Old Students Association

Chief Awolowo

Tribute to Chief Awolowo

Date: August 18, 2014 Author: busari Categories: Chief Awolowo

Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s birthday celebration and lecture represents a great opportunity to bring together disparate parts of our nation in a dialogue aimed at helping to breach our differences and promote our mutual understanding.

This office will be forwarding various speeches, lectures, quotes and essays written by Chief Awolowo and those written by individuals and experts on Chief Awolowo’s career that are relevant today’s politics.

Chief Obafemi Awolowo [1909-1987]]
Kiniwun Onibudo, Baba Olayinka
Ta lo sope aoni Baba?
Kaii Ani Baba

On Nigeria

Nigeria is not a nation. It is a mere geographical expression. There are no “Nigerians” in the same sense as there are “English”, “Welsh”, or “French.” The word “Nigerian” is merely a distinctive appellation to distinguish those who live within the boundaries of Nigeria and those who do not.”
[Path to Nigerian Freedom, Obafemi Awolowo, 1947]

On Treasonable Felony Verdict

I must say with respect, and this may have to be taken up with a higher tribunal, that I do not agree with your Lordship’s verdict and the premise on which it is based…..I have always fought for what I believe, without relenting and regardless of the consequences to myself. I have no doubt, and I say this without any spirit of immodesty, that in the course of my political career, I have rendered services to this country which historians and coming generations will certainly regard as imperishable. ….I personally welcome any sentence you may impose upon me. At this moment my only concern is not for myself, but that my imprisonment might do harm to Nigeria for three reasons….For some time to come, the present twilight of democracy, individual freedom and the rule of law, will change or might change into utter darkness. But after darkness–and this is commonplace- -comes a glorious dawn”
[At the Lagos High Court Premises - September 15, 1963]

On scholarship awards and job creation

In strict pursuance of our principles, we did a few things which were unprecedented in the annals of public administration in any part of Nigeria, and which served as shining objects of emulation to the other Governments in Nigeria for a long time after. We made provision of 80,000 Pounds in the estimates for the award of 200 post-secondary scholarships tenable in British and American universities and in the University College, Ibadan. No provision at all had been made in the estimates for scholarship awards. It was the first time ever that such a large number of scholarships were provided for and awarded in one year by any Government in the country. The Nigerian Federal Government up to then had not awarded even as many as 20 scholarships annually…. ..It was part of our election promises that the key posts in the civil service of the country should in due course be filled by Nigerians. When the Macpherson Constitution was introduced there was no plan anywhere outside the Action Group’s for accelerating what is generally known as Nigerianization of the civil service. In our view, British officers were being brought into the country to perform jobs which could be competently discharged by Nigerians.
[Autobiography of Obafemi Awolowo: Cambridge University Press, 1960]
The 200 post-secondary scholarships referred to by Chief Obafemi Awolowo were awarded in the mid-fifties. Prominent among the recipients of these awards were: (1) Bashorun M.K.O. Abiola (Chartered Accounting-University of Glasgow); (2) Professor Wole Soyinka (English Literature-University of Leeds); (3) Professor Samuel Aluko (Economics-London School of Economics & Political Science); (4) Prof. Ojetunji Aboyade (Economics-University of Hull, England) (5) Prof. Olatunde Odeku [Nigeria's first neurosurgeon] Medicine-Howard & Michigan Universities)

On impending bloody Revolution

I do fervently and will continue to pray that I may be proved wrong. But something within me tells me, loud and clear that we have embarked on a fruitless search. At the end of the day, when we imagine that the new order is here, we would be terribly disappointed. ….As long as Nigerians remain what they are, nothing clear, principled, ethical and idealistic can work with them. And Nigerians will remain what they are, unless the evils which now dominate their hearts, at all levels, and in all sectors of our political, business and governmental activities are exorcised… …I venture to assert that they not be exorcised, and indeed will be firmly entrenched, unless God Himself imbues a vast majority of us with a revolutionary change of attitude…. .It is a painful conclusion. But I don’t think anybody can avert it. There is bound to be a revolution in the country, and when it takes place, it will be bloody. You see, when the masses are pushed to the wall, a time will come when they will fight back. That time may not be far. Why the enemies should push the country to that extreme will be best known to them. These people are not more than 2,000 but they are very powerful and unrelenting in the suppressing and subjugation of the masses. I am confident the people will liberate themselves one day……My efforts had been geared towards preventing a recurrence of something like the French revolution but if that is what will correct the ills in Nigeria, let it be so. Reports reaching me from various parts of the country make one very sad. A lot of people are dying of hunger, frustration and unemployment. This was not the type of country, I for one, envisaged for Nigeria when we were struggling for independence and even at attainment of independence.
[An interview published posthumously by Sunday Glory on May 13, 1987 and Saturday Tribune, June 29, 2008]

On the level of educational backwardness in the North

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. Enrolments in primary and secondary schools are increasing by leaps and bounds. But in the north, people are yet to put premium on the education of their children. Tell me, how can a man crawling at the rate of 10 kilometers an hour catch up, not to talk of overtake, another man running at the rate of 80 kilometers per hour? Impossible, but I think sooner than later, the leaders of the north will see the repercussion of their selfishness and carelessness and lack of foresight 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 youths 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. If I had been given the chance in 1959 and 1979, I would have changed the fortunes of the north as a place that can be compared favorably with the south in terms of educational, social and economic developments. I don’t believe that the north is destined to be educationally and socially backward. It is their people that make them so. Most certainly, they lost their chances in 1959 and 1979.
[An interview by Prof. Moses Makinde, April 5, 1987, thirty-five days before the death of Chief Awolowo]

On 8 years in office as Premier of Western Nigeria

In the course of my eight years in office, I gave my personal attention to the formulation of every major policy, and the execution of practically every important program. It was the greatest pleasure of my life to watch the Region grow from a little acorn into a promising oak. But there are certain matters which were particularly dear to my heart, and to which I devoted the closest personal attention. In our underdeveloped society, I placed the utmost premium on (1) education (2) health (3) economic development and (4) democratization of local government (Native Authority) councils. I have reasons for my predilection for these subjects. As I said before, we believe in the equality of all men, and in the liberty of the individual. I believe that every citizen, however humble and lowly his station in life, has a right to demand from his government the creation of those conditions which will enable him progressively to enjoy, according to civilized standards, the basic necessities of life as well as reasonable comfort and a measure of luxury. In other words, every citizen, regardless of his birth or religion, should be free and reasonably contented.
[Autobiography of Obafemi Awolowo, Cambridge University Press, 1960, Page 266]
I absolutely and totally agree with the great one. There is no legitimate reason why government should not represent the highest common ideals and the characteristics of the people who form and support it.

on corruption

It will, I believe, be generally agreed that eradication of corruption from any society is not just a difficult task: it is without dispute, and impossible objective.

on England ladies

“England ladies” is a phrase which was common in Lagos in those days, and it was used to distinguish “ladies” who had been to England or any part of the United Kingdom for further studies from those who had not. They were in a class by themselves, and they looked down upon other ladies and all gentlemen who had not been to U.K. as inferior beings. But some of us who had not been to UK regarded them as contemptible. For one thing, all they studied in UK was domestic science or music. For another, the life they lived, morally, was far from edifying.
[Autobiography of Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Cambridge University Press, Page 82]

on campaign promise

We had promised our people that we would introduce before the end of our five-year term: (1) free universal primary education for all children of school-going age; (2) free medical treatment for all children up to the age of 18; (3) one hospital for each of twenty-four Administrative Divisions in the Region which did not yet possess one; (4) improvement in agricultural technique and higher returns for farmers; (5) better wages for the working class; (6)improvement of existing roads and bridges and the construction of new ones; (7) water supply to urban and rural areas; and so on and so forth. From information which had not reached us from authoritative sources, the officials with whom we were to associate in executing these policies did not believe in nor had sympathy for them. Apart from administrative impediments, we did recognize that there were also financial hurdles of a mountainous height to be overcome. But we were determined to blast our way through them all, and compel the force of any adverse circumstance to serve our will. We had put in long and hard preparation to meet the challenges of our new constitution; we had evolved elaborate plans which, with such modifications as inside knowledge of governmental facts and figures might dictate, were ready to be launched at a moment’s notice; and what is more, we had an abiding, flaming faith in the soundness and practicableness of our plans. We dreaded ourselves as crusaders in a new cause, and as eminently qualified for the pioneering role which we had imposed upon ourselves. At the same time, we meant y example to compel our counterparts in the other Regions to join the marathon race which we had pledged ourselves to run.
[Autobiography of Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Cambridge University Press, 1960

Olatunji Ojeranti
Egbe Omo Yoruba Greater New York