Report on the death of Mama, Chief Mrs. HID Awolowo hit me like a thunderbolt last Saturday. It came at exactly 4pm while awaiting my flight aboard Arik Airline at Murtala Muhammed Airport 2, Ikeja, to Abuja.
My initial reaction was to call the Consultant to the Nigerian Tribune titles, Mr Segun Olatunji for confirmation on what I considered a rumor. He confirmed the obvious! My mood changed dramatically as I became fidgety. Mama, I thought ruefully, should not have left us at this time we are looking forward excitedly to her centenary celebration.
I had hardly regained balance when I went into a silent prayer, committing Mama into eternal rest with the Lord. There after, my phone began to buzz endlessly. The callers, mostly aggrieved top staffers of the Nigerian Tribune were giving me updates on what really happened. The aggregate reports they filed was that mama seemingly chose the time of her exit, and calculatedly too.
I found the sequence of events around the Matriarch of Awolowo’s dynasty on that fateful day incredible. She held meetings with key visitors and members of her family on developments around her. After one of the meeting sessions, she took excuse to have her meal for the afternoon. She was obliged. She even cracked jokes with the lady who attended to her and felt good after the meal. A moment later, she answered the call of her creator in a most peaceful manner that took everyone by surprise. She was hale and hearty till she took her last meal. For me, Mama passed on like a chosen heroine and in a special way planned by God! Her exit could not have been more glorious.
I am one of Mama’s ‘children’ and so found her death most painful. Am still in shock. I was to see her celebrate the centenary birthday being planned in her honour as we both had prayed together for the event to come. My mind went through my last intimate encounter with Mama in June this year. She had asked me to see her in Ikenne and when I did, it was a kind of re-union of mother and child.
Mama stunned me when she asked after my wife and children as she began to name them one after the other! I have never seen a woman so advanced in age still imbued with a crisp mind and very sharp memory. We discussed the centenary celebration and she agreed, it would be necessary to have it as planned. She was in a high spirit as usual, taking me through some events of the past, which had almost escaped my memory. Mama, at 99 had good plans, not only for her household, but for Nigeria’s oldest private newspaper, The Nigerian Tribune! Ooh what a loss with mama’s death.
Today, my heart goes to the Awolowo clan. I can only latch on to a Yoruba popular way of according respect to deceased heroes and heroines by saying “Erin Wo” (The elephant finally succumbed). Mama HID was everything to the Awolowo’s family, Ikenne community, the South-West Nigeria, which she held firmly in her golden heart, and the larger Nigeria that she always wanted to see more united, peaceful and prosperous.
Mama was full of gait, strength, vision, courage and wisdom. I envy the people who attended to her on daily basis as the luckiest. She loved to impart wisdom from time to time, while she never slacked in rising to the need of those around her. She lived all her life serving humanity and touching the lives of generations of needy people!
The Yeye Oodua was awesome, just like Papa Awolowo, the sage! It was not a surprise that she carried on gracefully and successfully from where Papa stopped. She became a rallying force for the Yoruba of Southwest Nigeria, always drumming on the essence of unity of the geo-political zone. A good number of position papers meant to strengthen the southwest geo political zone and the need to promote the unity of Nigeria were formulated in Ikenne, her home. Her strong inputs continue to stand out.
It is, therefore, apt to describe mama as a leader and a woman of many parts. Indeed, she was a great mobilizer.
Her selling point had been the super intelligence she was imbued with. She often reeled out dates, long events and incidences with electronic precision. Her type is rare, very rare. Mama stunned me with the manners she regularly held weekly meetings with the management of Tribune newspapers. The Editors would miss her sorely.
I had long years of working relationship with our mama in my days as Executive Director of ANN Plc, Publisher of Tribune titles which she headed. I took directives and directions from her on very salient issues, which usually confounded the Management Staff. She was always apt in her decisions. She held the company, very firmly, and I feel that hundreds of staff in the pay roll of the company owes her much gratitude.
I will continue to mourn Mama who was my mentor and a mother in a million. My last encounter with her in June was intriguing and memorable. I will unfold my conversation with Mama in my next tribute.
At this juncture, I commiserate with my sisters- Tola and Tokunbo. I share in their pains of missing mama very dearly given the invaluable importance of the mother in the lives of her children. But I remain unshaken in my belief that mama’s spirit will continue to guide the accomplishment of the vision and good wishes she had nursed for all her children, the Awo family, the ANN Plc, friends and acquaintances.
I am certain that the Lord will grant every family member left behind by mama the fortitude to bear the loss.
To my Tribune family, I can say that we have no option than to console ourselves as we would always remember that Mama’s mentoring and her fighting spirit sustained and strengthened the Nigerian Tribune after Papa Awo’s exit.
To say the least, one of the things we owe her is to keep the Tribune flag flying. Her lofty dreams for the paper should not be allowed to die. Again, I must stress that nothing should be allowed to scuttle this enviable legacy both Papa ‘Awo’ and the great matriarch of the family left behind.
May her soul rest in perfect peace!
Former Executive Director
African Newspapers Of Nigeria (ANN) Publisher of Tribune Titles.