Predatory politics is the norm since the passage of Awo —Shonibare

Chief Supo Shonibare is the acting National Chairman of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and a legal practitioner. He comments on the state of politics in Nigeria, 33 years after the passage of the sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo.

IT is 33 years since the sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, passed on. What are the few things you can recollect about the relationship between your father and the foremost visionary leader?

Well, apart from Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s photograph being hung in the most prominent part of the wall in the main sitting room of our home and the fact that, even at primary school (Oke- Ira Primary and Preparatory School- which was the preparatory school of St Saviour’s School, Railway Compound, Ebute- Metta), where we divided into the Action Group (AG) and the National Council for Nigerian Citizens (NCNC) groups, those of us whose families had affinity for the AG would often chanted Awo and the NCNC kids would chant Zik (the late Dr Nnamdi Azikwe). That declaration tended to define us in the opposite camps.  At that time, Dr Ikechukwu Ikejiani was the chairman of the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) in the First Republic; so the children of the NCNC stalwarts were the majority. We spent our lunch breaks extolling the virtues of our contending two leaders.

I was 10 years of age when our dad passed away in 1964. So, apart from knowing from my mum that my dad held Chief Awolowo in high esteem and regard, as well as referred to him as Leader, most of the particulars of their relationship have been from narrations from my mum and Chief Awolowo himself. I often visited Chief Awolowo whenever he was in London at the Churchill Hotel, where he often stayed. He had apparently met our dad in Ibadan, while he was working as a manager with UAC and Chief Awolowo was then a practising lawyer. They were both members of the Nigerian Youth Moment (NYM). He said he was initially drawn to our dad because of his diction and an amazing aptitude in reducing discussions into the most grammatically concise expressions in flowing English Grammar. Our dad was apparently a wordsmith- by the account of Chief Awolowo.

Many of our dad’s associates: the late Alhaji S. O. Gbadamosi; the late Pa Alfred Rewane and the late Chief Anthony Enahoro, all whom I had a relationship with, confirmed this trait in our dad. Chief Awolowo displayed exceptional fondness and concern for my wellbeing. He was responsible for inviting me to forgo a planned ambition of apprenticeship in a firm of solicitors in London, to coming back to Lagos to serve in the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) and subsequently, to work with the late Chief GOK Ajayi (SAN), who was his lawyer. It was the bond he had with my dad, which I believe he endeavoured to extend to me. My dad was a loyal ally of Chief Awolowo. Apart from being one of the seven founding fathers of the AG with Chief Awolowo in Ibadan in 1951 and subsequent inauguration of the party at Ówó, until his demise, our dad was a loyal and reliable associate.


What was so instructive about their experience and relationship?

There are some ‘pepper soup’ joint narratives of a rift between them; it is nothing further from the truth. Our dad was a loyal Awo supporter. There was an issue involving a third party claim and our family after our dad’s demise. Chief Awolowo was convinced that the third party’s claim must be genuine; although it wasn’t documented, because of the perceived integrity of that third party. It is this incident that was twisted initially by younger associates and then by adversaries to suggest that there was some discord between them. It is just not true.  I recall that Kabiyesi, Oba Sikiru Adetona, the Awujale of Ijebuland, once narrated his own efforts to secure the release of our dad, which made him to approach the Sarduana of Sokoto and then Premier of Northern Nigeria, Sir Ahmadu Bello, to intervene. Concerted efforts had been made by the prosecuting and investigators during the treasonable felony contrived debacle to get our dad to testify against Chief Awolowo. He refused to testify against his Leader. The Western Regional Government offered him a reprieve if he joined the Nigerian National Democratic Party (NNDP) and also threatened to compulsorily acquire the buildings and land he had developed as Maryland Estate, but is now known as Shonibare Estate, if he continued to support and associate with Chief Awolowo. My dad bluntly refused this overtures and damned the consequences. This was when many others leaders were defecting from the Action Group to the NNDP.  The federal prosecutors in the treasonable felony contrived debacle offered him the prospect of his being released from detention and the release of his compulsorily acquired property. But, in spite of his deteriorating health condition, which ended up claiming his life, he declined to accept this condition. He, instead, sought solace in commencing a court action in S.I.P.C v Government of Western Region, which action resulted in the court restoring ownership to him and was a landmark case in setting out the conditions precedent for a government to compulsorily acquire property legally.

Chief Awolowo also said our dad was quite astute in booking keeping and accounting. He said our dad was the first auditor of the African Newspapers of Nigeria (ANN) Plc when Chief Awolowo set up the Tribune Group. Our dad rendered these services pro bono. He believed in Chief Awolowo’s prowess as a great leader and an administrator with a conscientious determination to evolve upward mobility in the emerging new nation. The confidence our dad had in Chief Awolowo was truly justified by Chief Awolowo’s performance in government in nine years as the Premier of the Western Region, as well as the Federal Minister of Finance. Though he is gone, he remains a great man.


What do you consider as significant changes that have taken place in politics in Nigeria since the passage of Awo?

Politics of issues and ideology has become retrograde since the demise of Chief Awolowo. He was the precursor of the political school of thought capable of looking at the polity and prescribing economic and structurally functional structures able to address our economic and political challenges. We had nationalists like Mr Herbert Macaulay; Mr Ernest Ikoli and Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, who were more advocates of the process of building a nation-state and not the political and economic imperatives of the development of that nation-state or components thereof. Chief Awolowo was the trailblazer in that regard. We are yet to see any other political leader emerging with the same commitment to policies for the developmental well-being of the majority of the people and selfless service in executing those policies. Predatory politics has become the norm.


What should be done for the country to reenact the great days of Awo?

Like an Abraham Lincoln, Mahatma Ghandi, Eisenhower, Churchill, or a Nelson Mandela, political leaders like Chief Awolowo only appear once in a lifetime of their respective polity. It is always a very difficult act for anyone to emulate. For years to come, our leaders will be measured by Chief Awolowo’s indelible gold standard.



Buy and read digital replicas of your TRIBUNE titles by subscribing through E-VENDING

MONDAY LINES: Almajirai’s Expedition To The South
COVID-19 may be composing a requiem for Nigeria. Or do you sincerely think the country would be the same again if the North’s unhealthy conducts explode in unimaginable deaths as is gradually evolving before our very eyes? The South’s zest for life or what the French call joie de vivre, won’t let them allow the … Read full story

CACOVID, NCDC To Support Oyo Govt On Coronavirus Battle With N350 Million
The Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID) and the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) are set to donate the combined sum of N350 million to support Oyo State’s containment efforts against COVID-19. The State’s Commissioner for Finance, Mr. Akinola Ojo and a member of the COVID-19 Task Force… Read full story

Forex Repatriation: Emefiele Assures Investors Of Investment Safety
The Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr Godwin Emefiele, has assured investors of the security of their investments in the country despite dwindling revenue from the sale of crude oil globally. Speaking at the weekend in Abuja, Mr Emefiele said investors interested in repatriating their funds from the country… Read full story

Coronavirus Or Not, African Migrants Desperately Push On In The Desert Towards Europe
Many Africans are managing to evade coronavirus lockdown barriers in Niger, the Sahel’s migrant crossroads, as they press on with their perilous desert trek to the Mediterranean Sea and ultimately Europe. The migrant flow has slowed down but not dried up despite tight checks in the capital Niamey, and an increase of desert… Read full story

COVID-19: Bauchi Locks Down Three LGAs To Check Community Transmission
Bauchi State Government has declared a total lockdown of three LGAs of Giade, Katagum and Zaki as a measure to curtail community transmission of COVID-19 pandemic in the state. The total lockdown which takes effect from Tuesday, May 12, 2020 is for an initial 10 days to monitor how the situation will be controlled… Read full story

Woman, Three Men Arrested For Allegedly Torturing Her 16-Year-Old Housemaid To Death Over Theft Of N2,000
A woman and three men were on Sunday arrested by men of the Lagos State Police Command following the torture to death of the woman’s housemaid over allegation of theft of the woman’s N2,000. According to reports from the state police command, the woman, Shade Moke, brought in three men to torture her housemaid… Read full story

Oyo Speaker In The Eye Of The Storm
IN recent weeks, the Speaker of the Oyo State House of Assembly, Honourable Adebo Ogundoyin, has been in the eye of the storm. Just as the nation began battling COVID-19, so did some caucuses in the Assembly began to scheme against the leadership of the state legislative for alleged lack of transparency in running affairs… Read full story

Leaders And Limits Of Sentiments
Leaders sometimes run into troubled waters as a consequence of their failure to see issues as they really are. When leaders have a wrong perception of an issue, the issue will be wrongly diagnosed, wrong solutions will be prescribed and wrong results will be achieved. Leaders who fail to see issues as they are actually see… Read full story

Managing The Economy After The Pandemic
Last week, a Citizen Dialogue event was hosted by the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Budget to examine the fallouts from Covid-19 and the implications for the budget and management of the economy. The outcomes from that exercise seem to have passed largely unnoticed by the informed public. I have always taken the… Read full story

Leadership: Lessons I Learnt Along The Way
A very dear friend who has followed my work for a while asked me recently at what point in my life I decided to focus on leadership development and practice. I found it a little difficult to answer at first because even though there were certain landmark experiences that reinforced and helped to properly crystallize what I had… Read full story

You might also like

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. AcceptRead More