Obafemi Awolowo

By Eric Teniola

This is the continuation of last week’s piece on Awo’s legacies and his disciples scattered all over the world

FOR those who lived in that era, it was a romantic experience never to be forgotten. Apart from free education at that time, there was the emergence of co-operative societies and farm settlements. Even then, students preferred the scholarship of Western Nigeria to that of the Federal Government. 

The applause at the end of the play was fantastic. Chief Awolowo died 34 years ago, but his legacy still lives on. Great writers have written so much about Chief Awolowo before and after his demise. I remember Chief Tola Adeniyi, Odia Ofeimun, Reuben Abati, Ayo Opadokun, Dare Babarinsa, Chief Ayo Ojewunmi, Lade Bonuola, Sola Odunfa, Gbolabo Ogunsanwo, Femi Ogunsanwo, Banji Ogundele, Bayo Osiyemi, Peter Ajayi, Dayo Sobowale, Felix Adedapo Adenaike, Martins Oloja, Adegbamigbe Akinlaya, Wunmi Adegbonmire (alia Omo Ekun), Agboola Sanni, Nduka Onum, Peter Apesin, Fola Oredoyin, Alhaji Lateef Jakande, Alfred Ilenre, Toye Akiyode, Muyiwa Adetiba, Rotimi Abe, Wunmi Akintunde, Labanji Bolaji, Segun Osoba, Lawrence Mofoluwashoun Olamiti, Areoye Oyebola, Lam Adesina, Biodun Oduwole, Banji Kuroloja, Ebenezer  Oluwole  Babatope and many others.

It may be the writings of these outstanding men and women that brought these youths to Glover Hall that night. They must have been motivated also by what they heard about Chief Awolowo. A few years ago I was in the Abuja House in London at 2, Campden Hill, Kessington and I discovered that the house was part of the property of the Western Region of Nigeria bought during the tenure of Chief Obafemi Awolowo as the Premier.

The property was seized by the central government through a decree promulgated by General Yakubu Gowon. Today, I do not know if any compensation was paid to the six states of what now is know as the South West zone. Anytime I visit London and I passed through that house, I am reminded that there was a time we had a regional government in Nigeria.

As published in THE NIGERIAN TRIBUNE on May 9, 2018, Chief Awolowo served as Premier of the Region from 1952-1959. He had remarkable success during his tenure. The visionary and economically-sagacious Awolowo-led government had numerous achievements, including: the implementation of free Universal Primary Education, the establishment of Africa’s first TV station, the construction of West Africa’s first skyscraper(Cocoa House)and first international stadium (Liberty Stadium), the establishment of a first rate civil service, the construction of Nigeria’s first housing and industrial estates(Bodija & Ikeja),etc. The most significant of his achievements is the Free Universal Primary Education.

In 1952 when the scheme was proposed, 381,000 children (about 30%) were enrolled in school. By 1955 when the scheme took off 811,432 children were enrolled. And the numbers continued to grow. Government devoted as much as 41.2% of its 1958/59 recurrent budget to Education, one of the highest in the world at the time. The Western Region of Nigeria, at that time, was educating more children than anywhere in Africa.

But while remembering Chief Awolowo, I must not forget that he led a formidable team. Very outstanding set of people served under him or were around him. I remember Chief Akinola Maja, Chief S.O. Gbadamosi, Chief Bisi Onabanjo, Alhaji Lateef Jakande, Chief Alfred Rewane, Chief S.O. Lanleyin, Chief Dosunmu, Chief Michael Ajasin, Chief Fadairo, Chief adegbite tinubu, Chief Bola Ige, Chief Adeleke Adedoyin, Chief S.T. Oredehin, Chief S.O. Sonibare, Chief J.S. Olawoyin, Chief Longe, Professor Sam Aluko, Professor Akin Mabogunje, Chief Babatola, Chief Taiwo Oredeyin, Professor Hezekiah Oluwasanmi, Dr. Sanya Onabamiro, Chief S.O. Adigun, Chief Michael Omisade, Chief Hon. C.D. Akran, Chief J.S. Olawoyin, Oba Alayeluwa Sir Adesoji Aderemi, the Hon. A.O. Adeyi, late Sir Adeyemo Alakija, Alhaji Hon. D.S. Adegbenro, Chief A.O. Ogedengbe, Chief M.E.R. Okorodudu, Chief Hon. Gabriel Akin-Deko, Oba Alayeluwa Akenzua II, the Hon, Ayodele Okusaga, Chief Anthony Enahoro, Chief J.F. Odunjo, Chief Hon. J.O. Oshuntokun, Chief  A.M.A. Akinloye  ,Oba Alayeluwa Samuel Ademola, Chief (Dr.) J. Akanni Doherty, Chief F.O. Awosika, E.A. Babalola., S.O. Awokoya ,S. O. Ighodaro Esq., Chief Hon. Jonathan Akinremi Olawale Odebiyi, Chief F.R.A. Williams, Chief Bode Thomas, Sir Olateru Olagbegi, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, Canon Emmanuel Alayande, S.O. Ikoku, Dr.  E.O. Awoluche, Alhaji Sule Maito and others. In later years, Professor Ambrose Alli, Chief Cornelius Adebayo, Chief Aderibigbe Adesanya, Chief Reuben Fasonranti, Chief Olaniwun Ajayi and others came close to him.

No doubt Chief Awolowo had the necessary qualities of leadership. These are vision, courage, integrity, humility, focus, co-operation and strategic planning. He had the courage and was willing to take risk in the achievements of his goals and successes. He had truthfulness in him which is the core of integrity.

Integrity requires that you always tell the truth, to all people, in every situation. Truthfulness is the foundation quality of the trust that is necessary for the success of any business. Chief Awolowo also had the ability to involve in strategic planning. Above all, he had focus and he relied mostly on the advice of his friends.

He was future-oriented which is lacking in most of our leaders today. He took personal responsibility in all that he did neither did he apportion blame on his subordinates. He tried new inventions and it worked.  

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