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Wale Adebanwi on Mama HID (55)

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H.I.D HID AwolowoThe longest twilight

WHEN Afenifere/AD split into two, matters became even more complex. The older associates of Awolowo remained in the  AD, while the party’s former governors led by Chief Bisi Akande and Governor Bola Tinubu formed another party, the Action Congress (AC). While most of the old men of Afenifere were supported by, or supported, Governor Daniel, a faction of the Afenifere led by Senator Ayo Fasanmi, another old warrior of the Awolowo camp supported the Akande/Tinubu AC.

Where was HID to stand in all the confusion? There were no longer clear lines of demarcation. Yet, while accusations and counter-accusations were flying around Awolowo’s lieutenants who had taken their battles to the pages of newspapers, HID was called upon to take sides.

It was a peculiar mess for a woman who had renounced partisan politics.

“At Awo’s posthumous birthday on March 6, 2002, I noticed some developments……” HID offers her position on the controversy in her autobiography.” (A) certain political party got involved. They insisted they had to do something since all Yoruba are Afenifere, and that Mama should not be seen to be in support of one child against the other.

Probably because the other group which was associated with Papa while alive appeared to have taken things for granted, the second group was more determined at getting my attention. So they came in full force, erected canopies and provided entertainment…. Everybody was welcome, but I am no longer a politician….. I belong to all parties because I belong to no party in particular”.

“The almost total neglect of the Awolowo dynasty by Afenifere provided the opportunity for the Yoruba in the other political parties to fill the vacuum left by them”, she continues. “Naturally, I felt honoured when their (PDP’s) governors-elect paid me a courtesy call at Ikenne  after they had paid similar calls (on) Archdeacon Alayande and Justice Adewale Thompson at Ibadan.

Although I was not in a position to know what was going on in their minds, their visits to me, Alayande and Adewale Thompson were good social and political calculations. It  is even natural that at my age which brings me closer to the end than the beginning of my life, I should appreciate those who appreciate me by showing a semblance of recognition for my social standing in the society. What is more, it was ahonour done not only to me, but to Papa. After all, the Awo dynasty of which I am at present the head, or matriarch as people say, is open to all politicians who are interested in upholding the social and political ideals of Awo, now and in the future”.

HID’s position continued to trouble some politicians despite their own shifting alliances and shifting strategies. Despite the triumph of the political camp led by former Governor of Lagos State, Senator Bola Tinubu, in the aftermath of the 2011 elections, in which the camp controlled all the Yoruba States (before Tinubu fell out with Governor SegunMimiko of Ondo State), HID refused to abandon other factions of progressive camp in Yorubaland which had become marginal after the 2011 elections.

It was against this backdrop that Sam Omatseye, a columnist of the Nation newspapers largely owned by Tinubu, wrote a controversial piece, entitled “Awo Family Without AnAwo”, in which he sourly attacked HID and all her children. Omatseyeargued that at the inauguration ceremonies of Tinubu’s associates in the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN).

In Ekiti, Lagos, Ogun and Osun States, no one could “miss the philter and filter of Awo”. He then dismissed Awolowo’s surviving children as not showing “much of the paterfamilias” brio and depth”, while reaching the most outrageous conclusion that if Awo were to come back to life “he would have committed the extraordinary act of divorce after death”. It was the unkindest cut of all for a woman that the writer himself recalled that Awo described as his “jewel of inestimable value”.

Even at 95, HID gave Omatseye the full measure of her revulsion. “Ordinarily, I do not join issues with uninformed individuals, nor do I comment on articles written in uncouth and downright vile and violent language”, begins the matriarch. “Hypocrites that claim to be more catholic than the Pope or more Awoist than his family when they, in fact, hob mob with so-called pariahs when it suits them and their pockets, certainly, do not engage my attention usually…. At 95, I have lived long enough to expect common civility from younger ones, assuming that they received and imbibed proper home training. Having just lost my daughter less than a month ago I also expect that normal people would spare me the kind of vitriolic attack that was unleashed on my person and my family, particularly as such an attack was entirely unprovoked…..”

Continued HID., “I should certainly not expect anyone in his right mind to …..rake up old wounds of the previous tragic loss of my first son and then proceed to question and, indeed, dismiss the notion that he could possibly have been fit to carry his illustrious father’s mantle. All in a bid to situate Mr. Omatseye’s “patron” as the anointed heir to a heritage that can never be purchased….The abject insult that was heaped on my person by Omatseye, for daring to rise above partisanship and pursue the common good has caused me the kind of pain that can only be dealt with by offering it to God, whose wheel of justice may grind slowly but is guaranteed to grind exceedingly fine”.

HID concluded by affirming that she and her children “will not be harassed into associating with anyone or group, no matter how loudly they proclaim their self-righteousness”.

Ebenezer Babatope, Femi Okurounmu and Dipo Jimilehin also responded to Omatseye’s “tirades and vituperations”, describing his conclusions as “illogical and absurd”.




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