Twenty-five years after his demise, Obafemi Awolowo, the first premier of the defunct Western Region, remains a leader whose memory is hard to erase
By TEMITOPE ADEOGUN
Were he to be alive, he would have turned 103 by March 6 this year. But death ruled otherwise on May 9, 1987 when he died at the age of 78. That notwithstanding, late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, nationalist, political leader, principal participant in the struggle for Nigeria’s independence, leader of the banned Action Group and leader of the Yoruba nation of western Nigeria remains a colossus whose memories even time and space cannot erase.
Little wonder a church service marking the 25th anniversary of his passage on May 9 was well attended by dignitaries from virtually all parts of the country. Delivering a sermon at the anniversary church service held at the Our Saviour’s Anglican Church, Ikenne-Remo, Ogun State, the Rt. Rev. Peter Adebiyi, Bishop of the Church of Nigeria, Anglican Communion, Lagos West Diocese, called on former president, Olusegun Obasanjo, and ex-Lagos State governor, Bola Tinubu, to unite the Yoruba within the Nigerian nation.
Adebiyi lamented the fact that 25 years after Awolowo’s death, the Yoruba nation has not been able to find a credible replacement for the late sage. He however did not stop there, the reverend also went further to advance reasons the present leadership vacuum has persisted. “Yoruba people, after the death of Papa, have not agreed to resolve among themselves who to put forward as an acceptable leader to the majority of the Yoruba nation. The main reason for this stalemate is that we have ceased to seek the good of our nation but are more concerned with the politics of the stomach of individuals,” Adebiyi noted.
Adebiyi, who described himself as a living testimony to the greatness and foresightedness of the political leadership of Awolowo, said he would have been wasting away as an uneducated farmer were it not for Awolowo’s free education programme.
In a goodwill message, the Ogun State governor, Ibikunle Amosun, noted that Awolowo touched many lives during his sojourn on earth, explaining that his record of achievements remains unmatched. He however added: “Historically, the Yoruba have always belonged to different parties. You have the right to belong to any party. What is important is that we must all uphold the values of justice, democracy and the developmental ideals espoused by Awolowo. Papa played politics of commitment, principle and ideology. When his peer vacillated on national issues, he came up with fresh ideas on them.”
Speaking to journalists later about Yoruba unity and leadership, Tinubu said only the people can make their own leaders and Awolowo emerged because of mass Yoruba approval of his quality work and conduct. “Once you make people the cornerstone of your politics, then you are in step with the legacy of Baba Awolowo. Nobody can really step into Awolowo’s shoes except to continue in his vision and philosophy of development, his character, discipline and his emphasis on true federalism, justice and democracy,” he said.
The event attracted dignitaries, including Yakubu Gowon, former military head of state; governors of Oyo, Osun, Ogun and Ekiti states; as well as representatives of Lagos and Ondo state governors among other political figures and traditional rulers from different parts of the country.