One of Nigeria’s premium political philosophers and strategists, Chief Obafemi Awolowo was born on March 6, 1909. He would have enjoyed the spotlight this week, if we had a national culture of celebrating the life and times of heroes of hope. Efforts should be made to ensure that men and women who selflessly laboured to leave befitting legacies for posterity remain evergreen in public consciousness.
This is absolutely important against the backdrop of a manifest generational value shift. Altruistic values are now disdained. Materialism is nibbling our national soul. Hence, there is a new but debased service culture, which places self at the centre; others at the margin, in the shadows. Public service is now a gravy train. Does service to the nation mean anything to Nigerians?
Leaders behave very badly these days.Globally, there is a gross lack of living legends and models worthy of emulation. Therefore, we need to excavate history and showcase the best of every era. Otherwise, we will soon forget the meaning of leadership and entrust our destiny to rudderless moral dropouts.
Our efforts to build a value-based, corruption-free society will record significant milestones, when slagging atrophic leadership is no more our sole preoccupation, but dominating popular imagination with images of our past heroes who laboured sacrificially for a prosperous Nigeria. This will not only popularise their lofty qualities, it will enable many to ingrain them as well.
If you are like me, you would have started asking some of these questions.Why did Chief Awolowo live and die a happy man? Why did he splendidly succeed in his private and public life? Why are his legacies still celebrated? One answer suffices. We will examine it soon.
The sincere encomiums distinguished leaders showered on Awo in my view are apt summaries of his political greatness. Chief Odumegwu Ojukwu, remarked at his death: “That he is the best president Nigeria never had.” In the same vein, General Yakubu Gowon noted “He had true presidential qualities. The services he rendered to Nigeria were second to none. Chief Awolowo was dedicated, disciplined and serene. In the single-mindedness of his devotion to the business of government and his political career, he was resolute and almost stern. He was indeed a charismatic leader who commanded great respect among followers.”
Awo was a strategic leader of leaders, a man’s man. Yet he was a great husband and father. His life speaks to today’s man on how to achieve wholeness and succeed in all facets of life. His historic eulogy of his wife, the admirable Chief Mrs. Hannah Idowu Dideolu Awolowo reveals the secret of his private success.
At his 70th birthday celebration on March 6, 1979, he joyfully described his wife as “a jewel of inestimable value.” This expression did not stem from puppy love. At this time, they had spent forty-two years together as married couple. Yet, there was a youthful exuberance about his adoration for his wife. That’s a true quality of love: exuberant admiration and genuine reverence.
Awo embodied many truisms. Highlighting his relational skills will help men. Particularly those who think that building life-enriching relationship with the lady they love is like a corkscrew that can't be straightened. Those who say things like: “Spousal relationship is a minus that won't add up. There is nothing to anything. Love is buried in the graveyard of idyllic past. It’s a delusive fantasy, futile to pursue. It is better to be alone.”
Yet their self-image is best described by the odd half of a scissors. Their hearts ache with longing for the lady that will complete and complement them for life. Admit it. Being alone is tough. The life of a lonesome guy is like a tragic tale. So is that of the unhappily married.
So let’s extrapolate some truths from Awo’s love life, so that we can build rock-solid homes, which are the true foundation of a great nation. Like Awo, don't put a price-tag on your lady. She is priceless. Don’t come to her thinking, everything is for sale. Everyone has a price. That’s contrary to the wisdom of Awo. Even though in his days, it was fashionable to see women like expendable possessions, he never did. And it paid off hugely. Just imagine what a tragedy his life would have been if he was tempted to see his wife in the light of the dictum: “Women are like clothes in the market place they go to the highest bidders”
Awo’s wisdom says give her attention, and then give her things. Have you ever wondered why he had the courage to marry even in the face of an impending bankruptcy? He knows the affection a royal and loyal lady can’t be bought. He knew there is more to lasting romance than finance. Your lady needs you, not your things. She won’t give you her affection, simply because, you always give her nice things. But she will if you fondly give her attention.
The lady with the deportment of a queen like Chief (Mrs.) H.I.D. Awolowo knows what counts forever. She values intangibles more than perishable things. She will never barter affection with things. Not all ladies will swap total wellbeing with material comfort. So be there for her. Listen to her.
Talking is to ladies what football is to guys. Ladies in the main are “phatic communicators.” So, when she is talking pause, ponder, then you will perceive the unsaid. Accept this as a rule: What is unsaid is more important than what is said.
Awo prioritised touching hearts over touching bodies. This is difficult to say in today’s world of sex is everything. But then, the lady with the bearing of a queen does not consider your head fit for a crown, if you seek to touch her body before touching her heart. Touching her heart requires work. Yes, Intelligent lifelong work.
Awo did not objectify his wife. It will profit you to keep in mind that your lady is not a plaything. Treat her like an embodiment of grace deserving tenderness and respect, not like a shop-worn toy. The objectification of loved ones is a TABOO. It is the bugbear of many failed, failing relationships.
Learn from Awo, fidelity pays. Don’t break her heart. Break her barriers. The heart of a truly beautiful lady is not cocoon in steel. The seat of her emotion is as soft as eggshell. Handle it delicately.
Like Awo, publicly celebrate the virtues of your lady. Back up your words with deeds. Don’t say it is not African to publicly compliment your wife. We are not more African than Awo.
Let me end with the words of Olufemi Ogunsanwo. Ogunsanwo noted in Awo: Unfinished Greatness “History’s judgement should leave good leaders and their deeds in the green column for posterity while the tyrants and their villainy should be dumped and forgotten in the footnotes.” Let’s evolve a culture of celebrating our heroes. By so doing, our society will become a better place.