Special Tribute: As Mama HID Awolowo Goes Home, Nigerians glorify God
THE jury is still out as to which was more impressive: the burial yesterday of Chief H.I.D Awolowo or her late husband, Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s.
“Mama’s burial was more solemn, more poignant, more aesthetic, maybe because of her gender, while the sage’s though emotional had more political overtones. Mama’s today was like grateful children from across Nigeria saying ‘Thank You’ to a departing, much-loved mother. She and her husband were close in life and now in death too.”
That was how a guest described the burial yesterday of the matriarch of the Awolowo’s dynasty, Mrs. Hannah Idowu Dideolu Awolowo as her remains were buried around 1:50 p.m. beside her husband’s, at a mausoleum constructed in 1987 in the expansive family compound in Ikene, Ogun State.
Mrs Awolowo died on Saturday, September 19, 2015, 67 days to her centenary birthday.
The Primate of the Church of Nigeria, Anglican Communion, Archbishop Nicholas Okoh and the Prelate, Methodist Church of Nigeria, Most Rev. Chukwuemeka Kanu Uche led over 50 other senior clerics to conduct the interment service at the graveyard where the dust-to-dust rites were performed by her children, grand children and great-grandchildren led by the eldest daughter of the deceased, Rev. Tola Oyediran and Dr. Tokunbo Dosunmu.
In a carnival-like procession, the gold-plated steel casket that conveyed her body was taken in a horse-drawn carriage to the mausoleum where her husband was buried.
Only the most senior clerics and her family members were allowed to accompany the body to the venue for the burial, which took about 20 minutes.
Heavy police presence at the entrance to the mausoleum, prevented everybody else, including journalists from getting close to the grave.
Apparently, to ensure a hitch-free ceremony, an Air Force helicopter hovered around the town while the police and men of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps were very polite in controlling the crowd.
Okoh in his sermon at the well-attended funeral service at Our Saviour’s Church, Ikene, urged Nigerians to purge themselves of indiscipline that had debased national life.
He lamented that indiscipline had led to the increase of criminal behavior like corruption, human trafficking, armed robbery, rape and terrorism in the country.
The cleric described Mama Awolowo as a good wife, who stood by her late husband, throughout his political travail and also contributed hugely to the achievements the late Awolowo recorded in the execution of the legacy of education for the people of the Old Western Region.
Okoh, who spoke copiously on the topic “God’s Promised Rest”, said it was quite regrettable that terrorism and unemployment were taking a toll on the nation’s resources and its corporate image, saying this called for sober reflections among Nigerian citizens.
Citing Mathew 11: 28,29, 30, where Jesus Christ admonishes people who are weary and burdened to come to him and seek eternal rest, Okoh described this as God’s spectacular invitation that seriously applied to all Nigerians considering what the nation was passing through.
He urged Nigerians, particularly the leaders to redirect their minds to God and stop seeking evil power that would not give them eternal rest that could only be provided by God.
The cleric said: “Today, terror is not only killing our people, it is taking our resources. Nigeria is spending so much to combat the act of terror, which I believe was a self-inflicted problem. This particular act has debased our national values.
“Apart from all these problems, diseases and societal ills like diabetes, broken homes are also on the increase.”
Speaking further on the virtues of Mama Awolowo, Okoh added: “Mama has fought a good fight and she finished gloriously. In her lifetime, she was happily married, very committed to her husband and that was why Papa Awolowo called him ‘a jewel of inestimable value’. She was a great wife, a courageous woman who lost three of her children but did not allow grief to overwhelm her.
“Mama Awolowo was a successful mother and grandmother among whom is the wife of the Vice President, Mrs. Dolapo Osinbajo. She was a grassroots woman and leader of women and a woman of national and international repute .
“In the church, Mama played active roles and was a strong supporter and prominent member of Agbeni Methodist Church in Ibadan and along with her husband championed the establishment of Remo Diocese of Anglican Communion in 1984.
“Apart from this, she built Obafemi Awolowo Memorial Church in the Diocese in memory of her late husband.
“So, the invitation I am giving all of you today is an invitation to Jesus for deliverance, rest and forgiveness for our souls. If you are looking in any other direction for power, you are looking in the wrong direction and you have to answer this call today because death could come anytime”, he advised
After the burial, people were entertained at the house of Afenifere chieftain, Chief Olu Falae, who said: “Mama was an exceptional mother, totally devoted, committed and persevered with her husband. She remained focused 27 years after her husband’s death.”
The founder of the Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC), Chief Frederick Fasheun, described the deceased as the epitome of good character, who lived a good life.
A native of the community, James Orekoya, said the youth in the town would forever remember H.I.D as “Mama was kind, fearless and accommodating. She did not only get good jobs for many of us but she also encouraged us to do things that would better our lives.”
Leading the Federal Government’s delegation to the burial was the President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki, who was also dressed in Aso Ebi with Mama Awolowo’s image . The Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo who is a son-in-law was also in attendance with his wife, Dolapo.
Saraki, while eulogising the late H.I.D Awolowo said he attended in dual capacity; to represent President Muhammadu Buhari and the 109 members of the Senate.
However, Buhari arrived at 2:20 p.m. after the remains of the deceased had been interred to commiserate with the family.
He was received by Osinbajo, the first daughter of the matriarch, Rev. Oyediran, Tokunbo Dosunmu and members of the Federal Executive Council in attendance.
Other dignitaries who attended were former President Olusegun Obasanjo and his wife, former Military Head of State, Gen. Yakubu Gowon and his wife, Victoria; former Head of Interim Government, Chief Ernest Shonekan, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, and former Chief of General Staff, Gen. Oladipo Diya .
The national leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Tinubu and his wife Senator Oluremi Tinubu were also present as were business moguls, Alhaji Aliko Dangote and Oba Otudeko as well as the host governor, Ibikunle Amosun who rendered Awolowo’s panegyric.
Other governors present included, Segun Mimiko of Ondo State, Owelle Rochas Okorocha of Imo State, Abiola Ajimobi of Oyo State, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola of Osun State, Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State and his wife Iara, Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State, Nasiru El-Rufai of Kaduna State, Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi State, Ben Ayade of Cross Rivers State and Simon Lalong of Plateau State.
Former governors in attendance included Chief Lateef Jakande, Chief Segun Osoba, Otunba Gbenga Daniel, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, Chief Christopher Alao-Akala, Chief Segun Oni and Otunba Niyi Adebayo.
Members of the FEC who graced the occasion included Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Raji Fashola, Minister of Solid Minerals, Kayode Fayemi, Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi, Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami and Minister of Communication Adebayo Shittu.
Afenifere leaders at the funeral service included Senator Femi Okunrunmu, Chief Gbenga Kaka, Chief Biyi Durojaiye, Chief Ayo Adebanjo and Chief Olanihun Ajayi. Pastor Tunde Bakare was among the clerics that attended the funeral service.