Lagos State Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, on Tuesday, unveiled a 20-feet statue of the Premier of the former Western Region, Chief Obafemi Awolowo in Ikeja.
Mr. Ambode also said Lagos State shares the position of the All Progressives Congress (APC) on restructuring and devolution of powers, ideals for which the late politician espoused during his time.
The governor spoke at the unveiling of the statue, located on Obafemi Awolowo Way by the Lagos Television (LTV) junction in Ikeja. He stated that his party’s position, as stipulated in its manifesto, seeks to amend the Nigerian Constitution with a view to devolving powers to states and local governments in order to bring about true federalism.
“The position of Lagos State on restructuring remains the same as stipulated in the manifesto of our great party, the All Progressives Congress, which states that 'the APC shall initiate action to amend our constitution with a view to devolving powers, duties and responsibilities to states and local governments in order to entrench true federalism and the federal spirit'. Hence, we welcome the restructuring committee of the APC presently going round the country,” he said.
While hosting members of the Awolowo family at the Lagos House in Ikeja. Ambode said the current generation of leaders, including himself, has a lot to learn from the ideals and principles of Chief Awolowo if they intend to impact positively on the lives of the people.
He recalled that that the late politician charged the country's leaders of his time to rise up to engender true federalism and devolution of powers as a means of preventing the country from disintegration.
“I think Papa was way ahead of his ideals and principles. If you talk about public discourse right now, thirty years after, the things people are talking about are true federalism and devolution of powers and state supremacy. These are things that he had actually answered to, but people were not able to put the questions together and also to process it because of the way that Nigeria had being divided into craters and valleys," stated Mr.Ambode.
He explained that his vision was inspired by Chief Awolowo’s principles, which were basically aimed at improving the welfare of the people and reviving the South-West region as the economic basin of Nigeria.
“If there is anything I really want to do, which I had spoken about in terms of this political journey,it is to touch humanity and the only example that I could see that had greater vision than anybody else is in more or less everything that Papa Awolowo stood for. So, in my own small way, I am trying to emulate, but it’s a photocopy, it’s not original. But, again, the ideals are the same; to strive for a better Nigeria and then to carry the Yoruba people as the real power horse for the Nigerian growth and development,” he said.
At the ceremony to unveil the statue, were prominent members of the Awolowo family, including Mrs. Dolapo Osinbajo, wife of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and granddaughter of Chief Awolowo. Also in attendance were eminent politicians.
The governor recalled Chief Awolowo’s commitment to the growth and development of Nigeria especially during the post-independence era, adding he was a shining light among his contemporaries and displayed an incredible ability to use leadership as a tool for the advancement of the welfare of the people.
Mr. Ambode described Chief Awolowo as the symbol of the aspiration of Western Nigeria. He added that it is the quest to sustain the ideals which the late politician stood for that prompted Lagos to team up with five other South-West states in the Oodua Investment Conglomerate to champion the political and economic integration of the region.
“This statue is not just about beautifying the environment or serving as a tourist attraction, but more importantly, it is meant to be a constant reminder to all of us and future generations of the need to value the sacrifice of our heroes and strive to uphold and promote the ideals which they stood for. May the labor of our heroes past never be in vain,” he said.
He explained that the idea for the statue, which has Chief Awolowo in a sitting position, was inspired by the fact that the late sage was not known to be one given to sitting down majestically.
“So, I made up my mind that I wanted to see him sit down majestically and actually looking at all of us and saying ‘Okay, after 30 years where are you?’ That is the reason why we did that because I wanted to see him sit down and not standing all the time,” the governor explained.
Responding, Chief Awolowo's daughter, Tokunbo Dosunmu, said her late father was able to utilize taxes to drive most of his people-oriented policies and that those who once criticized his tax drive later rallied round him and adopted same for economic growth. She added that her father’s success story has become a template for any government desirous of making meaningful impact in the lives of the people.
She commended Mr Ambode, saying he is following the footsteps of her father.