Cleric urges Yoruba unity at Awo memorial
Memories of the first premier of the defunct Western Region, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, came alive yesterday during a church service marking the 25th anniversary of his passage.
The cream of the Yoruba elite – politicians, businessmen, intellectuals and others – gathered for the special service at Chief Awolowo’s Ikenne home town in Ogun State. Chief Awolowo died on May 9, 1987.
The Rt. Rev. Peter Awelewa Adebiyi, Bishop of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), Lagos West Diocese, called on former President Olusegun Obasanjo and ex-Lagos State Governor Bola Ahmed Tinubu to unite the Yoruba within the Nigeria nation.
He said since the death of Chief Awolowo, the Yoruba had been in disarray, unable to choose a leader.
“Twenty five years of acrimony and in-fighting is enough. A house divided against itself cannot stand. It is time to forget the past, forgive one another and bring together a united nation,” querying: “who will bell the cat? Who will start the process of reunification?”
Bishop Adebiyi eulogised Awolowo and reeled out his epochal achievements and urged present Nigerian leaders to emulate his exemplary record in public service delivery and private sterling conduct.
The Bishop said the duo of Obasanjo and Tinubu whom he described as notable Yoruba leaders, are pivotal to the envisaged modern Yoruba unity.
Obasanjo and Tinubu, he said, should form a rallying point for the process leading to Yoruba unity.
The clergy said the region which seemed divided along party line and political ideology could be united for the common cause of the race. He drew example from the Ashiru family in Ijebu - Ode.
Ambassador Gbenga Ashiru and Otunba Bimbo Ashiru, are political appointees in government.
He said while the Ambassador is serving under the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) government at the centre, his younger brother, Bimbo, serves as Commerce and Industry Commissioner in the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN)-controlled government of Ogun State. He asked if the two brothers should become sworn enemies because they serve government of different political parties.
“We should not allow political differences to weaken our strength and destroy the Yoruba. Whether you like or not, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo is a formidable leader of the Yoruba and in Nigeria. Bola Ahmed Tinubu is a formidable leader whether you like it or not. We must use our meeting of today as a beginning for forging new things that will come in the Yoruba nation.
“We should initiate new effort, reconciliatory effort because of our children and future. We should renew our strength again, forget what happened in the past. I subscribe to the idea that you must be tribalistic before you can be nationalistic. If you don’t do well at home, nobody will reckon with you outside,” Bishop Adebiyi said.
He said he would like to be part of the process to unite the Yoruba, stressing that should he elect to visit Obasanjo and Tinubu in respect of it, none of the two would lock the door against him.
But Asiwaju Tinubu, speaking to reporters later on the question of Yoruba unity and leadership, said only the people can make their own leaders. He said Chief Awolowo emerged because of mass Yoruba approval of his quality work and conduct.
“Once you make people the cornerstone of your politics, then you are in step with the legacy of Baba Awolowo. Nobody can really step into Awolowo’s shoes – except to continue in his vision and philosophy of development, his character discipline and his emphasis on true federalism, justice and democracy. These,” he insisted, “are what we should all pursue.”
He said while all Yoruba were one stock, political unity would be dicey, since the Yoruba had always belonged to political parties of their choice, in line with democratic tenets and laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“Historically, the Yoruba have always belonged to different parties. You have the right to belong to any party. What is important is that we must all uphold the values of justice, democracy and the developmental ideals espoused by Awolowo,” he said.
“Take the case of Awo, some people never agreed with him but he still insisted on running administration of probity, transparency, good governance and accountability and brought basic development to Western region. Not everybody agreed with him on that.
“There were so many people that opposed him. That is politics. We cannot sleep, like our fathers would say, and face one way. No. We are going to stay divided politically there is no doubt about that,” Tinubu said.
Ogun State Governor Ibikunle Amosun asked those who professed to the disciples of Awolowo only in words to have a change of heart and live by the ideals Awolowo was noted for.
“Our late sage, Chief Jeremiah Obafemi Awolowo was not only a proud son of Ogun State, he is, even in death, greater than we all could imagine. He was an icon of immeasurable stature; an administrator of impeccable integrity; a statesman of statesmen; and a leader who put the people first.
“This is attested to with the array of individuals and organisations represented at this gathering. Chief Obafemi Awolowo touched many lives during his sojourn on earth.
“As the first Premier of the defunct Western Region, the policies and programmes of his administration still serve as reference point for governments at all levels over five decades after he left office.
“The free primary education and unprecedented rural and agricultural development engendered by his Administration, for instance, positively affected many lives and generations.
“At the national level, his performance during the short period he served as the Federal Commissioner for Finance and the only civilian Vice-Chairman of the Federal Executive Council under General Yakubu Gowon regime still resonates several decades after.
“He played politics of commitment, principle and ideology. When his peers vacillated on national issues, he came up with fresh ideas on them. Issues he raised at that time remain burning issues in our country, even today.
“No wonder he was described as the best President Nigeria never had and during his life time. He was rightly described as the ‘issue in Nigerian Politics’.
“Chief Obafemi Awolowo lived his life in service to the people. He was known, by both friends and foes, to be a serious-minded federalist and advocate of the rule of law, who wanted the best for his people and country.
“No wonder, there are several people today who claim or pretend to be adherents of Awolowo’s ideals. The question is: how many of them have the moral ethos, principles and commitment to positive ideological bent like Chief Awolowo?
“It is because he left a legacy worth emulating that almost every politician in the Southwest sees his name as a launch pad for their political careers.
“My advice however is that those who share the same ideology or believe they have been influenced by Awolowo’s socio-economic and political thoughts should move from being lip service disciples to living and demonstrating such ideals,”
“At this period of our national life, Nigeria is in dire need of people who play politics of self-sacrifice, commitment and focus. Papa had graciously provided us with a time-tested compass to get to the right direction.
“For us, we are committed to continuing with the good work the Great Awo started. That is why we remain on course, like he did earlier, with the fulfilment of our Five-Cardinal Programmes of Affordable Qualitative Education; Efficient Health-Care Delivery; Increased Agricultural Production/Industrialisation; Affordable Housing and Urban Renewal; and Rural and Infrastructural Development/Employment Generation, all of which make the fulcrum of our “Mission to Rebuild” Ogun State.
“I want to believe that if Papa should look back now, he would be pleased with what we are doing. Papa will be happy with the way we have re-introduced functional free education, providing free text-books and instructional materials like his close associate, the late Chief Olabisi Onabanjo did in 1982.
“He would be happy with the Health Care Centres and our determination to ensure all the 236 wards in the state at least have one Public Health Centre, well equipped and manned by good medical personnel in the next few years.
“Chief Awolowo will be happy with our revolutionary policies in Agricultural Production and how we hope to make our state the food basket and home of the largest number of Agro-Allied industries.
“Chief Awolowo would be too glad to see our efforts in opening up the rural area through good roads, bore-holes for water services and provision of transformer in all 236 wards for efficient rural electrification.
“Papa will be glad at our determination to rebuild the infrastructure in Ogun state and attract investors from all over the world to establish leading industries in our state.
“We are sure that at the end of our tenure of office, Ogun State will be the premier State in Nigeria as the Western Region under Chief Awolowo was a pace-setter in Nigeria in the 50s,” Amosun said.
In attendance were Governors Ibikunle Amosun (Ogun), Dr. Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti) Rauf Aregbesola (Osun) Abiola Ajimobi (Oyo), Olusegun Mimiko (Ondo), Chief Segun Osoba (Ogun). Tinubu (Lagos), Gbenga Daniel (Ogun), Segun Oni (Ekiti), Lateef Jakande (Lagos) and Gen. Adeyinka Adebayo (Old Western region).
Others are former Head of State, Gen. Yakubu Gowon, Amb. Folake Marcus - Bello, Chief Edwin Clark, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, Chief Olu Falae, Senator Biyi Durojaiye, Omooba Michael Subomi Balogun, Gen. Alani Akinrinade (rtd), Gen. Oladipo Diya (rtd), Senator Anthony Adefuye, Senator Femi Okunrounmu, Pa Reuben Fasoranti, Chief Ayo Adebanjo and Chief Olanihun Ajayi.
Also in attendance were monarchs including the Ooni of Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuade and Olugbo of Ugbo Kingdom (Ondo State), Oba Obateru Akinruntan, Bishop Bolanle Gbonigi, Prof. Olukayode Oyediran, Pastor Tunde Bakare, Mr Yinka Odunmakin, Mr. Akin Osibajo and some members of Amosun's cabinet - Alh. Yusuph Olaniyonu (Information and Strategy), Mrs Elizabeth Sonubi (Women Affairs), Mr Segun Odubela (Education, Science and Technology) and Mrs Funmi Wakama (Senior Special Assistant to Governor Amosun on Media and Communication).
Source: Cleric urges Yoruba unity at Awo memorial