Thursday, 18 October 2012
Posted: October 18, 2012 - 14:50 By Dr. Wumi Akintide I have vowed never to comment on Chinua Achebe’s controversial best seller titled “There was a Country” until I have had a chance to read it from cover to cover. Having read the book, I now feel at liberty to do a 3 part series on it starting with this one. I do not believe anyone can do justice to all of the issues raised in that book in one or two articles. I have read some of the comments by prominent Igbo leaders supporting the central thesis of Chinua Achebe’s indictment of Obafemi Awolowo as the man who arguably crafted, engineered and implemented the genocidal policies that led to the Biafran War. Chinua Achebe has argued that Awolowo and by implication the Yoruba people as a whole should be held responsible for the more than 2 million deaths from Biafra and half that number or more from the Federal side because nobody was able to keep an accurate record of how many people died in that war on both sides. I was an Assistant Secretary (Army) in Defense Headquarters in Lagos and I know that to be the truth. All I can tell you is that there was needless loss of lives on both sides. The Abagana disaster which was the most successful ambush of the Nigerian troops by the Biafran troops who effectively deployed the “Ugbunigwe” land mines against Federal troops in that war was a case in point. The inference can be drawn from Chinua Achebe’s analysis and conclusions and those who support him that Obafemi Awolowo and the Yorubas were the “fons et origo” of the Biafran apocalyptic misadventure. I would beg to disagree with that observation on hindsight. If Chinua Achebe in this book has added that here was plenty of blame to go around on both sides, and if he has gone ahead to correctly analyze and itemize those blames and those responsible for them, I would have been less critical of the learned Professor in this write-up. Why? Because the learned Professor to me remains one of the greatest literary giants Nigeria has ever produced. He has been a hero of mine from my Secondary School days when I first read his “Things Fall Apart”. If I was one of the judges in the Board of Assessors for the Nobel Peace Prize in Literature, I would have picked the man before I pick my former Lecturer and fellow Yoruba juggernaut, Professor Emeritus of English Language, Wole Soyinka. I honestly consider “Things Fall Apart” as Chinua Achebe’s greatest literary gift to the Universe. The book has now been translated into more than 192 foreign languages the last time I checked. That to me is an eloquent testimony to the distinction of Chinua Achebe’s as Nigeria’s closest runners-up to William Shakespeare. I will therefore be the last person to cast aspersion on anything Chinua Achebe has ever written. It is in fact beyond my pay grade to want to do that. But that said, I am a bit disillusioned that Chinua Achebe who is not saying anything new about what many among his tribe have said about Obafemi Awolowo and the Yorubas would choose this particular time of all times to start lending his powerful voice to uninformed speculations about any role Awolowo and the Yorubas must have played in cajoling Biafrans to fight a war in which they lost so much. The Achebe book could not have come at a worse moment for the South at a time the Jonathan Government has now finally agreed to allow the Sovereign National Conference to go forward. The three dominant tribes in Nigeria i.e. the Hausa/Fulani Oligarchy in the North, the Igbos in the South East and the Yorubas in the Southwest and now the Ijaws in the South/South should not have to face this kind of wedge issue that could predictably weaken the solidarity of the South as we prepare for that conference to drastically restructure Nigeria for the good of the country. The Igbos and the Yorubas - two of the most progressive, educated, civilized and economically vibrant tribes in Nigeria would be doing ourselves a huge disfavor to go into that national conference with a mind set that emphasizes what divides us rather than what unites us. Chinua Achebe who I consider as one of the powerful voices to decide where Nigeria goes from here in that conference should not have allowed himself to be used as enabler to further divide the South at this time. I personally regret that the Ikemba Odumegwu Ojukwu, the undisputed leader of the Igbos and the Commander-in-Chief of the Biafran forces in that war did not live long enough to complete his memoirs on that war like he had promised to do. That memoir would have cleared the air once and for all. The central thesis of Chinua Achebe in that book would have been more credible to me if that conclusion had come from the Ikemba himself. I could care less about what the so-called Commander of Biafran Army, “General” Alex Madiebo had said that Chinua Achebe had understated the hostility of Obafemi Awolowo to Igbo nation. I am fully aware of how Okwealieze Nwodo and Dr. Mbadinuju have already endorsed the Chinua Achebe’s view point in the book. I am also aware that former Governor Ezeife has issued a statement which I totally agree with that we must all remember that “Awolowo did not join the war against Nigeria and neither did he start the war against Eastern Region but he eventually joined Gowon” What Governor Ezeife did not add and should have added was that Ogbuefi Nnamdi Azikiwe, the Igbos foremost leader who reportedly composed the Biafran National Anthem has also had cause to desert Biafra and to side with Gowon at the most critical phase of the war. As a matter of fact, it could be argued that the Azikiwe’s retreat or betrayal had dealt a far more fatal blow to the Biafran struggle than anything that Awolowo ever did. Ogbuefi Nnamdi Azikiwe far more than Odumegwu Ojukwu at the time was like the Ayatollah, the spiritual and ultimate leader of Iran while Ojukwu could be compared to Ahmadinejad the transient political leader of Iran. “Ayatollah” Azikiwe taking a U turn and siding with General Gowon at the time was a major blow to Biafra“ far more damaging than anything Awolowo ever did. It was only a question of time before the Ikemba clearly saw the hand writing on the wall by quickly flying to exile in the Ivory Coast thereby leaving “General” Philip Effiong to handle the surrender formalities that ended the War. Chinua Achebe did not dwell so much on that development in his book but he found it convenient to put all the blame on Obafemi Awolowo and the Yorubas and their ambition to subjugate and forever humiliate the Igbos using genocide as a convenient weapon. Socrates was right when he said that “what any man is saying or seeing is often a factor of where that man is sitting or standing at any given point” I will concede to Professor Chinua Achebe that he probably drew his conclusion based on where he was sitting or standing when he made his observation, But there is more to what really happened in that war than the totality of what Chinua Achebe has stated in that book. It was as if Chinua Achebe was less concerned about the sequence of events leading to the Biafran War in 1967 which included the murder of Ahmadu Bello in January 15, 1966, the assassination Aguiyi Ironsi at Ibadan 6 months later and the heroic role played by Colonel Adekunle Fajuyi, a Yoruba man who laid down his own life rather than betray his Igbo Commander-in-Chief. Chinua Achebe seemed to forget that the Igbos and the Hausas dominated the Nigerian Military pre and post- Independence era because the Hausas dominated the rank and file of the Military in Nigeria while the Igbos clearly dominated the officer rank. The Yorubas at that particular time in our history did not particularly value the Military and the Nigerian Police and the Para-military establishments in Nigeria as career points for our people. Yorubas preferred joining the Civil Service or going to teach than seeking a career in the Military. When I graduated from the University of Ife in June 1966 as the first child of all Nigerian veterans of the Second World War to win the British/Canadian Legion Scholarship to do my first degree, the Military should have been the first choice for me. I could easily have been commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Nigerian Defense Academy in Kaduna. I was actually made an offer and encouraged to join the Army by then Major and late General Agbazika Innih as I recall. I rejected the offer because my mother would not let me take it because I was my mother’s only child. I did not think I lost anything at the time because smart and educated Yorubas would rather take a teaching job or join the Civil Service than join the Military. I predictably ended up taking up a teaching job first at Aquinas College, Akure from June 1966 before crossing over to Igbobi College, Lagos from where I joined the Federal Public Service as an Administrative Officer in the Federal Ministry of Defense on January 3rd 1968 with late Yusuf Gobir from Kwara as my Permanent Secretary and late B. G. Popo as my Deputy Permanent Secretary. It would have been naïve and foolish of the Yorubas under Awolowo to simply join forces with the Igbos to fight or confront the Hausa/Fulani dominance of Nigeria with only a few Yorubas in the Military at the time. That was one of Awolowo’s calculations. Awolowo was among the few prominent Yoruba men bold enough to visit the East to try to persuade Ojukwu to reconsider his declaration of war against Nigeria because he clearly told Ojukwu that the West was not militarily and mentally ready to join in, if the East decided to go forward with her plan to break away. The same Awo who did not suffer fools gladly did not hesitate to convey to General Yakubu Gowon in an unmistakable language that if the East is allowed to break away then the West would have no other choice than to separate from the North. It was an honest position to take because Awolowo had always demonstrated his preference to form a coalition with the East than with the North because he was convinced it would make more sense to team up with the East and the Yorubas supported him in that decision. If Awolowo was the kind of leader Chinua Achebe was painting him to be in that book he would have preferred going with the North which was more educationally backward and disadvantaged at the time. Awolowo was by far the strongest Nigerian leader of that era who knew what he wanted and the courage to state his case very clearly. Another Yoruba leader who made it clear he totally supported the Igbos for wanting to break away because of the genocide unleashed on them in the North by the Hausa/Fulani oligarchy was Professor Wole Soyinka. The third Yoruba man who was a self-confessed confidant of Odumegwu Ojukwu and a great friend of the Igbos in general was the late Professor Samuel Adepoju Aluko who lectured for many years at the great University of Nsukka. There was also late Tai Solarin who wrote several articles opposing the killing of the Igbos in the North. These distinguished Yoruba men plus Colonel Banjo who actually gave up his life fighting under the Biafran flag and Colonel Adekunle Fajuyi who gave up his life like I said earlier, were all out rooting for the Igbos during the war. Let anyone with facts dispute the facts I am making here if they have them. How for goodness sake can Professor Achebe not remember some of the peaceful and friendly overtures the Yorubas have made to the Igbos on so many occasions in the history of Nigeria. It baffles me that the Professor would not mention anything about these larger than life overtures the Yorubas have always made to the Igbos because we view the Igbos as being more compatible with us than the Hausa/Fulani Oligarchy and majority of us still feel the same way till now. The Yorubas have demonstrated that goodwill every now and then. When Nigeria became independent in 1960, Awolowo had proposed to Azikiwe for the NCNC and the Action Group to form a coalition to run the central Government with Awolowo agreeing to let Azikiwe become Prime Minister while he himself would be happy to settle for Finance Minister. The man did the right thing but Azikiwe turned him down. Look where the NCNC/NPC coalition has led Nigeria today 52 years later. Need I say more? Azikiwe and the Igbos instead chose to go with the Northerners because they have made the calculation that the Igbos were going to be able to dominate the Hausas more than they could ever hope to dominate the Yorubas who were equally as educated as the Igbos. Come on folks. There is plenty of blame to go around, if we want to be realistic. The Igbos have made a few mistakes like the Yorubas. What the hell is Chinua Achebe talking about? Wasn’t Azikiwe going to become the first Premier of Western Nigeria while Imoke was going to be the first Premier of Eastern Nigeria? Who voted for the NCNC and Azikiwe to initially win the majority at Ibadan in 1952? Was it not the Yorubas? Can the Igbos ever point to any similar concessions for the Yorubas in their own enclave? If it exists let them say it if there is any. I am more than willing to learn. The Yorubas have been great supporters of the Igbos for as long as any of us can remember. The NCNC led by Azikiwe have always won in Ibadan, Ilesha and Akure Metropolis even in Awolowo days? Akure as I recall was among the Yoruba towns begging the Igbos to not return to the East because they were guaranteed their safety in Akure and not one of their abandoned properties in Akure were taken over after they left Akure during the war. The properties were all kept safe for them till after the war, Compare that with what happened to the Igbo’s abandoned properties in Port Harcourt and much of River’s State after the war was over! I am offended that Chinua Achebe has applied such a wide brush to use his book to chastise Awolowo and all the Yorubas as pursuing an agenda to suppress and humiliate the Igbos. That indictment is not supported by any reality check. It is sad that very few things are documented in Nigeria. There is no substitute for documented history. Those who know Awolowo very well would realize that he had political ambition to rule Nigeria but certainly not at the expense of the Igbos or any other tribe in Nigeria. Awolowo predicted long time ago that the minority Ijaws are going to rule Nigeria. The prediction has come to pass with the coronation of Jonathan. Awolowo was fighting for Democracy and development and purposeful leadership to take root in Nigeria and not a one party dictatorship where the blind will be leading the blind. If Chinua Achebe reads Awolowo’s “Path to Nigerian Freedom” the “Voice of Reason” and The Peoples’ Republic he would appreciate that Awolowo was totally above those petty ethnic jealousies and squabbles. He wanted a Nigeria we all can be proud of, with Freedom for all and Life more abundant just like he did for the old Western Region. I wish Awolowo were still alive to defend himself. I knew Obafemi Awolowo. Obafemi Awolowo was in many ways my mentor. I worked under him very closely for a year in the Federal Ministry of Finance. I was born into the Action Group, my father was one of the foundation pillars of the Action Group in the defunct Western Nigeria and in Akure the Ondo State Capital. Nigeria would never know a fighter and a braver Nigerian leader who fears nobody and will tell you his mind, come rain or shine. Awolowo was never a leader to be taken for granted or taken lightly. He drove himself far much harder than he drove others. Awolowo would look you straight in the face and tell you not what he thought you wanted to hear but what you needed to hear loud and clear. I witnessed a little bit of that when in 1974 or 1975 he addressed a Convocation at the University that now bears his name. I personally prepared the first draft of the speech he was supposed to read as Chancellor of the University. I passed on the draft of that speech for clearance thru my then Deputy Permanent Secretary, Alhaji Aminu Saleh who passed on the draft to late Abdul Azeez Attah the Permanent Secretary who made a few cosmetic changes before passing the draft to Obafemi Awolowo as Federal Commissioner for Finance and Deputy Chairman of the Federal Executive Council at the time. We were all expecting Awolowo to read our draft on the Convocation Day. Awo did not use a single word from the draft. He read the speech he himself had prepared without clearing it with Dodan Barracks or General Yakubu Gowon, his boss at the time. Awolowo was the only Federal Commissioner who could have done that without being queried by anybody. It took a lot of courage and hard work for him to do that because the speech he read was totally devoted to the 1973 or 1974 Census conducted by the Yakubu Gowon Government. Awolowo demolished the Census as dead on arrival because “it has defied all the known rules and norms of Demography in the whole world “ to use Awolowo’s exact words at the Convocation. I have never in my life seen anything like that. The late President Leopold Senghor of Senegal and Prime Minister late Eric Williams of Trinidad and Tobago were in the audience to be honored by the University and so was Yakubu Gowon himself. By that single stroke Obafemi Awolowo killed the Census that day. When Murtala Mohammed took over from Gowon in 1975, one of his first actions as the new Head of State was to annul the Census altogether and to order a recount. He, Murtala Mohammed, had lifted verbatim part of Awolowo’s speech in so doing. It is not for fun that the Ikemba himself, Odumegwu Ojukwu who had shown so much respect for Awolowo by describing “Awo as the best President Nigeria never had” I don’t know what Chinua Achebe is talking about. If the Ikemba has shared the views canvassed by Professor Achebe in this controversial book, he most certainly would have said so without mincing words. I have personally read a narrative of Rudolf Okonkwo’s interview with the Ikemba carried verbatim by the Sahara Reporters before the Ikemba’s death. If the Ikemba truly believed that Awolowo was to blame for all the genocidal policies against Biafra, he would have said so without any doubt. Awolowo was neither the head of the Federal Government nor the head of the Military when the genocide occurred. He was the Federal Commissioner and the Deputy Chairman to Gowon in the Federal Executive Council at the time. The policy was a joint decision of the Federal Executive Council at the time. It is totally disingenuous of Professor Achebe to now put the blame on Awolowo as if Awo was Head of Government. I totally reject that attempt. . Awolowo as Federal Commissioner for Finance had managed the finances of Nigeria at the time with distinction making sure that Nigeria did not borrow a penny to prosecute that war. He did so by persuading the Federal Executive Council to stop wasting money by creating white elephant missions abroad while the nation was engaged in a very expensive and destructive civil war. His colleague Okoi Arikpo could easily have condemned Awolowo for dabbling into the affairs of his Ministry at the time. He did not do so like because he knew Awolowo was right to champion such a cause and to master-mind and influence the implementation of that policy with clock-like precision. That was Awo for all of us during his entire public life. Nigeria was blessed to have a man of his caliber managing the nation’s finances during the civil war. By the same token Awolowo personally confided in me when I worked under him about his rational for telling General Yakubu Gowon it made no sense for his Government to continue to prolong the war and to continue to enrich the pockets of all the war commanders who did not want the war to end at all because they were substantially benefiting from it. If the war had continued beyond 3 to 5 or more years, the Biafra and Nigeria side would have lost a lot more than the 2 million Chinua Achebe wants Awolowo to be crucified for. Chinua Achebe has completely forgotten that Awolowo was an economist and a lawyer by training and profession. He realized that the Law of diminishing returns had already set in and it was his duty and responsibility as Finance Minister to stop the hemorrhage and he did by asking why it made sense to continue to actively feed the Biafran troops while they continue to have access to fresh supplies of arms and food supplies from Ivory Coast, Gabon, and one or two countries openly supporting Biafra at the time. America, right now, has unleashed very tough and harsh economic sanctions on Iran today because they don’t want Iran to develop a nuclear weapon. Only God can tell how many Iranians are dying today from those sanctions or how many Libyans died when NATO forces led by America cut off supplies to Libyan troops and when America started giving drones to the Libyan opposition to topple Moammar Ghadafi. When there is a war, compassion has to take a back seat. That is the plain truth that Awolowo as a leader clearly understood. Very few rational people would fault Awolowo for raising the points he has raised as the effective manager of the Nigerian finances at the time. Awolowo’s decision to persuade the Federal Government to all of a sudden change the Nigerian Currency half way thru the war so as not to allow Biafra to continue to spend the money they have looted from the Enugu branch of the Central Bank was exactly the right thing to do. The decision had forced the Biafra to go print her own money which was not internationally recognized at the time. Once Nigeria took away their financial capacity to continue the war, their Commander-in-Chief Odumegwu Ojukwu had to know it was time to end the war and he did as a rational leader. That was exactly what happened. I can understand Chinua Achebe complaining out of sympathy for his own people but for him to then take the quantum leap and start putting all the blame on Obafemi Awolowo and the Yorubas leaving out General Gowon and the Northerners who started the war as less blameless is a total outrage as far as I am concerned. It is even a worse outrage that General Yakubu Gowon and many of his commanders who are still alive and many of the northerners who started and justified the pogrom against the Igbos in the North would not stand up to put defend Obafemi Awolowo who is no longer in a position to defend himself. One would expect the Yoruba war commanders like Benjamin Adekunle, General Adeyinka Adebayo, General Olusegun Obasanjo, General Alani Akinrinade who are still alive to come out in defense of Obafemi Awolowo and the Yorubas if the northern war commanders and Yakubu Gowon are too timid to do so . I would be the first to admit that Awolowo, like every human being, is not perfect. But if you put all Nigerian leaders on a ranking scale, Awolowo without any question has proved himself to be a leader of consequence in Nigeria and a democrat without blemish. His track record in the old West has proved just that. That is why the man would continue to loom larger than life even in death. When he started the free education and free health program in the old West in 1955 many nihilists said the program would not work. When it started working, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe tried the same concept in the former Eastern region. The whole thing collapsed in less than 3 years. Many Igbo and Hausa parents relocated to the old West to take full advantage of free education for their children. Awolowo did not stop them. All he did was to find a way to sustain and consolidate the program by creating what he called Modern Schools to absorb the excess from Awolowo schools. Sad to say, Boko Haram is thriving today in much of the North and spreading like bush fire in the Harmattan because the northern leaders had failed to do for their own people what Obafemi Awolowo was able to do for the Yorubas. Awolowo had done what he had to do as a leader and I take off my hat for him. Let the chips fall where they may, Awolowo is not the villain that the learned Professor wants to make him with his new book written in flawless language as usual. I rest my case.
Posted by fiyom at 08:33
Monday, 1 October 2012
Posted by: Taiwo Posted date: September 07, 2012 In: Online Special | comment : 7 Michelle, I love you. The other night, I think the entire country saw just how lucky I am. Malia and Sasha, you make me so proud . . . but don’t get any ideas, you’re still going to class tomorrow. And Joe Biden, thank you for being the best vice-president I could ever hope for. Madam chairwoman, delegates, I accept your nomination for president of the United States. The first time I addressed this convention in 2004, I was a younger man; a Senate candidate from Illinois who spoke about hope – not blind optimism or wishful thinking, but hope in the face of difficulty; hope in the face of uncertainty; that dogged faith in the future which has pushed this nation forward, even when the odds are great; even when the road is long. Eight years later, that hope has been tested – by the cost of war; by one of the worst economic crises in history; and by political gridlock that’s left us wondering whether it’s still possible to tackle the challenges of our time. I know that campaigns can seem small, and even silly. Trivial things become big distractions. Serious issues become sound bites. And the truth gets buried under an avalanche of money and advertising. If you’re sick of hearing me approve this message, believe me – so am I. But when all is said and done – when you pick up that ballot to vote – you will face the clearest choice of any time in a generation. Over the next few years, big decisions will be made in Washington, on jobs and the economy; taxes and deficits; energy and education; war and peace – decisions that will have a huge impact on our lives and our children’s lives for decades to come. On every issue, the choice you face won’t be just between two candidates or two parties. It will be a choice between two different paths for America. A choice between two fundamentally different visions for the future. Ours is a fight to restore the values that built the largest middle class and the strongest economy the world has ever known; the values my grandfather defended as a soldier in Patton’s Army; the values that drove my grandmother to work on a bomber assembly line while he was gone. They knew they were part of something larger – a nation that triumphed over fascism and depression; a nation where the most innovative businesses turned out the world’s best products, and everyone shared in the pride and success – from the corner office to the factory floor. My grandparents were given the chance to go to college, buy their first home, and fulfil the basic bargain at the heart of America’s story: the promise that hard work will pay off; that responsibility will be rewarded; that everyone gets a fair shot, and everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same rules – from Main Street to Wall Street to Washington, DC. I ran for president because I saw that basic bargain slipping away. I began my career helping people in the shadow of a shuttered steel mill, at a time when too many good jobs were starting to move overseas. And by 2008, we had seen nearly a decade in which families struggled with costs that kept rising but paychecks that didn’t; racking up more and more debt just to make the mortgage or pay tuition; to put gas in the car or food on the table. And when the house of cards collapsed in the Great Recession, millions of innocent Americans lost their jobs, their homes, and their life savings – a tragedy from which we are still fighting to recover. Now, our friends at the Republican convention were more than happy to talk about everything they think is wrong with America, but they didn’t have much to say about how they’d make it right. They want your vote, but they don’t want you to know their plan. And that’s because all they have to offer is the same prescription they’ve had for the last thirty years: “Have a surplus? Try a tax cut.” “Deficit too high? Try another.” “Feel a cold coming on? Take two tax cuts, roll back some regulations, and call us in the morning!” Now, I’ve cut taxes for those who need it – middle-class families and small businesses. But I don’t believe that another round of tax breaks for millionaires will bring good jobs to our shores, or pay down our deficit. I don’t believe that firing teachers or kicking students off financial aid will grow the economy, or help us compete with the scientists and engineers coming out of China. After all that we’ve been through, I don’t believe that rolling back regulations on Wall Street will help the small businesswoman expand, or the laid-off construction worker keep his home. We’ve been there, we’ve tried that, and we’re not going back. We’re moving forward. I won’t pretend the path I’m offering is quick or easy. I never have. You didn’t elect me to tell you what you wanted to hear. You elected me to tell you the truth. And the truth is, it will take more than a few years for us to solve challenges that have built up over decades. It will require common effort, shared responsibility, and the kind of bold, persistent experimentation that Franklin Roosevelt pursued during the only crisis worse than this one. And by the way – those of us who carry on his party’s legacy should remember that not every problem can be remedied with another government programme or dictate from Washington. But know this, America: Our problems can be solved. Our challenges can be met. The path we offer may be harder, but it leads to a better place. And I’m asking you to choose that future. I’m asking you to rally around a set of goals for your country – goals in manufacturing, energy, education, national security, and the deficit; a real, achievable plan that will lead to new jobs, more opportunity, and rebuild this economy on a stronger foundation. That’s what we can do in the next four years, and that’s why I’m running for a second term as president of the United States. We can choose a future where we export more products and outsource fewer jobs. After a decade that was defined by what we bought and borrowed, we’re getting back to basics, and doing what America has always done best: We’re making things again. I’ve met workers in Detroit and Toledo who feared they’d never build another American car. Today, they can’t build them fast enough, because we reinvented a dying auto industry that’s back on top of the world. I’ve worked with business leaders who are bringing jobs back to America – not because our workers make less pay, but because we make better products. Because we work harder and smarter than anyone else. I’ve signed trade agreements that are helping our companies sell more goods to millions of new customers – goods that are stamped with three proud words: Made in America. After a decade of decline, this country created over half a million manufacturing jobs in the last two and a half years. And now you have a choice: we can give more tax breaks to corporations that ship jobs overseas, or we can start rewarding companies that open new plants and train new workers and create new jobs here, in the United States of America. We can help big factories and small businesses double their exports, and if we choose this path, we can create a million new manufacturing jobs in the next four years. You can make that happen. You can choose that future. You can choose the path where we control more of our own energy. After 30 years of inaction, we raised fuel standards so that by the middle of the next decade, cars and trucks will go twice as far on a gallon of gas. We’ve doubled our use of renewable energy, and thousands of Americans have jobs today building wind turbines and long-lasting batteries. In the last year alone, we cut oil imports by 1m barrels a day – more than any administration in recent history. And today, the United States of America is less dependent on foreign oil than at any time in nearly two decades. Now you have a choice – between a strategy that reverses this progress, or one that builds on it. We’ve opened millions of new acres for oil and gas exploration in the last three years, and we’ll open more. But unlike my opponent, I will not let oil companies write this country’s energy plan, or endanger our coastlines, or collect another $4bn in corporate welfare from our taxpayers. We’re offering a better path – a future where we keep investing in wind and solar and clean coal; where farmers and scientists harness new biofuels to power our cars and trucks; where construction workers build homes and factories that waste less energy; where we develop a hundred year supply of natural gas that’s right beneath our feet. If you choose this path, we can cut our oil imports in half by 2020 and support more than 600,000 new jobs in natural gas alone. And yes, my plan will continue to reduce the carbon pollution that is heating our planet – because climate change is not a hoax. More droughts and floods and wildfires are not a joke. They’re a threat to our children’s future. And in this election, you can do something about it. You can choose a future where more Americans have the chance to gain the skills they need to compete, no matter how old they are or how much money they have. Education was the gateway to opportunity for me. It was the gateway for Michelle. And now more than ever, it is the gateway to a middle-class life. For the first time in a generation, nearly every state has answered our call to raise their standards for teaching and learning. Some of the worst schools in the country have made real gains in math and reading. Millions of students are paying less for college today because we finally took on a system that wasted billions of taxpayer dollars on banks and lenders. And now you have a choice – we can gut education, or we can decide that in the United States of America, no child should have her dreams deferred because of a crowded classroom or a crumbling school. No family should have to set aside a college acceptance letter because they don’t have the money. No company should have to look for workers in China because they couldn’t find any with the right skills here at home. Government has a role in this. But teachers must inspire; principals must lead; parents must instil a thirst for learning, and students, you’ve got to do the work. And together, I promise you – we can out-educate and outcompete any country on Earth. Help me recruit 100,000 math and science teachers in the next ten years, and improve early childhood education. Help give 2m workers the chance to learn skills at their community college that will lead directly to a job. Help us work with colleges and universities to cut in half the growth of tuition costs over the next ten years. We can meet that goal together. You can choose that future for America. In a world of new threats and new challenges, you can choose leadership that has been tested and proven. Four years ago, I promised to end the war in Iraq. We did. I promised to refocus on the terrorists who actually attacked us on 9/11. We have. We’ve blunted the Taliban’s momentum in Afghanistan, and in 2014, our longest war will be over. A new tower rises above the New York skyline, al-Qaeda is on the path to defeat, and Osama bin Laden is dead. Tonight, we pay tribute to the Americans who still serve in harm’s way. We are forever in debt to a generation whose sacrifice has made this country safer and more respected. We will never forget you. And so long as I’m Commander-in-Chief, we will sustain the strongest military the world has ever known. When you take off the uniform, we will serve you as well as you’ve served us – because no one who fights for this country should have to fight for a job, or a roof over their head, or the care that they need when they come home. Around the world, we’ve strengthened old alliances and forged new coalitions to stop the spread of nuclear weapons. We’ve reasserted our power across the Pacific and stood up to China on behalf of our workers. From Burma to Libya to South Sudan, we have advanced the rights and dignity of all human beings – men and women; Christians and Muslims and Jews. But for all the progress we’ve made, challenges remain. Terrorist plots must be disrupted. Europe’s crisis must be contained. Our commitment to Israel’s security must not waver, and neither must our pursuit of peace. The Iranian government must face a world that stays united against its nuclear ambitions. The historic change sweeping across the Arab World must be defined not by the iron fist of a dictator or the hate of extremists, but by the hopes and aspirations of ordinary people who are reaching for the same rights that we celebrate today. So now we face a choice. My opponent and his running mate are new to foreign policy, but from all that we’ve seen and heard, they want to take us back to an era of blustering and blundering that cost America so dearly. After all, you don’t call Russia our number one enemy – and not al-Qaeda – unless you’re still stuck in a cold war time warp. You might not be ready for diplomacy with Beijing if you can’t visit the Olympics without insulting our closest ally. My opponent said it was “tragic” to end the war in Iraq, and he won’t tell us how he’ll end the war in Afghanistan. I have, and I will. And while my opponent would spend more money on military hardware that our Joint Chiefs don’t even want, I’ll use the money we’re no longer spending on war to pay down our debt and put more people back to work – rebuilding roads and bridges; schools and runways. After two wars that have cost us thousands of lives and over a trillion dollars, it’s time to do some nation-building right here at home. You can choose a future where we reduce our deficit without wrecking our middle class. Independent analysis shows that my plan would cut our deficits by $4tn. Last summer, I worked with Republicans in Congress to cut $1tn in spending – because those of us who believe government can be a force for good should work harder than anyone to reform it, so that it’s leaner, more efficient, and more responsive to the American people. I want to reform the tax code so that it’s simple, fair, and asks the wealthiest households to pay higher taxes on incomes over $250,000 – the same rate we had when Bill Clinton was president; the same rate we had when our economy created nearly 23m new jobs, the biggest surplus in history, and a lot of millionaires to boot. Now, I’m still eager to reach an agreement based on the principles of my bipartisan debt commission. No party has a monopoly on wisdom. No democracy works without compromise. But when Governor Romney and his allies in Congress tell us we can somehow lower our deficit by spending trillions more on new tax breaks for the wealthy – well, you do the math. I refuse to go along with that. And as long as I’m president, I never will. I refuse to ask middle class families to give up their deductions for owning a home or raising their kids just to pay for another millionaire’s tax cut. I refuse to ask students to pay more for college; or kick children out of Head Start programs, or eliminate health insurance for millions of Americans who are poor, elderly, or disabled – all so those with the most can pay less. And I will never turn Medicare into a voucher. No American should ever have to spend their golden years at the mercy of insurance companies. They should retire with the care and dignity they have earned. Yes, we will reform and strengthen Medicare for the long haul, but we’ll do it by reducing the cost of healthcare – not by asking seniors to pay thousands of dollars more. And we will keep the promise of Social Security by taking the responsible steps to strengthen it – not by turning it over to Wall Street. This is the choice we now face. This is what the election comes down to. Over and over, we have been told by our opponents that bigger tax cuts and fewer regulations are the only way; that since government can’t do everything, it should do almost nothing. If you can’t afford health insurance, hope that you don’t get sick. If a company releases toxic pollution into the air your children breathe, well, that’s just the price of progress. If you can’t afford to start a business or go to college, take my opponent’s advice and “borrow money from your parents.” You know what? That’s not who we are. That’s not what this country’s about. As Americans, we believe we are endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights – rights that no man or government can take away. We insist on personal responsibility and we celebrate individual initiative. We’re not entitled to success. We have to earn it. We honour the strivers, the dreamers, the risk-takers who have always been the driving force behind our free enterprise system – the greatest engine of growth and prosperity the world has ever known. But we also believe in something called citizenship – a word at the very heart of our founding, at the very essence of our democracy; the idea that this country only works when we accept certain obligations to one another, and to future generations. We believe that when a CEO pays his autoworkers enough to buy the cars that they build, the whole company does better. We believe that when a family can no longer be tricked into signing a mortgage they can’t afford, that family is protected, but so is the value of other people’s homes, and so is the entire economy. We believe that a little girl who’s offered an escape from poverty by a great teacher or a grant for college could become the founder of the next Google, or the scientist who cures cancer, or the president of the United States – and it’s in our power to give her that chance. We know that churches and charities can often make more of a difference than a poverty program alone. We don’t want handouts for people who refuse to help themselves, and we don’t want bailouts for banks that break the rules. We don’t think government can solve all our problems. But we don’t think that government is the source of all our problems – any more than are welfare recipients, or corporations, or unions, or immigrants, or gays, or any other group we’re told to blame for our troubles. Because we understand that this democracy is ours. We, the people, recognise that we have responsibilities as well as rights; that our destinies are bound together; that a freedom which only asks what’s in it for me, a freedom without a commitment to others, a freedom without love or charity or duty or patriotism, is unworthy of our founding ideals, and those who died in their defence. As citizens, we understand that America is not about what can be done for us. It’s about what can be done by us, together, through the hard and frustrating but necessary work of self-government. So you see, the election four years ago wasn’t about me. It was about you. My fellow citizens – you were the change. You’re the reason there’s a little girl with a heart disorder in Phoenix who’ll get the surgery she needs because an insurance company can’t limit her coverage. You did that. You’re the reason a young man in Colorado who never thought he’d be able to afford his dream of earning a medical degree is about to get that chance. You made that possible. You’re the reason a young immigrant who grew up here and went to school here and pledged allegiance to our flag will no longer be deported from the only country she’s ever called home; why selfless soldiers won’t be kicked out of the military because of who they are or who they love; why thousands of families have finally been able to say to the loved ones who served us so bravely: “Welcome home.” If you turn away now – if you buy into the cynicism that the change we fought for isn’t possible . . . well, change will not happen. If you give up on the idea that your voice can make a difference, then other voices will fill the void: lobbyists and special interests; the people with the $10m checks who are trying to buy this election and those who are making it harder for you to vote; Washington politicians who want to decide who you can marry, or control healthcare choices that women should make for themselves. Only you can make sure that doesn’t happen. Only you have the power to move us forward. I recognise that times have changed since I first spoke to this convention. The times have changed – and so have I. I’m no longer just a candidate. I’m the president. I know what it means to send young Americans into battle, for I have held in my arms the mothers and fathers of those who didn’t return. I’ve shared the pain of families who’ve lost their homes, and the frustration of workers who’ve lost their jobs. If the critics are right that I’ve made all my decisions based on polls, then I must not be very good at reading them. And while I’m proud of what we’ve achieved together, I’m far more mindful of my own failings, knowing exactly what Lincoln meant when he said, “I have been driven to my knees many times by the overwhelming conviction that I had no place else to go.” But as I stand here tonight, I have never been more hopeful about America. Not because I think I have all the answers. Not because I’m naive about the magnitude of our challenges. I’m hopeful because of you. The young woman I met at a science fair who won national recognition for her biology research while living with her family at a homeless shelter – she gives me hope. The auto worker who won the lottery after his plant almost closed, but kept coming to work every day, and bought flags for his whole town and one of the cars that he built to surprise his wife – he gives me hope. The family business in Warroad, Minnesota that didn’t lay off a single one of their four thousand employees during this recession, even when their competitors shut down dozens of plants, even when it meant the owners gave up some perks and pay – because they understood their biggest asset was the community and the workers who helped build that business – they give me hope. And I think about the young sailor I met at Walter Reed hospital, still recovering from a grenade attack that would cause him to have his leg amputated above the knee. Six months ago, I would watch him walk into a White House dinner honouring those who served in Iraq, tall and twenty pounds heavier, dashing in his uniform, with a big grin on his face; sturdy on his new leg. And I remember how a few months after that I would watch him on a bicycle, racing with his fellow wounded warriors on a sparkling spring day, inspiring other heroes who had just begun the hard path he had travelled. He gives me hope. I don’t know what party these men and women belong to. I don’t know if they’ll vote for me. But I know that their spirit defines us. They remind me, in the words of Scripture, that ours is a “future filled with hope.” And if you share that faith with me – if you share that hope with me – I ask you tonight for your vote. If you reject the notion that this nation’s promise is reserved for the few, your voice must be heard in this election. If you reject the notion that our government is forever beholden to the highest bidder, you need to stand up in this election. If you believe that new plants and factories can dot our landscape; that new energy can power our future; that new schools can provide ladders of opportunity to this nation of dreamers; if you believe in a country where everyone gets a fair shot, and everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same rules, then I need you to vote this November. America, I never said this journey would be easy, and I won’t promise that now. Yes, our path is harder – but it leads to a better place. Yes our road is longer – but we travel it together. We don’t turn back. We leave no one behind. We pull each other up. We draw strength from our victories, and we learn from our mistakes, but we keep our eyes fixed on that distant horizon, knowing that Providence is with us, and that we are surely blessed to be citizens of the greatest nation on Earth. Thank you, God bless you
Posted by fiyom at 05:50
Tuesday, 14 August 2012
For eight years, the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo presided over an administration that has remained a model and benchmark in Africa as the Premier of the defunct Western Region. Although his dream of becoming federal Chief Executive was abortive, he has remained a legend of ideas, vision, courage and integrity. Ayo Opadokun, who worked closely with him as the Deputy Director of Organisation of the defunct Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN), revisits the political philosophy and thoughts of the consumate politician and leader.
Nigeria’s political landscape shook to its roots on May 9, 1987, when the most unexpected happened. The earth-shaking occurrence was the transition to glory of Chief Jeremiah Oyeniyi Obafemi Awolowo (OA). With such a massive blow, Nigeria’s Progressives on the political divide lost Obafemi Awolowo, the most priced and valued possession, and the man for whom Chief Emeka Ojukwu spun the most enduring epithet, “The Best President Nigeria Never Had”. Indeed, OA was the best President Nigeria never had, thanks to the deliberate and conscious conspiracy of ultra-reactionary elements and agents of Right-Wing foreign socio-economic and political leeches.
With the benefit of hindsight, we cannot but marvel at the last 100 days of OA. He displayed some signs, which we took no notice of at the Time-T. Lets us commence the journey from his last birthday on March 6, 1987. While OA’s guests were just having the usual breakfast at Efunyela Hall, OA enjoyed social interaction with those present. Mama, HID was also seated.
At about 10 a.m, I, as a personal Aide after Rotimi Abe got incarcerated for appending his name to OA’s convincing response which proved that contrary to General Idi Agbon’s assertion that UPN’s Governors have confessed to embezzling state funds to service the UPN party, none of them had been interrogated by the SIP as at that time I was called out to meet with a delegation from Oye Community now in Ekiti State. They brought a gift, a carved statue of OA. It was a spectacular work of art. It was very heavy, to the extent that it took the collaborative efforts of about five healthy men to bring it down from the Peugeot pick-up van, with registration No. OD613AA, used to transport it to Ikenne. Just as the effigy was successfully placed on the rostrum, OA indicated that he would like to go and have his own breakfast.
One amazing thing happened on that day. As I was seeing off OA to the house, some of the people he had sponsored to Jerusalem on Christian pilgrimage lobbied me to allow them have personal and group photographs with him. For several of them, it was a lifelong dream being fulfilled. And people took that opportunity to be seen together with the legendary Nigerian leader. Some of those pictures made it into the newspapers. To enable them enjoy their moment exclusively, I distanced myself from them and watched the photo session. After members of the last group had their turn, OA turned to me. He requested me to also pose beside him for photo session with him. And I jumped at the unique opportunity. Deacon Ayo Oloruntoyin from the Nigerian Tribune, who was one of the photo journalists on ground that day, snapped way, and he later obliged me with a unique copy. In my houses in both Lagos and Offa, that copy adorns my walls. The photograph remains a cherished possession, a record of that memborable day in my life. I was thrilled with the array of colleagues present at the occasion. While I was busy with the OA birthday, I never knew that my mother, Mrs. Sarah Wuraola Opadokun, had passed on to glory on the same day, March 6, 1987. It was Dr. Olu Onagoruwa, his wife and Retired Commissioner of Police Onagoruwa who came to my house to break the sad news to me at about eight, in the morning of the following day, March 7, 1987.
When OA returned to Efunyela Hall, he directed that I should organize a formal reception for the carving from Oye Ekiti. I did, and the guests were happy. OA in response remarked that if it was the little contributions that he has made to the society was the reason for the spectacular love and affection he enjoys from many people and communities, and particularly from members of Oye Community who had come to present him with such a unique art work, he would wish that he performed excellently far much more in life after death. OA informed the guests that he had lost a book titled “Life after Life” and that he craved for another copy from anyone who has a copy to oblige him for his quick reading again. There and then, OA rendered a few extracts from that book. Blind admirers that we were, all of us failed to realize he was giving us advance notice of his transition. But we never took notice.
It was after OA transited to the great beyond that we knew that he had again prophesied his own death and other events. But we had taken no notice. Sunday Times, however, provided Nigerians an historical excursion on OA in order to remind us of some quotable quotes out of much of what Chief OA said on his last birthday.
Another of those events was OA’s last visit to the University of Ife, now Obafemi Awolowo University in 1987. OA’s visit was to honour the doyen of Nigeria theatre, Chief Hubert Ogunde, who was to be given an Honoris Causa by the University. Along with Mama HID, We arrived at Ife a day ahead of the event. OA and HID were guests at the palace of His Royal Majesty Oba Sijuade Okunade, Olubuse II, while he booked me into a suite at his Sijuade Motel in Ife.
I was the Public Relations Consultant to Chief Ogunde in the last five years of his highly productive life. And he had broached to me the need for a stage presentation and film on the life and times of Chief Obafemi Awolowo. After consulting with OA, I had very refreshing discussions with Chief Ogunde, who asked me to formally apply for OA’s permission and approval. Ogunde and I jointly took a breakfast with OA to further explain why we thought the film was germane towards filling a void in our situation in Nigeria. Eventually, OA officially approved our request to do a full- course film on him. Just about the same time, Dr. Ola Balogun pleaded with me to put in a word for him on the same project. I pointedly reminded him about the contributions Chief Ogunde had made to Awolowo’s political life and therefore Ogunde must remain first choice for executing the project.
Three months after OA gave his endorsement, there was a command performance on the grand stage of the National Theatre, Iganmu Lagos to test-run what to expect in the movie. Actors that played the characters of Alhaji Jakande, Chief Enahoro and Pa Alfred Rewane were adjudged look-alike carbon copies of the characters they were representing. However, the actors who played the characters of Alhaji L.K. Jakande and Chief Bola Ige were the most appreciated by the audience. Unfortunately, the sudden death of Chief Ogunde himself on April 4, 1990 frustrated work on the production of the full-fledged stage presentation and film on the life and times of Chief Obafemi Awolowo.
Meanwhile, the award of Honoris Causa conferred on Chief Hubert Ogunde commanded an immense live audience, a huge crowd of respected Nigerians, including staff and students of Ife University. Again, we never noticed OA’s departing conduct after the events. Large team of the Staff and Students’ Unions and over twenty five thousand crowd again exhibited their love, affection and loyalty to OA. And for the last time, OA had to climb the tail-board of his utility six-door Mercedes Benz to address the huge crowd with his two-finger victory sign. It only dawned on us after OA’s transition that even though we never realized it, the sage had given the university community a glorious GOODBYE.
OA’s trip to Warri, which was his last public outing was to honour the new Olu of Warri, billed to be given the staff of office by the then Military Governor of Bendel State. It was another momentous event. OA and HID had enjoyed great relations with OA’s admirers, particularly the Itsekiri people, who are cousins to the Yoruba. The visit also was equally to honour a dependable ally of OA, Papa Alfred Rewane who was the godfather of the Olu of Warri. Papa Rewane and HRM were of the same lineage and in fact Papa Rewane sponsored HRM to local schools and University in Europe. In fact, in 1999 and 2000, as the General Secretary of Afenifere, I had to put the Ijaw people on notice that the Pan Yoruba political platform had taken note of the outrageous violence being unleashed on the Itsekiri by Ijaw people. And we notified them that any further attack on the Itsekiri was an attack on the Yoruba nation. Such attackers, we said, must be ready for appropriate responses from the Yoruba nation. Instantly, the combatants shelved their sword and sanity had prevailed ever since.
On another occasion, OA was present at the University of Lagos Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, Akoka, Yaba, Lagos for the first memorial lecture to honour the Late Chief J.F. Odunjo (the writer of the Alawiye book series). The occasion turned out to be the last time that OA and the late doyen of public service Chief S.O. Adebo would meet. Professor Akin Adesola, who was then the Vice Chancellor of UNILAG, was in attendance. I invited Alhaji Ganiyu Dawodu, Mr.Ojekunle Ferreira, Professor Afolabi Olabimtan, then Director of COSIT, UNILAG, Chief Taiwo Alimi, Chief Dipo Jimilehin, to accompany OA. The children of Chief Odunjo were also present at the lecture.
At the event, Chief S.O. Adebo privately expressed regrets to OA that the Nigerian Public Service had of late turned a disappointment; more so as the reported official misconducts were much more for personal gains rather than for public interest.
There was also the most significant opportunity for OA to meet face to face with Yoruba leaders of the Conservative political divide. On February 18, 1987, Awo had his last encounter with Retired Justice Adetokunbo Ademola, Chief H.O. Davies and Dr. Koye Majekodunmi, the Administrator of Western Region during the state of emergency imposed on the region by the NPC/NCNC led Federal Government. This meeting came as part of the implementation of the resolution of a peace and reconciliation meeting of Yoruba leaders of various shades of opinion. From October 1985, Yoruba leaders and captains of industries and professionals, particularly many in the Metropolitan Club, had persistently sent emissaries to Chief Awolowo, pleading with him to intervene over the raw deal they were suffering in their various business activities. Such emissaries were initially facilitated by Prince Babs Oyekanmi. For example, they lamented that they were having difficulty securing government approval for some of their business requirements, except when they enlisted one or two far Northerners into their board membership. They sought a meeting with Papa in the greatest interest of the Yoruba nation.
But first, there came an
After General Ibrahim Babangida overthrew his boss, he quickly returned Chief Awolowo’s International Passport within one week. Col. John Shagaya, the then Minister of International Affairs, ensured the delivery of the instrument to OA. General Buhari and General Idiagbon had unreasonably and disrespectfully seized OA’s passport without any known reason. To add insult to injury, security operatives of the government had embarked on a brazen search of Awo’s home. Even though the Buhari government claimed that the disrespectful searching OA’s house was not authorized and that it was the work of filth Columnist, their explanation remained feeble and condemnable.
Returning the passport enabled Awo to finally travel as he wished. On the eve of Papa’s annual leave and medical check-up abroad (which the Buhari-Idiagbon regime blocked for one and half years), Papa instructed that on his return, he would be willing to consider another meeting with his rivals, Yoruba leaders on the other side of political philosophy. OA asked me to compile a list of two leaders of our own per each Yoruba state. Based on my list, he would hold a preliminary meeting with these dignitaries. They were Senator Abraham Adesanya and Chief J.A.O. Odebiyi from Ogun State, Chief Adebayo Adefarati and Dr. Nathaniel Aina from the old Ondo State, Alhaji Busari Raji and Canon Emmanuel Alayande represented the old Oyo State, Alhaji Ganiyu Dawodu and Alhaji Rafiu Jafojo represented Lagos State. Chief C.O Adebayo joined me from Kwara State. On Papa’s return, Prince Oyekanmi and I exchanged notes, and we fixed the meeting for January 21, 1987. The Metropolitan Club big shots choose Chief Molade Okoya Tennis Club House at Onikan for the meeting.
A very significant resolution of that meeting was that the two broad political divides in Yoruba nation should collaborate on any major matter, which affects the Yoruba nation. The meeting therefore decided that a meeting between leaders of the two groups was imperative and a necessity in order to unite the Yoruba folds. A unique reconciliation of the followership was intended. An interesting part of the proceedings of the meeting was the contribution of Chief Ayorinde, the Ekerin of Olubadan Ibadan land. He proverbially stated that OA should know that it was time that he stopped being in opposition. He said in Yoruba: “Ma ja, ma sa laa makikanju l’ogun; Akikanju to moo ja ti ko moo sa, iru won maa mbogun ibomiran lo ni”. Literally, he meant that he who fights and runs away lives to fight another day. And that a great warrior who does not know when to retreat is most likely to be part of the spoils of war.
Befittingly, Senator Adesanya retorted “Mi o le w’aku, k’oni je oye ile baba e”. in English, that translates into: Anyone who fears death when a throne is at stake can never lay claim to a hereditary throne. At a breakfast talk with Papa the next morning I informed him (OA) of the eagerness of one of his former close lieutenants from Ogun State, who began to pile pressure on me to be allowed the hosting of the meeting. Information reached us has confirmed to me that this man was a mole, an undercover police informant secretly reporting Papa to his paymasters. I was sensitive to the fact that it was possible for this double agent to install electronic gadgets at his proposed venue to make a full recording of the meeting for instant transmission to Dodan Barracks. Determined to frustrate the mole’s evil plan, I sought the permission of His Royal Majesty, Oba Sijuade Okunade, Olubuse II, to allow us utilize one of his Ikeja houses to hold a series of possible meetings. He obliged. The said mole was a former parliamentary secretary that was close to (OA) as the Premier of the Western Region. OA as a Finance Federal Commissioner under Gowon became curious when he suspected a voucher he was to sign for payment. On investigation, it was established that the mole had always been a police informant.
Tactically, His Royal Majesty Oba Sijuade privately wrote to inform Gen. Babangida that the Yoruba people were preparing for reconciliatory parley; that peaceful co-existence among Yoruba people would generate greater peace and reconciliation in the country altogether; and one of his Ikeja’s houses was going to be the venue for all such meetings.
Thus on the 8th of February 1987 Rtd Sir Justice Adetokunbo Ademola, Chief H.O. Davies, Dr. koye Majekodunmi and Prince Babs Oyekanmi, on one side, and had Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Senator Abraham Adesanya, Chief C.O. Adebayo and I, on the other side. Senator Abraham was asked to moderate the dialogue.
Two Metropolitan Club leaders spoke at the occasion. First, Sir Ademola spoke, followed by Chief Davies simply said they were totally committed and willing to work for the unity of the Yoruba nation and that they will be willing to make reasonable sacrifices for the achievement of peace, mutual trust and unity among the Yoruba people.
Chief H.O. Davies said they had always known and accepted that OA was in control of over 90 per cent of the Yoruba nation, but that they were in control of the traditional rulers, along with the remaining 10 per cent of the people. He therefore recommended that it will be in the greatest interest of the Yoruba nation for the two groups to unite and begin to build enduring good legacies for posterity. The moderator of the dialogue, Senator Adesanya, then requested Chief Awolowo to respond. The Sage initially hesitated to speak. Eventually, however, Chief Awolowo, in his usually gifted oratory, took on each of the trio. First, OA addressed Justice Ademola. Let me paraphrase.
“Justice Ademola, you will remember that you made frantic efforts to literarily eliminate me physically and politically. You will also recall that you came to talk to me in Calabar Prison where you suggested to me to renounce Egbe Omo Oduduwa and the Action Group, promising that you will thereafter ensure my immediate release from prison? Of course, you will remember that I totally rejected your offer. And I said that Egbe Omo Oduduwa, unlike your Egbe Omo Olofin, was not a private club owned by Awolowo. You will recall also that after I was released by the government of General Yakubu Gowon, Yoruba elders organized a reconciliation meeting to reunite us. I accepted that the political difference between us was over. Furthermore, I would also like to remind you that on your retirement from office as the Chief Justice of Nigeria, I organized a reception to celebrate you. In spite of my practical demonstration of love to you since then, I will like you to tell this gathering what further offence I have committed to warrant your renewed and total opposition to me in the 1979 general election. In the polling booth very close to your house, it was proved again by eye witnesses that you voted for the NPN? Also, if its true that you want the progress of the Yoruba people, why should you again spearhead deep enmity between your very small group and me?
Chief Awolowo again went on to remind his Yoruba kinsmen at the meeting that other nationalities never tired of blackmailing him with suppositions that if Awo were to be elected President or Prime Minister, he would concentrate more developmental programmes on Yorubaland. When such suspicions continued to remain a stumbling block to his life-long aspiration for national leadership, why should he again suffer “multiple jeopardy” with the high level opposition marshaled against him within the Yoruba nation leadership?
Mesmerised by eloquence of Awo’s address, Justice Adetokunbo only suffered to make one interjection, asking: “Was the lady (Adetokunbo’s wife) present at the party you organized for me”?
Chief Awolowo replied in the affirmative and, to prove it, he directed me to hand over to Justice Adetokunbo a copy of the photo album produced of the reception. Justice Ademola was visibly dumfounded as he browsed through the collection. In preparation for the meeting, Chief Awolowo had asked me to visit his Library (now donated and managed by the Obafemi Awolowo University) and requested the Senior Librarian to assist me in locating the particular photo album and other related photograph of that reception. I got the Album of that reception and it was handy. It was a coup de grace. It effectively deflated Justice Adetokunbo’s ego. There and then, he apologized for the unnecessarily stress that their relationship had suffered.
OA then took on Chief Davies. OA reminded the Chief that after the reconciliation meeting, which he also attended, there have not been any issue between them that could have warranted the renewed bitter enemity that Chief Davies harboured against him. OA now threw a bombshell. “You, Chief Davies, were the Originator and Author of 122/3 to be interpreted as 12 states and 2/3 of a state. Chief Richard Akinjinde was just the mouthpiece as the official advocate of the NPN and later became the Attorney General and Minister of Justice of the NPN Government.
Chief Davies neither admitted nor denied OA’s accusation. Instead, he reiterated his position that the meeting was conveyed to settle out dispute and wrongs causing disharmony between the elder statement. He promised that in the twilight of his life, he would be committed to giving everything within his power for total realignment of forces among Yoruba leaders.
Finally, OA turned to Dr. Koye Majekodunmi. Awo wanted Dr. Koye Majekodunmi to reveal if he had again offended the Medical Doctor after the major Pan-Yoruba reconciliation meeting. Reminiscing, OA asked the Former Administrator of Western Region to remember that as a political detainee, Awo had requested that the Administrator should not yield to the propostion of the NPC top hierarchy to detain him at Lekki, Epe area, reputed to be teeming with various killer insects and dangerous reptiles. In spite of the Administrator’s promise never to send Awo to such a place, a few days later, OA was restricted to the most dangerous quarters of the Lekki Island waterside. OA also revealed that in spite of his underserved travails, as orchestrated by the conspiracy of the NPC and NCNC, he readily forgave the apologetic Yoruba leaders at the major reconciliation meeting.
Recalling that he and his entourage, including Alhaji Ganiyu Dawode and Chief Ojekunle Ferrewa arrived very early for the opening ceremony of St. Nicholas Hospital, established by Dr. Majekodunmi, OA reminded the Doctor that people who sighted him at the venue took offence and questioned why he had honoured the invitation of a “traitor” who had collaborated with the evil agent of the NPC to humiliate and oppress him. This angry horde mobilized to burn down St. Nicholas, but for OA’s strong and laborious appeal that Yoruba Leaders had reached a resolution for forgiveness and unity among the leadership and the followership. OA also wanted Dr. Majekodunmi to tell the meeting why the Physician should be part of another gang-up against him. Dr. Majekodunmi also simply responded that bygones be bygone, as the current meeting had been called to broach a reconciliation among them as identified Yoruba greats.
With all the dirty linens put away, the atmosphere took a friendly and lively turn, with free-dealing of jokes and banters amongst these doyens of the Yoruba race. The leadership of the two sides decided that the meeting should adjourn and they should leave there to brief their different camps. They reached a resolution to regroup for a follow-up meeting on April 18, 1987. Subsequently, OA and I guided Chief Davies to his car, as he had already lost his sight by then.
Unfortunately, the follow-up meeting for April 18, 1987 never happened. Just two weeks after the primary meeting, Chief Davies lost his first child, the Chief Executive of Rod Publicity, an advertising agency. To stabilize him from the devastation that his son’s death inflicted upon him, Davies himself was rushed abroad. To make matters worse, there came the paralysing death of OA himself. The efforts geared towards re-uniting the Yoruba nation thereafter hung in limbo until Papa Micheal Adekunle Ajasin naturally took over as the Leader.
Awolowo’s excellence in planning and executing policy decisions remain unequalled. That was why he blazed the trail or scored first in the formulation and execution of spectacular matters; first to introduce free universal primary education in Nigeria; first Television in sub-sahara Africa; first standard stadium (now Obafemi Awolowo), first tallest storey building in Nigeria (Cocoa House, Ibadan), biggest firm settlements in Nigeria etc.
Awolowo’s leadership qualities include unequalled industry and intellect, courage, value for time and choice of excellent thinkers. Always, he surrounded himself with experts in various disciplines. That way, he never lacked resources for the purposes of getting an all-inclusive position on any particular subject matter. The positive and negative sides of every viewpoint were keenly debated and finally resolved before he or his organization took a position. OA remained current on contemporary matters till the end. I was always amazed at OA’s consciousness of modern trends. In fact, before anyone else, OA in 1986 one early morning, as soon as he cited me, from his normally closed window informed me of the newly-released Christian lyrics of the Ilesha-born Evangelist Niyi Adedokun titled “Amona Tete Wa”. OA’s notable thinkers which included the University of Ife collectives among others were: Prof. Hezekiah Oluwasanmi, Prof. Sam Aluko, Prof. David Oke, Prof. S. Banji Akintoye, Prof. Akin Mabogunje, Prof. Ambrose Alli, Chief Wumi Adegbonmire and others to mention a few which my memory can instantly recollect.
The reality was that once Awolowo spoke on a subject matter on Nigeria, public opinion writers and leaders, as well as University academics, would usually break into two broad divisions – for and against Awolowo’s particular viewpoints. But he never did deliberately stir up the hornets’ nest of controversy. Awolowo utilized the value of silence to the maximum effect. Except his commentary would improve or advance positively the topical issue of the day, Awolowo would not speak. That was why whenever he chose to address the media, they would severally declare that “Awolowo has finally broken his silence” upon such-and-such a matter. After any speech, the development has always been that his contribution quickly turned into the subject of analysis, debate, criticism or commendation for long. For example, when in his Chancellor’s convocation address at Ife in 1973, he scientifically discredited the population census count of that year and proved that the result was fraudulent and unacceptable, the caption of that speech by the most widely read Sunday Times then was “CENSUS, A BARREN EXERCISE” BY OBAFEMI AWOLOWO. Positive reaction to his speech was wide and instantaneous. The Sunday Times in those days when Chief Gbolabo Ogunsanwo was the Editor was selling over 250,000 copies daily.
There is no doubt that Awolowo, for all he was, generated passionate love and hatred in equal measures. For example, a significant segment of the Igbo community will, till tomorrow, continue to accuse him of instigating cross-carpeting just so that he could prevent Dr. Azikwe from leading an NCNC Government in the Western Region in 1951. Alhaji Ganiyu Dawodu’s book has reasonably provided evidence to discredit their ridiculous claim. The Ibadan Peoples Party and or the Mabolaje Grand Alliance were never in any written and or official alliance with NCNC. When the then Electoral umpire officially asked all political parties contesting in Ibadan election to submit the names of their candidates, the NCNC never submitted the names of the IPP or the Mabolaje Grand Alliance as contesting on their platform.
One wonders, where is the sense of fairness, justice and equity of the anti-Awolowo rabble, when Dr. Azikiwe’s party had already formed an NCNC Government in Eastern Region. What the NCNC party attempted to do was to rubbish the Yoruba Nation by trying to make it looks as if the Yoruba nation could not find one of her own best materials to lead a government for the Western Region. You can appreciate what would have been the implications of such reality on the psyche of the Yoruba folks.
During the 1979 campaigns, the windscreen of OA’s helicopter was stoned, forcing him to hurriedly leave Igboland because of the hostility. Part of this hostility sprouts from some elements from the Igbo platform, who apart from other private reasons, have claimed that Awolowo pauperized their people during the Civil War by directing the Central Bank of Nigeria to give natives of defeated Biafra enclave, just one or two pounds in compensation for all their deposits in banks. Serious-minded people know that if there was government policy to that effect, OA was just implementing such policy and should not be held guilty for such because he was then Deputy Leader of the Federal Executive Council and the Federal Commissioner of Finance. Finally on these allegations, they claimed that OA said that starvation was a weapon of war. They equally took that out of context.
The Yoruba people have proven time and again that they can be accommodating to other Nigerian nationalities that have come to ply their trades and businesses in Yorubaland. It is only in the Yorubaland that some State Governments appoint Igbo and Hausa people into their prominent cabinets positions or make them heads of various departments. What Yoruba rejects are the instances of where people they have graciously accommodated subsequently trying to lord it over our people. It is equally typical of an average Yoruba offspring that one of the greatest Yoruba Military Leaders Col. Adekunle Fajuyi offered to be assassinated along with his Commander-in-Chief, General Aguiyi Ironsi when the mutineer came to Ibadan Government House to take away Ironsi. Is there anything more than the supreme sacrifice a Yoruba leader can pay in defence of his Igbo boss?
Many of the established far Northerners have, individually and in groups, in private discussion and at important meetings involving me, admitted that they never doubted that Awolowo was the best presidential materials; but they did not work for his victory because Chief Awolowo had always formed his political parties (the Action Group and Unity Party of Nigeria), before inviting them to come and join, with the sole purpose of getting him elected as Prime Minister and or President.
Awolowo is the only former Nigeria leader whose name has repeatedly opens and closes doors in the Nigerian political firmament, even after a quarter of century of his transition to the great beyond. And for all intent and purposes, the Awolowo’s phenomenon will continue to shape the political divisions among the Yoruba people and their cousins in Delta and Edo States as well as among the Yoruba people of Kwara and Kogi States because of the unprecedented life of discipline, courage, enterprise and development that were vintage Awolowo.
The absence of Awolowo has led to the emergence of political parties without ideological leanings and preferences. It is difficult to differentiate between the political parties philosophy and actions, except with the star like excellent performances of Raji Fashola, Adams Oshiomhole, Rauf Aregbesola, Kayode Fayemi, Abiola Ajimobi, Ibikunle Amosu of the current ACN Governors and two or three PDP Governors like Rotimi Amaechi, Sule Lamido and the likes. Nowadays, contestants merely talk about their 12 or 10 or 9 or 7 or 6 or 5-point programmes. There is virtually no prescribed benchmark against which elected people are to be assessed by the voters as either having performed or not. In fact, within the same political party, each candidate will usually present individualized promises, leaving the voters confused. For example, it is difficult for any positively disposed person to reproach or contradict the Four-Cardinal Programmes of the Unity Party of Nigeria, (UPN) namely:-
Free Education Programme;
Free Medical Services;
Gainful Employment; And
Integrated Rural Development;
All that any UPN Candidate needed to do was just to subscribe to the above and work towards executing them while in office.
There is no diligent general discussion, debates and conclusions on party policy options. Party supporters ordinarily should be well equipped with the party’s policy on the economy, power, education, welfare programme, agriculture so that they will be foot soldiers to propagate and popularise the party’s positions etc. In the UPN days, we spent two to three days discussing and concluding on the party’s policies. We equally used to have goodwill messages and contributions from social democrats political parties globally.
Since 1999, party conventions have become nauseating scenarios, where government and party bigwigs exhibit personal wealth. Elective Conventions are much more bizarre because there is usually the presence of out-spent and out-bribed delegates who usually become praise singers at these events. For example, there were revelations of how delegates to the last PDP convention to choose presidential delegates were bought. The story, as revealed by some delegates, was that one of the aspirants bribed each delegate with 10,000USD while his less-endowed rival could only afford 2,500USD.
When Awolowo was here, the choice of candidates for political offices were democratic and at very little cost. Till 1982/83 for example, none of the UPN governorship candidates could claim that he spent N20,000 of his own money to become a Candidate and a Governor-Elect. The party searched among its ranks and adopted the relatively best candidates to run. Interested party men only needed to formally notify the party of their interests. In fact, Chief Bisi Akande in 1998, (now National Chairman of ACN became the Alliance for Democracy (AD) Candidate for Osun in that same manner. He was not interested to run, but Chief Bola Ige literally forced him to run because he (Akande) remained such a decent, principled personality. His legacies in Osun remain yet to be beaten. The utility and befitting Secretariat he built remains an enviable contribution of unimpeachable leadership in public service and without borrowing a dime. Until the arrival of Oranmiyan and the symbol (Aregbesola) into the coveted office of governor, those who rigged him (Akande) out have no significant land mark as their legacy except ruins and hopelessness. But with the emergence of Aregbesola, an unusual governor, governing in an unusual style, the fortune of Osun people had started to change for the better. The symbol (Aregbesola) and his other collegues, Fashola, Oshiomhole, Fayemi, Ajimobi and Amosu have turned their states into construction sites on roads and schools. Each one is positively taking concrete steps to uplift agriculture to a promising level so that each state can become self sufficient in food production and generate employment for the young people. I have it on good authority that they are all embarking on scientific and technologically driven agriculture works so that our country will on its own produce the raw materials and process them into semi and or finished products that can also be exported.
But today, anyone with cheap money just needs to establish his own structure within a party on which he wishes to run. Sometimes you may have up to 30 aspirants for one particular post- particularly the executive ones. Thus, there is the usual factionalisation within the party along the aspirants’ various structures. Reconciliations sometimes are difficult to achieve.
Elected government officials who ran under the UPN, acted in fact as party representatives in government offices. It may be unbelievable, but it was true, that Alhaji L.K. Jakande, as Governor of Lagos State, fortnightly, always showed up at the UPN State Secretariat in Mushin to interact with Lagosians of all political leaning. Anyone in Lagos, who had any matter to relate with the Governor, had the right to personally talk to the Governor about it at that forum. The policy was first-come-first served. The interaction usually lasted till late in the night sometimes, Chief Bisi Akande, as Osun State Governor between 1999-2003, devised his own IDI ODAN, a sort of PEOPLE’S PARLIAMENT, to interact with the voters and the electorate. His other collegues, Tinubu, Adesina, Osoba, Adebayo and Adefarati, devised other methods to regularly interact with their constituents who genuinely put them in office.
It was a fact that in 1978/1979, there were incidences of bitter rivalries and unending confrontations in the UPN party primaries. With particular reference to the case in Oyo State; delegates’ primary was repeated thrice before Chief Bola Ige emerged as the party Candidate. Arch- Deacon Emmanuel Alayande, who among others contested and lost against Bola Ige, later became the Special Adviser on Education to the Governor.
In Lagos, Alhaji Ganiyu Dawodu who had become the political talisman of Lagos politics (the G-O-D of Lagos), simply read the mood of OA, realizing quickly that perhaps the sage would prefer to compensate any of those who had suffered with him in the unjust prison incarceration of the First republic. G-O-D, therefore, tactically withheld his hat from the ring; even though he was the next senior active politician after Chief Akanbi Onitiri, who by then had lost steam. Thereafter, Alhaji Jakande, a distinguished journalist and renowned editorial writer, was nominated and won election as the Governor of Lagos State. OA gave him an appellation; he usually called him “Habour Master”.
Also as early as 1981, there had been whispering campaign by deputy governors who wanted to succeed their governors in the UPN in Ondo, Oyo and Bendel states. Because of such ambitions, those states literally became war zones within the UPN states.
In Ondo State, Chief Akin Omoboriowo wanted to replace Chief Michael Adekunle Ajasin; in Oyo State, Chief Sunday Afolabi was rooting to replace Chief Bola Ige; and in Bendel State, Chief Damas Akpofure wanted to replace Professor Ambrose Alli. There was also the political war-like scenario in Kwara State playing out between Chief J.S. Olawoyin and Chief C.O. Adebayo, the latter wanting to replace the former. The conflicting interests of the gladiators led to some spectacular negative consequences. The events of the 1982 UPN National Executive which witnessed the “NIGHT OF THE LONG KNIVES” in Yola remain a painful recollection. The fact that both Chief S.M. Afolabi and Alhaji Busari Adelakun (“Eruobodo”), had alleged that Chief Ige enlisted General Obasanjo to help settle their intra-UPN dispute generated emotion and bad blood over whose turn it was to run for governorship, remains one event that one will not want to remember a fresh.
Chief Omoboriowo, from October, 1, 1979, was reportedly hoping that Chief Ajasin would not last more than two years before passing on. In fact, it was believed that when Chief Ajasin had to travel to England for medical treatment, Chief Omoboriowo had so positioned himself to be sworn in as the Governor just in case of any eventuality.
In fact, Chief Omoboriowo had successfully cultivated most members of the Ondo State House of Assembly through falsehood and various dubious claims. It became known that Omoboriowo had told the legislators that as Governor, he would turn around their fortunes positively by granting them various kinds of allowances which Ajasin had denied them. Also, the legislators attempted to impeach Chief Ajasin as a result of Chief Omoboriowo’s prompting.
OA political declarations were usually taken seriously because they were not made whimsically. Except this one. There was an emergency National Executive meeting of UPN in December 1982 at the National Theatre, Iganmu and I was the Recording Secretary. OA in his address said that of all the Deputy Governors except Akin Omoboriowo who were insisting on party primaries for the sole purposes of unseating their governor bosses were so vehement because they wanted to replace their bosses so that they would be able to steal public funds. Unfortunately, Omoboriowo disappointed OA and decamped into the NPN along side of Chief S.M. Afolabi from Oyo state. Omoboriowo recently died unsong and unheralded. He turned out to be an unfaithful Awo’s adherent who even wrote a book titled “AWOISM”. It was a painful realization that he was never genuine even as many of his likes have been even today.
The fact remains that OA’s August 1983 statement is gradually proving prophetic, to the effect that if the general election of that year was rigged, it would be unlikely that our generation will ever see democracy again. The total corruption and perversion of politics generally, and the political institutions established by President Babangida with their ultimate objective to help him succeed himself, have done extreme damage to our corporate body polity. This has been followed by President Obasanjo’s “politricks” that saw him single handedly dismissing and appointing four PDP party chairmen, namely Chief Solomon Daushep Lar, Chief Audu Ogbe, Engineer Banabas Gamade and Dr. Ahmadu Ali, within his eight-year tenure illustrates the tempestuous state of the party under Obasanjo’s watch. The brigandage with which he engineered removal and replacement of the chairmen of other political parties were sufficient evidence to reasonably state that for Obasanjo, party cohesion, resilience and popularity were strange commodities that the PDP President did not give any significant regard.
One can state, without any reservation, that, what Nigerians have today (in terms of political parties) are no more than party platforms for electoral contests. And that is why, since Babangida commercialized and monetized politics, aspirants have been compelled to source and steal (where possible) to win their elections, because they will have the key to the public purse once they get into office.
The fact of the matter is that Nigeria’s academic, analysis and writers have failed to do enough to unravel and dissect Awolowo as a mystical phenomena, deserving of painstaking study and analysis by all manners of scholars without forgetting the good works of Rev. Father Francis Ogunmodede and a few others. Nigeria unfairly deprived him (OA) to utilize his divine and personal gifts, talents and endowments to help Nigeria establish an egalitarian and developed society. I cannot but salute the governors of the South-West, Edo State and a few other states, who are doing a yeoman’s job to improve the quality of lives in their states. However, reeling from the hangover of IBB’s 1990s monetization of politics, the current Fourth Republic finds itself incapable of delivering genuine democratic credentials because the process of contesting election is predicated on the depth of contestant’s pockets. Once such Candidate wins, he becomes uncontrollable and unaccountable. Such elected public servants usually disregard the electorate they believe has received its dues, pre-election; and they free themselves of their worries until another election is close by. It is for that purpose that the more petro-dollars our government receives, the worse the living conditions of Nigerians become.
To redeem the country of our birth from imminent revolt by the marginalized, the cheated and the disadvantaged, Nigerians should stop their opportunistic collaboration will evil regimes and their evil pastimes. Chief Awolowo had always reminded us that when the people are ready to take their destinies in their hands, leadership will emerge. No society can achieve development or progress when the preponderance of its elite and its people are pleasure-lovers and fun-seekers.
The emerging Young Turks in Yorubaland, who are currently adding some values to what Awolowo did and left, should not relent. They should radically turn their given spaces and spheres of authority into genuine democratic governance. The fact that they are already establishing Nigeria’s First Welfare Programme e.g– N5, 000 each for people over 65years old and other variants of elders who are not on any pension scheme, “Itoju Agba” and the likes – represent a quantum leap from the recent morass of unproductive governance. The spirit of Awolowo lives on. The fact that my brother and friend, Ogbeni Aregbesola, has, from Day One of its administration, mobilised the people of the State of Osun with the Anthem of the Unity Party of Nigeria (whose words were written by Chief Awolowo himself, with lyrics supplied by Chief Hubert Ogunde) rekindle our hopes and aspiration. Our people at the present are being galvanized for popular participation in governance and execution of lofty programmes to improve on their well being.
With such promising glimpses, Awolowo will smile from beyond on performing governors and those who, despite the whimsical phase of corrupted Nigerian political contests, help to assist quality people get into offices.
Posted by fiyom at 00:21
Friday, 20 July 2012
Posted by fiyom at 09:30