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The world at her feet!


Tokunbo Awolowo-Dosunmu

The celebration of Dr. Tokunbo Dosumu’s birthday at 70 was a memorable one in terms of the mammoth crowd of the high and the lowly at the church and later at the reception, and in terms of panache, and I dare say disbelief.

The crowd of the prime movers in our society was in character and indeed, predictable they would honour an icon even on a working day.

The panache is an eloquent testimony to the celebrant’s quality consciousness and finesse, her unrelenting quest for very high standards even if undergirded by her proverbial drive for simplicity, proving for the umpteen time that in simplicity lies true greatness. Disbelief: You don’t see a 70-year old lady in her, but a 55 or 56 or something in that bracket. She looks so young you want to bet she couldn’t be 70 years.

The celebration began on Saturday with a harvest of awards, first as the Asiwaju Onigbagbo Obinrin of Ogun State. The bestowal was by the state chapter of the Christian Association on Nigeria (CAN). On Monday she was installed YeyeOba Liyangu of Remo Kingdom by the new and urbane Akarigbo, Oba Babatunde Ajayi.

On Tuesday, she was made Iya Ewe of Our Saviour’s Anglican Church, Ikenne. Procedurally, it was preceded by Worship in Thanksgiving. Three guest choirs came from Lagos, featuring Emeka Nwokedi’s Lagos City Chorale.

There can be no greater and ringing testimonial issued to Mrs. Awolowo-Dosumu than the compendium of tributes paid to this unique, indeed, wonderful lady. She was kind to give me a copy of the tasteful publication.

The tonal value of the photographs is high, the print is sharp and the binding despite the volume is superb, so is the trimming. The proof reading is excellent, manifesting Tokunbo’s painstakingness for accuracy and the attitude of never wanting to cause offence through any act of carelessness and sloppiness.

I had planned to run my tribute unknown to me there was going to be such a rich Book of Tributes. After I read through the publication of 256 pages, I changed my mind. I thought I should give way to allowing all have a glimpse of what the world thinks of her. Just a glimpse. The thread that runs through the tributes strikingly places emphasis on her humility, simplicity, polish, depth of her thoughts, competence, hard work, and dedication to propriety and self-respect.

The publication is an excursion into history, battles of life, sense of public service and parenting and love by a political icon constantly menaced by time and travails.

From prison her father, Chief Awolowo, wrote her a moving birthday felicitation when she was 16 in 1964 and I quote in part:

My Darling Olatoks,

Iku gbagbe re, arun gbagbe re. Since you will not blame me, I will blame myself for forgetting to write to congratulate you on your 16th Birthday Anniversary. The Yoruba saying above is my only excuse for this pardonable lapse. By the way, are you a good Yoruba scholar? If so can you translate the above Yoruba saying into English? I cannot.

Now, Toks, I send you my heartiest felicitations, on the occasion of your 16th Birthday Anniversary and I wish you, from the bottom of my heart, many successful, prosperous and happy returns of 20th February.

On this occasion, I want to assure you of how very proud of you I feel. At 16, you have already left your School Certificate Exam behind you, and already working for the HSC or GCE ‘A’ Level. At you age, you are well-mannered and deeply conscious of moral and spiritual values. Indeed I am proud of you, because you have made the very best of the opportunity which God has given your mother and me to provide for you. I have no doubt that in the years that lie ahead; you will improve upon your past brilliant performances….. I hope you are working very hard for the concessional Exams as well as for your other exams. I wish you the best of luck…By the way, when are we to expect the results of the last WASC Exams.?
I remain,
Your Ever Devoted Father,
Obafemi Awolowo.

Protocol demands that I start with General Yakubu Gowon.

Dr. Gowon writes: “Not every great man or woman in history can be said to be fortunate to have had offspring that continue to proudly hold aloft the flag passed down to them across generations. The late Jeremiah Obafemi Awolowo certainly would be counted as one of the fortunate ones.

“In three scores and ten years, Dr. Olatokunbo, you have demonstrably proved that the girl child is truly an agent of transformation. Not only have you continued to push the Awolowo name across various frontiers all over the world, you have proved yourself to be a thoroughbred professional in your chosen career.

“Your work as the arrow head of the Obafemi Awolowo Foundation is highly commendable. You have ensured that the legacies of the elder statesman remain evergreen. What more can a father wish for?”

Olusegun Obasanjo: “You are one of the very few of whom it can be truly said that her life brought blessing to her generation. Your contributions have ensured for you a place of honour in the roll of outstanding diplomats of our generation. Your stint as Nigeria’s Ambassador lends credence to your commitment to national and international development. It must go on record that the good work you did in The Netherlands was a fitting complement to my Administration’s painstaking efforts to remake the international profile of our dear country.

Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi: “We celebrate your courage of keeping the legacy intact. We are proud of you for being a great Ambassador of the House of Oduduwa. You are a woman of substance of quintessential leader full of energy and endowed with wisdom and intelligence….”

Obi of Onitsha, Nnaemeka Alfred Ugochukwu Achebe: “I recall our first meeting in 2002, when you were Nigeria’s ambassador to The Netherlands and I was senior adviser in the corporate Division of the Royal Dutch/ Shell Group in London. Your calm, focused, and thoroughly organised nature was very transparent as we meticulously planned and successfully executed the visit programme of H. E. President Olusegun Obasanjo to the Netherlands. Your visionary leadership roles in these and other organisations have been most invaluable in addressing the many schisms that afflict our nation today. For me, it has been a distinct privilege and pleasure working closely with you again from 2013, when I became a patron of Obafemi Awolowo Foundation.”

Sultan of Sokoto Sa’ad Abubakar: “The attainment of seventy years is by itself a veritable cause for great joy, celebration and thanksgiving to God Almighty, especially when most of these glorious years were fervently spent on selfless service to humanity and socio-economic development of our nation. Your efforts and struggle to keep alive the legacy of your late father and to realise the great mission and vision of the founding fathers of our great country are worthy of mention and deserve our encouragement and prayers.”

Emeka Anyaoku: “As chairman of the Select Committee for the award, I have never ceased to be hugely impressed by the dedication and meticulous management of the Foundation’s affairs by Ambassador Awolowo Dosumu. Besides she has time and again demonstrated in our discussions at the meetings of the committee a deep commitment to the unity and progress of our country.”

Commendations came from almost all spheres of human endeavour—predictably from Chief Awolowo’s associates such as Chief Ayo Adebanjo, Prof. Banji Akintoye, Chief Femi Okunrounmu, children of associates who themselves have become friends among them Supo Shonibare, Miss Rewane and Akin Osuntokun; from Judge Bola Ajibola, Governor Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun State, diplomats, notably Walter Carrington, business community featuring Oba Otudeko, from the academia—Professor Akinkugbe, Prof. Mabogunje, Prof. Akin Osibogun, Prof. Nuhu Yaqup to mention only a few in the galaxy of academic stars, and indeed from Emeritus Professor Ogunlesi who said: “Do not forget what I had said to you earlier about the mantle of Elijah falling on Elisha.”

Some others from the academia include Prof. Chris Bode of LUTH; Prof. Friday E. Okonofua, vice-chancellor of University of Medical Sciences, Ondo, Prof. Ayo Olukotun, Prof. Wale Adebanwi of University of Oxford. From the media: Prof. Olatunji Dare, Dr. Dokpesi and Akogun Tola Adeniyi, Dr. Segun Olatunji and Prince Emeka Obasi, all of whom saw in Tokunbo Awolowo Dosumu all the attributes of Chief Awolowo. Oba Otudeko said as much, that she was particularly close to “Papa Obafemi Awolowo who was her role model….she is simple, courteous, studious, and noble, exhibiting rare humility in her dealings and relationships….she grew up a master of her unique pedigree…She learnt the hard way that things may not always seem as they appear.”

Her classmates reveal that despite the fact that her father was Premier of Western Region she walked to and from school with them, a point esteemed Federal Permsec of yore, Ahmed Joda, alluded to in his tribute. Said he: “As a small girl, the daughter of a pioneer leader of independent Nigeria, you went, almost incognito, to a public school that was for the education of the ordinary community of the time. You grew up to know your society well and to devoting your life to their happiness and wellbeing.

You grew up beside your parents in a home which had become the home of everyone, in an environment which allowed no privacy. One of the most remarkable, among many achievements of your late parents, was their ability to bring up normal and humble children for the service of humanity.”

Former Ogun State Governor Gbenga Daniel attests to this when he said of her: “Dr. Olatokunbo Awolowo Dosumu represents an epitome of the best in womanhood, exhibiting great traits of a quintessential ‘Omoluabi’ in Yoruba diction. Highly cerebral and greatly intelligent, with a very strong sense of history, she exhibits a high level of discipline and a good sense of justice. One can say without any doubt that she is a true daughter of the late sage, who also combines the dexterity and staying power of the late YeyeOba and Yeye Oodua, Mama HID Awolowo.”

Tokunbo Awolowo Dosumu went to UMC Primary School Ibadan and St. Anne’s with ophthalmologist, Professor Ositelu.

As was to be expected , Prof. Soyinka’s tribute, what he rarely does even in his own words, “My message therefore cannot be one of blissful commemoration but of entreaty, even imposition, urged on by a deep sense of the honour I have received from the Foundation named after your illustrious father and national Sage—the first recipient of that distinction established in his memory.

I remain conscious of that enviable accolade. Hitherto, I have looked on you as one whose work was cut and dried: you have a legacy to protect and conserve, nothing more arduous. That was then.

Today, I must now go further and say to you: you have a legacy to PROJECT! To some extent, you have demonstrated and even structured this mission. Alas, I must urge on you an even higher level of awareness and conscious undertaking.”

What a great day for an epitome of decency. The privilege of her birth is a blessing as well as a burden, so says Kayode Samuel. So say all of us: Hurrah!

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