ONE year after the passing on of the matriarch of the Awolowo dynasty, Chief (Mrs) Hannah Idowu Dideolu Awolowo, her memories were again brought to life in Lagos, on Tuesday, at the first memorial lecture organised by a non-partisan Yoruba socio-cultural group, the Yoruba Unity Forum, to mark the first anniversary of the matriarch’s demise.
Speaking at the event, Secretary-General of the forum, Senator Anthony Adefuye, described Mama Awolowo as a custodian of the Yoruba culture and beliefs, stating that the decision to organise the lecture, themed: “Eternal Sustenance of Yoruba Language and Culture,” was informed by the need to uphold those values the wife of the late politician, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, stood for.
According to him, one of the ideals Mama Awolowo lived for was to ensure that the Yoruba Language did not go into extinction, since it was apparent that the language was increasingly being relegated to the background, especially among the Yoruba elite.
How HID helped the birth of YUF —Senator Adefuye
Giving a graphic details of the events that led to the formation of the forum, which HID was once its chairman, Senator Adefuye stated that the need to have a non-partisan platform that would unite the Yoruba race, irrespective of religious and party affiliations, actually led to the formation of the forum.
“Then it was becoming obvious that the different factions of the Afenifere group then were finding it very difficult to unite the Yorubas, they could not speak with one voice and a new platform was, therefore, needed.
“We went to Mama and she was able to use her influence to fast-track the formation of this group designed to cater for the interests of the Yoruba people. And Mama did this job of uniting the Yoruba people under this umbrella very well until her demise last year.
“She was always active regarding the issues of the forum till when she breathed her last. We will definitely miss her, because she was one person that placed the interest of the Yoruba people in a special place in her heart.
“We believe this type of lecture is necessary because the Yoruba language should not be allowed to perish. We must ensure that we keep the Yoruba language alive. We’ll think faster and develop faster when we encourage Yoruba language. We need to develop Yoruba language so that it can also stand the test of time,’ he stated.
Mama, a bridge builder per excellence —Bishop Ayo Ladigbolu
Describing Chief HID Awolowo as a bridge builder, the chairman, Culture Committee of the Forum, Bishop Ayo Ladigbolu, stated that, in spite of having the interests of the Yoruba nation at heart, one of the dreams of Mama Awolowo was to ensure that Nigeria remained united.
“An example of this was when we hosted in Ikenne, the Arewa Consultative Forum, the Igbo community and the people of the Niger Delta. We were all able to come together and eventually formed the Southern Nigeria People’s Congress just because of mama’s interest and intervention. She loved Yoruba culture and language seriously,” he stated.
He described the lecture as one of the ways which the group intended to keep alive Chief HID Awolowo’s legacy, so that the younger ones would have something to emulate.
Bishop Ladigbolu further explained that since the forum was designed for the unity among the Yoruba people, the socio-cultural group was able to facilitate the visit of the new Ooni of Ife, to the Alaafin of Oyo last year, as part of its agenda of uniting the Yoruba monarchs and the people.
Extolling the virtues of the late Yeye Oodua of Yorubaland, the National Coordinator of the Odua Peoples Congress (OPC), Chief Gani Adams, noted that the decision of the Yoruba Unity Forum to organise a lecture, designed to enhance the language and culture of the Yoruba people would, no doubt, go a long way in upholding and propagating Mama Awolowo’s ideal and what she stood for.
HID, one in a million —Senator Okunrounmu
“Mama, for me, can be described as one in a million among Nigerian women. She was a good mother and a frontline politician. Even though she didn’t contest any political office because of her husband, she’s someone who could effectively become the nation’s Prime Minister. For instance, she was somebody who still remembered all the happenings of those years vividly till the time she died. And she was highly organised.
“Besides, she loved Yoruba unity. That is what brought the Yoruba Unity Forum,’ Senator Okurounmu stated.
Expressing the family’s gratitude to the socio-cultural group for deeming it fit to hold a memorial lecture in honour of HID, one of her daughters, who is also the vice chairman of the forum, Ambasssador (Dr) Tokunbo Awolowo Dosumu, advocated for the inculcation of Yoruba Language in the nation’s educational system.
“It has become very imperative now to teach the younger ones the language; since that is the only way we can sustain the language and the Yoruba culture.
“Promoting the language was what Mama stood for and I believe we would be doing her memory a world of good if we are able to ensure that the language is promoted and not allowed to go into extinction,” she stated.
She also appealed to Yoruba leaders to be selfless in the cause of providing direction for the Yoruba nation, describing it as the only way such leaders could earn the respect of the people.
Some of those in attendance at the event were Archbishop Bolanle Gbonigi, chairman of the forum; Archbishop Ayo Ladigbolu, deputy chairman; Senator Femi Okunrounmu, vice chairman; Ambassador (Dr) Tokunbo Awolowo Dosumu, vice chairman and Senator Anthony Adefuye, Secretary-General.
Others included Chief (Mrs) Kofoworola Bucknor, former deputy governor, Lagos State and Financial Secretary of the forum; Muniru Adekunle Muse, elder of the forum; Dr Frederick Faseun, founder, Odu’a People’s Congress (OPC); Chief Gani Adams, national coordinator, OPC; Erelu Olusola Obada, former deputy governor of Osun State and Engineer Bisi Sangodoyin, another elder of the forum.c