Awo Memorial Lecture: Youths, not politicians, must restructure Nigeria —Prof Banji Akintoye
NIGERIAN youths have been charged to see the needful restructuring of the country as solely their responsibility which must not be left in the hands of politicians.
The call was made on Monday by renowned retired university lecturer, Professor Banji Akintoye, at the 2017 Obafemi Awolowo Memorial Lecture, held at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA), Victoria Island, Lagos.
Professor Akintoye spoke on the topic, “The Awolowo Legacy and its Message to Nigerian Youths,” at the lecture organised by the Obafemi Awolowo Foundation.
The guest lecturer classified youths as those within the age bracket of 18 to 40 and these, he said, constituted about 55 per cent of the nation’s population.
He challenged them not to allow the struggle for the full restructuring of Nigeria to be championed by politicians.
“Do not leave the struggle for the restructuring of Nigeria to politicians. They are playing with your future,” he said.
Professor Akintoye, who served as a senator in the Second Republic, identified a number of things he tagged “The Awolowo ways” which he said a youth who wishes to also leave an indelible mark in the sands of time must emulate and strive to achieve.
“Any youth who chooses to learn from Awo stands a chance to live a life that influences others, enriches and builds for themselves respectable images all over the world.
“Though things are tough in Nigeria today, things will eventually work for those who are given to learning and who continuously strive to learn new ideas. This is the Awolowo way.
“Papa Awolowo relentlessly put himself in search of knowledge, therefore, anyone of you can also start from somewhere in search of knowledge,” he said.
Challenging youths to draw lessons from the life of the sage, Professor Akintoye reminded everyone that at 37, Chief Awolowo had stepped into greatness by forming the Egbe Omo Oduduwa, a feat he said was followed by the publication of his first book which was channelled towards Nigeria’s greatness two years later.
“This is a reminder that we can achieve anything we set our minds on. This is a message to our youths in these terrible times and history of our country,” he noted.
Professor Akintoye also said except room is given for proper recognition given to individual ethnic nations, in line with the dreams of Chief Awolowo, Nigeria is heading for disintegration.
The retired university lecturer, who has an enviable record of being one of the few disciples of the sage, among other things, spoke of Awo’s dream and vision of a Nigeria where room would be given for each region to develop, with the South-West region leading in all areas of development.
According to him, if Chief Awolowo could look back at the state of the nation, he would not be happy, especially when considering his dream of a Nigeria where the rights of any tribe, irrespective of population, or location, would be respected.This, he said, could be hinged on the gross neglect of individual ethnic rights under the guise of building a central government system.
“Over-concentration of power in the Federal Government is the root of all evils threatening Nigeria. Except room is given for proper restructuring of Nigeria where no single tribe’s rights is subsumed by another, Nigeria is heading for disintegration. If you deny any nation such as the Igbo or Yoruba nation or others of their nationality, then we are piling up more problems for the future,” he said.
The professor took time to, once again, call attention to the unprecedented feats of Chief Awolowo as Premier of the Western Region in singling out the free education system that became one of the hallmarks of his government.
“There are thousands of Yoruba professors scattered in different universities in the United States and other parts of the world. Majority of these are products of the free education programme initiated by Awolowo.
“Awo remains alive because his legacies continue to impart the lives of Nigerians,” he further noted.
Awo was not for Yoruba alone, but for the entire Nigerian nation —Gowon
Former head of state in whose government Chief Awolowo served as Minister of Finance, General Yakubu Gowon, said he (Awolowo) was loved, not just by the Yoruba nation, but others as well.
“ Awolowo was not for Yoruba nation only, but for the entire Nigerian nation. We respect him a lot,” he said.
Gowon, who was the chairman on the occasion, noted that Awo never did, nor accepted anything by half measure, saying his life would forever remain a reservoir of knowledge for all Nigerians, especially the youth.
“The youth need at this time to benefit from the wisdom of the sage. Awo worked with me at a difficult time in the life of this country, but throughout this time, he kept sharing ideas for the development and survival of Nigeria. Together, we succeeded in keeping Nigeria one without borrowing a kobo,” he stated.
He also highlighted some of the attributes of Chief Awolowo as including loyalty, perseverance, focus, hard work and sacrifice.
Awo would be disappointed in what Nigeria had become —Anyaoku
Chairman, Selection Committee, Obafemi Awolowo Prize for Leadership, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, said were Chief Awolowo and other Nigeria’s founding fathers to be alive today, they would be full of lamentation and disappointment for the state the country had found itself, having no viable federating unit as it was at Independence.
“I have often wondered how Nigeria’s founding fathers — Nnamdi Azikiwe, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Ahmadu Bello — would feel today if they were to rise up to see Nigeria as it is today,” Anyaoku said, adding that he had no doubt that lamentation and deep disappointment would feel their minds, especially Chief Awolowo, who championed the cause of true federalism and as premier, brought about very effective rule in the old Western Region.
According to him, Chief Awolowo would be disappointed that, instead of having a few viable federating units in which effective human and economic development could thrive under a peaceful atmosphere, the country now had non-viable federating units with an all-powerful centre.
He said such a situation had allowed, among other things, a do-or-die politics, which, in turn, had exacerbated the ethnic and religious divisions in the country.
On why there was no awardee for this year’s programme, Anyaoku, a former Secretary- General of the Commonwealth, said regrettably, his committee could not find any candidate who measured up to the qualities Awolowo represented among the names forwarded by the technical committee.
According to him, none of the names forwarded met the attributes for which Chief Awolowo stood for and none also met the characteristics.
“It will be recalled here that the two recipients of the award so far, Professor Wole Soyinka and former South African president, Thabo Mbeki, were widely acknowledged as having demonstrated in their careers, the attributes that characterised Chief Awolowo’s political career, namely great integrity, impeccable patriotism, impressive capacity, consistency and pro-people attitude in personal capacity and public service at personal cost to his life,” he said.
We must put into practice what Awo demonstrated —Ambode
Lagos State governor, Mr Akinwunmi Ambode, who was represented by his deputy, Dr Idiat Adebule, said the gathering was an opportunity for both the new and old leaders to meet minds, adding that there was the need to exemplify Awolowo’s characters, not by the relationship one had with him, but putting into practice what the elder statesman stood for and demonstrated.
The governor described Chief Awolowo as a foremost politician, an administrator, a prudent manager of resources, among others, adding that the gathering to celebrate his life was an opportunity to remind the people, both the old and new generation, on what true leadership was all about.
Awo’s strides in education, industry worth emulating —Amosun
Ogun State governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, lauded Chief Awolowo, saying his strides in education, industry, among others, were commendable and worthy of emulation.
Amosun, who was represented by his Chief of Staff, Mr Tolu Odebiyi, noted that the occasion was another opportunity to showcase the sage.
According to the governor, “Ogun State right now is a proud owner of two universities and currently the fastest growing industrially,” promising that the state would remain an enviable state.
Nigeria in real dilemma —Aregbesola
Osun State governor, Mr Rauf Aregbesola, wondered what statements Awolowo would have uttered on the state of the nation were he to be alive, adding that the truth was that the country was in real dilemma, even spiritually.
The governor, who acknowledged that he too was an advocate of restructuring, however, said restructuring was not the real challenge facing the country.
According to him, the real issue is the fact that Nigeria cared less about how its income was being distributed, adding that this inadequacy had been the basis of poverty in the country.
Aregbesola, who cited the cases of the whole of Europe that was redeveloped after being ravaged during war and Britain that suffered hunger for months with no food being allowed into the country, but still came out of the problem, said “until income is predicated on production in either good or service, we are going nowhere. Blaming leaders or followers, we are only chasing shadows. What cannot be measured cannot be managed.”
Crave for excessive materialism, Nigeria’s bane —Ooni
The Ooni of Ife, Oba Enitan Ogunwusi, described the sage as a beautiful spirit based on what he represented and fought for.
“We gather here today to remember a living legend. It is by virtue of the spirit that we are all here. We all have our spirits living with us. We are still celebrating a beautiful spirit 30 years after he has left,” he said.
The traditional ruler enjoined all to be mindful of what would be said about them after they must have died, adding that “it is not about wealth and estates that one left behind that he or she would be remembered for but the positive impact he or she would have made on the lives of people.
“They wouldn’t remember the estates. They are ephemeral. All those things will leave you when the separation comes. It is a food for thought. What would people say about you?”
We are committed to keeping Awo’s legacies —Awolowo Dosumu
In her welcome address, the Executive Director and founding member of the Obafemi Awolowo Foundation, Dr Tokunbo Awolowo Dosumu, again reiterated the commitment of the foundation to keeping the positive memories of the sage alive.
She said the choice of the lecture was in tune with Awo’s disposition towards the youth as the obvious leaders of the future.
According to her, guest speaker, Professor Akintoye, was an example of such disposition since he was one of the few living Nigerians that learned at the feet of the sage as a youth.
She expressed her appreciation and delight at the support the foundation had been enjoying from Nigerians since it was set up a few years ago.
Other dignitaries at the event were the Obi of Onitsha and Patron, Obafemi Awolowo Foundation, Igwe Nnaemeka Achebe; Afenifere chieftain, Chief Ayo Adebanjo; Executive Director, Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC), Mr Segun Awolowo; former World Court judge, Prince Bola Ajibola; national coordinator, Oodua People’s Congress (OPC), Chief Gani Adams; former secretary of the sage, Mr Odia Ofeinun; NADECO chieftain, General Alani Akinrinade; immediate past governor of Delta State, Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan; Chief and Chief (Mrs) Adekunle Ojora, Vice Chancellor, University of Medical Services, Professor Friday Okonofua; former chairman of board publications and former Editor, Daily Times, Chief Areoye Oyebola, among others.
Awo used every resource to benefit humanity —Cleric
Earlier in the day, a holy communion/thanksgiving service was held at the family chapel, Ikenne-Remo, Ogun State.
At the service, the Vicar of Our Saviour’s Anglican Church, Ikenne-Remo, Venerable Samuel Enike, said all the legacies of the sage would remain indelible in the nation’s history.
During his sermon at the service, entitled: “Living for Christ,” with text chosen from Colossians 2 verses 6-7, Venerable Enike noted that the free education policy initiated by Chief Awolowo had afforded countless Nigerians opportunity to be educated.
“Today, we are gathered to celebrate the life of a man who, in his own time, used every resource to benefit humanity. That is why I said that we all belong to the Awolowo family. If you are not biologically related, what about what we have all gained from his legacies?
“There are people who would have become carpenters or farmers using crude implements somewhere, but because of educational policy at that time, they were able to acquire quality education.
“Chief Awolowo left a legacy, he left footprints in the sands of time. What are you living for? Are you living to be remembered for good or bad?,” the cleric asked.
Chairman of the African Newspapers of Nigeria (ANN) Plc, Reverend (Mrs) Omotola Oyediran, in her vote of thanks on behalf of the Awolowo dynasty, said her father was used by God to serve Nigeria.
She was full of praises to God for his good works, which according to her, were being appreciated always.
“This is the day, the month and year the Lord has made. Today is very special because this is the day our patriarch was born 108 years ago. His life was full of service to mankind. His legacies are known all over the world,” she said.
Oyediran commended the Ogun State governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, for turning around the fortunes of the state.
In attendance were the governor’s wife, Mrs Olufunso Amosun; Professor A.B.O.O. Oyediran, the Alakene of Ikenne-Remo, Oba Adeyinka Onakade and wife, members of the Ijaw Women Leadership Forum and the Young Women Christian Association (YWCA) from Oyo State and Ikenne.