By Tayo Ogunbiyi
IN Othello, one of his famous works, iconic playwright, Williams Shakespeare, flawlessly stresses the importance of good reputation with the following words: “Good name in man and woman, dear my lord, is the immediate jewel of their souls: Who steals my purse steals trash; ’tis something, nothing; ‘was mine, ’tis his, and has been slave to thousands; But he that filches from me my good name Robs me of that which not enriches him, And makes me poor indeed.”
This, perhaps, amply describes the motivation of the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, throughout his political and public service career in building for himself a rare reputation that was hinged on integrity, sacrifice, commitment and selflessness. No wonder, 30 years after his demise, his name still rings a bell across the land and beyond, opening impregnable doors for members of his family as well as political associates.
It was, therefore, not surprising when the late sage metaphorically resurrected in Lagos State recently with the state government’s unveiling of a new iconic statue in honour of the revered icon that many simply refer to as Awo. The striking sculpture located along Obafemi Awolowo Way by the Lagos Television (LTV) junction in Agidingbi, Ikeja, is no doubt a befitting replacement to the old Awolowo statue that used to be at the Allen Avenue round-about in Ikeja, Lagos.
Standing at 20 feet, the new Awo statue reinforces the unwavering commitment of the Lagos State Government to appreciating the contributions of patriots whose deeds and ideals were instrumental to the socio-economic and political wellbeing of Lagos State in particular and Nigeria in general.
Designed and produced by Hamza Atta, the Awo bust represents and projects the true value of the late sage and calls the attention of everyone, especially students of history, to the legacy of the leading statesman. Undoubtedly, the statue will serve as a constant reminder to all, especially future generations, of the need to value the sacrifice of our heroes and strive towards upholding and promoting the ideals which some of them lived and died for. It is mainly in doing this that we can truly ensure that the labour of our heroes past is not in vain.
Hannah Arendt, German-born US philosopher and historian, once said that the connection between history and nature is by no means an opposition. History receives into its remembrance those mortals who through deeds and words have proved themselves worthy of nature, and their everlasting fame means that they may remain in the company of the things that last forever.
Immortalizing our heroes is surely one way of spurring present and future generations of Nigerians to effectively connect with our past with a view to committing them to the vision and ideals of our founding fathers. With several agitations for one thing or the other across the country, there is, indeed, no better time to do this than this particular period in the history of our dear nation.
In Nigeria, the subsequent drop in the quality of leadership inevitably is the result of decline and seemingly loss of hope by many in the nation. One of the most important ways of instilling patriotism and inculcating self belief and a ‘can do’ spirit in our youths is through immortalizing our heroes, both past and living.
It is important that we regularly cull from the life of our heroes, great lessons in discipline, altruism, honesty, focus, perseverance, patriotism and hardwork among other useful virtues. It is hoped that by immortalizing our heroes and ultimately calling attention to the ideals they hold in high esteem, our compatriots, young and old, would be encouraged to live a selfless life that is anchored on patriotism and integrity.
These are some of the virtues that made Chief Obafemi Awolowo, one of the founding fathers of Nigeria, traverse the country’s socio-political landscape as a colossus for decades.