By Rt. Rev. Prof. Dapo Folorunsho Asaju
Lecture Delivered at the Obafemi Awolowo Foundation 30TH Anniversary Lecture,
-The Chairman of this event,
John Dramani Mahama, Former President Republic of Ghana,
-His Excellency, General Dr. Yakubu Gowon, GCFR,
Former Head of State, Federal Republic of Nigeria,
Special Guest of Honour,
Ambassador Mrs. Tokunbo Awolowo-Dosumu,
Executive Director, Obafemi Awolowo Foundation,
-Professor Banji Oyeyinka Oyelaran,
The Director of this event,
-Distinguished Special Guests and Participants,
-Ladies and Gentlemen.
For upwards of 30 years, I have been in politics in Nigeria; during this period, I have operated in various important theatres in the life of this great Federation. I have, with others, fought against British imperialism with all my might, and with all the talents that it pleased God to give me… I have also fought against anything which savors injustice. It is thus an irony of history that, as one of the architects of Nigeria’s independence, I have spent almost half of Nigeria’s three years of independence under one form of confinement or another.’ – Obafemi Awolowo, September 11, 1963
I feel greatly honored to have been asked to deliver this year’s Obafemi Awolowo Foundation lecture, before such an eminent audience. This is in memory of the greatest political Thinker and pragmatic leader which Africa has produced, popularly described by both friend and foe as “The Best President that Nigeria never had”, His Excellency, Chief Dr Obafemi Awolowo, GCFR, LL.D, former Premier of Western Region, Nigeria. In context of a common African characteristics of historical amnesia, it is significant that the memories and legacies of Chief Awolowo continues to resonate, not necessarily in the ears of the present generation of elders but more, in the ears of younger generation of Africans in whose hands lie the future destinies of the vast peoples and nations in the African continent. Africa today is in dire need of historical consciousness. A continent that paraded a good array of respected and powerful empires such as Songhai, Bornu, Ashanti, Oyo, etc , today has teeming population of young people who are no longer educated about their rich history, cultural and socio-political heritage, but enmeshed in underdevelopment, inferiority complex and continued subjugation by bad political leaderships, failed governments, resurgence of military coups, insecurity, banditry, unemployment, Brain –Drain of professionals overseas, debt burden, moral depravity and violations of cherished African moral values and institutions.
Olayiwola Abegunrin, in his Political Philosophy of Chief Obafemi Awolowo, describes him in the following words:
Chief Awolowo was a principled man, who by a Spartan self-discipline and understanding of himself, his accomplishments, failures and successes, was a fearless leader. He has set an example of leadership for a new generation of Nigerian politicians. He was not only a brilliant politician, but a highly cerebral thinker, statesman, dedicated manager, brilliant political economist, a Social Democrat, and a committed federalist. From all accounts, Chief Awolowo knew the worst and the best, laughter and sorrow, vilification and veneration, tribulations and triumphs, poverty and prosperity, failures and successes in life.
Africa once had a good array of leaders of international standards, who built their respective nations, following the tragic eras of Atlantic Slave Trade and European colonization. Such charismatic leaders include Emperor Haile Sellasie (Ethiopia), Kwame Nkrumah (Ghana), Jomo Kenyatta (Kenya), Julius Nyerere (Tanzania), Kenneth Kaunda (Zambia), Nnamdi Azikiwe and Obafemi Awolowo (Nigeria), Patrice Lumumba (Congo), Marcus Garvey (Jamaica in the Carribeans), Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. (USA), Archbishop Desmond Tutu (South Africa), Dauda Jawara (Gambia), Felix Houphouet – Boigny (Cote-D’Ivoire or Ivory Coast), Gamal Abdel Nasser (Egypt), Omar Bongo (Gabon) Ahmed Sekou Toure ( Guinea) , Gnasingbe Eyadema (Togo), William Tubman (Liberia), Leopold Sedar Denghor,(Senegal) , etc. Obafemi was a pan-Africanist, alongside Kwame Nkrumah and Nnamdi Azikiwe, etc. Today, there appears to be few stars in political leadership of African nations. The life, principles, methods and intellectual thoughts of Chief Awolowo will be set as example for our examination of values for the development of Africa.
African Values and Heritage
Values are ethical and behavioral principles that undergird the attitude and actions of an individual, a society or system. In African context, traditional moral values refers to codes of ethical conduct including taboos that are put in place to prevent violation of ethical or spiritual standards. “values are also defined as “ individual beliefs that motivate people to act one way or another. They serve as guide for human behavior. Generally , people are predisposed to adopt the values that they are raised with. People tend to believe that those values are right, because they are the values of their particular culture.” The Cambridge Dictionary defines values as “The principles that help to decide what is right and wrong, and how to act in various situations”. This definition will guide our discourse on the personal and political values of Chief Obafemi Awolowo and the challenge to development in contemporary African nations.
Africa is a diverse continent in nationalities, cultures and races. There are affectively three categories of Africa. The first are the Black race (Negroid) in Sub-Saharan Africa, located in West Africa, East Africa, Central Africa and South Africa; second are the Arabs located geographically in North Africa, such as Egypt, Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, etc. Third are the Africans in the Diaspora, being descendants of original; Africans whose forebears were taken into slavery in America, Europe, Brazil, etc. These constitute the Black Americans, Black Britons and Black Brazilians. During Nigeria’s hosting of FESTAC in 1977, deliberate efforts were made to unite the three Africans in a cultural celebration. It is noteworthy that although the North African Africans relate to the Negroid, through the umbrella AFRICAN Union 9Formerly Organization of African Unity) as well as through sports such as the African Nations Football Competition, their geo-politics relates more with their Arab kiths and kins. To all these categories, Chief Obafemi Awolowo towers as a great leader, intellectual giant, philosophical model and pragmatic example of African development. This was registered when the Western Region under the premiership of Obafemi Awolowo, established the First Television in the entire continent of Africa !; even before some European countries. This singular feat amongst many others, stamp Jeremiah Obafemi Awolowo as the ideal role model for African development and good leadership.
Underlying effective leadership are ethics and philosophy. The concept of philosopher-king is the ideal for good leadership. Added to this is the concept of servant-Leader, which ensures that the governors of African societies identify with the grassroots and operate with a philosophy of service for the good of the people, not for personal aggrandizement, materialism or ego. Leaders of nations are mostly detached from the people they serve. Good world renowned leaders are servant leaders. The very terminologies of Civil servant and Public servants show the fact that all officers are indeed servants; hence there is no room for autocracy in a democratic system. Philosophy of life and morality matter in providing credible political leadership. If a person’s philosophy is warped, the government will surely be. Political philosophy determines the direction of governments. The capitalist philosophy has its pros and cons but it has provided the Free world with democratic principles and values which have fuller personal liberty, electoral rights, fundamental human and constitutional rights. On the other hand, communist philosophy as enshrined in Marxist-Leninist ideologies are socialist in nature, albeit, atheist. The old USSR and China represent this system which is redefining and redesigning itself in the global space and striving for resurgence and dominance internationally. Obafemi Awolowo chose the best of the two extreme ideologies: The free market economy of the West and the egalitarian and welfarist cum socialist policies of the East. Awolowo was a philosopher of note, a thoroughbred ideologue, a teacher, economist. Journalist and publisher of the Tribune Newspapers, a politician and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria in the legal profession. He combined and effectively represented the best of all professions to which he could be identified. H e was authentically as African as he was western in education and orientation. He deployed his wealthy of knowledge and wisdom in forging a new Nigeria nation during the struggles for independence of African countries and their attendant constitutional debates. Awolowo was Pan-Africanist in perspective. His books so reflect his passion for African liberation, development and peaceful cohesion.
Africa and Africans occupy a notable space on the roll of honour of world development. Taking Christianity as example, it is commonly acknowledged that modern civilization commenced from Egypt. The Israelites were once slaves in Egypt for four decades during their patriarchal era. Moses married an African woman, the daughter of Jethro, The relationship between the Queen of Sheba (Ethiopia) and King Solomon produced the Falashas, Ethiopian (Black) Jews. Jesus lived his early life as a refugee in Egypt. The man who carried the cross of Jesus to Golgotha, Simon of Cyrene was an African and African nations of Libya, Egypt, etc were present at Pentecost event, when the church is believed to have been officially inaugurated. Moreover, the Theologians of the Early Church, whose scholarship provided foundation for modern education in the Arts and Sciences, were mostly Africans. These included St Augustine, Tertullian, Irenaus, Papias, Clement of Alexandria, Thomas Aquinas, etc. The Africans provided leadership over Egypt before the Arabisation policy of the dominant Black Egyptian population. History recently unfolded an African Emperor of the Roman Empire, who built the walls and large parts of the city of London. Lucius Septimius Severus (11 April 145 – 4 February 211) was Roman emperor from 193 to 211. He was born in Libya in the Roman province of Africa. As a young man he advanced through the customary succession of offices under the reigns of Marcus Aurelius and Commodus. Severus seized power after the death of the emperor Pertinax in 193. Severus travelled to Britain in 208, strengthening Hadrian’s Wall and reoccupying the Antonine Wall. In AD 209 he invaded Caledonia (modern Scotland) with an army of 50,000 men but his ambitions were cut short when he fell fatally ill of an infectious disease in late 210. He died in early 211 at Eboracum (today York, England), and was succeeded by his sons.
Africans are not genetic underdogs to the Caucasians and the Mongoloid; they have simply suffered from bad leadership and socio-political system. The eras of slavery and colonialism were most damaging to African identity, values , morality, culture, religion, and self-esteem. Africans have remained underdogs among the comity of nations for reason of her past misadventure. Obafemi Awolowo followed on the trail of his fellow patriots who strive to rewrite the African story.
Africa has suffered so much from military interventions following corrupt leadership of democratically elected governments. There were dictators like Idi Amin Dada of Uganda and Mobutu Sese Sekou of Zaire and Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, corruption, ethnicity and religious extremism played their parts in dividing the African nations, sometimes leading to Wars like the Nigeria-Biafran war, Liberian war, Sierra Leone war and the Rwandan genocide. Although Africa tried to rise from the ashes of her falls, it appears that bad leadership still bedevils the nations, leading to recent resurgence in military coups as has occurred in Mali, Boukinna Faso and Sudan. Even in post-Apartheid, South Africa and Zimbabwe, there are still pockets of restiveness over bad governance and seeming failure of the Black South Africans to realize the much expected dividends of democracy and self-government. Huge debt burdens, infrastructure collapse, Brain-Drain, poverty, unemployment, insecurity and religious terrorism etc still affect the wellbeing and development of the African countries. Nigeria has her fair share of these evils. The county is struggling to extricate itself from internal attempts at ethnic domination by one tribe over all others. Most positions of government in Executive, Legislative and Judicial sectors have been occupied by this ethnic group against the constitutional provision of federalism. The fall of Nigeria’s First Republic happened partly because o abuses of governance by politicians and their resistance of positive leadership by competent leaders like Obafemi Awolowo, simply out of ethno-religious chauvinism. They sent to jail, a messiah that should have drawn Nigeria out of underdevelopment. Has Africa learnt her lessons? This is doubtful because the contemporary African leaders and politicians are repeating the mistakes of their failed past leaders and threatening history repeating itself tragically in Africa. The world, since the time of Jesus Christ has usually preferred Barabbas to Jesus. Good people seldom gain access to power in spite of their acknowledged political acumen, brain, pragmatic credentials and personal integrity. Rather, god-fatherism, bribery, election rigging and exploitation of gullible masses have been used by politicians to deprive Africa of good leadership.
Obafemi Awolowo’s Values for Governmence an Development
I wish to again quote elaborately the following description of Chief Awolowo’s impact on development in the Western Region:
Before Awolowo embarked on his ambition for the office of Federal Prime Minister, he was keen as ever on putting this region (Southwestern) on a sound economic footing as a major player in industrial and commercial concerns. He raised the minimum wage of workers from the 5 shillings of 1954 to five shillings and sixpence on April 1, 1959. He incorporated the Western Hotels Limited which invested in the building of the majestic premier and Lafia hotels in Ibadan where industrialists and tourists could have decent accommodation and cool their heels. Chief Obafemi Awolowo set companies and empowered them with government funding to shore up their working capital. These include Western Nigerian Development Corporation (WNDC), the Finance Corporation, and the Western Nigeria Housing Corporation. The Western Nigeria Ministry of Industries was the main supervisory department of government which incorporated these mega-corporations. WNDC under the leadership of Chief Obafemi Awolowo floated a large number of industries and companies wholly owned by the government or held in partnership with several foreign investors. These include: National Bank of Nigeria, Wema Bank of Nigeria, Great Nigeria Insurance Company, the Nigeria General Insurance Company, the Nigeria General Insurance Company, Gravil Enthoven and Company, Lagos Airport Hotel, Vegetable Oil, Cocoa Industries, Odu’a Textiles, Wrought Iron Ltd, Union Beverages Ltd, Sunga Company, Wemabod Estates, Western Livestock, Fisheries Services Ltd, Caxton Press, Epe Plywood, Askar Paints, Nigeria Crafts and Bags Ltd, Nipol Plastic, Phoenix Motors, and several others. Today, many of these companies are still viable and have been consolidated in the Odu’a Group of Companies which is regarded as the largest conglomerate in the history of Nigeria . The 25-storey building known as Cocoa House was built started by Chief Awolowo’s administration. Chief Obafemi laid the foundation and saw its completion by his successor as the crowning glory of his party’s success story. After completion in the sixties, the building remained the tallest in West Africa for decades thereafter. Chief Awolowo’s term in office as the premier was valid until December 1961 but he resigned his premiership and vacates his seat in the House of Assembly two years ahead of his mandate.
The African Dillema: Case study of Nigeria
People of all indigenous nationalities, ethnic Groups and religions have equal stakes in the country, Nigeria. The country is an amalgamation of various people’s of different identities and with different religious backgrounds and orientations . These factors were recognized in the formulation of various constitutions which the country has had prior to and subsequent to the independence of Nigeria on 1st October 1960. The various constitutions of Nigeria : Order in Council over Crown Colony (1913); Clifford Constitution ( 1922), Richard Constitution ( 1946), Macpherson Constitution ( 1951), Lyttleton Constitution (1954), Westminster Constitution (1946), first Constitution upon Independence approved by British Order (1960), second Post-Independence Constitution (1963 until the first Military Coup, 1979 Constitution (changed to American Presidential System), 1993 Constitution crafted under oversight of the Military and the 1999 Constitution (also produced by the Military) The recent Constitutions have entrenched in the country certain provisions that have troubled the unity, justice and progress of the country.
Sixty one years after independence, it is disappointing and saddening that the country is yet to have its good bearing for peace, progress, development and justice. Despite fighting a devastating civil war, the country has learnt virtually nothing on how to harmonize the constituted parts of the nation in unity and with justice to all generating units . So has our moral and spiritual lives nosedived to the extent that corruption has become endemic, respect for and value for life has disappeared, impunity pervaded the public and private sector and one tribe is pursuing agenda to suppress and annihilate the others for extreme religious and ethnic basis. A county where the fundamental rights of all citizens are not protected, where the military, police, judiciary and other major organs of government are dominated by appointees from one tribe in defiance of the federal character, it appears that the Christian population has been comparatively more adversely affected than others in the domination of power by ‘feudal lords’ , using religious and ethnic bigotry to upset peace, justice, progress and harmony of the country.
In the national discourse therefore, as state failure and security threats continue with wanton barbaric killings by Fulani militants in many communities from North to South of the country, there is likelihood that unless a radical change occurs, Christianity and Christians are likely to be more adversely affected by what seems to be Islamization and fulanization agenda which threatens the cohesive unity of Nigeria, hence giving vent to increasing call’s for for schisms, restructuring etc.
Our leaders at moment have no ideologies, no educational erudition, no finesse of charisma, no agenda, no character nor integrity, no principles nor discipline, just fashion shows rather than ideologues and pragmatic developers. There are no more thinkers in Nigeria. The authors of inspiring political books are gone. We could count not less than ten books authored by Chief Obafemi Awolowo, a typical philosopher-King. Our leaders today are ignorant, intellectually empty-headed, diplomatically oblivious and incoherent and they lack persuasive ideologies of their manifestoes for governance. Eventually they experiment with power, become tin-gods, unreachable by the poor masses, thieves from the public treasury, corrupt squander mania and borrowers of huge debts which they hardly ever pay back while in office, rather emptying treasuries and leaving great indebtedness for their successors and potentially enslaving unborn generations.
The regional structure which emerged in the first Republic as well as the parliamentary system of legislature was an effective pattern of regional federalism which allowed each region to have considerable amount of autonomy to determine their policies, governance and economic advancements. We remain proud of the achievements of Chief Obafemi Awolowo-led Western Region which remain unsurpassed in Nigeria till date, talk of infrastructure development, housing estates, road network, Free Education, Free Healthcare, First Television in Africa, Industrial Estates, Agricultural farms, etc. The Unitary government and the military destroyed all that and forced the country into federal government dominated power structure which has left states and Local governments at the mercy of federal allocations. This is a very dangerous and lazy system whereby all parts of the country looked up to Abuja for every important thing, feeding on Oil drilled from the Niger Delta whose proceeds are shared and stolen by the others. We abandoned other resources and neglected independent initiatives and development strides by the regions and states. We now have an ineffective civil service, and unproductive workforce, a compromised citizenry, and a preponderance of corrupt leaders at all level. Against this backdrop, all looked up to the Federal centre , and where it fails, the entire country is stalled as we experience at the moment.
The federal control over the police and the Armed forces have contributed to the ongoing internal colonization of other peoples by the Hausa –Fulani who deliberately by evil design have been appointed by the current President of Nigeria, General Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR., to dominate all vital organs of leadership including : Army, Police, Customs, DSS, Immigration, Judiciary at all levels, Finance, Internal Affairs, etc. With this dominance in context of a much suspected agenda of Islamization and Fulanization of the rest of the country, the stage is set for the oppressors to stifle any major opposition to this awkward structure of the country. With a compromised leader who is alleged to be the patron of the Fulani Herdsmen terrorizing other localities, the criminals are protected, unprosecuted, and armed with AK 47 wantonly, while government issued directives dispossessing other legal possessors of arms to surrender them to government; this seems like a deliberate disempowerment of the other nations in favour of the Fulani expansionists who parade themselves and violate the peace, lives and rights and sanctity of other peoples with impunity. The nation is on edge at the moment, sitting upon a keg of gun powder, which may explode at the slightest spark.
Ngozike Obiani and Mathias Osiani in their paper titled “ The Mistake of 1914”, observed as follows:
- The amalgamation of the Northern and Southern protectorates of Nigeria in 1914 by the British overlord has remained controversial. Some believe it was contrived by the colonial authority to sustain the unviable Northern protectorate. This group believed that the North has remained an economic parasite on the naturally endowed Southern Protectorate of Nigeria… Even the founding fathers of Nigeria did not help matters. Sir Ahmadu Bello bemoaned the union as the mistake of 1914 while Chief Obafemi Awolowo dismissed Nigeria as a mere geographical expression. The national question has remained a major national past time that successive administrations routinely convoke national conference twith a view to resolving the issue.
Issues of Moral and Cultural Values
Nigerians appear to be incompatible bed-fellows ab initio :
It is interesting to reproduce below, the prejudiced (yet with some truth) views of Lord Lugard about the major tribes in Nigeria, in is Handover note to Walter H. Lang, on the 25th September 1918:
- “The Hausa –Fulani has no ideals, no ambitions save such as sensual in character. He is a fatalist, spendthrift and a gambler. He is gravely immoral and is seriously diseased that he is a menace to any community to which he seeks to attach itself”
- On the Yoruba: “Lagos has for 20 years opposed every Governor and has fomented strife and bloodshed in the hinterland… I have spent the best part of my life in Africa; my aim has been the betterment of the natives for whom I have been ready to give my life. But after some 29 years, and after nearly 12 years as Governor here, Iam free to say that the people of Lagos and indeed the westerners are the lowest, the most seditious and disloyal, the most purely prompted by self-seeking motives of any people I have met”.
- On the Igbo: : These people of predominantly Eastern Nigeria are fiercely rebellious with no regard for authority. Though industrious and religious, in deference to the objectives of her majesty and the crown, they are highly dangerous to be trusted with”.
I invite us to judge if these comments are accurate and prophetic. If you add these comments to Herbert Ogunde’s musical record titled Yoruba Ronu, one may be tempted that we need internal reassessment of our innate ethnic characteristics and consider if they have not contributed to the current stalemate on the true nationhood and survival of Nigeria.
The African people have lost their traditional sense of shame at wrong doings. Hence, Prof PLO Lumumba by his following observation:
In Japan, a corrupt person kills himself. In China, they will kill him. In Europe they will jail him. In Africa, he will present himself for election.
The Constituent Assembly of 1978 struggled with the issue of recognition of Sharia into the Constitution. Subsequent constitutions incorporated elements of Sharia into the Constitution. Islamic terminologies and institutions like Shariah Court, etc appear many times in the Nigerian Constitution, whereas there is no single mention of Church or Christianity in our Constitution. This is the similar tragedy of modern European Union, where there is no single mention of the word ‘God’ in European Union constitution on a wide Europe which was dominantly a Christian territory , prior to the advances of secularism and communism. The Nigerian struggle with forces of Islamization has for decades contributed to religious unrest and injustices in the country. Northern states operate dual justice systems : Civil Courts and Shariah Courts. The citizens of Nigeria are not equitably under one single law. Politicization oof religion has presented itself as clog in the wheel of progress, peace and development. Appointments are made. Not for reasons of competence and qualification of experts who can drive the development process but because of religious and ethnic considerations. Np country development when mediocre are in positions of governance, whereas the proven experts are disenfranchised. This was the fate of Chief Obafemi Awolowo, whose track records sell him as the right candidate for presidency of Nigeria but thrice that he presented himself, Many Nigerians east and North did not vote for him out of ethnic and religioue primordial sentiments. Nigeria, indeed some African countries are paying dearly for this omission of putting people with right values in positions of governance.
Prescribed Values for African Development
Daniel Athior Atem Manyuon, of South Sudan describes Africa’s development problems in the following words “
For generations, Africa has faced numerous social, political and economic challenges. These endemic problems range from abject poverty, violence, underutilize agriculture, infrastructure, lack of access to credit facilities, social fractionalization, poor health facilities, poor education to catastrophic civil unrest; which are linked to illiteracy, lack of proper institution and exploitation by corrupt and brutal leaders. These block African from encountering and supporting sustainable development and recovery of Africa. When these gaps are addressed, many opportunities will open for the youth like entrepreneurship, which shall, in turn, create millions of employments and solve the problem of transitioning to the risk of unemployment.
Development of societies and nations require certain intrinsic values which are compatible with the qualities of good leaders worldwide. Values are imbibed through religious doctrines, home training, cultural moral guidelines and taboos, influences of political mentors, personal discipline and self-development, strong principles and moral values and above all, divine benefaction. A good leader does not happen accidentally, it is grown in the soil of virtues mentioned above. A leader is first good in himself before he can mediate goodness to the people whom he serves in politics and government. When a good leader is placed anywhere to serve, he achieves success in spite of difficulties hat may be encountered there. Obafemi Awolowo was well cooked by godliness, self –discipline, philosophical erudition, academic excellence, professional competence, political mentoring partly through the ideology of Mahatma Gandhi and Jawarhalal Nehru, etc. He was a hard working man who acquired western education with toil. The following values are epitomized in is life and in his books.
- African Identity, Cultural values and Grassroots participation
Africa needs to free herself from the shackles of colonialism, even today. Afric is not totally independent. Some African governments are still under colonial influence. Francophone Countries still pay colonial tax to France toll today. Britain and France, etc still influence government leaders and policies, as much as they still exploit and manipulate the economies of African nations. Obafemi Awolowo was in the group of African leaders who fought against colonization until Nigeria gained independence in 1960. We recall that even the amalgamation of the Northern and Southern protectorates in 1914 by Sir Frederick Lord Lugard was a colonial marriage imposition, whose consequences still persist today. In Lugard’s words, the poor husband of Northern Nigeria is given in marriage to the rich wife of the South. By African culture, in spite of her wealth, the husband still; claims to be permanent head of the family. By his usurpation of authority, even the wealth of his so –called wife is becomes under his control. The British and other colonial masters are yet to free Africa. They could be happy that Nigeria did not have the opportunity of Awolowo becoming President because he was a threat to the continued control of the European powers. He was too intelligent and principled for their liking. International relations, we are told, most nations have no permanent friends but permanent interests.
It is necessary to sound a note of caution to African countries who unwittingly take foreign loans thereby mortgaging the future of their young generations. Most loans taken by African leaders are stolen by their leaders or spent on unproductive projects. It makes no sense to take loans overseas and commit same to projects that are not revenue yielding enough to repay the loans and the interests accrued. Consequently recent African countries such as Kenya and Uganda are already running into trouble with Chinese companies and government over unpaid loans and the resultant taking over of public assets such as Kenyan Railways an Ugandan Airport etc. Nigerian states have also been taking Chinese loans in huge amounts, and under very unfavourable conditionality. Obafemi Awolowo was a prudent manager of resources. He was not corrupt; he used revenue derived from legitimate commerce and trading in Cocoa to execute his development projects and infrastructure. During the Nigeria civil war, he managed the resources of the Federal Government so efficiently that the county did not take foreign loans to prosecute the war.
Awolowo was a grassroots man. His attire was mostly Nigerian dress with his iconic cap and pair of round-rimmed eye glasses. He was an indigenous politician who believed in African identity and culture. He was popular and almost idolized by the generality of te people. He identified with them. When he established Free Education in Western Nigeria, he registered his daughter, our Chief Host today, Her Excellency, Ambassador Tokunbo Awolowo-Dosumu in public primary school in Ibadan, in the same class with children of the poor. How many African leaders would do that ? This is the ideal servant-leader ideal expected in our societies, not larger-than life leaders that cannot be approached by or relate with the common man.
- Ideology, Peace and Security.
African leaders of the 1950s to 1960s were ideologically-inclined. That quality is rare in today’s political parties and their manifestoes. In Nigeria, adults who knew Obafemi Awolowo remember his Party’s cardinal programmes, both in Action Group and Unity Party of Nigeria. Their promises were rooted in socialist cum capitalist egalitarianism.
The following statements by Geotge Yittey of Ghana provides appropriate backgrounds to ideology and free market economies in Africa,
After independence, in the 1960s, most African nationalist governments spurned their own indigenous African heritage of free village market . free trade and free enterprise and adopted socialism and development planning as their guiding ideology. … Transformation of African societies required state control of the economy to protect the newly-fledged nations from foreign exploiters. This set the stage for massive state interventionism in the wave of socialism swept across the continent as almost all the new African leaders succumbed to the contagious ideology, copied from the east. The proliferation of socialist ideologies that emerged in Africa, ranged from the ‘Ujamaa’ (family hood or socialism in Swahili) of Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, the vague amalgam of Marxism, Christian socialism, humanitarianism and Negritude of Leopold Senghor of Senegal, Humanism of Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia; scientific socialism of Marien N’Gouabi of Congo (Brazavvile). Arab–Islamic socialism of Moammar Ghaddafi of Libya; Nkrumaism (Consciencism) of Kwame Nkrummah of Ghana, and Mobutuism of Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire. Only a few countries such as Ivory Coast, Nigeria and Kenya were pragmatic enough to eschew doctrinal socialism. Awolowo was champion is canvassing his own original political ideology.
Do we still have ideological leaders in Africa today? I doubt this.
In Africa, the most compelling need for development planning in the eyes of African leaders was Africa’s colonial legacy. Colonial objectives were not to develop Africa but to undertake only such forms of development that were necessary to facilitate the extraction of resources for export to Europe. Since the European metropolitan powers were mostly industrialized, the colonies were envisaged to function as non- industrial appendages to the metropolitan economy; consumers of European manufactured goods and providers of minerals, agricultural and sylvan commodities. As a result, the development of the colonial economies was perniciously ‘skewed, making African economies highly vulnerable to oscillations in commodity prices on the world market.
Awolowo was Nigeria’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”
“Awolowo wrote the influential Path to Nigerian Freedom (1947), in which he made his case for the need of a federal form of government in an independent Nigeria to safeguard the interests of each ethnic nationality and region and to create a sustainable basis for Nigerian unity. He also called for rapid progress toward self-government”.
- The Fear of God, Righteous living and Prayer
Abraham Lincoln (1842 -1864 ) identified rightly that religion could be a good instrument for good governance, not to foment trouble on ethnic and religious fanatical lines. According to him,
- “Sir, my concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God’s side, for God is always right.
- And whereas it is the duty of nations as well as of men, to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God … and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord.
- Intelligence, patriotism, Christianity, and a firm reliance on Him, who has never yet forsaken this favored land, are still competent to adjust, in the best way, all our present difficulty.
- With Malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds.
- Nevertheless, amid the greatest difficulties of my Administration, when I could not see any other resort, I would place my whole reliance on God, knowing that all would go well, and that He would decide for the right.
Obafemi Awolowo was a committed Christian. He was a member and Communicant of the Anglican Church, but with close active relationship also, of the Methodist church and Apostolic Church. His writings reflect his faith in God and the influence of Biblical precepts on his personal life and politics. He was a man of prayer and spiritual contemplation. His personal morality is traceable to his Christian convictions and faith in God.
- Integrity, Truth and Honesty
Desmond Tutu, the South African iconic archbishop and theologian said:
There comes a point where we need to stop just pulling people out of water. We need to go upstream and find out why they are falling in.” Why is northern Nigeria forever in the news for things ghastly? And why are the victims there hooked till eternity on sleeping pills? Political and religious bandits and other common criminals raid them daily from farm to home; they groan and moan and blame their stars. …“There is nothing more difficult than waking someone who is only pretending to be asleep.
Awolowo was a man of string moral principles. After he was sent to jail, efforts were made to propose compromises which could have made him become free, but he turned them down for reasons of his integrity. When Sir Mobolaji Anthony proposed that he quits politics and go on self exile from Nigeria, Awolowo responded as follows:
My reaction was swift and firm. I told ‘M de Bank’ (as his contemporary friends called him), that the two conditions were totally unacceptable. What will I do if I withdraw from politics? Politics was my chosen career, Law was my profession; I acquired the legal profession in order that I might pursue my chosen career as an independent person. I would suffer from psychological Anaemia and eventual death, if I withdraw from politics. As to the second condition, why should I send myself into exile in order to be free from incarceration? It would be cowardly to do so. Besides, it would be an act of betrayal of the masses of the people of Nigeria to accept either of the two conditions…I emphasized that if I were released on either of the two terms, I would be totally discredited for ever in the eyes of the masses and once so discredited, it would be well-nigh impossible to stage a come back.
- Courage to do the Right thing for the good of the people
I quote here, extensively, excerpts from Chief Awolowo;s semi-biography, My March through Prison. These were his comments during his trial period:
I was satisfied that I had faithfully, dutifully and honestly kept my charge. As Leader of Government Business and Premier, I had served my time and the people of the Western Region well. As a political leader, I had conscientiously and relentlessly, done all in my power to advocate and promote the best interests of the peoples of Nigeria. In the circumstances, I deserved nothing but praise and a hallowed place of honour. But instead, I was being pushed around like a worthless chattel by those who had not contributed anything, as indeed I had, to the progress of Nigeria; and withal, I was now going to face charges of treasonable felony. Et cetera. How long the trial would last, I had no means of guessing. Whatever its length, it was the outcome that was important. If I were acquitted, it would be glorious. If I were found guilty, I might go to goal for life…
During the moments of this internal review, I regarded my oppressors, persecutors and political adversaries as a wicked and ruthless cabal. They controlled all the governments in the country, and hence all political powers. They did not hide their unbending determination to bring about my political destruction and if possible, my physical extermination as well.
The situation was unavailing and dreadful, and the immediate prospect looked utterly gloomy and dark. My adversaries were formidable and merciless. I had caused them too much offence. I had dared to advocate the practice of democracy throughout the country, and had carried my campaign into the lion’s own den. I had dared to call on all the country’s political leaders to introduce measures which would rapidly lead to the liberation of the entire masses of lour people from the shackles of ignorance, poverty, and disease. I had also dared to call for the breaking of thee North in particular, and each of the other two Regions, into separate Regions. Above all, I had also dared to denounce, in no uncertain terms, feudalism and the ethnic hegemony under which one ethnic group arrogates to itself the right to govern the country in perpetuity, and to do what it likes regardless of the feelings of the other ethnic groups in the country.
What should I do in the prevailing and impending circumstances? Should I recant my standpoints, go on my kneel and beg for mercy? Perish the thought! This was the command from my true self and it cam clear and vivid… Having destroyed and banished from my mind that cowardly and negative thought intrusion, the only course open to me rushed into my mind with undimmed clarity. Relying on the justness of the cause, which God had, over the years inspired me to espouse, I was not in any doubt as to the ultimate triumph of that cause. In the faith of that ultimate victory, I made up my mind to go forward and fight, and do so every inch of the way with courage, grimness, resolution, relentlessness and defiance.
The injustice and impunity by one dominant tribe over others, in Awolowo’s time, which he decried and fought against, and the same Cabal which framed and punished him, still reigns in contemporary Nigeria. Might we say, it is one of the African calamities, that we kill our heroes and wish them the worst for daring to risk their lives to help people, societies and the nation.
- Contentment, Humility and Endurance
Chief Awolowo was a successful man by all material means. He was clearly upper class by dint of hard work and industry. His twin degrees in Law and Commerce found confluence in his business acumen, political expertise, intellectual erudition and leadership qualities. He was stoic in his approach to life. His expression of contentment is reflected in his interpretation of the essential values of life, when he was in prison. He contrasted his life as premier with that as a prisoner ‘of conscience’ and concluded that the affluence and flamboyant often associated with political office holders was ephemeral; what really matters to man are three needs : Food, clothing and shelter. What a view point from a former celebrated Head of Regional Government and head of a Political party, now incarcerated in a small , dingy, Spartan cell at Calabar and at Lekki.
When he lost his eldest son, Olusegun Awolowo, due to an accident, while Chief was in prison, he was naturally devastated but bore the pain as a Christian. There is hardly any politician produced in Nigeria and indeed Africa who has had the huge impact of Awolowo but who had suffered betrayal and persecution not just from his political foes and feudal dictators, but from his Kiths and Kins. Herbert Ogunde’s record – Yoruba Ronu describes aptly the Yoruba attitude of betrayal of their kith and Kin. The melodrama attendant to Awolowo’s March through Prison reveals that the active participants, used by the Hausa Fulani leaders were fellow Yoruba. Awolowo recalls in his book that the Judge who sentenced him, Justice George Sowemimo, soon after sending Awolowo to prison, proceeded to Kaduna as guest of Sardauna of Sokoto. Sir Adetokunbo Ademola who presided over his Appeal case was an avowed Anti-Awolowo ‘Politicians in disguise’. We can see from his experience that another major evil plaguing Africa is compromised judiciary and miscarriage of justice. This situation prevails till today.
- The Rule of Law, Justice and Fairness
Awolowo believed in the rule of law. Hence, in spite of all political and judicial conspiracies against his person, he persisted in subjecting himself to due legal process, exhausting all avenues of judicial redress until he was sent to prison.
It is gratifying that, our Special Guest at this year’s Obafemi AWolowo Foundation Lecture is the same leader who released Chief Obafemi Awolowo from prison and immediately deployed his talent to use in service of the nation, as Vice- Chairman of the Federal Executive Council and Minister for Finance. Imagine that a military Hear of State was wiser and more pragmatic than a civilian government. This says so much about African model of democracy ! We celebrate His Excellency, General Dr. Yakubu Gowon, former Head of State in the glorious era of Nigeria. Iam personally pleased to have him attend this lecture and sustain his loyal support for the family and legacies of his former Deputy, Chief Obafemi Awolowo. It was my distinguished honour as Vice-Chancellor of Ajayi Crowther University, Oyo, to confer on General Gowon, the University’s honorary doctorate degree of Doctor of Laws. That opportunity afforded me opportunity to come personally close to our Hero and host him for a while. That was a lifelong ambition fulfilled for me. With General Gowon still alive, Nigeria and indeed Africa should utilize his wisdom and expertise to check the drifting of the nations of the continent of Africa. It was actually on account of African cause that, while attending a meeting of the Organization of African Unity that his regime was overthrown. Like Awolowo, Gowon was philosophical about his fate and proceeded to Europe to develop himself and with doctorate degree, proved that life does not end with government appointments.
- Strategic Planning and Foresight for Development :
Sub-Saharan Africa, home to more than 1 billion people, half of whom will be under 25 years old by 2050, is a diverse continent offering human and natural resources that have the potential to yield inclusive growth and eradicate poverty in the region. With the world’s largest free trade area and a 1.2 billion-person market, the continent is creating an entirely new development path, harnessing the potential of its resources and people.
The region is composed of low, lower-middle, upper-middle, and high-income countries, 22 of which are fragile or conflict-affected. Africa also has 13 small states, characterized by a small population, limited human capital, and a confined land area.
The African economy remains underdeveloped despite decades of conceptualizing, formulating and implementing various types of economic policies and programmes, the African region contains a growing share of the world’s absolute poor with little power to influence the allocation of resources. The development challenges of Africa are deeper than low income, falling trade shares, low savings, and slow growth. In addition, they include high inequality, uneven access to resources, social exclusion, insecurity, environmental degradation, HIV/AIDS pandemic, among others.
African countries need to build transformative, good governance and democratic institutions. A crucial component of such institutions is strong leadership. Leadership in the developmental State aims at defining an agenda that meets the needs of the people and puts national interests above personal interests. In this vein, leaders should own a development strategy, expressed in a vision to overcome underdevelopment. Towards this end, the leadership needs to be committed to Africa’s industrialization and the creation of more productive and high-income opportunities in the formal sector, but must also be inclusive. Central to inclusiveness is that the State needs to ensure that people have opportunities to acquire assets and have access to sustainable employment” (Jean-De-La-Croix Nkurayija)
Chief Obafemi Awolowo was a clear leader in political engineering, statesmanship, innovation and planning . He was also a master craftsman in governance and developmental projects. These are too well-known and documented. His political thoughts published , including on constitutional reforms, development projects, justice and equity, investments, education and healthcare. He liaised with foreign countries and got them to invest in Nigeria’s agriculture and industrialization. He was a man ahead of his generation. He was indeed Prophet Awolowo, for his prophecies about Nigeria’s future are coming to pass today as we struggle to get out of the political and social quagmire of unimaginable proportions today.
Thirty-five days before the transition of Chief Obafemi Awolowo, he reflected on what the north was and what it could turn out to be. “I don’t believe that the north is destined to be educationally and socially backward. It is their people that make them so…,” Chief Awolowo said in an April 4, 1987 discussion with Professor Moses Makinde of the then University of Ife. He deplored the refusal of the north to embrace education for all and the consequences of what he called the ranka dede mentality of the poor majority in the north. The question has always been whether the north will ever catch up with the south in education. Awo answered that question: “How can you catch up with somebody who is running while you are crawling? See the way people in the old western region are contributing money to build one classroom or the other in the villages….But in the North, people are yet to put a premium on the education of their children. …But I think sooner than later, the leaders of the north will see the repercussion of their selfishness and carelessness in their attitude towards western education. But the time will be too late, and if they don’t regret it or blame themselves for lack of foresight, the northern youth may ask their leaders some questions when they see the rate of development that goes with education in many parts of southern Nigeria. They may then wonder whether it was in their stars or in the selfishness, carelessness, and lack of foresight of their past and present leaders…” (see Awo as a Philosopher by Moses Makinde (2002); page 281).
Challenges of Leadership and Development in Africa Today
The basic challenge of genuine nationhood in Africa is encapsulated in a stanza of the Nigerian National Anthem :
Arise, O compatriots, Nigeria’s call obey
To serve our fatherland
With love and strength and faith
The labor of our heroes past
Shall never be in vain
To serve with heart and might
One nation bound in freedom, peace, and unity.
Good people who can make good use of the nation’s plural religious nature and ethnic diversity are needed to take charge of the ship of state that floats adrift at the moment. We are all in a colossal mess and at risk of capsizing inside the boat Nigeria. What we need is a good pilot. And it does not matter what religion or ethnic group the person belongs. A sick man on life-support who is in dire need of blood transfusion will not care if the blood to be donated to him belonged to a person of different religion or ethnic group. When we fly in Airplanes, the religion of the Pilot matters not; what matters is his or her expertise. And all our lives are actually in the hands of the God and the Pilot once we are air borne! Good people must join political parties, run under parties different from the sick big parties, mobilize the population that are out there, non-voting, especially the youths, and change can be possible, all things being equal (meaning if election rigging can be checked). Politics is not evil neither is it dirty naturally, when corrupt people do not corrupt the process. It is simply the running of society by elected representatives entrusted with governance according to the Constitution and other laws of the country. Ideally, it is a good venture for good people with good character, positive and progressive ideals and programmes to avail the society of their wisdom, tact and expertise. The Proverbs 29: 2 states : “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice; But when a wicked man rules, the people groan.”.
Darkness exists because of the absence of light, just as evil dominate because of the abdication of involvement, by the good people. Moreover, God is the basic authority for any politics and governance or government. He created man and organized his society as well as gave laws and precepts in the Holy Bible, for good governance and ideal society. In fact, God ran a Theocracy before Israel demanded for democracy in form of monarchy. Democracy is commonly defined as “Government of the people by the people and for the people”. This excluded any role for God, in the sense of secularity. But if you examine our two past National Anthems, there are clear mentioning of God’s role in our nationhood.
It is necessary that religion and politics are related. The very political system is Bible derived. The governance structure of Executive, Legislative and Judiciary is derived from Isaiah 33:22 – “ For the Lord is our Judge, the Lord is our Lawgiver, the Lord is our King. It is He who will save us”). We need genuine repentant prayer by the generality of Nigerian people for God to intervene by influencing the emergence of people with good hears and spirit, and who are compassionate and caring for the cause of the common Man, leaders who believe in and fear God, with integrity, simplicity, honesty, contentment and practical impact. But we are mostly a religious but not righteous nation, hence our prayers hardly have heavenly results. So many churches and Mosques are established everywhere but they make little positive impact on the society . The Churches, Mosques and other Ethnic leaders have collectively failed in providing good leadership and governance.
R.A. Torrey writes, “We are too busy to pray, and so we are too busy to have power. We have a great deal of activity, but we accomplish little; many services but few conversions; much machinery but few results.”
There is need for mass reorientation of the citizenry and reeducating the present and coming generations about patriotism, nationhood, nation building, civics, etc New curricula can be designed to provide this. We need a re-orientation of the entire citizenry about their political rights and fundamental human rights. History needs to be introduced into the curricula of all students at all levels. People must know their history otherwise they will lose their identities with time.
There is an urgent need to deliberately grow good leaders at all levels and in all sectors of African nations. The life and political values and methods of Chief Obafemi Awolowo as well as those of major Pan-African heroes, especially Kwame Nkrumah, Julius Nyerere, etc should be developed as a subject of study in Africa’s educational institutions as a way of motivating young leaders of Africa who ae in desperate search for successful leadership Models and heroes in Africa. Obafemi Awolowo is in the class of the Winston Churchills, Mahatma Gandhis, Marcus Garveys, Martin Luther King, men who changed the course of their people and societies by their good sense, caring hearts, sacrificial lives, charismatic leadership, intellectual and philosophical acumen, academic erudition, professional excellence and documented achievements. The books and publications containing Awolowo’s political ideologies and leadership style should be recommended texts for schools and universities. That way, a generation might be raised, who, though not having been fortunate to meet Obafemi Awolowo during his lifetime, might, through his ideas become genuine Awoists who run with his ideas to positively impact and develop their respective African countries.
Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen in the virtual audience, I thank you for your attention.
Abegunrin, Olayiwola, The Political Philosophy of Chief Obafemi Awolowo,
Ingram, UK: Rowman & Littlefield, 2015
Awolowo, Obafemi, My March Through Prison,
Lagos: Macmillan Publishers, 1985.
Ayittey, George and Duru, Mike Eds. Voices from Africa
Lagos: Students for Liberty, 2016
Buhari, L.O. “The Contributions of Chief Obafemi Awolowo to the Growth and Development of Nigeria during the First Republic”, Annals of Reviews and Research, Vol. 4/4, March 2018.