s AFI Abimbola Awofeso is dead. He now belongs to the ages. He was a Nigerian that fully carried the blood of the famous Awolowo family in him. Bimbola was the late Papa Obafemi Awolowo’s nephew. His mother, the late Mama Anatu Awofeso, was the immediate younger sister of the late Avatar, Papa Obafemi Awolowo. I knew Bimbola very well. In fact it was he (Bimbola Awofeso) that introduced me to the sage in 1969 after I had joined the Nigerian Tribune as the Lagos City Editor of the Nigerian Tribune newspaper founded by Papa Awo on 16th November, 1949. I will come back to this story later on.
In June 1969, Alhaji Lateef Kayode Jakande had offered me appointment as a member of the Editorial staff of the Tribune Group of newspapers. I was then a final year history and philosophy student of the University of Lagos. Abimbola Awofeso was one of the reporters I had met at the Tribune office in June 1969. The other members of staff of the vibrant editorial board of the Tribune were the late Papa J. Olurebi Williams then of the Irohin Yoruba, Miss Bola Majekodunni, Hon. Fola Oredoyin who later became a member of the Lagos State House of Assembly in 1979, Alhaji Nuru Owoh, the late Dele Ogunmodede, the late Kingsley Alumono. Mr. Biodun Soremekun, the late Bunmi Iyeru was then our Lagos City Editor. It was from him that I took the position of the Lagos City Editor of the Tribune. The Tribune staff was star studded.
It was a great pleasure for me having to study under the able hands of Alhaji Lateef Jakande who was a reputable man in the Nigerian Journalism of those days. Within three months of my taking up appointment as a staff of the Tribune, Alahji Jakande had promoted me to the Lagos City Editor of the paper. Mr. Bunmi Iyeru (now of blessed memory) was transferred to the Head office of the Tribune at Ibadan. He later died some years ago in Abeokuta, Ogun State. It was not long before all of us discovered the versatility of Abimbola Awofeso. When I became the City Editor of the Tribune, it then became imperative for me to meet the great Awo. Bimbola Awofeso gladly offered me the platformat the Sabiu Ajose Street residence of the Sage. It was the first time I was going to meet the great mind. It was a memorable visit.
It was not long before fate joined me and Abimbola Awofeso together in an event that occurred between the Nigerian Tribune and the then Dodan Barracks of General Yakubu Gowon, the Head of State. The Nigerian Tribune had published a story titled “Busia on Hush Hush visit to Lagos”, the story was published after the authorities in Ghana had expelled Nigerians from the country. Gowon’s government immediately imposed economic sanctions on Ghana. Kofi Abrefa Busia was then the Prime Minister of Ghana when the expulsion of Nigerians was announced in Ghana over the incident. Nigeria under the leadership of General Yakubu Gowon immediately carried out retaliatory attacks on Ghana to protest the expulsions. The retaliation of Nigeria on Ghana immediately brought Kofi Busia to Nigeria on what we called in Tribune Busia’s Hush Hush visit to Nigeria.
The Nigerian government was embarrassed by the Tribune publication hence the order of the Gowon government to have the editors of the Tribune arrested. The officer who effected the arrest was Colonel Anyaru, the Head of the military administration in Dodan Barracks, Lagos. The Editor of Nigerian Tribune in Ibadan Mr. Olukayode Bakre was the first to be arrested. Then came the arrests of myself as the Lagos City Editor and Bimbola Awofeso, the Tribune Reporter who wrote the news.When myself and Awofeso were brought before Colonel Anyaru in Dodan Barracks, he immediately began to shout an order to a Lieutenant Jaja “prepare detention order for two”! The two of course were Bimbola Awofeso and myself. The intervention of our boss, Alhaji Jakande, could not save us and so we spent nearly the whole day in Dodan Barracks.
We were later released because Alhaji Jakande would just not give up his struggles for our release. Bimbola Awofeso was indeed an active mind who did so well as a fearless journalist. He was bold and incisive. He had done so before when Papa Awolowo was facing political persecution under the Balewa regime. A Scottish officer, Mr. John Lynn then under the services of the Tafawa Balewa Federal Government had invaded Papa Awolowo’s residence ordering everything in the house to be searched. When the search ended and there was nothing incriminating found, Bimbola Awofeso who was living with Papa at the time of the search, had brought a pot of soup and handed it over to Mr. John, saying to the officer sarcastically that he and his men had not searched the pot of soup. Mr. John Lynn was extremely disarmed and he left Awo’s compound a completely frustrated man.
When Bimbola Awofeso started to write feature articles for the Nigerian Tribune, he chose a Pen name titled “With ink in my blood”. Awofeso was down to life in his Journalistic summations. Today, no one can talk of the Awofeso years as a journalist without mentioning deeply his “Ink in my Blood series”.
At one time in his life, as a journalist, he was elected the Vice-Chairman of the Nigeria Union of Journalist, Oyo State Branch. He served under the leadership of Joe Abiola then of the Sketch Group of newspapers. Bimbola Awofeso made a success of the position. Now Bimbola Awofeso has gone to eternity.
He will for long be remembered!
Bimbola Awofeso was very much loved by the Awolowo family. Our friend Wole Awolowo, the “Unbreakable of the Unbreakable Heritage”knew Bimbola Awofeso as Safi. It was Dr. (Mrs.) Olatokunbo Awolowo Dosumu that organized the eighth day Fidau of Bimbola. Our Sister, Reverend Tola Oyediran (nee Awolowo) could not do a thing for two weeks after the death of Bimbola was announced. The death was a shock to hear.
Safi Abimbola Awofeso was said to have given up the ghost at about 4.00a.m in the morning. He was a nice person. He was blunt to a fault. ‘Bimbola Awofeso could not hurt a fly. The late Yeye Oba of Ife, Mama H.i.D. Awolowo equally loved Safi Awofeso.
Death will come when it will come. It is time for Safi Abimbola to go. Awofeso has now joined the Saints Triumphant. May Allah bless his soul. Safi Abimbola Awofeso Good-Night and Good-Bye!
Ebino bids you a permanent Good-Night!!