Dear Dr. Mrs Awolowo Dosumu,
I want to thank you very warmly for your presence and speech at the launch of my book, 'Obafemi Awolowo and the Making of Remo'. It was wonderful that you gave your time and energy to what might otherwise have been a predominantly academic event. You turned the launch into what seemed to me both good fun and a wonderful occasion to bring together Africanist academics and Nigerians, reminding all of us who work as scholars that the people we study and write about remain part of our lives: they in turn appreciate, but also critically examine and judge what we do.
I was very impressed by your measured and intelligent review of the book. Writing a biography - or, in this case, a part biography - is never an easy task, especially when one has not met the object of one's interest personally, and when, as in your father's case, there is such a large body of hagiographic literature that one almost loses sight of the man behind it. I am sure there were passages in the book that you would have presented differently, both as a daughter and as a political activist and observer in your own right. However, I was delighted that you nevertheless felt that I had captured something of your father's character.
It is one of my hopes that my book will encourage others to look at the man Awolowo - rather than the myth - more closely in other regards, and that eventually someone will write a political biography in the traditional sense, which will accord your father the respect and honour of a critical engagement with all aspects of his public life and career. It is my firm belief that such an attempt would confirm him not only as a foundational leader of Yoruba (and Nigerian) politics, but also as one of the most important African leaders and intellectuals of his generation.
It seems to me that beyond the maintenance of the Awolowo name in Nigerian politics, the encouragement of serious intellectual engagement with your father's legacy is one of the ambitions of the Obafemi Awolowo Foundation. I find this both admirable and far-sighted: it seems that at present party politics themselves are a slippery and ultimately ephemeral territory, but history books and enduring biographies shape the world views of young (and not so young) minds, reminding us of the importance of Nigeria and Africa in the world, and encouraging the independence of thought and spirit which your father personified. I wish you all the best for the future endeavours of the Foundation and would be delighted if you felt I could be of assistance to the Foundation in any way.
On a more personal level, I was also very touched by the warmth and love for your father that emanated from your speech. I realise now that by focusing my view on your father's personal life primarily on his marriage, I have not fully captured his ability to inspire political and personal loyalty among his children and, by extension, in the younger generation. While this is clearly a subject that would have taken me far beyond Remo, I note it also as a weakness of my book, and one that will hopefully be addressed over time either by myself or other scholars. But beyond such intellectual concerns, I also felt inspired by your commitment to your father because I myself am very much 'my father's daughter'. If my father is anything to go by, I think your father would have been incredibly proud of you on Tuesday night. You were a model of daughterly fidelity, and very much an example to all of us present.
With best wishes, and in the hope that you call on me whenever you see fit,
Dr Insa Nolte
Centre of West African Studies
University of Birmingham
Edgbaston, Birmingham B15 2TT