How Awo would have tackled Nigeria’s current crises —Associates

•Adebanjo, Akintoye, Okurounmu speak on 33 years without sage


AS family, friends, associates and Nigerians worldwide mark 33 years of the transition of the sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, today, some of his associates have looked at the current travails the country faces, declaring that an Awo leadership would have made a positive difference.

Deputy leader of the Yoruba sociopolitical group, Afenifere, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, said there has been nothing or no one to compare Awolowo with in Nigeria since independence.

Speaking in a telephone interview with Saturday Tribune, Chief Adebanjo said Awo’s approach to the current COVID-19 and other crises of development would have been practical and result-oriented.

“There is nothing he predicted about the progress of Nigeria that has not come to pass, including what is happening now in the North. Awolowo once said if they didn’t train the children of the poor, the children of the poor would not allow the children of the rich to live. In 1955, he started free education in the Western Region and he made a proposal of free education for the entire country when he joined [Yakubu] Gowon’s government. He was a visionary leader, active, honest, and he was a man of integrity.

“In this moment of COVID-19, economic and security crises, Awo would have given us a better infrastructure in order to be able to cope with the present situation. He would have established better hospitals and when you ask people to keep with certain rules, they would understand. His approach would have been practical.

“Thirty-three years after, we miss an honest leadership. He was a leader who would say what he meant and he would act it. He was a leader who did not have double standard; a leader who was fact-finding about everything, and a leader who was very disciplined. There is nothing to compare Awolowo with,” Chief Adebanjo said.

President-General, Yoruba World Congress (YWC), Professor Banji Akintoye, speaking on Chief Awolowo, 33 years after, said Awo was God’s greatest gift to Africa.

Professor Akintoye, while responding to Saturday Tribune’s questions, said the sage, who passed on 33 years ago, “is still the most beautiful thing in our lives. Though he died physically, he lives forever.

“He put so much beauty into our lives and we who are his children, without any disrespect for other African leaders, think he was the greatest gift God gave to Africa in our time.

“He was not just some local person doing some petty things, he was doing things that were universal. He was putting forth ideas, development, ideas that nobody can beat. There is no way you can beat those ideas.

“So, we rate him as infinitely superior to any other African leader of his time. Some may fight the colonialists, do insurrection in the bush and become victorious. That may be important, but what is more important is that one man gave his whole life to putting forward ideas upon ideas, process of governance, of decency of leadership that you wouldn’t find in any other leader.

“In this moment of COVID-19 and other crises, if he was our ruler, we would be a lot better handled. There is no question about that. He would approach the situation more systematically. He would evolve principle of management that would address the matter more coherently and not be pandering to issues as they arise.

“For instance, one thing is obvious and people are not saying it: South-West is the gateway to Nigeria and, therefore, a lot of the danger of coronavirus coming into Nigeria is coming through Lagos and the South-West. That is the truth of the matter and nobody is talking about it.

“The South-West is not being given any preferential treatment on that. If Chief Awolowo had been our ruler, it would have been totally different. We would be recognised with statistics and everything, including facts and figures that South-West is the danger area because most of the international connections with Nigeria are through the South-West, through Lagos and the rest of the South-West states. And, therefore, in the Federal Government’s response to coronavirus, there should be a special position accorded to Lagos, Ogun and others, those states that are nearer to Lagos. There should be special provision for them. We must protect those areas from danger.

“But instead of treating the South-West and protecting it, they are loading coronavirus-infected people to Lagos and, therefore, adding more to the trouble. They are allowing people who are fleeing from North to sneak into the South-West and adding to the trouble.

“Our governors now have to intercept people from the North and that is endangering the South-West the more. So, the areas that should have been protected because it is the gateway to the country have become a deposit point for everything.

“We in the South-West are being treated as if we are sheep being taken to a slaughter house for Nigeria. Under Chief Awolowo, that would have been impossible.

“Chief Awolowo was the person under whom someone like me developed my ideas of politics, of governance, of decency of leadership and the idea of a servant-leader.

“Chief Awolowo always told us: ‘Respect your people, all your people. Don’t even disrespect the poorest Yoruba man. I respect Yoruba people very much and it is impossible for me to disrespect anybody. Even people who are angry and saying things about me, I cannot be distracted’.

“Chief Awolowo also said: ‘Don’t let anybody provoke you to get angry because the moment you get angry, you lose the battle’. I agree with him. So, I don’t get angry, no matter what anybody does to me. I have learnt that, so it is no longer difficult for me to avoid getting angry. It has become natural for me.

“He would always say: ‘You, young people, if any of you should become a leader in any part of Yorubaland, your first line to success is to respect your people; do not think you can hoodwink Yoruba people. Don’t imagine that because you went to school, you can hoodwink Yoruba people. They are too smart for that. They don’t have to go to school to be smart, to know what you are doing. If you don’t respect them, they would make sure that what you are doing fails. So, you can’t succeed with Yoruba people if you don’t respect them’.

“Not only did he say you must not allow yourself to get angry, he also said you must not allow hatred and bitterness to enter into your heart. He said you must avoid that because when you allow that to happen and you become angry and bitter and hateful of the opposition to you, you have lost the battle to them completely; that you are defeated and beaten,” Akintoye said.

On his own part, another associate of Chief Awolowo, Senator Femi Okurounmu, said: “At times like this, Awo would have harmonised the functioning of the major health institutions around the country and got them equipped to focus on the treatment of the COVID-19. He would have ensured the availability of all facilities and equipment needed by the doctors and nurses as well as all facilities needed for testing citizens for the disease. Above all, he would have seen this as an opportunity to upgrade the health system of the country to be able to cater for the needs of the poor and the rich at all times.

“Nigerians badly miss the quality of leadership that an Awolowo provided. Since Awolowo’s demise, Nigerians have not seen anything like leadership and that vacuum is becoming more and more problematic, whether at the level of the Yoruba nation or the Nigerian entity as a whole.”



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