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A rejoinder: Awo’s legacy: Babatope and Jimilehin join the fray

By Ebenezer Babatope & Dipo Jimilehin

We are forced by the writings of Mr. Sam Omatseye at the back  page of The Nation newspaper to issue the following to the Nigerian people.

On Monday, June 6, 2011, Mr. Sam Omatseye, a journalist and a public commentator wrote a back page column entitled: “AWO FAMllY WITHOUT AN AWO” and subjected the Awolowo biological family to such a serious and absurd political commentary.

It was a bizarre commentary that cannot but arouse a detailed and objective reply if only to debunk the ideas of a young Nigerian journalist who apparently from his writings do not know who the Awolowos are.

Mr Sam Omatseye had opened his salvoes on the Awolowo family on the following note:

“The Awolowo rebirth in the South-West has inspired gongs, songs and rhetoric of sorts. But they have missed one pooint.

It ocured to me in Abeokuta last week amidst the big crowds and euphoria of the swearing in of Senator lbikunle Amosun as Govemor. In all the states,  from Lagos to Edo whereAwo has witnessed ideological resurgence, hardly a single family member has played a role. So we have an Awo Family without an Awo.”

Mr. Sam Omatseye from the above went to draw other conclusions that are not only illogical and absurd but that are clearly offensive to the ears.

For example, Mr  Omatseye went on to say because he (Omatseye) could not find an Awolowo biological member in the swearng in ceremonies of the ACN Governors on May 29, 2011, that “The so called real Awolowos who bear his surname cannot come up for mention. They are Awolowos but not Awoists. They stabbed their father in the back. They have committed  ideological patricide.”

Let us say clearly from the onset that Mr. Sam Omatseye is free as a public  commentator, operating in a democratic society to write on any topic of his choice and to have opinions of his own on issues of public interest. He or any other public commentator in doing this must however strive at all times to present facts as they are and never to write with the sole aim of destroying  innocent people whose only crime is to have been blood members of the sage, Papa Obafemi Awolowo.

No political party in Nigeria today can claim to have an Awolowo as a registered member of its rank and file. No one can come out with pictures of an Awolowo attending the swearing in ceremonies of PDP or any party’s swearing in ceremonies at any particular time in Nigeria’s history since 1999  when Nigana returned to normal democratic rule.

This particular stance has come from Mama HID Awolowo’s belief in making the Ikenne home of the Awolowos very neutral in Nigeria’s political matters since the death of Papa Obafemi Awolowo on 9 May 1987.

After the death of the sage in 1987, when some of the then Awo young turks were clamouring for a Mama leadership of her husband’s political movement, the old woman had shunned any kind of political partisanship, had refused blatantly such calls and had canvassed for unity of all groups inside and outside her dear husband’s political movement.

No one can point directly to any time or occasion when Mama HID Awolowo had come out since her husband’s death to canvass for any politician or any political party for votes of Nigerians. We ask from Mr. Sam Omatseye why he had to rely on non facts and fantasies to attempt a public scorn of Mama HID and other children of Papa Obafemi Awolowo.

It was most unfair for this young man to have written inter alia: “In the past decade, under this republic, they have blended with the wrong crowd. Even H.I.D. Awolowo hobnobbed with Alao-Akala who brought illiteracy to governance, with Oyinlola who turned the grace of office into a hell hole of despots, with Daniel who could not arrest his quick fall into megalomania.“

Haba Sam Omatseye! Where has this hobnobbing of Mama H.I.D come from? We say it again, no politician or political party in Nigeria has been denied access to Ikenne by either Mama or her siblings since 1999. We equally state again, when has it been published that Mama has denied anyone any access to her and to Ikenne that accommodates the remains of the great leader Awo.

When Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola was commissioning the Awo Centre at Lekki in commemoration of the place where the political power men of Nigeria’s first republic had incarcerated Papa Awo, Mama H.LD Awolowo was there at the ceremony even at the risk of her health.

Where then is Mama HID’s villainy in these matters? Mr. Sam Omatseye is free to pass comments on persons that he politically disagrees with, but he certainly cannot be correct in writing scurrilously on a family and a mother who have no proven crimes of political partisanship that anyone could mention in the past 24 years of Awo’s death.

In the last gubernatorial campaigns in Ogun State for the 2011 elections, all gubernatorial candidates and their parties were received by Mama despite her old age and she blessed them without any political partisanship or undue favours.

Thus, Ibikunle Amosun (now the Governor of Ogun State) of the ACN, Tunji Olurin of the PDP and Gbenga Isiaka of the PDP were openly received by Mama H.I.D at Ikenne. None of them can claim that he was not well received by the old woman.

President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan of the PDP was there in Ikenne to visit the Awo family and to inform the family of his interest in the 2011 presidential elections. Some three years ago, Governor Babangida Aliyu, the Chief Servant of Niger State, was at Ikenne to visit Mama and to emphatically state his interest in coming to identify himself with the golden memories of one of the titans of Nigeria’s history – Awo.

Where then is Mama H.I.D’s and Awo family’s partisanship in these matters? No one (except anyone with a demented brain) will claim that Mama was partisan in all her exploits to unite the diverse groups in Yorubaland the past four years. It was the open clamour of many Yoruba groups for Mama’s intervention in the rancorous activities of these groups that had occasioned the meetings the old woman called at Ikenne to attempt a unification of these groups.

The rift within the Afenifere movement where the ACN people were openly at loggerheads with the elder Afenifere people who were members of the DPA and the claim by some PDP people that also said they were Afeniferes had made Mama H.I.D Awolowo offer to broker peace within the Afenifere groups who without doubt were Awolowo people.

At the beginning of these Mama H.I.D. peace meetings, all groups were there in attendance. Alhaji Lam Adesina a.k.a. ‘The Search Continues’ was leading the ACN people to these meetings. Even ACN leaders led by Ahmed Bola Tinubu came to visit Mama at Ikenne and poured out their minds on some of the matters connected with Mama’s peace efforts.

It was these peace meetings that eventually culminated in the formation of the Yoruba Unity Forum.

It was observed that after the formation of the Yoruba Unity Forum, the ACN people ceased to attend meetings. The Afenifere people equally ceased to attend meetings. The conveners of the Ikenne meetings included Mr. Segun Adesegun (now His Excellency, the Deputy Governor of Ogun State) and Engineer Tony Adefuye, all of the ACN. In fact, Engineer Tony Adefuye remains till today the Secretary of the Yoruba Unity Forum (YUF) and Papa Bishop Gbonigi and Archbishop Ayo Ladigbolu, an acclaimed Yoruba scholar, and a seasoned Oyo man are living witnesses to the above stories.

Papa Bishop Gbonigi, a man of great repute and intellect and Archbishop Ladigbolu, an acclaimed orator, a valuable resource person in the translation of the Good News Bible into its Yoruba version “Bibeli Iroyin Ayo”, are both credible sources of information on Mama’s roles in the formation of the Ikenne meetings.

Mama H.I .D made it clear in her opening speech to the Ikenne meetings that no one should come and play politics inside the meetings. It is now a clear point to all the attendants at the Ikenne meetings that political shoes of any kind should be removed at the doorsteps of the Efunyela Hall where the meetings are held. Where then for goodness sake are the crimes committed by Mama H.I .D and her siblings of the Papa Awolowo biological family to warrant all the tirades and vituperations poured on them by Mr. Sam Omatseye in his column.

It was sad and unfair to see a young Nigerian journalist decide to write on the Awolowos with such a biting anger when the family is still mourning the death of one of their own, Mrs. Ayodele Soyode. Many Nigerian citizens (high and low) came to commiserate with the Awolowos when this woman passed on recently.

It is also generally not known that by the grace of God, our friend Oluwole Awolowo is recovering from an illness connected with a motor accident he had sometime ago.

It was most unkind for Mr  Omatseye to write on Mr. Segun Awolowo who died nearly four decades ago at a most trying period in the political life of Papa Obafemi Awolowo.

It was equally unfair of Mr. Omatseye to have used this period to descend without cause on the Awolowos. It was the extreme height of recklessness, viciousness, sadism, blackmail, vindictiveness and total prejudice for Mr. Omatseye to have done so.

Those who want to attain old age never cast aspersions and pour insults on old people without cause. The African people are known to respect old age, maturity and experience. What has Mama H.I .D. Awolowo done to this young man (Omatseye) to warrant his writing the following?:

“I wrote once that this woman whom Awo once described as the jewel of inestimable value has lost value to his cause. If he came back to life, he would have committed the extraordinary act of divorce after death.”

Haba Mr. Omatseye! What has a 96-year-old woman done to you or anybody that will warrant these terrible comments?

The Holy Bible and even the Quoran have passages that deal with condemnations of those who take delight in insulting and denigrating old age. (See 2nd Kings Chapters 2 verses 23 and 24). We do not pray for any ill to befall Sam Omatseye but the Holy Bible frowns at any ungodly attempt to smear old age.

Stories are flying around that a group of Nigerians have recently at a meeting declared their intention to politically bring down persons they believe will constitute impediments to their programme of overrunning the South-West. We humbly submit that neither Mama H.I.D Awolowo nor his three children alive constitute any threats to anyone. Mama H.I.D Awolowo takes all as her children and has never exhibited any parochial partisanship that throws favours at particular persons to the detriment of others.

We sincerely wish all those who will want to father their fathers the very best of luck in their game of political hallucinations. Like Muffet (one of the authors on the Nigerian 1966 Crisis) once wrote “LET THE TRUTH BE TOLD.”

We presume Mr. Omatseye is a Christian. His name Sam suggests that. We will like to counsel him with the following words of wisdom contained in the book of Apocrypha Sirach Chapter 44 verses 1 to 15:

“The Glory of God in History

“So let us now give praise to godly men, our ancestors of generations past: men whom the Lord honoured with great glory, in whom his greatness has been seen from the beginning of time. There were some who ruled kingdoms, and some who were known for their strength. Some were wise advisers, and some spoke prophecies. There were statesmen whose policies governed the people, rulers who issued decrees, scholars who spoke wise words, and those who used pointed proverbs, poets, and composers of music, rich and powerful men living peacefully at home.

All these were famous in their own times, honoured by the people of their day. Some men left a reputation, and people still praise them today. There are others who are not remembered, as if they had never lived, they died and were forgotten, they, and their children after them.

But we will praise these godly men, whose righteous deeds have never been forgotten. Their reputations will be passed on to their descendants, and this will be their inheritance. Their descendants continue to keep the covenant, and always will, because of what their ancestors did. Their family line will go on forever, and their fame will never fade. Their bodies were laid to rest, but their reputations will live for ever. Nations will tell about the wisdom of these men, and God’s people will praise them.”

We say it again that Mr. Sam Omatseye has a full right to his own opinions. He, however, missed the points in his article on “AWO FAMILY WITHOUT AN AWO.”.

From the banals of lycanthropy (a kind of disease that makes a man imagine himself a beast) may the good Lord save us all . AMEN.


Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.