Reverend( Mrs.) Omotola Oyediran, Chairman, African Newspapers of Nigeria Plc (Publishers of the Tribune titles) in this interview by YEJIDE GBENGA-OGUNDARE, speaks on the virtues of HID Awolowo, what she misses about her mother one year after her death and why women need to emulate HID’s values. Excerpts:
It has been one year after mama’s death; what have you missed about her?
I miss many things about her. I was privileged to have a mother for virtually 75 years; this is a rare occurrence, very few, if any of my contemporaries had that privilege. It meant that, in a sense, I enjoyed for so long the comfort, the cover and the motherly support that she gave. Mama had a sharp wit and it was always interesting to be in her company; we always had a lot to talk about and I miss those conversations. She was very caring, if she had her way, I would have been with her in Ikenne all the time, so I miss her company.
The good thing about having her around for so long was that I got to know her very intimately and now that she is no longer with us, I do not struggle to figure out what her views or wishes would be on most issues. The house is not the same without her, especially as she kept her wit and lucid mind till the end, she was my daily caller. Indeed, we spoke on the phone many times a day. So, in summary, I miss her very much, in many ways, and for many reasons.
The Awolowo family is one large united entity. As the eldest child of the sage, how have you been able to keep the flag flying?
As I said earlier, Mama shared a lot of information and her wisdom is always available to tap into and learn from. We have a big family but we had a structure before she died and the principal thing is to maintain the right structures and make any necessary adjustments. We have always been conscious of the responsibility that goes with having a name like ours and we do our best to keep faith with that. We also try to continue to participate in various groups and societies, particularly those that are tied to our Christian heritage and family responsibilities that Papa and Mama were involved in their lifetime. We are just being ourselves and doing the duties attached to our great legacy.
Has it been easy stepping into Mama’s shoes?
I don’t subscribe to the concept of stepping into other people’s shoes; that amounts to running another man’s race; a race in which we can never come first even with our best efforts. That said, there is a big role to play as the new matriarch of the family and the successor to Mama as Chairman of ANN Plc (publishers of the Tribune Titles). It is a challenge but by the grace of God, I am doing well. I have for many years been a mother figure to the grandchildren, great grand children and other members of the family, so being the matriarch now comes naturally to me. My husband, Professor Kayode Oyediran, has been a solid pillar of support and I have relied very heavily on him for wisdom and direction. His support has been a priceless asset to me. Mama herself took to calling me Mummy Ibadan (a name by which I’m generally known in the family) more and more towards the end of her life. She told me as often as she could that I was the budding mother of the family and she encouraged me to assert myself in that role. So to the glory of God, I’m doing my best to play the role of a matriarch, to be a mother to all, in the best way I can.
Can there be another HID in the South West?
Mama was unique in so many ways and she married an exceptional statesman; they served Nigeria with unparalleled zeal and kept faith with the political issues of their era; that cannot be replicated. To have an HID, you need an Obafemi Awolowo, it’s just that simple. I hope that Nigerian men and women from all walks of life will imbibe the principles and values that Papa and Mama demonstrated in their lifetime. Figuratively speaking, we do need an ‘Awo’ in Nigeria, indeed, across Africa and we all know that Mama was his prop so there is a need for women that will play such roles alongside their husbands as well, but there will not be another HID.
Mama, in her own right was a titan; she took on challenges that even men would quiver at and to that extent we need wise, steady, strong, hardworking women to take their places in the effort to raise Nigeria and Africa out of backwardness into the fulfillment of our tremendous potential. I certainly recommend that women should emulate those good virtues that made her the great woman she was.
What aspect of Mama’s life would you recommend for Nigerian women?
Mama was a very disciplined person, she worked tirelessly and was vigilant. She abhorred laziness and shoddiness. She was wise in the use of her resources and her capacity to take care of family and friends was admirable. She was a fervent Christian and an exceptionally supportive and loyal wife. She was industrious and courageous. She fought many battles, she was a warrior. I recommend all those virtues to women.
Are Nigerian women adequately represented in governance?
There is no doubt that more and more women are making their mark in government but there is room for improvement in the number.