If Olusegun Awolowo was alive, two days ago, he would be 80 years. He was born on January 20, 1939.
The preceding years before 1939 were very tempestuous for Chief Obafemi Awolowo – one of the greatest Yoruba leaders that ever lived. As a fledging but ethical businessman, the economic downturn of the 1930s almost crushed him.
Baba ‘Kene lost his investment. His house was auctioned. His prized car, a Chevrolet, was sold as part of the auction. Not only that, his clothes and other properties were also auctioned when his his marriage was less than two years old.
It was during this tumultuous period that Segun was born. Oluwasegun – Almighty God gives me victory – is therefore an affirmation of Awolowo’s abiding confidence and faith in God’s power to make him victorious. Olusegun! A child of promise!
Awolowo regarded the birth of Olusegun, two months before his own birthday, as the positive turning point. He picked his pen and wrote:
“After rain comes sunshine;
After darkness comes the glorious dawn;
There is no sorrow without its alloys of joy;
There is no joy without its admixture of sorrow;
Behind the ugly, terrible mask of fortune,
Lies the beautiful soothing countenance of Prosperity;
So, tear the mask!”
Segun was a son any parent would be proud of! He inherited Papa Awo’s brilliance. His mates and teachers at Agbeni Methodist School, Ibadan, where he was a pupil between 1943 and 1951 testified to his uncommon intelligence. At a relatively young age, he became the protector of his younger siblings.
In 1952, Segun became a student of Igbobi College, Lagos. He also distinguished himself academically and he passed his West African School Certificate Examination in Grade One.
Upon completion of his secondary education, Segun found himself at a junction. He had a career choice to make. Mama Hannah Idowu Dideolu (HID) Awolowo, Chief Awo’s wife wanted some of her children to take to business. Papa wanted some of them to read Law. But Papa Awo would never force his view on his children. Young Segun was allowed to decide on his career path. He chose Law.
In 1957, eighteen years old Segun left for London to study at the University of Cambridge. As a student, Segun lived life to the fullest. He was described as an all-round young man.
He was a ladies’ man who wasted no time with the girls which made his friends to give him a nickname “Quicky, Lucky, Lucky.”
On January 20, 1960, Segun came of age when he turned 21. As you already know, 21 was then the age of majority in the United Kingdom. Social Segun naturally threw a party to mark the special occasion.
The party which held at 15A Kensington Palace Gardens was attended by his friends and classmates at Cambridge. His sister, Tola Awolowo; Degbola Ademola and his sister, Nike Adegbola as well as Kayode Oyediran were some of the youngsters who attended the birthday party.
Following the successful completion of his Law Degree in Cambridge, he was called to the English Bar in 1962. It was a proud moment for his parents, particularly his father who had been called to the same Bar 16 years earlier when Segun was just 7 years old.
Immediately after his call to the Bar, Segun went to visit his best friend, Yomi Akintola (the son of Chief Ladoke Akintola) who was in Dublin at the time.
It was from Dublin that Segun went to the airport to come back to Nigeria in August 1962. Another source said he Segun came back to Nigeria in January 1963.
Despite his outward appearance as a playboy, Segun was an extremely serious young man. According to Wole Soyinka, the Segun who returned to Nigeria was a young man “with a clarified sense of mission, shedding the image of the young, pampered playboy.”
Earlier in 1962, the Sole Administrator for Western Region, Dr. Moses A. Majekodunmi, had set up a Commission of Enquiry into the affairs of some statutory corporations in the region.
The Commission was headed by Justice George Baptist Ayodola Coker, who later became a Justice of the Supreme Court in 1964.
As the premier during the period covered by the commission’s terms of reference, Awolowo was one of the key people summoned to appear before the Commission. It was at this period that Segun returned to Nigeria to assist his father with his appearance before the Commission. His father found in him a dependable companion who was quick to appreciate salient legal issues. A chip off the old block – a son to be proud of.
Segun’s first taste of criminal case was as one his father’s counsel in the treasonable felony case. Segun appeared alongside other famous lawyers who appeared for Chief Awolowo before Hon. Justice George S. Sowemimo.
People marvelled at the brilliance of the young man who was already his father’s rock at that tender age. One of the people who noticed the morning star was the Attorney General of the Federation, Dr. Taslim Elias. It was certain that Segun was going to be a brilliant advocate like his father.
That was until that fateful day – a black Wednesday in the month of July 1963! Papa Awolowo was in Broad Street Prison in Lagos. Mama HID was at the time in an apartment in Somolu, somewhere off Ikorodu Road. It was Mama’s temporary residence whilst she looked after her husband who was in detention.
Segun and Tola were living at their Oke-Bola residence in Ibadan. Tola was at the time working with Shell as a secretary to the regional manager.
Often, whenever Segun wanted to travel, he usually asked his sister to allow someone else to drive him. This was to allow him to read and review his case files. At such times, Tola would have to rely on her fiancé, Kayode, a young medical doctor, to drop and pick her from work.
Segun spent the evening of Tuesday, July 9 with some of his friends, including Kunle Olasope, at Osunmarina Restauarant, next door to Radio Nigeria Ibadan.
He left them early to go home as he was travelling to Lagos on Wednesday. At their Oke-Bola residence, Segun informed his sister that he would need someone to drive him to Lagos.
He had discussed with Mama earlier and they had both planned to visit Chief Awolowo at the Broad Street Prison on Wednesday. Mama was eager to see her husband and Segun also had some legal issues to discuss with his father as well as a court appearance in Ikeja.
On the same Wednesday morning, Kayode Oyediran, Tola Awolowo’s fiancé, was with a friend in Molete when he overheard some people lamenting that Awolowo’s son had been involved a serious accident on the road to Lagos
Kayoed told his friend that the people must be mistaken and that Segun was probably with Mama already in Lagos. Dare, his friend, wanted to share his optimism. He suggested that after dropping a mutual friend at University College Hospital (UCH) in Ibadan, they should drive to the supposed scene of the accident.
At the gate of UCH, he was shocked to see Tola and a relative. Someone had informed Tola that her brother had been taken to UCH after an accident. Tola was already overwhelmed with emotion.
Kayode was equally overwhelmed, but he put on a brave face. He told her that they had heard the rumour too but that Segun was not in UCH and that they were on their way to Adeoyo. They left her at UCH and proceeded to Adeoyo, praying and hoping that it would not be Segun that was involved.
At Adeoyo, Kayode was informed of the news he dreaded most. He was directed to the room where Segun’s lifeless body was being packed. Tears dripped down the face of the medical doctor. “Am I dreaming?” He whispered to Dare.
Dare himself was speechless. Not Segun! Not Segun Awolowo. They both willed the prone body to wake up and give them his boisterous laugh. The Segun that Kayode remembered was the vivacious Segun, the brilliant Segun, Segun the Advocate!
The first visitor Papa Awo had on that Wednesday morning was Abraham Adesanya. Adesanya had been sent with a bundle of document by Chief Anthony Enahoro’s leading counsel. The counsel wanted Awolowo to review the documents and return them to him the following morning.
Awolowo collected the documents. They were vital for Enahoro’s defence. Adesanya was still with him when S. T. Oredein and J. O. Lawson were ushered in. They wore a sombre look. Awolowo was not called the Leader for nothing. He was gifted with the ability to read body language. He immediately sensed that something was wrong.
Oredein moved close to the Leader. He knew he had to be tactical with how he broke the news. In a barely audible whisper he told Baba Segun that they had just heard in the news that Segun had an accident and that though the driver died on the spot, Segun survived and had been taken to Adeoyo Hospital where doctors were battling to save his life.
Awolowo intuitively knew the worst had happened. The bond between father and son is an eternal bond. “Driver died on the spot; and doctors are battling to save his life!” He mused aloud.
Awolowo stood up from his leaning posture, and in an emotion-laden voice, he exclaimed: “The boy has died!” His mind went to his wife. How would HID cope? And he was not there to provide emotional support for the grieving mother!
Itwas July 10, 1963. The Yoruba Nation lost a gem. He was barely 24 years.
Apart from not ruling Nigeria, this was one of Chief Awo’s greatest losses in life.
Pastor Funke Awolowo at hr father’s tomb.
Many theorised that if Segun were alive, he’d have filled his dad’s political shoes perfectly. Losing such a promising young man as early as that is a VERY BIG BLOW
Segun Awolowo left behind two children when he passed on: Pastor Funke Awolowo and Mr. Segun Awolowo, Jnr. May his soul rest in peace.
(source from onigegewurablogspot.com but edited)