Invoking the spirits of our founding fathers

I join in welcoming you all and in particular our lecturer Professor Banji Akintoye to this event.

As Chairman of the Selection Committee of the Obafemi Awolowo Leadership Award, I would like to add few comments to what the Executive Director of the Obafemi Awolowo Foundation, Dr Tokunbo Awolowo Dosumu has said about there being no award for this year.

The Selection Committee considered several names of distinguished personalities submitted to it by our intellectually endowed Technical Committee. I would like to thank the members of the Technical Committee for their diligence and painstaking efforts.

Regrettably, while some of the names they submitted could be said to have demonstrated some of the attributes for which Chief Obafemi Awolowo was known, the Selection Committee did not think that any of the candidates combined those attributes to a degree that if selected, would be universally acclaimed as truly approximating to what Chief Obafemi Awolowo represented in his life.

It may 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 Obafemi Awlowo’s political career namely, great integrity, impressive cerebral capacity, consistency in his convictions, and pro-people’s attitude in his personal philosophy and public service; and above all, impeccable patriotism and love of country without counting the cost of personal sacrifice in his pronouncements and activities.

I have often wondered how Nigeria’s founding fathers – Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Sir Ahmadu Bello, would feel if they were to rise from the dead and see Nigeria as it is today.

I have no doubt that lamentation and grievous disappointment would be their feeling, especially for Chief Obafemi Awolowo who championed the cause of true federalism, and as Premier effected the  impressive socio-economic development of the Western Region of Nigeria.

Chief Awolowo would be disappointed to find that instead of a few viable federating units in which effective human and economic development can be planned and pursued with security, better policed and maintained, we now have a plethora of non-viable federating units with an all-powerful central government competition for the control of which fuels “do-or-die” politics that exacerbates the ethnic and religious divisions within the country.

Indeed, he and his fellow founding fathers would find a country where impunity and disregard for court orders by government institutions obtains; a country where worthy societal values have virtually collapsed and been replaced by inter alia self-centred pursuit of money; and they would also find that the national unity which they pursued and professed, is now very greatly weakened by the prevailing nature of the politics and governance within the country.

And so as we mark the 108th birthday of the sage with today’s lecture, I urge all my country men and women, especially our media, our youth, our political leaders and legislators, and all those who are in government and civil institutions, to invoke the attributes of Chief Obafemi Awolowo and seek to emulate them in all that they do.

I thank you for your attention.

  • Remarks by Chief Anyaoku, GCVO, CFR, CON, at the Obafemi Awolowo Memorial Lecture in Lagos, on March 6 2017.