Wale Adebanwi on Mama h.i.d. (19)

When Lynn returned to Bell Avenue on September 22 to also search the compound, Hannah no longer called him “troublesome man”. She announced his presence by telling her husband that “That man with evil spirit is here again”.

 

He would search their house in Ikenne and the official residence in Lagos twenty three times. Hannah and many others were present when Lynn repeatedly searched the house in Ibadan and the residence in Lagos and took away many books, documents, and files, including Awolowo’s private journal, “Flashes of Inspiration”, which, unbelievably, became one of the “strongest, even if preposterous, pieces of evidence on which the trial judge based his conclusions….

In spite of these challenges, while under restriction at Bell Avenue, Hannah suggested to her husband in August 1962 that she should visit all the other leaders of the AG who were under restriction in different places. They included Alhaji D.S. Adegbenro, Chief E.A. Anuku, Hon. S.A. Akinyemi, Chief Tony Enahoro, Chief Bola Ige, Chief S.O. Lanlehin, Alhaji L.K. Jakande, Chief S.T. Oredein, Hon. B.O. Obisesan, Chief Bisi Onabanjo, Chief Ayo Akinsanya, Chief S.O. Ighodaro, Chief Reece Edukugbo, Chief G. Ekwejunor-Etchie, Mr. Olatunji Dosumu, etc. Awolowo “heartily welcomes” the suggestion. She bought provisions, clothes and other items as gifts to the families of the restricted. A.O. Dairo, a member of the House of Representatives who was Awolowo’s Assistant Private Secretary at that point, and two of Hannah’s children, Ayodele and Tokunbo, accompanied her as she travelled round the region for fifteen days. She returned to report that most of those under restriction were in high spirits, except three, two of whom later joined the NNDP…

 

“PLEASE, HERE IS THE POT of stew. You should search it too in case something incriminating is hiding there!” The rascally Abimbola Awofeso, the only son of Awolowo’s only surviving sister, Alhaja Anotu Awofeso, held the pot of stew in his hand waiting for Lynn to continue his search for “subversive” or “treasonous” materials inside it. It was a calculated and devastating scorn, which the target understood perfectly.

Lynn was stunned at the impudence of this young man. He regarded Abimbola momentarily with contempt. Then he continued with his business in silence.

Abimbola had achieved his purpose to everyone’s satisfaction, including his mother who was also present. He wanted to demonstrate the absurdity of what Lynn was engaging in which would have been laughable if it were not tragic. On that visit when Abimbola taunted him, Lynn was searching Awolowo’s house in Ibadan for the twenty-first time! Abimbola, who was living in the Awolowo’s house in Oke-Ado, Ibadan – alongside many other family members, relations and supporters of the family – had had enough of the harassment and the tragi-comedy of Lynn’s repeated searches. All the times that Lynn searched the house – mostly without prior notice – Obafemi Awolowo was never around.

The latest search that provoked Abimbola’s action was carried out in the night on June 30 1964. Awolowo and others had, by this time, been convicted by the High Court of treasonable felony, but the Supreme Court was set to deliver its verdict on his appeal the next day, July 1, 1964.

Hannah and other family members, relations and friends were preparing for the night prayer when Lynn came in with a group of policemen. She had experienced so many tribulations and harassments since May 29 when a state of emergency was declared in the Western Region. It was now almost four months and things were getting worse. At the point that Lynn returned for yet another search, Hannah was just recovering from a slipped disk. She was weak physically, even though her spirit remained strong. For her, the prayer session that Lynn interrupted constituted one of the strongest ways by which she coped with the tribulations of her husband. Yet, she had predicted to her husband when they were alone the night Lynn served them with the restriction order on September 22, 1962 that “Even God himself will fight for us”.

The prayer that night was a special one. Hannah had invested a lot of hope in the acquittal of her husband by the Supreme Court the next day. So, she wanted to pray with everyone in the household for good news to herald the next day. Therefore, what she was waiting for the next day was news of the release of her husband and the end of all the tribulations. Lynn’s re-appearance therefore was troubling. What evidence could he be seeking for again on the eve of the verdict of the Supreme Court? No new evidence could be presented at the appeal, let alone on the day of the judgment. Was this mere harassment or an indication of the verdict that will be delivered the next day?

Even though Lynn and his political bosses in Lagos and Ibadan knew that Awolowo stood no chance in the largely compromised apex court, they were still uncomfortable with the unprecedented popularity of the man and the almost universal sympathy that he was attracting in Western Nigeria. Elections were approaching, and the NPC at the centre and the NNDP government in the region were getting restless over the increasing popularity of the man they had assumed had been caged politically. However, the most important reason for Lynn’s visit on the eve of the judgment in the appeal was to be revealed to the family later. To make matters worse, a possible alliance between the Action Group and the NCNC was in the offing. Therefore, the unpopular Akintola-led Nigerian National Democratic Party (NNDP) turned Ibadan into a “trouble spot” where “thugs carry guns” freely, “looting houses, cutting limbs and at times demanding lives of innocent citizens”. Those living in Awolowo’s house in Oke-Ado were, therefore, living in “constant fear” of attacks by the NNDP thugs. One E.O. Lakanmi, the leader of the NNDP Youth Association, reportedly “vowed to see to the total destruction of (Awolowo’s) house”. Only a few days before Lekanmi’s threat, AG’s Federal Publicity Secretary, Bola Ige, had escaped death around the Itutaba area of Adisa Akinloye’s house. Akinloye was then one of the leaders of the NNDP….

 

“THE CROWD ROARED “AWO! AWO!!”

It was Samuel Ladoke Akintola’s responsibility to pick up the gauntlet. His erstwhile leader’s wife, who was now virtually the leader of opposition in the region, had laid it down. If the Premier of the Western Region was sufficiently confident of his popularity, she was challenging him to “undertake a political tour” of Ondo province with her “to test our popularity”.

Mrs. Hannah Dideolu Awolowo, who had become the face and voice of the Action Group with the imprisonment of her husband, was speaking fluently and powerfully to Action Group faithful in Iddo-Ekiti, in the Ondo Province of the Western Region in August, 1964 when she threw the challenge at Akintola.

Akintola had sent his wife, H.I.D’s estranged friend, Faderera Akintola, to Ondo Province to campaign for the NNDP. But Hannah jeered at Akintola telling the crowd at Iddo-Ekiti that it was “most degrading that a Premier of a virile region like the West and leader of a political party in Nigeria can only visit his hometown… (in) the thick of the night”. She added that she was surprised that Akintola lacked the courage to campaign in Ondo Province, thus , “a feat that the husband dare not attempt” was left to the wife (Faderera). Hannah Awolowo concluded her campaign that day by urging the crowd to vote for the AG/NCNC alliance, that is, United Progressive Grand Alliance (UPGA), in the approaching elections to end “the present chaos and state of economic stagnation” in the region.

The crowd shouted again: “Awo! Awo!!”

She also later campaigned in Gbogban in Akintola’s home division where she was “presented with a broom by the people… to sweep away Chief Akintola’s NNDP from the division…..”

 

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