By Henry Umoru
As early as 7am last Sunday, the rough and dusty road of Kabba became very busy with vehicles from all walks of life particularly from Lokoja, the Kogi State capital plying the route through Okoro Gbede, Aiyetoro Gbede, among others.
The destination was Mopa in Mopamuro local government area, the home of the late Chief Sunday Bolorunduro Awoniyi, the Aro of Mopa. The serene town came to life again as friends, family members, admirers, brothers, political associates gathered five years after the demise of the former Chairman, Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF.
It was an opportunity for Awoniyi’s family, friends, political associates and the people of Okun to say, ‘Yes, we agree he died five years ago, but his legacies are still in our memories’. It was a case of marking Awoniyi’s birthday because, if the great politician were to be alive, he would have clocked eighty years on 30 April.
The late Awoniyi was born in 1932 at Mopa to Pa Solomon Iwalaiye and Mama Dorcas Omoboja. He was the only child of his mother. For his primary education, he attended the Baptist Day School, Mopa from 1938 to 1944 and then the Holy Trinity School, Lokoja from 1945 to 1946.
For his secondary education, he attended the Kabba Provincial Middle School, Okene, from 1947 to 1949 from where he proceeded to the famous Barewa College, Zaria, from 1950 to 1953.
After his secondary education, Awoniyi studied at the Nigeria College of Arts, Science and Technology, now Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria from 1954 to 1956 and later at the University College, Ibadan from 1956 to 1959.
He later attended the prestigious Imperial Defence College, London, now Royal College of Defence Studies from 1970 to 1971.Awoniyi passed on, on Monday 28, November, 2007 in a London hospital as a result of the injuries he sustained in a motor accident on along Abuja- Kaduna Road.
He was married to Mrs Florence Ebun Awoniyi and Mrs Benedicta Omowunmi Awoniyi. Before last Sunday thanksgiving programme which took place at the First Baptist Church, Ileteju, Mopa, there were other activities like prayer at the grave side, the launching of the renovated Deaf and Dumb School, Mopa and the donation of bags of rice and groundnut oil to widows and widowers.
The church was full just as the late political leader’s qualities: integrity, fairness, courage, transparency, were extolled as speaker after speaker spoke on their encounters with him while he lived.
When it was time for the Kogi State governor, Captain Idris Wada, who was there to support his deputy, Architect Yomi Awoniyi, son of the political icon, noted that the event was a celebration of a life well spent. Idris described Awoniyi as one of the pillars of the nation’s present democracy.
Wada, a Muslim, who shouted ‘praise the Lord’ with great response from the congregation, however, noted that the large number of personalities at the occasion spoke volumes of the life Awoniyi lived and how he touched the lives of many, adding that the seed he planted and nurtured will continue to grow.
The governor led members of his executive; the Speaker, and members of the state House of Assembly; to the event. In his message, President, Kogi Baptist Conference, Reverend Dr. David Ola Daniyan, who condemned the high level of insecurity in the country following the activities of Boko Haram and cases of kidnapping in the land, called for prayers by Nigerians.
Daniyan, who spoke on seven reasons the family of Awoniyi must thank God, disclosed that the fear of Boko Haram in the North and kidnapping in the East forced the Baptist family to push their 2013 convention to Oshogbo, Osun State.
The reasons, according to him, were that Awoniyi lived a fulfilled life, he gave the right instructions and guidance to his family; he gave the children education; God gave him long life; God gave them a father they can be proud; God helped the family in terms of needs in the past, just as he urged parents to emulate Awoniyi by giving their children education, good instructions as well as live lives that could be emulated by the children.
Responding, the Kogi State deputy governor and one of the children, Architect Yomi Awoniyi, hailed his late father for the role he played in their lives. To show appreciation to God and in remembrance of his father, he donated a bus to the church for evangelism on behalf of the family.
Visitors, associates and the governor supported the deputy governor in raising money for the church. Also present at the occasion were the state Chief Judge, Secretary to the State Government, commissioners, special advisers, and traditional rulers represented by the Chairman, Okun Traditional Council, the Obaro of Kabba.
In her remarks, one of the wives of the late Awoniyi and mother of the deputy governor, Mrs.Florence Awoniyi, who sued for peace in Kogi, urged those who may be aggrieved with the governor before the elections to put behind them what happened and join hands to move the state forward.