Wednesday, 9 May 2018

Obafemi Awolowo: 31 Years Ago Today!

I remember exactly where I was when I heard of the death of Chief Obafemi Awolowo on May 9, 1987. I heard the news over Radio O-Y-O. There was no other news from the radio station broadcasting from Ile Akede, Orita Bashorun, Ibadan that day, and the following day and the following day. It was all about Awolowo. It was a day most people of my generation would never forget.

Do you remember where you were when you heard the news of his death?

One particular song that dominated the airwaves that week was Awo Mimo. It was composed for Awolowo during his travails in the 1960s by the legendary thespian and the doyen of Nigerian theatre, Hubert Ogunde. It became an Obafemi Awolowo anthem of sort.

To mark the 31st anniversary of the death of the visionary leader, Onigegewura presents to you his humble effort at translating a great work composed by a great man in honour of another great man.

May their souls continue to rest in peace.


When the day dawns
The sun moves its residence to the sky
Darkness retreats into the heaven
Orungbe[1] comes to our aid to destroy the homes of our foes
Rolling on and on to demolish the households of our enemies.

Descendants of Alara wake up to call on to their High Priest in Ile Ara
Offspring of Ajero  call on their Chief Priest in Ile Ijero
Who shall I call upon if not to my High Priest?

Hummnnnnnn Hummmmmnnn  A-W-O-L-O-W-O!

You are the first person I woke up to see today
Fortune is bound to smile on me
You are the Priest of Riches, the Oracle of Fertility
Ours is the cult of good of good health
Awolowo is Ajagunmale![2]

Chorus: Yeeee! Heee! Circle of Holiness! Ye! Heee! Awolowo!

There is no deity like Ogun[3] in the smithy
Is there any divinity like Oya[4] in the sea?
Certainly, there is no deity like you, Awolowo in the whole of Yorubaland
Of this we are certain

The progress of Yoruba race
The renaissance that befits the children of Oduduwa

For us to be prosperous, for employment to be bountiful
For us to continue to grow in multiples without reducing
These are your tasks, these are your assignments, O Ajagunmale!
You are our High Priest

Holiness! Holiness!! Holiness!
Ours is a Circle of Holiness
White and spotless is our own Circle
Light is the overcomer of darkness
Heeee! Ajagunmale!
You are our High Priest!

O B A F E M I!
A W O L O W O!
You are the tiger that stealthily enters the market place
The scion of Odogbo Alasa
Descendant of one whose clothes are as plentiful as eké seeds
Offspring of the fleet owner who grows money in his forecourt
And grows costly beads in his backyard,
Whose middle of compound flows with wealth like the ocean

O B A F E M I!
A W O L O W O!
Iba wasi, the Leader in the town, the Lord of the Village
The Leader that is bound to make good his investment
The Leader who chased masquerade to the home of Remo
Heeee! Ajagunmale!

You are our High Priest!

Fortune of riches, Fortune of fertility - Heeeee!
Fortune of not dying young, fortune of being well - Heeeee!
Good health shall be ours -    Heeeee!
Hunters shall not hunt in vain  -   Yeee Yee! Hunters indeed shall not hunt in vain
Merchants shall make profit – Yee Yee! Merchants shall indeed make profit
Yams will grow to maturity, grains will grow in abundance – Hennn Henn
The barren will become mothers
Vulture does not die young
It’s decreed! we shall all grow old and become aged, it’s decreed!

Everything is in your hands, they are all in your hands
Ajagunmale! You are our High Priest

Holiness! Holiness! Hooo! Heeeee Heeeeeeeeee
Our circle is holy! Holy is our circle
Ours is the society of the spotless
Light is the overcomer of darkness
Yeeeh  heeee
You are our High Priest!

Drum, flute and trumpet continue….


PS: This is  a modest attempt at translating a very ambitious creative work delivered in the deepest of Yoruba language by the High Priest of Nigerian Theatre.

I can only imagine what Professors Wole Soyinka and Olu Obafemi must have gone through in translating Fagunwa’s works. Atari Ajanaku koja ohun ti a n fi pamo si apo aya [the head of elephant is beyond something you hide in your breast pocket].

I even wanted to abandon it at a point.  But Onigegewura is Ikoyi Esho on his mother side.  And you know that Ikoyi Esho will never abandon any task, even if it’s war. I have written what I have written (as the Arab would say). If you think a phrase or word could be better translated, please let me know.


[1] Orungbe is the god celebrated in Ile-Ife following the celebration of Olojo Festival (Ogun) and Edi (Moremi)
[2] Ajagunmale is the god of creativity. According to the Aare Onakakanfo of Yorubaland, Aare Gani Adams, Ajagunmale is the most recognized singer in heaven. He is the Chief Priest of Ifa in heaven. His responsibility is to sing the praise of the Creator of heaven and earth. Here, Hubert Ogunde celebrated Awolowo for his vision, creativity, dedication and diligence.
[3] Ogun is the god of Iron and Steel
[4] Oya is the goddess of River Niger


  1. God bless you Onigegewura. This is impressive

  2. Thank you. Awo for ever, He's the president we never had

  3. Baba mi!!! Another beautiful one.

  4. I was in Primary school then, and I remember the song...
    "Biribiribiri ojo suu
    Werewerewere ojo rooo
    E wa w'Obaafeemi looju oorun
    Awooo ti looo"

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. Excellent work sir. I was just 7yr old as at that time. But I remember the life broadcast of his burial. My dad still has the "phono plate" at home.

  7. I must have been looking at everyone from the heavens and wondering...

  8. Sir, God Bless you for good works. more grease to your elbow

  9. Thank you for bringing up this great history. I just finished my A level then. Thanks for the great work. Very nice to have those old feelings again.

  10. Can't forget, I was at independence hall at UI. A lot my colleagues headed straight for his house and the office of the Tribune. The walk was long that it oyo state police command to organize trucks to bring the tired students back to school. Chief Awolowo occupies a place in the history of the yorubas that I wonder whether any other omo karo o jire will ever get to. His foresight, insight and far sightedness remains unapproachable!

  11. May his soul continue to rest in peace. One can only hope a detailed effort at documenting some of his legacies will be taken to preserve his historical role in our nation building. Especially his activities during the IBB era and roles played by some of his lieutenants in his last moments.

  12. wow nice one sir

  13. Wao,thanks for bringing this sir, good memories. I was in primary 5 when Awo died and I remember saying to my mum that I thought people like Awolowo can never die and she smiled and said everybody no matter who you are will die.

  14. Wao,thanks for bringing this sir, good memories. I was in primary 5 when Awo died and I remember saying to my mum that I thought people like Awolowo can never die and she smiled and said everybody no matter who you are will die.