Obafemi Awolowo: Endowed with robust planning capacity, notable integrity, ardent nationalism …

He was not a demagogue but he was an intellectual, a thinker, an ardent planner and innovator. His thoughts, in print, corroborate this point of argument. He had the following books to his credit:

Path to Nigerian Freedom
Awo – Autobiography of Chief Obafemi Awolowo
My Early Life
Thoughts on the Nigerian Constitution
The People’s Republic
The Strategy & Tactics of the People’s Republic of Nigeria
The Problems of Africa – The Need for Ideological Appraisal
Awo on the Nigerian Civil War
Path to Nigerian Greatness
Voice of Reason
Voice of Courage
Voice of Wisdom
Adventures in Power – Book 1 – My March Through Prison
Adventures in Power – Book 2 – Travails of Democracy
Information Nigeria portal says the following about this Nigeria’s great statesman of all time:

He is most notable as the outstanding first premier of the Western Region but was also a successful federal commissioner for finance and vice president of the Federal Executive Council in the Civil War and was thrice a major contender for his country’s highest office.

He was the first Leader of Government Business and Minister of Local Government and Finance, and first Premier of the Western Region under Nigeria’s parliamentary system, from 1952 to 1959.

He was the official Leader of the Opposition in the federal parliament to the Balewa government from 1959 to 1963. In recognition of all these, Awolowo was the first individual in the modern era to be named Leader of the Yorubas (Yoruba: Asiwaju Awon Yoruba or Asiwaju Omo Oodua).

Awolowo pioneered free primary education in Nigeria in the Western Region and also free health care. Although Awolowo failed to win the 1979 and 1983 presidential elections of the Second Republic, he polled the second highest number of votes and his policies of free education and limited free health were carried out throughout all the states controlled by his party, the Unity Party of Nigeria.

Awolowo is best remembered for his remarkable integrity, ardent nationalism, principled and virile opposition, and dogged federalist convictions. His party was the first to move the motion for Nigeria’s independence in the federal parliament and he obtained internal self-government for the Western Region.

Pioneering efforts

Awo was one of the founding fathers of the nation, Nigeria.

He is credited with coining the name “naira” for the Nigerian standard monetary unit and helped to finance the Civil War and preserve the federation without borrowing.

He built the Liberty Stadium in Ibadan, the first of its kind in Africa

He also established the WNTV (Western Nigeria television), the first television station in Africa

He equally erected the first skyscraper in tropical Africa: the Cocoa House (still the tallest in Ibadan) and ran a widely respected civil service in the Western Region.

He was also conferred with the highest national honour of Grand Commander of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, a rank and a title that is ordinarily bestowed on the country’s president.

According to historic records, Awolowo was Nigeria’s foremost federalist. In his Path to Nigerian Freedom (1947) – the first systematic federalist manifesto by a Nigerian politician – he advocated federalism as the only basis for equitable national integration. As head of the Action Group, he led demands for a federal constitution, which was introduced in the 1954 Lyttleton Constitution following primarily the model proposed by the Western Region delegation led by him.

As premier, Awolowo proved to be and was viewed as a man of vision and a dynamic administrator. He was also the country’s leading social democratic politician. He supported limited public ownership and limited central planning in government. He believed that the state should channel Nigeria’s resources into education and state-led infrastructural development.

Free primary education

If you are wondering why free primary education was a policy close to the heart of Awo, his childhood experience may help to explain this. He said in an interview with in Vanguard in February 1986: “As a little boy and ‘scholar’, I lacked nothing. My school fees were paid promptly, and my books were bought quite in advance.” But his Father died in 1920 when Femi Awolowo was 11 years old. That fatherhood support was gone; he was on his own.

The story of this self-made man commenced from this point. Awolowo, on his own, managed to get a British education at a mission school in Ibadan, and then made his way to London, where he studied law. He became a barrister of the Inner Temple. Returning to Nigeria he became an advisor to the trade unions. He did not take a strong political line against the British until about 1948.

So Awo knew how tough it was to get educated and got committed (I believe) to helping the poor to get educated.

Western Nigeria crisis
At the commencement of Independence, Awo led the Action Group as the Leader of the Opposition in the federal parliament, leaving Samuel Ladoke Akintola as the Western Region Premier. Serious disagreements between Awolowo and Akintola on how to run the Western region led the latter to an alliance with the Tafawa Balewa-led NPC federal government. A constitutional crisis led to the declaration of a state of emergency in the Western Region, eventually resulting in a widespread breakdown of law and order. It was a national calamity that saw hundreds of houses in flames and loss of hundreds of lives. Moses Adekoyejo Majekodunmi was appointed Administrator of Western Region during the crisis. He was in office between June 29, 1962 and December 1962.

Excluded from national government, Awolowo and his party faced an increasingly precarious position. Akintola’s followers, angered at their exclusion from power, formed the Nigerian National Democratic Party (NNDP) under Akintola’s leadership. Having previously suspended the elected Western Regional Assembly, the federal government then reconstituted the body after manoeuvres that brought Akintola’s NNDP into power without an election. Shortly afterwards Awolowo and several disciples were arrested, charged, convicted (of treason), and jailed for conspiring with the Ghanaian authorities under Kwame Nkrumah to overthrow the federal government.

In 1992, the Obafemi Awolowo Foundation was founded as an independent, non-profit, non-partisan organisation committed to furthering the symbiotic interaction of public policy and relevant scholarship with a view to promoting the overall development of the Nigerian nation. The Foundation was launched by the President of Nigeria at that time, General Ibrahim Babangida, at the Liberty Stadium, Ibadan.

However, his most important bequests (styled Awoism) are his exemplary integrity, his welfarism, his contributions to hastening the process of decolonisation and his consistent and reasoned advocacy of federalism-based on ethno-linguistic self-determination and uniting politically strong states-as the best basis for Nigerian unity. Awolowo died peacefully at his Ikenne home, on 9 May 1987, at the age of 78 and was laid to rest in Ikenne, amid tributes across political and ethno-religious divides.

His burial ceremony, a top national one, pulled the cream of Nigerian politicians, traditional rulers, business chieftains, etc to Ikenne. It had one the best of reportage of events Nigeria has ever had. Yours sincerely was priviledged to be part of Vanguard media team.


Siaka Momoh

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