The world joins the children of Chief Dr Mrs HID Awolowo the Yeye Oodua and the undisputed and indisputable Asiwaju Yoruba as they send forth their illustrious Matriarch on her journey in the Continuum on November 25.
Dr Dideolu Awolowo will be joining in spirit her late husband the African sage and one of the world’s most extraordinary leaders of the 20th Century Kiniwun Onibudo, Eru jeje, Agbolaya bi aara, Ina nla ti n da’to l’enu igbin, Olumoko the Avatar Chief Obafemi Awolowo on the very day she would have turned 100 years.
Chief Mrs Hannah Idowu Dideolu Awolowo passed on September 19 2015 shortly after concluding a meeting she held with members of her Centenary Birthday Celebrations Committee in her home at Ikenne Remo Ogun state of Nigeria.
Reputed for her brilliance, her great presence of mind, her business acumen, her political sagacity and remarkable leadership qualities, Chief Mrs Awolowo towered above many men in matters of courage and forbearance. Enterprising, engaging and ever elegant and quick witted Dideolu Awolowo was a great pillar in the Awolowo formidable dynasty.
Shortly after her post primary education in Lagos she settled into business in the footsteps of her mother Elizabeth Oyesile Adelana who was an outstanding business woman of her era. Got married in December 1937 and moved to Ibadan with her titanic husband as soon as harrowing change of fortune compelled the couple to change base.
At Ibadan her star started to shine. She began massive importation of textiles from Europe and was selling wholesale to several traders in Gbagi market, Ibadan and well beyond. Within a few years she became a leader and central figure of the league of foremost traders in the region. She was very successful. So successful she was that when her husband had to travel to the UK [August 14, 1944] to pursue a life ambition of a degree in Law, the mantle of keeping the home front with all of its attendant responsibilities fell on her shoulders and she discharged them creditably. With three young children Segun, Tola and Wole on her lap and heavy with pregnancy and with a meagre Twenty Pounds Sterling left by her husband for the upkeep of the family she was still able to increase her business such that she was in position to send money to her student-husband abroad.
While leading women in business, she was also leading both men and women in Church activities and assembled huge followership and partnerships in the service of the Lord.
Now she had the market women and sundry traders, she had a huge flock from the Church, and therefore when her husband returned from his sojourn in England and went into full blown career in politics, Hannah Dideolu already had a teeming population of foot soldiers to advance and articulate her husband’s passion.
She was side-by-side with her great husband in all his political adventures and could be regarded a political leader and veritable organizer in her own right.
She and her husband co-founded the Nigerian Tribune on November 16 1949 and as confirmed by her husband there was no major decision taken on any issue without her robust input.
Soon after the outbreak of the Chair throwing, Mace flinging crisis in the Parliament Building Ibadan, on Tuesday May 29 1962 Chief Mrs Dideolu Awolowo was very determined to sink or swim with her husband and the ideals he stood for. Throughout her husband’s incarceration she assumed the leadership of the Action Group with able and capable assistance from Premier [even for one day] Dauda Sooroye Adegbenro and other faithful and loyal lieutenants.
It was remarkable that it was Dideolu who received the Eastern Region Premier Dr Mike Okpara in Ibadan [ June 3 1964] in spite of the notorious ban on such appearances by the NPC-favoured government in the West. Chief Mrs Awolowo as co-founder of the UPGA led the Western region in the Electioneering campaigns throughout the land. And Michael Okpara was impressed!
The greatest personal tragedy and blow to Dideolu’s heart came rather early in her journey through life and that was the sudden and calamitous death [July 10 1963] of her brilliant first son barrister Olusegun aged 24. Many other challenges came in torrents. The auctioning of the family’s modest bungalow in Ikenne came shortly after their wedding. The husband’s arrest and incarceration on trumped up charge of treasonable felony, his imprisonment and all the torments and humiliation that came, during and after the imprisonment, the loss of her soul-mate husband, loss of another child, Ayo, mother of Nigeria’s Vice President’s wife, yet the loss of another child, Wole at 70, and so many small and big traumas were all borne with unequalled equanimity and super human stoicism.
The Asiwaju mantle which her husband carried for 20 years since early1967 to 1987 fell on her laps the moment her husband passed on, yielding no room for a vacuum. There were/are always many Yoruba socio-cultural political associations with their leaders, chairmen, presidents and other mouth watering titles, but the presence of the Yeye Oodua loomed largest and she was without a doubt pivotal. Each and every one of such leaders bowed their heads at Ikenne and accorded Mama HID the greatest reverence.
It must be emphasised that the steady stream of leaders flowing to Ikenne from 1987 up till now could not having been due to the presence of the building in Ikenne, or visits to eat Ikokore and Ebiripo, but mainly and substantially to pay homage to the Leader of the Yoruba nation resident there. The regular presence of top most politicians from the North, East, South and West of the country at Ikenne was a confirmation, an affirmation and proof indisputable that there was a personage whose influence mattered in any and all affairs of the country Nigeria. Asiwaju Dideolu was that personality.
Chief Mrs Awolowo was not the only widow of a deceased political giant in the country. We have had Heads of state and of governments that had passed on. There must have been a compelling reason, an enduring factor that propelled leaders from all corners of Nigeria to go to HID Awolowo. That propeller was HID’s distinguished leadership, her staying power, her political suaveness, her exemplary integrity, and her dexterity.
It is equally remarkable that she never for once referred to herself as the Asiwaju of Yoruba nation. I think she must have been advised by the Wole Soyinka poetic dictum that a tiger does not proclaim his tigeritude: he acts it. HID acted the Asiwaju role, behaved it, lived it, and projected it in all her public and private dealings such that history and posterity would acknowledge her as the authentic, indisputable and undisputed Asiwaju of the Yoruba in the years 1987 to 2015.
HID lived a life worth emulating: a life of commitment and care as a mother, a life of unalloyed loyalty and faithfulness as a wife, a life of maximum industry as a business woman, a life of giving and sharing as a quiet philanthropist, a life of submission and faith as a devout Christian and a life of true and trusted leader as the Asiwaju of her people.
Bold, bright and beautiful, the elegant Princess of both Sagamu and Ikenne, the Mama of all Mamas, the Mother of the Nigerian leaders, and a worthy and exemplary leader, now in spirit will be joining her husband in spirit after 28 years physical separation…
Irunmole Tola Adeniyi was author of The Jewel  the first authorised biography of HID Awolowo.
The pen is the tongue of the hand,the silent utterer of words for the eyes…Henry Beecher