The news of the call to glory weekend of Hannah Idowu Dideolu Awolowo (née Adelana; November 25, 1915 – September 19, 2015), popularly known as HID and wife of Nigeria’s late political icon of note, Chief Obafemi Awolowo did not take time in sweeping across the nation and even beyond.
It was not by happenstance. Instead, we hold the development as due to the overwhelming influence her late husband had in the country’s polity which she carried on decades after Chief Awolowo’s death in 1987.
Born to a modest family in the then far flung Ikenne community of today’s Ogun state, she was married to Chief Awolowo on December 26, 1937; and remained the politician’s spouse not just till 1987 when Chief Awolowo died, but even beyond till her journey to the Lord’s bosom Saturday.
In a society where recurring incidents of betrayal of marital vows and insensitivity to the peculiar and special responsibilities of marriage as an institution places on parties high premuim; in an environment that records myriads of failing marriages simply because of the non-recognition of the values that guide the union till death do the parties to it part, HID did not just pass the test, but excelled in it till Saturday.
That her late husband delighted in calling her his “Jewel of Inestimable Value,” was no doubt, a pointer to her faithfulness to their marital vows, her unadulterated respect for the marriage institution and her exemplary life as a good mother, wife, sister, confidant and his best friend.
To fulfill her husband’s dream of becoming president in the Second Republic, she toured the length and breadth of the country with her husband campaigning. She also coordinated the women’s wing of the party and was always present at all party caucuses.
But the late HID was a woman of many parts. She was a successful businesswoman and astute politician. Alongside her husband, HID played an active role in the politics of the defunct Western Nigeria. She stood in for her husband in the alliance formed between the National Council for Nigeria and the Cameroons, NCNC and the Action Group, AG, called the United Progressive Grand Alliance, UPGA, while her husband faced trial in court; and was eventually jailed.
She was not weighed down by the obvious circumstance leading to the husband’s predicament in prison. Instead, as a firm believer in the ideas, ideals and ethos he fought and stood for, the late HID reportedly plotted a way out for late Chief Awolowo. It was simple but signposted the product of a politically sagacious person like herself to prosecute. She would contest the elections, and if she won, would step down for her husband in a by-election. Consequently HID set out to work.
A successful businesswoman, she became the first Nigerian distributor for the Nigerian Tobacco Company, NTC in 1957. She was the first to import lace materials and other textiles into Nigeria. On September 19, 2015, she died in her sleep at the age of 99 just over 2 months short of her 100th birthday.
The late HID would be remembered for those fine qualities that underscore the essential African woman. Nigerians would cherish these qualities in any woman for a long time. And that does not exclude us. Even as we mourn with the Awolowo family and all known and unknown associates of the late couple, what else can we say than: Rest in peace HID, Papa Awolowo’s Jewel of Inestimable Value.