Wale Adebanwi on Mama HID (11)

FROM that period up till now, the Onafowokans and other members of the Osugbo, have been fighting against anything that the Awolowos are associated with, both in local and national politics. They supported the Nnamdi Azikiwe-led National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons (later National Council of Nigeria Citizens, NCNC) against Awolowo’s Action Group (AG) in the First Republic; and in the Second Republic, they supported the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) against Awolowo’s Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN).

When Awomuti died on August 20, 1984, the Onafowokans and their supporters again tried to insert the Moko family into the succession order against the Ikenne Chieftaincy Declaration, which recognizes only three families. However, two candidates emerged from the Obara ruling house, whose turn it was to produce the Alakenne. Not being able to insert themselves in the succession lines, the Moko supported one of the parties in the Obara family, Ademolu Odeneye, a retired photographer and trader, in opposition to David Efunnuga, a retired court clerk, the choice of the majority of the Obara family, including the Awolowos.

While Efunnuga’s section of the family controlled the disputed Ikenne-Sagamu road land, Odeneye lived in the Moko quarters and had relations with the Moko through his father’s maternal side. A vote by the kingmakers which led to the selection of Odeneye in July 1985 was voided by the Ogun State High Court in Sagamu on November 28, 1986. The court declared his selection as inconsistent with the 1958 Alakenne of Ikenne Chieftaincy Declaration. The declaration stipulates that the Obara family must initially vote before presenting a candidate to the kingmakers. An appeal by Odeneye led by Chief Kehinde Onafowokan, SAN, the son of Gabriel Onafowokan, was dismissed on April 18, 1988 by the Appeal Court in Ibadan, while the Supreme Court affirmed the dismissal on December 14, 1990 in a lead judgement by Justice Karibi-Whyte. Chief G.O.K. Ajayi, an associate of Awolowo, represented the candidate supported by the Awolowos – Efunnuga.

Despite the judgement, for 27 years, Ikenne never had a king-Governor Gbenga Daniel of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), eventually approved the installation of the current Alakenne, Oba Onakade, in May 2011, only a few days before he left office. Such was the opposition from the successors of Gabriel Onafowokan, particularly his children and their supporters, that the governor avoided the matter for almost eight years. But in the end, he did right by Onakade and the Awolowos.

In spite of this, when Governor Ibikunle Amosun of the Action Congress of Nigeria (which later merged into the all Progressives Congress, (APC) succeeded Daniel, the battle resumed. The Amosun-led administration started a battle to dethrone Oba Onakade. However, in April 2013, the State High Court sitting in Sagamu struck out an application by the government to list the stool as “vacant”. Since he returned for a second term, the Alakenne believes that Governor Amusun has given up on trying to remove him….

The case of the traditional stool in Sagamu which Hannah’s family can also access is less acrimonious, but no less significant. Contrary to what happened in Ikenne in the late 1940s and early 1950s – even though the contest was also acrimonious – the Awolowos’ backing of Moses Awolesi in 1952 for the throne of Akarigbo in Sagamu, produced unity in the end. It eventually led to the unification of Remo towns with the acceptance of Ofin’s paramount status – and the added benefit of the support of the Remo towns for the Action Group. Even Adeleke Adedoyin who initially opposed Awolesi for the position of Akarigbo, joined the AG in 1953.

The success of Awolowo’s support for Akarigbo Awolesi and the rallying of most of Remo towns behind Ofin (Sagamu) also meant that his home base was solidly in support of his political leadership and ambitions. Thus, with Hannah’s critical heritage and support, Obafemi Awolowo was able to create a new Remo community by the mid-20th century. This became the basis of his creation of a modern Yoruba nation founded on the ideals of enlightenment, development and progress that his people called olaju….

GIVEN HIS EXPERIENCES IN THE press as a journalist and the use of the newspaper press at every stage of the social, cultural and ideological struggles which he had witnessed or in which he was a participant, Awolowo was convinced that he would have little chance of succeeding in all his social, cultural, and political battles without a newspaper press to back him up. Perhaps the greatest evidence of this were the battles between the West African Pilot and Daily Service over the NYM crisis, and, later, over the status of Lagos in a federal Nigeria. Azikiwe used the Pilot, which he established in 1937, effectively as an ideological apparatus of his political ambitions. In most of his ideological and political battles against Azikiwe and the NCNC, Awolowo had to rely on the organ of the NYM, the Daily Service, which was edited at the different points by Ernest Ikoli and Samuel Ladoke Akintola, both eminent journalists with vitriolic pens. When the NYM became engulfed in crisis, it was clear to Awolowo that the Service may not last long.

After he returned from the UK in 1947, in view of the money he was making from his legal practice, Obafemi Awolowo discussed with H.I.D on the need to start a newspaper that would stand up for the common man and his vision of an egalitarian society, project and defend his political career, while also constituting the ideological voice of the political party he was hoping to form. They both agreed to invite some of their friends to invest in the proposed African Press Limited which was incorporated on May 10, 1949 under the Companies Ordinance of 1948. The five directors were Mr. Obafemi Awolowo, Mrs. Hannah Idowu Dideolu Awolowo, the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adesoji Aderemi, Mr. Rabiu Jagun, a produce merchant, and Mr. Johnson Omisore. Oba Aderemi was made the Chairman of the Board, with Obafemi Awolowo as Managing Director. Hannah later became the Chairman when the Ooni passed.

The first edition of the Nigerian Tribune, which was originally planned for October 1, 1949, was published on November 16, 1949.

Hannah Awolowo fondly remembers the day the first edition of the newspaper rolled out of the press on the night of November 16, 1949. She, her husband and first son, Olusegun, who was then ten years old, were present inside the press hall to watch the historic event. The paper, which later described itself as “the voice of the voiceless”, became such a torn in the side of those who betrayed the progressive cause in Western Nigeria that one of them nicknamed the paper onomatopoeically as “Tete bu’yan”.

Indeed, Tribune’s lead writers and leading columnists of the first three decades did not take hostages. The paper had an array of partisan pugilists raging against the system; these partisans attempted to box their political enemies into stupor with words. The newspaper’s intense political reporting in the years of political turmoil in Western Nigeria, even though partisan, won the paper popularity among the Action Group devotees and sympathizers. The paper was also feared by the political adversaries of its founder who were convinced that the paper’s incessant attacks was capable of provoking their defeat. Tribune therefore faced constant harassment by the Akintola administration in the Western Region. For instance, the newspaper office on 98, Shittu Street, (old) Adeoyo, Ibadan, was “invaded” by the police on Thursday, April 16, 1964, because of an editorial entitled “Where do we go from here?” When the newspaper’s premises was again “invaded” by the police in August of the same year for the purpose of conducting a search regarding the “manuscripts of editorials written against the excesses of a governing party which has not the mandate of voters”, Tribune published a front-page editorial in which it declared: “The ‘Nigerian Tribune’ will NOT be intimidated by this provocative harassment by the Executive.”