Osun State Governor, Mr. Rauf Aregbesola, elderstatesman, Alhaji Tanko Yakassai and professor of African Literature and Culture, Carleton University Ottawa, Canada, Pius Adesanmi, said on Tuesday that the ideals of the first Premier of the defunct Western Region, the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, were capable of transforming the country if well utilised.
The trio spoke at a symposium in Lagos titled, The Nigerian Constitution: The Awo Road Not Taken, organised by the Obafemi Awolowo Foundation.
Aregbesola said Awolowo’s enemies were not human enemies.
He said, ‘‘The enemies are ignorance and want. Ignorance is a great disaster anywhere it reigns. That is what Nigeria is managing in the North (Boko Haram).The greatest value of Awolowo was that he used education to create a middle class that has absorbed the dislocation in the social structure. The situation in the South-West could have been worse.”
Yakassai, who was the chairman of the event, said that Awolowo’s Action Group made Nigeria a federation.
“The National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons wanted a unitary system for Nigeria while the Northern Peoples’ Congress wanted a confederation. Now is the time to use Awo’s ideas to develop Nigeria,” he said.
In his keynote address, Adesanmi said the current situation in the county called for a sober reflection.
Saying Awo was an originator, creator of paths and a visionary leader, Adesanmi added that he was the loudest of the nationalists.
Adesanmi added, ‘‘Awo stands out in the national discourse for the right way to greatness because he did more than his peers. He stood by Nigerians at critical times by showing the way and placing them in the right way to go. He was committed to Nigeria’s constitutional development, going the extra miles to show the right path to tread. In all of Awolowo’s books, throughout the years, he pointed at federalism as the path and unitarianism as the bush.
“Regional autonomy and federalism are not enemies. The minority question is also one of Awo’s focal attentions. Awo stressed the need to make the minority groups comfortable in the context of a federal Nigeria. This is to be addressed for national unity peace and progress.”
Other ideals of Awo not embraced by the nation’s leaders the don said include, separation of powers and autonomy of local governments.
“If late Chief Awolowo knew that the triviality of first ladies in Nigeria would grow to the level it is today, he would have provided constitutional checks against it,” he added.
According to him, the best constitution is useless if the country is held hostage by corrupt leadership.
Earlier in her speech, Executive Director, Obafemi Awolowo Foundation, Dr. Tokunbo Awolowo-Dosunmu, had noted that the symposium was organised to use Awolowo’s posthumous birthday to chart a new course for Nigeria in view of the proposed national conference.
She said, “Can we continue on the wrong path and expect to arrive at the right destination?”
Discussants at the event included the Chairman, Nigerian Bar Association, Ikeja branch, Mr. Monday Ubani, a public affairs analyst, Bala Zakka, a motivational speaker, Mr. Fela Durotoye, and rights advocate and an entrepreneur, Toyosi Akerele.
They lauded the lasting values of Awolowo and urged the country’s leadership to imbibe them.
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