S. B. Awoniyi lives on
Sir: It is 10 years since the cold hands of death snatched away, the late Aro of Mopa, a consummate, disciplined and principled politician, Chief Sunday Bolorunduro Awoniyi. The death of Awoniyi further depleted the rank of patriotic Nigerians who believed that mother tongue should not be an impediment to the nation’s unity. As a politician, he believed that politics is a call to serve the community and not a profession as parvenu holding the nation to ransom today took it. Awoniyi, throughout his life time was never a tribalist. He was a perfect example of a detribalised Nigerian. He was a Yoruba by tribe but his people were delinked geographically from their kith and kin in western Nigeria by the artificial boundary created by the British interlopers in the early 19th century. He belonged to Okun Yoruba, formerly in Kwara and now in Kogi State. As one of the early educated men in Northern Nigeria, Awoniyi enlisted in the Northern Nigerian civil service and rose to the position of permanent secretary and later in the Federal Civil Service, he was a super permanent secretary and a private secretary to the former premier of the old Northern region and the scion or the house of Uthman Dan Fodio, Alhaji Ahmadu Bello, the late Sardauna of Sokoto.
I never met Awoniyi in person in his lifetime, but I followed his politics and his activities and cherished his virtues of loyalty to the cause one believes in, love for one’s nation, self discipline, principled stand on issues and integrity.
Awoniyi brought all these virtues into politics as a learned them at the feet of the late Sardauna, but the political players in contemporary Nigeria are those described by William Smith in Nelson Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom as “Vain and Selfish men who placed their interest above those of the people they pretended to serve.” The politics those Awoniyi competed with is nothing but “a racket to steal money from the poor.”
Despite the fact that he was one of the principle men who opposite Gen. Sanni Abacha’s alleged self succession ploy and went on to serve as one of the leaders who rallied round to gather the like mind politicians to midwife PDP at the inception of the fourth republic he was denied a place in the emerged dispensation. An interviewer with a Sunday Newspaper few years ago, asked the Former Minister of Petroleum, Jubril Aminu about the plight of Awoniyi in the PDP and the National Politics. The senator retorted philosophically and as a teacher taught the reporter to have it at the back of his mind that “not all things that he laboured for would benefit him.” This is the story of S.B. Awoniyi in the fourth republic politics. Awoniyi wanted to serve as the national chairman of the PDP at the inception of the current dispensation, having chaired the national convention of the PDP that produced Chief Obasanjo as the presidential flag bearer of the PDP, possibly as a founding father to give the party a strong footing.
President Obasanjo who emerged President favoured the emergence of the inexperienced Chief Barnabas Gemade as against a “technocrat” Awoniyi.
The foundation of the destruction of party supremacy, indiscipline, lack of democracy in party affairs, cross carpeting and the eventual defeat of PDP in the 2015 presidential election, the crisis the party is passing through today were was thus laid.
Awoniyi later emerged the chairman of the influential Arewa Consultative Forum and paid Obasanjo back in his own coin by rallying the people to reject Obasanjo’s third term bid. There is no doubt that Awoniyi died without realizing his dream of a national party where ordinary Nigerian would have a voice. Also, he must have been demoralised by the turn of events in Nigeria where the gains of first and second republic were destroyed on the altar of inept leadership. Awoniyi’s labour for PDP was not in vain after all, because after his demise his son Arch. Yomi Awoniyi became the deputy governor of Governor Ibrahim Wada of Kogi State.
The death of Awoniyi could be likened to that of the regent / guardian of the Late Nelson Mandela, whose death he described in Long Path to Freedom thus “the passing of the regent removed from the scene an enlightened and tolerant man who achieved the goal that marks the reign of all great leaders, he kept his people united… all remained loyal to him, not because they always agreed with him, but because he listened to and accepted all different opinion.”
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