As family, associates, and well wishers troop to Ikenne today (March 6, 2009) to mark the centenary of the great Leader of all times, Chief Jeremiah Obafemi Awolowo, Afenifere Renewal Group (ARG) salutes the memory of the sage whose impactful life continues to challenge humanity on the meaning of existence 22 years after his transition to higher glory.
Known for his deep commitment to the noblest of virtues, a stickler to principles in a pliable political arena, an avowed defender of the greatest majority, Chief Awolowo lived a life that is worthy of emulation by all who seek to make the world a better place for all to live.
Through the dint of hard work and prodigious application of his intellect, he was able to overcome the vicissitudes of the circumstances of birth to make himself a success in life and extending that to fellow beings through the use of politics as a means to make life more abundant for the people.
The Action Group (AG) government he led in the Western Region till date remains the best reference for governance in this part of the world as it implemented pro-people policies that librated the people from ignorance, poverty, diseases and backwardness.
It is unfortunate that, today, the geographical space that was under the leadership of the Action Group (AG) revolution in the first Republic looks back to that era with nostalgia as it has totally suffered a reversal of fortunes.
While the beneficiaries of Awolowo’s free education schools are shining stars in different areas of endeavours worldwide today, those who leave the schools being run now at exorbitant rates are mostly half-baked with low quality scholarship. Even when the massive industrial and infrastructural initiatives of Awolowo still dot the landscapes, although dilapidated, there are no new structures to justify the leap in revenue which have mostly gone into graft. While some of the roads Awolowo built in 1955 are still motorable in some communities, many of the roads constructed in less than a year ago have been neatly washed away by rain.
Above all, whereas we had qualitative leadership under Awolowo, most of what goes for leadership in our clime today would not have been ideal for running a motor park union of those days.
On a national scale, as against the politics of ideology that Awo and his contemporaries pioneered, what we have today is politics of convenience in all its fluidly and without any commitment to any ideals.
Although, the chicaneries of the buccaneer politics of those holding the destiny of Nigeria did not allow Awo to lead Nigeria to give a wider platform to his achievements in Western Nigeria, he has left us with a body of ideas we need to critically re-examine if we are to get out of the quagmire in which we have found ourselves.
The most basic of them are as follows:
(i) The need to run a multi-ethnic state as a Federal State and not a Unitary Republic in the guise of Federalism that we currently have.
(ii) The State must take active lead in the welfare of people through massive investment in education, health and infrastructures.
(iii) Probity and accountability in governance to ensure that (wo)man remains the unit of development and not the pocket of those running the government.
(iv) Inviolability of the sacred right of the electorate to decide who should rule. A right that has been taken from our people which the spirit of Awo seems to be retrieving in the centenary year as we have seen in Ondo and Ekiti lately. A timely implementation of the Electoral Reforms Report has therefore become imperative.
The challenge facing all component units of Nigeria today is to reinvent leadership and ensure the emergence of purpose-driven and visionary leaders who will cooperate at the national level to reclaim our country and put it back on track.
As we celebrate Awo at 100, it is important to note that, while most of those who used all coercive apparatus to diminish him for standing on principles and values have become footnotes of history, Awo’s name and ideals have transcended the realm of mortality. He lives forever and remains eternally relevant. He has taught us that consistency pays in the final analysis.
Live on in the hearts of all wo(men), the great Leader of all seasons!
National Publicity Secretary
Afenifere Renewal Group