By Kamal Tayo Oropo

 

IN spite of political, tribal, social and religious differences, Nigerians of all walks of life put aside these tendencies to pay tribute to the legacies and values of the late Premier of the defunct Western Region and leader of the opposition in the First Republic, Chief Obafemi Awolowo.

Indeed, NECA House, Ikeja, Lagos, venue of this year’s Obafemi Awolowo Memorial Lecture, was filled to capacity.

On the high table in their colourful traditional regalia were Grand Patron of the Obafemi Awolowo Foundation, the Ooni of Ife, Alayeluwa, Oba Okunade Sijuade; the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammed Sa’ad Abubakar; Emir of Kano, Alhaji Ado Bayero; Amayando of Nembe, Mingi XII;, King Edmund Daukoru; the Obi of Onitsha, Igwe Naemeka Achebe and a host of other traditional rulers cutting across the geo-political zones of the country.

However, what probably caught the attention of those present at the event was the presence of former Governor of Lagos State, Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who arrived almost an hour after the event had started. The Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) stalwart and possibly major financier of the party, was immediately ushered onto to the high table, sitting beside Ado Bayero.

Tinubu, who had before yesterday’s event, maintained a noticeable distance from previous events of the foundation, came with his friend, former Ogun State Governor, Chief Olusegun Osoba.

Following on their heels was Osoba’s successor in office, Chief Gbenga Daniel. Former Ekiti State Governor, Chief Niyi Adebayo was also in attendance.

When The Guardian cornered the National Chairman of the ACN, Chief Bisi Akande, asking him if his appearance along with his colleagues was a major departure from seeming boycotts of similar events in the past, he retorted: “Awolowo is a man we all worship. I don’t know what we mean by departure, but if I was not invited to an event, I should not be there. This one, I was invited and here I am.

“This is an intellectual gathering to proffer ways the country can move forward, using the example of our idol, Awolowo. That’s why I came. If you are organising any forum to move Yoruba nation forward, I will be there, if invited.”

Also present  was Alhaji Abdukadir Balarabe Musa, who chaired the occasion.

The lecture titled: ‘Power Politics or Welfare Politics?: Chief Obafemi Awolowo In The History of African Nationalist Political Thought’, was delivered by the Guest Speaker, Prof. Toyin Falola.

Falola who traced Awolowo’s achievements amidst challenges of his time, however, bemoaned the present crop of political leaders. “Many Nigerians who fought for the attainment of this current democracy did not envisage what is presently going on.

“Power is in the hands of people who see public offices as opportunity to advance their personal fortunes.”

He recalled that what Awolowo represented was visionary and accountable leadership, Ingredients that, according to Falola, are lacking in most current leaders in the country

Balarabe Musa, describing Awolowo as most qualitative, outstanding and memorable legend of Nigerian politics and governance since the 1940s, said the late sage was one whose role in politics and governance can still be a reliable guide for any first-time president of Nigeria, “Even though, Nigeria lost the opportunity of having Awolowo as her national leader.”

 

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