Resting places of some Nigeria’s independence heroes – The Punch

Adeyinka Adedipe, Daud Olatunji, Tony Okafor and Godwin Isenyo

Nigeria’s independence wasn’t achieved on a silver platter. Some nationalists gave their all to ensure the country’s freedom from its colonial masters. These individuals have long passed on and in celebration of the country’s 60 years of independence; our correspondents visited the tombs of some of them to celebrate their memorials and contributions to the country’s developments.=

Obafemi Awolowo

The late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, was a Nigerian nationalist and statesman that played a key role in Nigeria’s independence movement.

Awolowo also played critical roles during the first and second republics including the 30-month civil war.  He was Premier of the defunct Western Region.

He founded the Action Group in 1951 whose purpose was to aggregate the political interests of then Western Region.

In 1949, he founded The Nigerian Tribune, a privately owned newspaper with a goal to report on political issues, colonial rule and galvanise the move to attain independence. Awolowo played a major role in the struggle for self-governance.

The late Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s resting place otherwise known as Awo’s Mausoleum is located in Ikenne, Ogun State, where he lived before he died.

When our correspondent visited the place on Thursday, it was locked, indicating that no visitor could access it.

Speaking on how the family keeps the memory of the eminent Nigerian, one of his children, Dr Tokunbo Awolowo-Dosunmu, told Saturday PUNCH that they do through the Obafemi Awolowo Foundation.

She said, “There is the Obafemi Awolowo Foundation. That’s one way we do it. We keep The (Nigerian) Tribune going, which is the voice of the voiceless. We tried to reinvent the Tribune during our 70th anniversary. That way, we keep his pact with the Nigerian people alive. At the family level, we remember him and mama, every year on the anniversaries of the births and deaths. This year, COVID-19 made that difficult but we tried to do something anyway.

“In the church, we try to keep their memory going. In partisan politics, maybe not. For me, papa is now a universal ideal because his prescriptions for the progress of this country are even more relevant now than they ever were. Any political leader worth that name needs to take a look at Chief Awolowo’s prescriptions and methods and work towards them.”

According to her, they also keep the tomb immaculate. She stated, “We keep it properly maintained. Tourists always want to come and visit the place. During this COVID-19 period, the compound is closed.’’

Sarduana of Sokoto

On 15 January, 1966, the Premier of the defunct Northern Nigeria and Sardauna of Sokoto, Sir Ahmadu Bello, was assassinated in a coup led by Major Chukwuma Nzeogwu, which toppled the country’s post-independence government.

This was the first military coup which heralded the incursion of the military into the Nigerian politics. Also assassinated in the coup was Sardauna’s long-time friend, Sir Tafawa Balewa, the then Prime Minister alongside some politicians in the North and South-West.

Online sources noted that Hafsat, the senior wife to the late Premier died with her husband on that day. Sarduana had three surviving daughters and a wife, Amina, also known as Goggon Kano. Sardauna’s eldest daughter was Inno, followed by Aisha and Lubabatu.

The Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, is named after him and his image also adorns the N200 note.

Contrary to widely-held speculations that the late Premier’s remains were interned at the Arewa House, Kaduna,  Zaria or Sokoto, Saturday PUNCH gathered that they were buried at The Sultan House, Ungwar Sarki, Kaduna State.

It was learnt that to avert further crisis in Sokoto after Sardauna’s assassination, the then Sultan of Sokoto, Sir Abubakar lll (K.B.E, L.L.D, 1938-1988) advised that his remains should be buried at the Sultan House alongside with that of his wife, Hafsat.

Mallam Sai’d Sarkin Gida, who is in charge of the tomb, told one of our correspondents who visited the place that the late Premier was buried at Ungwan Sarki.

He said after the corpse was discovered at Arewa House, efforts were made to move the remains for burial in Sokoto, but the military stopped the plan to avert any crisis.

Gida said, “So, they insisted that he should be buried in Kaduna and the then Sultan of Sokoto, advised that he should be buried in Sultan house at Ungwan Sarki with his late wife,” he said.

Saturday PUNCH was unable to speak with any of Saudauna’s children as of the time of filing this report.

Chief Anthony Enahoro

The late Chief Anthony Enahoro was one of Nigeria’s foremost anti-colonial and pro-democracy activists. In 1953, he was said to have been the first to move the motion for Nigeria’s independence which was eventually granted in 1960 after several political setbacks and defeats in parliament.

Enahoro died on December 15, 2010 and remains one of the notable names in Nigerian politics.

During a visit to his hometown in Onewa in Uromi, Edo State, the villagers celebrated his contribution to Nigeria.

Though his well-tilled burial site at the old family house along Ubiaja Road is being maintained by the occupants of the house, more needs to be done to give the place a facelift as the iron perimeter is becoming rustic.

The son of one of the community leaders in Onewa, Joel Ayimere, described Enahoro as a man of the people held in high esteem by his community and Uromi as a whole. He stated, “He was respected by all.  After his death, no one has been able to replace him. He was like an idol to the people. That was what he was to us.”

Ayimere stated that the people of Onewa were annoyed due to the fact that the late sage had not been immortalised despite his contribution towards the emancipation of Nigerian from the colonial masters.

“As a matter of fact, the community is angry and worried that a man of his status has not been properly immortalised.

“Chief Enahoro was my uncle. He was a father to me and many others in the community. Whenever he visited the community, we were always ready to welcome him. In fact, nobody could get the kind of reception he got from our community and Uromi as a whole.”

Frank Akhere, who stays in the Enahoros family house, said he was not happy with the state of Enahoro’s burial site.

Akhere said, “Well, I can say that it is not in a condition one hopes it should be considering his status. But we are hopeful that something better will happen. The courtesy paid to late icons is not being giving to him in death.I will like his children to visit the site more and give it a facelift. To me, it is like an abandoned place for now but because we live here, we try to keep the place clean especially for visitors.

“Well, I think the man should be honoured. Up till this moment nothing huge has been done to immortalise him at the federal level.

“In Uromi, his home place, nothing has been named after him and in Edo State.It is only the House of Assembly at Ring Road in Benin City that is named after him. We have Ambrose Alli University named after a great son of the state, why can they do the same for the late Chief Anthony Enahoro?”

Efforts to speak with one of the children of the late Enahoro, Eugene, were unsuccessful as he didn’t pick calls to his mobile.

Nnamdi Azikiwe

Born in 1904, Nnamdi Azikiwe popularly known as Zik and the Owelle of Onitsha died in 1996. He was  born in Zungeru, Niger State.

He was a Nigerian statesman and political leader who served as the first President of Nigeria from 1963 to 1966. He is considered as one of the brains behind the country’s independence.

The Zik mausoleum in Anambra State is a multi-million edifice built by the Federal Government in honour of Azikiwe. When Saturday PUNCH visited the place on Thursday, the lawns around the building were overgrown with weeds while the two buildings that make up the mausoleum were locked.

A peep through the window showed rodents’ faeces on the mausoleum’s floor, while spiders spread their web at the edges and corners of edifice. The policemen who used to guard the complex were nowhere to be seen.

The mausoleum of the late statesman located at the Bromeo Junction on the outskirts of Onitsha, Anambra State, was inaugurated in January, 1999  by the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd).

The project, initiated in 1997 by the late General Sani Abacha military regime, passed through different administrations and was later abandoned. It was when the Buhari administration came into power in 2015 that it promised to complete the project to honour the great Zik of Africa as Azikiwe was also fondly called by his admirers.

The mausoleum, apart from serving as a resting place for Zik,  also has three conference halls, a library including an archive/museum. Inside the museum, there are Zik effigies depicting him as a boxer, footballer, an academic and a politician. But the mausoleum needs quality management.

A worker at the place who spoke to one of our correspondents on condition of anonymity said they were being owed 11 months salaries.

The worker said, “They said we’re under the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing, but they don’t pay us salaries. By the end of September, it will be 11 months that we have not received salaries.

“Nobody comes here for work. You can’t see anybody here from months. For me, I have decided to quit this job at the end of this year. I’m just wasting my time here.”

Asked how often Zik’s children visit the place, the worker said,” None of them is around.”

Speaking about Zik’s contributions to the Nigerian project, the National Chairman of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, Chief Victor Oye, said it was phenomenal.

He said, “Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe traversed Nigeria’s political landscape like a colossus. His contributions to the social, political and economic development of our nation can never be forgotten.

“It was his selflessness, urbaneness, acuity and sagacity that helped immeasurably to shape the history of Nigeria.

“Don’t forget how he returned from Pennsylvania, the United States, where he had a paying job, to join the independence struggle. He founded the Morning Post newspaper in the then Gold Coast (now Ghana) in 1934 and later in 1937, he moved  the paper to Lagos and rechristened it the West African Pilot, which triggered off a revolution of sorts in the burgeoning newspaper business in Nigeria at the time.”

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