Media report confirm that Late Chief Obafemi Awolowo – top Yoruba leader and politician committed suicide to escape court-martial into an insurrection he was allegedly involved in against Retired General Ibrahim Babangida (IBB), who was the military Head of State then.
Adebayo Adeyinka, a Yoruba grassroots politician revealed that Chief Awolowo wanted to lead some kind of guerilla warfare or militant campaign against the government of President Babangida so that he can be overthrown through a popular or people-led putsch.
Baba Awo, as he was fondly called, summoned a meeting of his core loyalists over the issue and this was even filmed so as to strengthen the extent of the commitment of the politicians in attendance.
The narrative that most Yoruba leaders know but shamefully or hypocritically shy away from states that Chief Lateef Kayode Jakande, former Executive Governor of Lagos State had a different plan as he betrayed Awo to the military.
Adeyinka said: “But unknown to them, Chief Jakande was planning to betray them, he went to President Ibrahim Babangida and promptly showed him the tape. Papa Awolowo was invited for a meeting with President Ibrahim Babangida who was then staying at Dodan Barracks which was the seat of power as at then and the truth of his clandestine meetings was revealed to him by the gap-toothed General. He gave Papa some options and that was for him to be ready to face a court-martial, be ready to go to prison or better still go on exile”.
Chief Awolowo investigated the matter before he committed suicide by asking all those privy to the plan to submit the videotape given to them. Chief Jakande could not present his own – his cover was blown and Papa Awo cursed him that he would be politically irrelevant eternally.
Chief Awo’s suicide choice was born out of his shameful refusal to go to prison the second time or face humiliation from the military.
Adeyinka vouched further: “I was there when the letter he (Jakande) wrote to the family to beg them for forgiveness over the unfortunate incident was read in the presence of all present. If he continues to deny I am ready to confront him publicly again on the same issue as I can even remember that elders asked him to go to the grave of the late sage to plead for forgiveness”.
Jakande was said to have lied that the National Security Organization (NSO) now State Security Services (SSS) had visited his house to check on him and in the process took the tape in question.
The “Awoists” knew that was a very weak argument as he did not inform their political group of this development before their enquiry on the subject.
He continued: “At this stage, Papa felt instead of allowing some ambitious khaki boy to mess him up he should just pack it in and call it a day, so Chief Awolowo decide to commit suicide so as to save himself from the ignominy of going to prison for the second time in his lifetime”.
Before he took the bold step of a warrior that would prefer death to disgrace, he prayed and poisoned himself. But the public was told that the late sage died while brushing his teeth in his bathroom.
The large vacuum left behind led to the emergence of Senator Abraham Adesanya as the leader of the Awolowo camp of Yoruba politics. Adesanya was not very close to Awo but favour courted him.
Another angle to the story is that the whole story was allegedly planned by IBB because he needed to eliminate Awolowo who was a major threat to his lifetime presidential ambition. IBB set the coup in motion with his cohorts and that Jakande was one of them.
Another Yoruba leader anonymously said IBB didn’t plan it but took advantage of the situation.
NewYork Times 1987 publication report the incident thus:
Chief Obafemi Awolowo, a founding father of Nigerian nationalism, died Saturday in his hometown of Ikenne in Ogun state. He was 78 years old.
Chief Awolowo, a lawyer, publisher and politician, served as Premier of the self-governing Western region from 1954 until Nigeria achieved full independence from Britain in 1960. He played a major role in the constitutional conferences in London and Lagos that paved the way for independence.
Chief Awolowo was opposition leader in the first post-independence Parliament and came to be regarded as leader of the Yoruba tribe. The Yorubas are one of the West African nation’s three major ethnic groups and live mainly in the south and west.
In 1979 and 1983, Chief Awolowo was the Unity Party’s presidential candidate, losing to the northern-based National Party of Shehu Shagari. When the Shagari Government was overthrown by a military coup Dec. 31, 1983, Chief Awolowo returned to private life”.