Awo & HID: Nigeria’s Greatest Political Couple

Uzor Maxim Uzoatu

Awo wedding

Chief Obafemi Awolowo famously described his wife as “the jewel of inestimable value.” In the political evolution of Nigeria Awo was the great lion that made things happen. Mama HID was the rare jewel who stood by her man through thick and thin.

I have just discovered in a corner of my scattered library a worn book that is a compilation of the life and times of the great Awo and his wife, a publication that marked the 90th birthday of the matriarch.

Yomi Mamora did a very necessary memorabilia, compiling the 244-page book of rare photographs from the archives of the Awo family entitled Two of a Kind: Pictorial Sequence, Quotable Quotes and Landmark Achievements of Chief Obafemi Awolowo and his Wife.
The book is a grand testimony to a worthy life shared in the service of humanity.

Otunba Gbenga Daniel, the former Governor of Ogun State, wrote a short foreword to the book where he stated inter alia: “When the late sage, Chief Jeremiah Obafemi Awolowo, described his wife, Chief Mrs Hannah Idowu Dideolu Awolowo as his jewel of inestimable value, those who had followed the remarkable odyssey of this extraordinary couple knew that HID deserved the accolade that undoubtedly came from the heart of a man who wanted to celebrate a woman that meant everything to him. The relationship of this outstanding couple is a study in fidelity, mutual respect and commitment to the cause of humanity.”

The publisher’s introduction gives a succinct account of the life and times of Awo, detailing his major achievements such as: establishment of the first television station in Africa, free health services, establishment of various farm institutes, free education, establishment of the Ewekoro Cement Factory, the Odua Investments Company Ltd, the Liberty Stadium in Ibadan which is the first modern stadium in Africa, and the famous Cocoa House in Ibadan which is the first skyscraper in Nigeria.

An account of the life of Mama HID follows in which we learn how the determined young woman got married to the then struggling Obafemi Awolowo on December 26, 1937.

The pictures that make up this epochal book are rare finds in the annals of Nigerian public photography. Each page also boasts of a quote either from Awo or HID.

The importance of documentation in the evolution of a nation is highlighted by this glossy, well-produced hardback. The first picture on page 1 is that of Awo’s mother, Mary Efunyela who played a pivotal role in the life of the young Awo after the death of his father in 1920 when he was barely 11 years old.

It is crucial that Awo’s life was somewhat shaped by women, notably his mother and wife.

Photographs of the young Awo in his days at Wesley College, Ibadan, depict a lively youth intent on making his mark on the sands of time.

It is a mark of Awo’s Spartan discipline that we eventually get to learn that he gave up cigarette smoking on the day of his 25th birthday. He knew that the enormous tasks ahead should not be beclouded by fumes of smoke!

The wedding pictures show a bespectacled man serious in every material particular.

Awo’s graduation as a lawyer is a major landmark and according to Mamora, Áwolowo “completed his law studies in two years between 1944 and 1946. He considered these two years as the most intellectually intense of his life.”

The formation of Action Group takes pride of place among the pictures. Awo’s old associates like Chief Bode Thomas, Hon. Abiodun Akerele, S.T. Oredein, S.O. Shonibare etc relive the golden age of Nigerian history.

It makes for golden memory beholding Awo taking the oath as Premier of the Western Region. Awo’s compatriots such as Zik, Ahmadu Bello, Tafawa Balewa, Adegoke Adelabu (Penkelemess), Enahoro, Rotimi Williams, Akin Deko etc are equally celebrated in the photographs that adorn these pages.

Awo’s trial and imprisonment lend to the book an elegiac tone, especially the sight of the great man in a Black Maria. It took the then Lt-Col Yakubu Gowon to release Awo from prison and appoint him into the federal cabinet to man the finance portfolio and serve as the vice-chairman of the executive council.

However, Biafran leader Ojukwu claimed he ordered Awo’s release! Awo’s electoral campaigns are showcased in their innovativeness, particularly the use of the helicopter, starting from the 1959 elections to the 1979 and 1983 elections.
Awo and HID lived the quintessential family life as attested to by this book.
How the indomitable HID effectively held the forte after Awo’s death is a testament to the will of this lionized woman.

All political leaders in the country are shown always consulting HID, remarkably MKO Abiola and General Ibrahim Babangida.

In documenting the times of the legendary Awo and his esteemed wife HID in Two of a Kind, Yomi Mamora has done justice to a good cause. Political couples of today have a lot to learn from the legacy of Pa Awo and HID.

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