The Jewel goes home on her birthday
JUST as it was 100 years ago in the family of the Adelana in Ikenne, Ogun State when everyone gathered to celebrate the coming into this world of Hannah Dideolu Awolowo, in an accident of history, the same family and Nigeria from all walk of life are today November 25 gathered to celebrate the final exit of the then ‘baby’ now referred to as matriarch who has returned to where she came from.
Indeed today’s event is dramatic in many forms as the various common dresses earlier bought by her admirers across Nigeria in preparation for her centenary birthday expected to hold today are going to be used to celebrate her burial.
In the same vein the committee set up few months ago to plan and coordinate her birthday had been collapsed into her burial committee.
According to a source, most of the men of God earlier penciled down to officiate at the planned centenary birthday have today reversed their role to officiating ministers at her burial.
Any time the role of women in contemporary Nigeria’s political history is to be chronicled, it is certain that the name and the role of HID would not only come atop, she would be accorded prominence and a well deserved place.
Until her death at age 99 in her Ikenne House, Ogun State, on Saturday September 19, 2015, precisely 67 days away from her centenary birthday celebration, HID Awolowo remained active in contributing and intervening in the political affairs of the country, like her husband who passed on 28 years ago.
Her political relevance in the South West became conspicuous during the 2015 general elections when her home in Ikenne, became a Mecca for everyone and political parties that had interest in running for the Nigerian presidency.
The two major contestants in the election, President Muhammadu Buhari and former President Godluck Jonathan were left with no choice than to visit the old matriarch to inform her about their intention to run for the president as they sought the support of the Yoruba through her consent.
The whole idea behind the visits to mama was simply to notify the Yoruba race of their intention to seek for the number one job. That alone showed the extent of her un-diminished relevance in the country’s political landscape of until she passed on in September 19.
It is also on record that Chief (Mrs). Awolowo played active role in positioning the Yoruba race in the political settings of the country until her death. For instance she joined other South West leaders like the late Ooni of Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuade, Olubuse II, Bishop Bolanle Gbonigi, former Secretary to the Federal Government, Chief Olu Falae; Chief Ayo Adebanjo, Senator Olabiyi Durojaiye, Former Minister Of Mines and Steel Dr Kunle Olajide, Senator Bode Olajumoke, Senator Femi Okunrounmu, Senator Kofoworola Bucknor-Akerele, Senator Omololu Meroyi, Senator Tony Adefuye, Pa Olaniwun Ajayi and host of others under the umbrella of Yoruba Unity Forum (YUF) to confront former President Jonathan when it became obvious that the Yoruba were being marginalized in the system.
As a matter of fact, it was HID Awolowo, who set the agenda of a wake-up call that the Yoruba cannot be sidelined under the former President Jonathan’s administration.
She urged that the South West must take cognisance of its enviable contributions that culminated in the then Jonathan led-government.
In making the call to the Yoruba then, she recalled how her husband Chief Obafemi Awolowo made enormous sacrifices, including his readiness to be the second-in -command under an alliance between the defunct National Council of Nigerian Citizens (NCNC) and the Action Group [AG] in the First Republic, saying: “The lack of compromise from the other camp led to the collapse of the arrangement.”
Apart from the unprecedented role she played in making a wake up call to the Yoruba, HID Awolowo was unrelenting in her efforts to ensure that South West politicians forged a common front for the interest of the Yoruba people in the larger Nigeria enclave irrespective of their political affiliations.
On several occasions she made relentless efforts to resolve the dispute between the leadership of the Afenifere, a Yoruba socio-political group.
She usually emphasized that there was nothing wrong in political parties merging but warned that Yoruba must learn from history and avoid a situation that could create further division among them.
Speaking about his grand mother, the Executive Director /Chief Executive Officer(CEO) Nigerian Export Promotion Council, Olusegun Awolowo jnr said: “She was the kind of a woman that will light a candle to look for family members. Many people don’t have the time. She was for the community. She was very strong in the community here in Ikenne. After church on Sundays, people were visiting her when she got very old.
She was very community based. That was also one of her strengths, she was also very strong in the church. I grew up in a Methodist church and ended up in an Anglican church. At one point, I asked her what are we exactly. Are we Methodists or Anglicans? She replied: “Don’t they all pray?”
She was also strong with the Apostolic Church which her mother was a very staunch member. Mama was more practical, she did not discuss her death. When Papa pointed to the spot where he should be buried, Mama said, “no, don’t tell me that”. When we discussed her 100th birthday, she said: “Would I be strong enough to go to church?” We said: “We would carry you to church.”
She said many things she wanted, the hymns she wanted that day.
That was why majority of the family members decided it is that day that she will be 100 years that she will be buried. On the November 25. She will be buried in the Mausoleum, next to her husband.
It is a prayer of every child and duty of every child to bury your parents and bury them well. That is what we are trying to do to give her a befitting burial.
She was born in November 25, 1915.
She was married to politician Obafemi Awolowo from December 26, 1937 to his death in 1987.
He famously referred to her as his “jewel of inestimable value”. She was also a successful businesswoman and astute politician. She played an active role in the politics of Western Nigeria. She stood in for her husband in the alliance formed between the NCNC and the AG, called the United Progressive Grand Alliance (UPGA), while he was tried and in jail.
The plans were that she would contest the elections, and if she won, would step down for her husband in a by-election.
To fulfil his dream of becoming president in the Second Republic, she toured the length and breadth of the country with her husband campaigning. She also coordinated the women’s wing of the party and was always present at all party caucuses. A successful businesswoman, she became the first Nigerian distributor for the Nigerian Tobacco Company (NTC) in 1957. She was the first to import lace materials and other textiles into Nigeria. On September 19, 2015, she died at the age of 99 just over 2 months short of her 100th birthday.