miss everything about HID because she was a special kind of person with a special personality type.
“She was my mother and we were very close. She confided in me and I, in her. So, I know the innermost part of her heart. Death is something we know will happen. And now that it has happened, we are already feeling the difference and it is not easy.
“But we are very proud and we give thanks for how far she came. It is not easy to live up to almost 100 years, in spite of the stress she went through; that she could hold her own for long after Papa had gone was a marvel. She held the fort admirably. We will miss her in every way for a long time. I have lost a mother,” Daniel said.
Other dignitaries at the tribute session included: Bishop Bolanle Gbonigi, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, Sir Olanihun Ajayi, Chief Idowu Sofola (SAN), Senator Femi Okurounmu, Senator Mojisoluwa Akinfenwa, Chief Ebenezer Babatope, Senator Tony Adefuye, Jimi Agbaje, Senator Gbenga Kaka, Chief Supo Shonibare, Rear Admiral Akin Aduwo (rtd) and Senator Kofoworola Bucknor-Akerele.
Also present were Chief Dipo Jimilehin, Prince Dayo Adeyeye, Chief Isaac Olabiran, Chief (Mrs) Bola Doherty, Princess Sade Sangodoyin, Honourable Salvador Moshood, Mr Emmanuel Adelana, Alhaji Ademola Oduwole, among others.