Shell Energy Entrepreneurs banner Yudala banner
Throwback: The Day Awo The Colossus died, and 30 years after, By Folu Olamiti

By News Express on 14/06/2017

Share on facebook Yahoo mail icon Gmail icon Share on Google+

Views: 856

•Late sage Obafemi Awolowo (Awo)
•Late sage Obafemi Awolowo (Awo)

​Saturday, May 9, 1987.The day broke, like any other day on. There was no premonition of anything earth-shaking. No foreboding. All seemed at peace. As Editor of Sunday Tribune, I had kept vigil, the previous night, in the office putting finishing touches to a bumper package for that week’s edition. In the wee hours, nature came calling and I went home to catch some sleep. Just for a few hours.

At about 10a.m., I remember vividly now, I sauntered out of bed and started preparing for work. I had to get to the office before noon. Normal routine. Still, there was no fearful apprehension. However, I got curious about the cloudy weather as I peeped out of the window. Yet, I muttered involuntarily: "What a cool day." Unknown to me, the ‘cool weather’ was an ominous sign of an impending tragedy; one that would reverberate throughout the length and breadth of our great nation; Nigeria. It was the day, Pa Obafemi Jeremiah Awolowo, went the way of all flesh. Erin wo. The mighty iroko fell that day.

I got to the office, excited about the bumper edition we wanted to bombard our loyal readers with. With a deep sense of satisfaction, I leafed through the first edition of the paper that would be circulated in the Northern and Eastern parts of the country. At 2p.m., I summoned my crew, made up of crack reporters, writers and erudite scholars, for our usual review of the first edition. The essence of that was to see what to add or subtract for the second edition usually circulate in the South West and mid-western states.

Among my team members were: Ayo Akinyemi, my Assistant Editor; Yinka Adelani, Gboyega Oguntuwase, Lanre Ogundipe and Kanmi Adegbite. We also had three erudite scholars on part time, including: Segun Olatunji, Wale Adebanwi and Adeolu Akande. We bonded strongly, and were so committed to the job that Nigeria Audit Bureau of Circulation adjudged our paper, Sunday Tribune, as the second best-selling newspaper after Daily Times. This was in the glorious days of Daily Times. This rating was a tonic for us to work harder.  After review of the first edition we celebrated that we had done a good job. 

The major reason for our celebration was that our big boss, Mr.Felix Adenaike, a.k.a General Officer Commanding (GOC), who would have made a last vetting of the package, was in far away Argentina, attending that year’s edition of the annual International Press Institute (IPI) conference with his bosom friend, the late Mr.Peter Ajayi.

Please, permit me to digress a little. A week before, I had travelled to Warri, in present day Delta State, as head of the Tribune’s team covering the coronation of Ogiame Atuwatse II as the 19th Olu of Warri. Papa Obafemi Awolowo and his jewel, Mama Hannah, were at the occasion. Papa sighted me first, and he asked one of his security men to bring me to where he was. Papa was a stickler for detailed and accurate reportage of events, especially the one he attended. A quintessential journalist that he was, he gave me some useful tips on what he had observed before and during the event. His intervention indeed enriched the reportage in the SundayTribune the next day. 

In any case, such briefing from Papa Awo wasn’t new to me. I had discovered the treasure trove of news in him when I was assigned to cover his activities, especially his electioneering campaigns in 1979 and 1983 respectively. That was when I cultivated the habit of staying close to Papa’s seat at events for his usual on the spur-of-the-moment ‘briefing’.

But the Awo I saw at the coronation of Ogiame Atuwatse II was a shadow of the Papa that we had all grown to know at TribunePapa was not his usual ebullient self on that day. He looked frail and tired His eyes were heavy, and had bags. He dozed off and on. Given how Papa Awo had flogged his body during those years that he traversed the nooks and crannies of this country campaigning, canvassing votes, struggling to bring better life to the people(his major pre-occupation since 1952), it wasn’t totally surprising to find the 78-year-old weak and frail. In fact, you wouldn't blame him for taking a nap to refresh his aging body. That day, Papa Awo managed to give me a total of 12 minutes briefing. 

The occasion itself didn’t last more than two and half hours. At a stage, Papa looked at his watch and told Mama: “We can make it to Ikenne today.” Mama nodded in affirmation. Photographers captured that moment and it became so symbolic and very conspicuous on newspapers’ front pages after Papa’s exit. The picture of him looking at his watch in Warri became a perfect depiction of a premonition that his time was up on Mother Earth.

The weather in Warri that day suddenly became inclement, and the heavens began to pour. It rained cats and dogs. Still, Papa and Mama left. Mama would later tell me in an interview that Papa slept all through to Ikenne.

Back to the D-Day, Saturday, May 9, 1987. After our editorial meeting, it became imperative for us to upgrade the package to accommodate breaking news. We began the process in earnest, aiming to close the pages to enable us get some rest or revel at some rendezvous. Unknown to us, the biggest story in Nigeria and the rest of the world had broken silently at Ikenne, that morning. Till date, I still marvel at how the family managed to keep some of us, editors, in the dark. The news had filtered to some editors in Lagos. Meanwhile, I had dismissed my editorial team little after 9 p.m. after watching NTA’s network news and no breaking news had surfaced. Indeed, I had gone to my office to pack my things ready to go home Since no breaking news  came after the news. I had no choice but to swing into action with my production crew. 

While I was packing my bags, Banji Kuroloja, my colleague and elder brother who was the Editor of Nigerian Tribune walked in. At first I did not look up. When I eventually did, I saw a man with red eyes, apparently deep in mourning. I thought maybe he had lost one of his relations. We hailed from the same town, Idanre, in Ondo State. So, I asked in our dialect: "Are you OK?” He crashed into my visitor’s chair and held his head as he intoned: "Papa Awo is gone”.  “Gone where?" I asked. He looked up, and burst into tears and said: "Papa Awo is dead!"  "Is that a joke?" I asked again. "Nooo…!" he fired back with his voice quivering: "Go outside and see the ambulance that took the body of Papa to the University of Ibadan Pathology Department for embalmment. 

At that point, my heart popped and I went blank for about five minutes. Kuroloja then asked me to order our machinists to stop work. We looked at each other, holding my hands at the back of my head, and both of us broke down. We wept like babies. Papa, to both of us, meant a lot in different ways. Apart from my closeness to Papa as his unofficial reporter,Kuroloja briefly worked with Papa as his Private Secretary. Papa was humane, loving and deeply interested in our private affairs, especially our families. Very few employers have that virtue.

Like I said, at this stage, all my editorial crew had gone home. In our moment of grief, we forgot that we were duty bound to publish the obituary of the Founder of Tribune titles, and a political colossus of our time. We swung into action but I must confess, we missed the expert contribution of our Editor-in-Chief, Mr. Felix Adenaike. Had he been home, he would have heard the news ahead of us. Kuroloja and I decided to print our masthead in black, and covered the whole of the front page with Papa’s picture, with a banner headline: AWO IS DEAD

Hard as we tried, we did poorly that Sunday compared with other newspapers in Lagos,whose editors had earlier got wind of Awo's death. We, senior editors, quickly rallied round, wipe our tears momentarily to enable us come out with a special edition that afternoon. We served our readers what Papa told Mama to do at his transition. Mama had told us that Papa did not want people to mourn him but be happy anytime he passed. So, in that Sunday edition, we came out with Papa in white Agbada, and with broad smiles waving, we cast the headline: "DON'T MOURN ME — Awo". 

That set the tone for all activities that culminated in his interment on June 6, 1987. The activities were laced with superlative carnivals, the kinds never seen before in Nigeria, and which I think richly qualified to be listed in the Guinness Book of World Records. 

In life and in death, Papa Awo was great. 

Folu Olamiti (FNGE), Media Consultant, wrote from Abuja.

Source News Express

Posted 14/06/2017 5:47:41 PM


Share on facebook Yahoo mail icon Gmail icon Share on Google+



Let us build the most comprehensive online database of worthy and credible Nigerians from all walks of life. It is worth doing!

Loss Off Your Belly Fats, Upper Arm Fat and Body Fats In 2weeks Time.. Click HERE To Start Now!


You may also like...
Redeemed Church loses big as Cameroonian President shuts...

Anambra Guber: Biafrans will choose their candidate in...

HURIWA faults continued suspension of female lawmaker by...

Uncertainty over NYSC as Senate deletes scheme from...

Dangote blames unemployment for violent killings in Nigeria...

Benue youths protest massacre of kinsmen

First Lady: German hospital dashes Jonathan’s hopes

Abia has no GIS —Commissioner; explains ministry’s inability...

21 Police AIGs retired

Jega’s plot to rig 2015 elections exposed

Fidelity Bank lends a helping hand to students...

Sign of the times


Latest News Varsity lecturers propose solution to farmers-herdsmen clashes Refineries: FG to bar multinational oil firms from shipping out crude 4 notorious kidnappers in police net Obasanjo should be tried for corruption — Senator Adamu •Says he and IBB institutionalised corruption in Nigeria NAFDAC prosecutes Lagos businessman over alleged sale of unregistered products Lawyer, 2 others remanded in prison for N155m property fraud 2019 Imo Guber: Deputy Governor’s kinsmen reject Okorocha’s son-in-law Corruption in oil sector must stop — Buhari CBN lifts foreign exchange market with $210m Lagos RRS mobile camera exposes 4 suspects UBA contactless cards hit industry high of three million Bishop Okpaleke’s resignation not good for the Church, By Valentine Obienyem


Most Read Nigerian female sex addict opens up, says ‘I like it with both men and women’ (325,270 views) NUDE PHOTO OF OMOTOLA JALADE-EKEINDE surfaces online (316,733 views) Shameless Genevieve Nnaji exposes breasts in public (253,356 views) Finally named: The full list of friends of Nigerian female sex addict who prowled Facebook (207,959 views) Igbo scholar disgraces Femi Fani-Kayode •Demolishes claims on Igbo/Yoruba history with facts and figures (194,261 views) OLUMBA OLUMBA OBU (the one who called himself God) IS DEAD (186,941 views) Breaking News: POPULAR REVEREND CONVERTS TO ISLAM in Kaduna (Nigeria) (162,388 views) OBJ’s son reported dead in Lagos plane crash •Names of more victims emerge (145,726 views) THE FINAL DISGRACE: Igbo scholar unleashes more facts about Igbo/Yoruba history, finishes off Femi Fani-Kayode with second article (139,950 views) Lagos plane crash: Journalist releases victims’ names (128,942 views) My wasted years in Olumba Olumba Obu’s Evil Brotherhood (127,383 views) Gunmen kill ASP, 2 other police officers in vain bid to kidnap Rivers PDP chieftain (122,696 views)


Categories Advertorials (3) African Press Organisation (81) Art & Literature (34) Business (2,895) Business Verdict (33) Columnists (803) Complaints & Requests (94) Enterprise & Opportunities (203) Entertainment (446) Features (548) Global Business Monitor (225) International (1,797) Interviews (143) Live Commentary (28) Love Matters (104) News (32,948) Opinion (883) Pidgin (10) Politics (4,507) Religion (680) Sports (1,436) Stock Watch (27) AMA & Al Jazeera Global Update



Football president George Weah puts Liberian army to the test


APO Group Partner



Let us build the most comprehensive online database of worthy and credible Nigerians from all walks of life. It is worth doing!

Loss Off Your Belly Fats, Upper Arm Fat and Body Fats In 2weeks Time.. Click HERE To Start Now!

GOCOP Accredited Member

GOCOP Accredited member



Africa Media Agency and Al Jazeera