By Kazeem Ugbodaga
Former Military Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon; former Secretary General, Commonwealth, Chief Emeka Anyaoku and others on Monday said the nation would only overcome its challenges if the leadership would imbibe the principles and legacy the late Obafemi Awolowo left behind.
They spoke at the 2017 Obafemi Awolowo Memorial lecture held at the Nigeria Institute of International Affairs, NIIA, Victoria Island, Lagos, Southwest Nigeria.
According to Gowon, Awolowo was the father of Nigeria, saying that the late sage did whatever he wanted to do wholeheartedly.
He said Awo was created by God to intervene at a difficult period like the time he was in power between 1966 and 1975, saying that he was able to help his government to overcome adversity during that period.
“Between 1966 and 1975, we were relatively young when we were in power. Awolowo teamed up with us and dedicated himself to service and we succeeded in keeping Nigeria together without borrowing a penny.
“So many things stood out about the late sage. He was loyal, persevering, hardworking and render service to the people. He used his life to preach the message of hope,” he said.
Gowon challenged the youths to brace up at a time when the nation was going through difficult period, saying that they must be rugged and determined to keep their calling.
The former Head of State, while quoting from the words of the late sage said youths must shun all forms of violence, as violence would not settle anything apart from injuring the souls of others.
“Let us think about the problems of Nigeria and proffer solutions to them. This is the lesson the young people should learn,” he said.
Also speaking, Anyaoku lamented the horrible state of the nation, wondering what the nation’s founding fathers would have done if they would have the opportunity to rise from the grave today, adding that the answer would have been that they would raise a lamentation over the nation.
“Awolowo would be disappointed over the Nigeria of today because there is no true federalism. We now have non-viable units and a powerful federal government. Today, there are politics of impunity, disregard to court orders by government institutions. Worthy societal values have collapsed while self-centredness for money holds sway. The unity of the nation has been weakened.
“As we mark this Awo’s birthday, I urge Nigerians, especially the media, youths, political leaders and legislators to invoke the attribute of Awolowo and seek to emulate them in all that they do,” he stated.
Lagos State Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, in his goodwill message said the celebration of Awolowo’s legacy was a testimony of his greatness as he was an administrator and a prudent manager of resources.
Ambode, who was represented by his deputy, Dr. Oluranti Adebule challenged Nigerians to emulate the virtues and principles of the late sage, saying that the solutions to the challenges the nation found itself was to do the right thing.
The Ooni of Ife, Oba Enitan Ogunwusi, in his goodwill message advised all political leaders and those who amassed wealth for themselves to know that they would die one day and that they should be wise to leave a legacy behind that people would remember them for.
Osun State Governor, Rauf Aregbesola said “we cannot pretend that our nation is not in dilemma. There is need to restructure Nigeria, but that cannot be the real challenge of Nigeria at this time. The concept of money is the critical deficiency of our nation, which has to do with productivity.”
In his lecture, Prof. Banji Akintoye said Awolowo changed the life, capabilities and the prospects of the whole Yoruba nation, saying that the gift of education was the greatest single gift given by Awolowo to his people, adding that under his leadership, the Western region stood out as the number one region in the country.
Akintoye, who delivered a lecture, titled: “The Awo Legacy and its Message for Nigerian Youths,” challenged the youths to imbibe the legacy of Awolowo in order for them to succeed in life, saying: “that is the central purpose of this lecture-to invite and motivate our youths to benefit from Awolowo’s legacy and use it to enrich, strengthen and beautify their lives-and if possible, to use it to earn for themselves an image as bright and as enviable as Chief Awolowo’s in the world and for along time in the future.”
He charged the youths to love learning and be dedicated to finding information and knowledge which Awolowo was known for, challenging the youths to fight for a rational and harmonious federation which Awolowo fought for.
“This over-centralisation is the root of all the sufferings of all Nigerians, especially our youths. Our youths must not leave the fight against this destructive federal structure to scattered politicians and intellectuals. You must all rise up and fight it relentlessly until the advocates and supporters of it yield to the demands for the rational restructuring of our federation. As part of this war, it is crucial that the nations of Nigeria must be defended by all Nigerian youths,” he said.
According to Akintoye, the youths must resist the temptation to keep wallowing in the mud-pits of the past and give concentration to the fight for a great future for the people, adding that “every nation in our country, no matter how small, must feel confident in the assurance of protection by the collective will of Nigeria.”