Soyombo Opeyemi: The Awolowos and the Amosuns

Soyombo Opeyemi: The Awolowos and the Amosuns

Sunday, November 29, 2015 4:03 pm


HID Awolowo

HID Awolowo


By Soyombo Opeyemi

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime
And, departing
Leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time.

– Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

One of the pictures I cherish is that of the “Ogun State governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, flanked by his wife, Mrs Olufunso Amosun, felicitating with Mama HID Awolowo, during the Thanksgiving Service to mark her 97th birthday at the Remo Diocese of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), Ikenne Remo, Ogun State, on Sunday, November 25, 2012.”

Interestingly, I was on the entourage of the governor on that memorable day and listened to his pleasurable remarks at the occasion: “Our prayer is for Mama to live till a hundred and for us to celebrate her centenary; after then we leave everything to God!”

That prayer, for me, was answered. Mama lived till 100 years before she breathed her last. Mathematically speaking, she did!

That Amosun and his wife loved Mama is merely an understatement. The governor is a paradigm of a family man. He has a hugely successful marriage and treasures his family. So it is natural that such a man should equally like the Awolowos. Apart from his exemplary public service, the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, was an archetypal family man. The Amosuns are proud to take their cue from him and cherished their association with Mama HID.

In the immortal words of Henry Longfellow quoted earlier, we all can make our lives sublime.

Through contentment, perseverance, fortitude in the face of adversity, industry and unflagging dedication to a worthy cause, Mama made her life sublime.

FLASHBACK! The Amosuns with Mama HID Awolowo… November 25, 2012.

Life, certainly, was not altogether a tableau of roses. During the political crises of the early 60s, Chief Obafemi Awolowo suffered one form of restriction, detention, incarceration or the other. He was at a point restricted to Lekki (in Lagos), which was then mosquito-infested.

“As we left our compound (in Ikenne) that afternoon,” wrote Awo in Book Two of his Adventures in Power, “my wife and I felt very sad. About a mile from our house she broke down and wept. I caressed her. Before we reached Odogbolu, she braced herself up, wiped her face, and forced a smile… From the way she spoke and from her demeanour, I knew that her fortitude and joyful spirit had been fully regained… My wife’s resilience was (as still is) astonishing and inimitable. If anyone had visited us at Lekki six hours after our arrival there, he would have thought that we had been there for weeks.”

Throughout the chequered political career of her husband, Mama did not waver. They experienced together both the travails and triumphs. This is perhaps why Governor Amosun, upon the transition of Mama, paid glowing tribute to her memory and urged the younger generation of women to follow in her footsteps:

“Mama HID stood by her husband like the Rock of Gibraltar throughout the tough political career of the foremost nationalist and leader of the Action Group and Unity Party of Nigeria. Amosun recalled that following the formation of the United Progressive Grand Alliance (UPGA) in 1964 between the Action Group (AG) and National Council of Nigerian Citizens (NCNC), Mama stood in for Chief Awolowo who was then in jail in the hope that she would contest the federal election and upon victory step down for her husband in order for the late sage to realise his political dream through a by-election. In spite of the political vicissitudes of the First Republic, Mama HID toured the entire country with her husband campaigning in the Second Republic. She was a woman of valour and a friend indeed.”

“As we left our compound (in Ikenne) that afternoon,” wrote Awo in Book Two of his Adventures in Power, “my wife and I felt very sad. About a mile from our house she broke down and wept. I caressed her. Before we reached Odogbolu, she braced herself up, wiped her face, and forced a smile… From the way she spoke and from her demeanour, I knew that her fortitude and joyful spirit had been fully regained… My wife’s resilience was (as still is) astonishing and inimitable. If anyone had visited us at Lekki six hours after our arrival there, he would have thought that we had been there for weeks.”

Papa Awo paid the debt of nature some three decades ago. Chief (Mrs) Awolowo hoisted aloft the banner of discipline that defined the relationship. The Nigerian Tribune remains a testament to that culture of discipline. Several titles that existed before Awo established the newspaper in 1949 and very many established after the Nigerian Tribune are off the stables today. What is more, the family has remained united.

They were no saints, and no one fantasised a life of perfection. Nonetheless, the lives of Papa and Mama have remained a socio-political compass for politicians that are committed to the welfare of the masses, integrity of the family and the good of humanity in general. Therefore, it was not surprising that the Amosuns regarded Mama as their mother and put their all into those indelible final rites of leave-taking. That well-attended open-air farewell at Sagamu International Stadium, organised by the Ogun State government, testifies to the victory of Mama Hannah Idowu Dideolu Awolowo over death! “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?”

Death, I can’t really see your sting. And Grave, you can’t even lay any claim to victory, because Mama’s life truly ran its full course!

Furthermore, the presence at the burial ceremony of the top echelons of the power elite, led by President Muhammadu Buhari, the political, business, academic, etc. elites, men and women from every station of the Nigerian society bears eloquent testimony to the immortality of HID Awolowo. And if William Shakespeare were to carve an epitaph, it would have been:

Her life was gentle, and the elements
So mixed in her that nature might stand up,
And say to all the world
“This was a woman!”

President Buhari was among the dignitaries who paid Mama HID last respect

President Buhari was among the dignitaries who paid Mama HID last respect

Governor Amosun played a big role in the burial

Governor Amosun played a big role in the burial


The Ogun State Executive Council, led by Senator Ibikunle Amosun, has immortalised Mama by naming after her a new housing estate and one of the newly constructed world-class public model schools.

The Amosuns and other compatriots deserve plaudits for those sleepless nights and the giant steps taken in order to accord Mama a befitting burial and immortalise her memory.

Omo rere a gbe’in gbogbo wa o.

Soyombo writes from Abeokuta via densityshow@yahoo.com


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