Wednesday, November 18, 2015 4:24 pm
I am pleased for the privilege of being invited to present this biography of the extraordinary woman in whose honour we have gathered here this afternoon, the late Chief (Mrs) H.I.D. Awolowo. The book reviewer has shown us that the book, In the Radiance of the Sage: The Life and Times of HID Awolowo, captures the essential HID. It discusses many key moments in her life and, perhaps more significantly, the key roles she played in the life of one of the most extraordinary leaders this country has been privileged to have, her husband of 50 years, the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, and in the politics of the South West.
The Cocoa House in Ibadan remains a shining example of a grand and futuristic vision; it was a homage to agriculture and the one crop that helped improve the economy and lives of the people of this region (and the country). The Obafemi Awolowo University (formerly University of Ife), Ile-Ife, remains possibly the most beautiful public university campus in Nigeria (Joke: I emphasize public because my own university, AUN looks better!).
It is no surprise that even today leaders in this geo-political zone are still being judged by the extent to which they live up to Awo’s vision, legacy and stature. I know it is a cliché to say that behind every successful man there is a woman. It may even sound somewhat sexist in this day and age when women’s achievements are deservedly receiving more recognition. However, it has long been known that Chief Awolowo owed a large portion of his success to his beloved wife of 50 years. Of course Chief Awolowo’s life was not only about successes and triumphs. He had his low and very challenging moments in life and politics – suffering state-imposed restrictions on his physical movement, exile in Lekki Island and imprisonment – all arising from political crises in the Western Region and attempts by his political rivals to seize those opportunities to weaken or destroy Awo politically.
He 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.”
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. Let me borrow from the late Chief Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu and say that the late Chief (Mrs) Hannah Idowu Dideolu Awolowo was the best First Lady Nigeria did not have.
It is my honour and privilege now to present to the public this biography of Chief (Mrs) Awolowo titled In the Radiance of the Sage: The Life and Times of HID Awolowo.
Remarks by Atiku Abubakar, GCON, former Vice President, Federal Republic of Nigeria, as the Chief Presenter of the book In the Radiance of the Sage: The Life and Times of HID Awolowo, at the Obafemi Awolowo Residence, Ikenne-Remo, Ogun State on 18 November, 2015.