Gowon, Mahama, Sultan, others extol Awolowo’s virtues, seek transformational leadership
• Awolowo displayed a heart that was consistent with courage, commitment, says Gowon
• We need to build on those African values that motivated and inspired our development, Sultan of Sokoto insists
• Emulate values of love, empathy, forthrightness, urges Fayemi
• Awolowo’s relevance years after his transition is a lesson for African leaders – Mimiko
African has been told to look inward and jettison ideas from the West, if it must develop. Making this known yesterday were eminent personalities at the 30th anniversary of the Obafemi Awolowo Foundation and the posthumous birthday of the late sage, Chief Jeremiah Obafemi Awolowo.
They said that values, which came as a result of the continent’s association with the imperial West, were at variance with “our socio-cultural environments.”
Held virtually, the lecture, which was titled, ‘Values for Africa’s Development’, attracted participants such as former Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon and former President of Ghana, John Mahama.
Other participants include: His Eminence, the Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar; the Obi of Onitsha, Igwe Nnaemeka Achebe; former governor of Osun State, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola; Dr. Josephine Soboyejo; Sokoto State Governor, Aminu Tambuwal; Ekiti State Governor, Kayode Fayemi; Minister of State for Health, Olorunimbe Mamora; former South African President, Thabo Mbeki, Chief Ayo Adebanjo and former Governor of Ondo State, Segun Mimiko.
While describing Awolowo as a visionary and transformative leader, who pursued and demonstrated that leadership was not a rocket science, Gowon said the unparalleled contribution of Awolowo to the building of a strong, united Nigeria remained an outstanding legacy.
He said the late sage, as a Federal Commissioner for Finance, contributed immensely to the prosecution of the 30 months civil war, which was fought solely to keep Nigeria one.
Gowon, who was the special guest of honour at the event, commended the foundation, noting that in its 30 years of existence, it has continued to make an impact as a think tank in Nigeria’s search for transformational leadership.
He said the foundation has not only created room for quality engagement of good governance, but it has also established a leadership prize to encourage excellence and distinction in service to society.
“These are some of the values that Chief Awolowo embodied in his lifetime. As a leader, he displayed a heart that was consistent with courage and commitment.
“As a politician, lawyer and statesman, he loomed large, not just in Nigeria but also in Africa and the world at large.
“His good works became the standard of excellence in the annals of our nation,” Gowon said.
The former head of state also commended the late sage for making free education and health the core of his programmes as a politician; noting that these were programmes that the federal government, under him, adopted for the whole country between 1974 and 1975.
In his remarks, Mahama noted that as a journalist, lawyer, politician and statesman, Chief Awolowo was humble, modest and resilient.
He noted that Awo’s ‘unquestionable love for country’ was lacking in Africa today. “What we are going through was what the western world that we admire today went through in the past but their value of love for one another and selflessness differentiate them from Africans,” he said.
He charged Africa to analyse the phase that the world is going into having gone through the era of global village, climate change, epidemic and currently COVID-19 pandemic, so that Africa can fit into the new world.
An opinion also expressed by the Sultan of Sokoto. His eminence noted that Africa must look inward and jettison ideas from the West if it must develop.
He stated that part of the reason Africa has not developed is the fact that many of the values, which came as a result of its associating with the West, are at variance with its ‘socio-cultural environments’.
“The rise of the Asian tigers was unique because they did so without losing their Asian values, and they became a model of development for many developing societies.
“European industrialisation and development was also associated with the ‘protestant values’, which were said to have shaped the minds of Europeans and facilitated the growth of capitalism. That societal values have always played a positive role in the development of societies is fairly obvious.
“It is important to remember that Africa had built empires and developed their economy over 500 years ago. The famous Empires of Ghana, Mali and Songhay are very well known in history. Many will remember how the pilgrimage of Mansa Musa brought the world price of gold down in Egypt.
“We need to study about the African values that built these polities and their economies. We must also remember that a lot of the European values have no roots in our tradition and religions and even for sustainability, we need to build on those African values that motivated and inspired our development. Many of these are preserved in the writings of our historians and the literature of the political leaders themselves,” the Sultan said.
On his part, Fayemi stated that all of Awolowo’s works refer to values of love, empathy and forthrightness.
“For me, everything rises and falls on the people’s values and value system. The people’s values ultimately determine how they assign importance to things and how the social society is woven.
“The society’s value signifies its wellbeing and explains its aspirations. Values are the totality of morals and standards that have been inducted into the consciousness of the society as the guiding principles, which designate its moral code.
“It described what is moralised and demonised. This is something that late Chief Awolowo taught us, not only through his writings or speeches but also through his actions by focusing on literacy in the western region. He made it possible for a generation of educated kids to be born in the society. That is what has translated to what we continue to do, not just in the western part, but also in the entire body known as Nigeria.
“We thank Awolowo and the work he did. The job is not yet done, we haven’t fulfilled or even lived up to his expectation or done half of what he was able to achieve in his less than a decade of being in charge of Western region and in the few years that he served as minister of finance.
“He still represent for us the goal that our country must attain to have a pride of place in the committee of nations and we shall continue to strive, to seek and not to yield in our quest for a better united, more prosperous Nigeria in order to honour the memory of the sage,” Fayemi remarked.
Former governor of Ondo State, Olusegun Mimiko said Awolowo’s relevance many years after his transition is a lesson for all contemporary leaders in Africa on the values that endure.
“We must learn from the contemporary relevance of Awolowo many years after his demise. His position on federalism in a multi-ethnic, multi-linguistic and multi-cultural entity like Nigeria and his social democratic paradigm of development speaks currently everyday in this country. All I have to say is to congratulate the foundation for keeping his legacy alive.”