Like Awolowo, Only Time Can Define the Decisions of a True Leader – President Tinubu


Dr Adesina, VP Shettima, Chief Emeka Anyaoku and others

*Celebrates AfDB President for clinching the late sage’s 2024 leadership prize

President Bola Ahmed Tinubu has extolled the virtues of the first premier of the western region, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, saying his principles have withstood the tests of time and geography.

Just like the late sage, whom he said had been a dependable ally of time, the President identified the power of time to judge fairly, noting that it is only time that defines the tough decisions, character and sacrifices a leader has to take to make a difference.

Speaking on Wednesday during the 2024 Obafemi Awolowo Prize for Leadership held at Lagos Continental Hotel, Victoria Island, Lagos, President Tinubu described the late Awo as a compass and guiding light for several generations of leaders.

The Obafemi Awolowo Prize for Leadership, a prestigious, biennial, international prize that follows a rigorous process of nomination and subsequent screening by a selection committee, celebrates the democratic and development-oriented ideals of Chief Awolowo, a foremost Pan-African nationalist.

President Tinubu who was represented at the event by his deputy, Vice President Kashim Shettima, observed that understanding Chief Awolowo’s teachings requires coming to terms with “the obscured reality of leadership,” even as he said that “overcoming the conspiracies of mischief-makers, sceptics, and saboteurs” is the very first test every true leader must undergo.

Delivering the President’s address titled, “Leadership: An Alliance with Time,” Senator Shettima stated: “For the great sage from Ikenne, his enduring impact persists despite revisionist efforts. Time sifts through biases and lies, and through hidden agendas and propaganda. Time delivers to us the naked truth that defines the tough decisions and sacrifices every sincere leader must make to create a difference

“But, in all we do, we must always find strength in the belief of those who trust the process, those who give us the benefit of the doubt. There is no greater honour than the privilege to lead one’s people, and assuming a position of leadership during times of turbulence is the ultimate test of our mettle as leaders.

“It is in these moments of uncertainty that true character and capability come to the forefront. While the immediate judgment may be rendered by the people we either impress or displease, the long-term verdict is carved by time, the passage of time.”

The President recalled how Chief Awolowo contended with forces both within and outside his political party, stating that the great sage was a victim of his ambition to make a difference and was dragged by a hostile opposition until he found himself behind bars.

He however noted that with the passage of time, even the harshest of Awo’s critics came to realize the futility of taking a man who stood out, even in death, because of his refusal to compromise his convictions for granted.

“He (Awolowo) fought until his very last days in defence of democracy in Nigeria, and these are the examples that make him a hero of the nation. There is no doubt that time has been Chief Awolowo’s ally. Time has revealed the enduring impact of his ideas and actions,” President Tinubu said.

He congratulated the President of African Development Bank (AfDB), Dr Akinwunmi Adeṣina, for clinching the 2023 Obafemi Awolowo Prize for Leadership, describing the former Nigerian Minister of Agriculture as a “maverick change-maker who has not only flown our flag all over the world but has dazzled the world with the novelty of his thoughts, indispensability of his ideas, and dynamism of his actions”.

Adesina won the 2023 prize to become its fourth recipient after Nobel Laureate, Wole Soyinka; former South African President, Thabo Mbeki, and legal luminary, Chief Afe Babalola had clinched the prize meant to encourage, recognise, reward and celebrate excellence in leadership.

Likening the AfDB President to a Prophet they have chosen to honour in his hometown, President Tinubu said just like Awolowo, Adesina “has exemplified the values that have shaped the course of history at all the institutions he has headed, all the offices he occupied.

“In celebrating Dr. Adesina’s achievements, we are not merely acknowledging a leader; we are recognizing a role model and mentor who paves the way for current and future generations,” the President further noted.

Also speaking at the event, Dr Adesina recalled the visionary leadership and legacies of the late sage, Awolowo which, according to him, spreads across education, healthcare and infrastructure development.

The AfDB President who delivered the prize lecture, said the award has humbled, inspired and motivated, even as he pledged to support initiatives that will transform more lives and livelihoods across Africa.

He noted that the issue of feeding Africa must be achieved because there is no pride in begging for food.

“We must make poverty and hunger history in Africa and Nigeria,” Dr Adesina stated, assuring that the AfDB will support the Tinubu administration in transforming agricultural practice to boost production and improve livelihoods.

He also spoke about the possibilities of a new Nigeria where all the states are viable, and peace, security and prosperity for every citizen is assured.

“In the coming season farming season, across states, the AfDB will mobilize resources to cultivate 300,000 hectares of land for rice production, 300,000 hectares of land for maize production and 150,000 hectares of land for cassava production, among others,” Adesina pledged.

He further stressed the need for urgent interventions by governments at different levels to invest massively in human capital development and initiatives by the bank to support the efforts.

Earlier in her remarks, chairperson of the ocassion and President of Tanzania, Samia Suluhu Hassan, commended the foresight of the eminent team of the judges for selecting Dr Akinwunmi Adesina for the 2024 Obafemi Awolowo Prize for Leadership, noting that they would not chosen a better recipient.

She said Dr Adesina is more than the President of the AfDB, describing him as a true African leader and agent of transformation who has carried his responsibilities with grace, humility and uncommon commitment.

On his part, President of the Union of Comoros, Azali Assoumani, paid glowing tribute to the achievements and efforts of Dr Adesina, noting that the fruits of his innovative ideas is felt across Africa’s landscape, particularly in Agriculture, industrialisation.

In the same vein, the President of Ethiopia, Sahle-Work Zewde, emphasized the importance of celebrating people whose works impact millions of lives, especially in developing countries.

She said the presence of present and former leaders across Africa and beyond at the event was a testimony of Dr Adesina’s visionary and purposeful leadership, particularly his efforts that have taken the AfDB to global heights.

Also present at the event were former Head of State and Presidents of Nigeria, Gen. Yakubu Gowon (rtd); Chief Olusegun Obasanjo; Dr Goodluck Jonathan; former Vice President Namadi Sambo; former Commonwealth Secretary General, Chief Emeka Anyaoku and Chief Ayo Adebanjo.

Others include Governors Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State, Dapo Abiodun of Ogun State, Uba Sani of Kaduna State, Mohammed Bago of Niger State, Caleb Muftwang of Plateau State, Umar Namadi of Jigawa State, Abba Yusuf of Kano State; Dikko Raddah of Katsina State and Alex Otti of Abia State.