The Story Of Chief Obafemi Jeremiah Oyeniyi Awolowo,a man with GOOD leagacy!!

Obafemi Awolowo
Chief Obafemi Jeremiah Oyeniyi Awolowo, GCFR
(Yoruba: Ọbáfẹ́mi Awólọ́wọ̀; 6 March 1909 – 9 May 1987),
was a Nigerian nationalist and statesman who played a key
role in Nigeria’s independence movement, the First and
Second Republics and the Civil War. He is most notable as
the outstanding first premier of the Western Region but
was also a successful federal commissioner for finance and
vice president of the Federal Executive Council in the Civil
War and was thrice a major contender for his country’s
highest office.[1] A native of Ikenne in Ogun State of south-
western Nigeria, he started his career, like some of his well-
known contemporaries, as a nationalist in the Nigerian
Youth Movement in which he rose to become Western
Provincial Secretary. Awolowo was responsible for much of
the progressive social legislation that has made Nigeria a
modern nation.[2] He was the first Leader of Government
Business and Minister of Local Government and Finance,
and first Premier of the Western Region under Nigeria’s
parliamentary system, from 1952 to 1959. He was the
official Leader of the Opposition in the federal parliament
to the Balewa government from 1959 to 1963. In
recognition of all these, Awolowo was the first individual in
the modern era to be named Leader of the Yorubas
(Yoruba: Asiwaju Awon Yoruba or Asiwaju Omo Oodua).
Early life
Obafemi Awolowo was born on 6 March 1909 in Ikenne, in
present-day Ogun State of Nigeria.[3] His father was a
farmer and sawyer who died when Obafemi was about
seven years old. [4] He attended various schools, and then
became a teacher in Abeokuta, after which he qualified as a
shorthand typist. Subsequently, he served as a clerk at the
famous Wesley college, as well as a correspondent for the
Nigerian Times.[5] It was after this that he embarked on
various business ventures to help raise funds to travel to
the UK for further studies.
Following his education at Wesley College, Ibadan (a
teachers’ college), in 1927, he enrolled at the University of
London as an External Student and graduated with the
degree of Bachelor of Commerce (Hons.). He went to the
UK in 1944 to study law at the University of London and
was called to the Bar by the Honourable Society of the
Inner Temple on 19 November 1946.[4][6] In 1949 Awolowo
founded the Nigerian Tribune, the oldest surviving private
Nigerian newspaper, which he used to spread nationalist
consciousness among his fellow Nigerians.[7]
While in London, Awolowo formed in 1947 the Egbe Omo
Oduduwa, an association dedicated to the preservation
and advancement of Yoruba culture in the new world
conditions. Thereafter, he founded the Action Group in
1951. This party, alone among the major political parties,
demanded immediate independence based on federalism.
He led the Action Group (which was also the first Nigerian
party to write and present an election manifesto) to victory
in the Western Regional elections of 1951 and was named
Leader of Government Business and Minister for Local
Government and Finance, ultimately becoming the first
premier of the Region when it was elevated to a federating
unit in 1954. As the leader of the Action Group, Awolowo
represented the Western Region in all the constitutional
conferences intended to advance Nigeria on the path to
independence. He was the official Leader of the Opposition
to the Balewa Government from 1959 to 1963 after he had
left the Western Region to contest elections to the prime
ministership of Nigeria at the centre. He was chosen by the
Yoruba elite as their political leader or, formally, Leader of
the Yorubas, during the peak goodwill period following his
release from imprisonment for about three years on the
charge of plotting to overthrow the national government,
and was later appointed Federal Commissioner for Finance
and Vice-President of the Federal Executive Council in
Yakubu Gowon’s Federal Military Government during the
Civil War. In those capacities, he played a major role in
preserving the Nigerian federation. As chairman and
presidential candidate of the Unity Party of Nigeria, which
contested the elections of 1979 and 1983 on a welfarist
platform, Awolowo polled the second highest number of
votes.He retired from politics on the termination of the
Second Republic in 1983.
Awolowo remains perhaps Nigeria’s most controversial
politician. He has been attacked for electorally defeating
Nnamdi Azikiwe, a then more nationally prominent political
figure and an Igbo from the neighbouring Eastern Region,
in the contest to control the West, Awolowo’s home region.
He has also come under attacks from these crusaders for
what they alleged to be his hard-line stance against the
secessionist Igbos of the Eastern Region in the Civil War.
He was equally regarded by most Hausa-Fulani politicians
as the major threat to the ethno-religious hegemony of
their people in Nigeria. Nevertheless, he is widely revered
for his strong nationalist activism, which roused the NCNC
nationalists out of their complacency and helped hasten
the march to independence. This was attained in 1960
following early home rule for the people of the Western
Region which Awolowo secured in 1957. He is also admired
for his major role in saving the federation in the Civil War
and for his dynamic and welfarist leadership. In particular,
he pioneered Nigeria’s free primary education and free
health care programmes and implemented the first
minimum-wage policy by a Nigerian government at any
level; he also established the first television service in Africa
and the first Nigerian university (The University of Ibadan)
whose creation was not even recommended by the Federal
Government of the day.
Awolowo was Nigeria’s foremost federalist. In his Path to
Nigerian Freedom (1947) – the first systematic federalist
manifesto by a Nigerian politician – he advocated
federalism as the only basis for equitable national
integration and, as head of the Action Group, he led
demands for a federal constitution, which was introduced
in the 1954 Lyttleton Constitution, following primarily the
model proposed by the Western Region delegation led by
him. As premier, he proved to be and was viewed as a man
of vision and a dynamic administrator. Awolowo was also
the country’s leading social democratic politician.[1] He
supported limited public ownership and limited central
planning in government.[1] He believed that the state
should channel Nigeria’s resources into education and
state-led infrastructural development.[8] Controversially,
and at considerable expense, he introduced free primary
education for all and free health care for children in the
Western Region, established the first television service in
Africa in 1959, and the Oduduwa Group, all of which were
financed from the highly lucrative cocoa industry which was
the mainstay of the regional economy.[9]
Crisis in Western Nigeria
From the eve of independence, he led the Action Group as
the Leader of the Opposition in the federal parliament,
leaving Samuel Ladoke Akintola as the Western Region
Premier. Serious disagreements between Awolowo and
Akintola on how to run the Western region led the latter to
an alliance with the Tafawa Balewa-led NPC federal
government. A constitutional crisis led to the declaration of
a state of emergency in the Western Region, eventually
resulting in a widespread breakdown of law and order.
Excluded from national government, Awolowo and his
party faced an increasingly precarious position. Akintola’s
followers, angered at their exclusion from power, formed
the Nigerian National Democratic Party (NNDP) under
Akintola’s leadership. Having previously suspended the
elected Western Regional Assembly, the federal
government then reconstituted the body after manoeuvres
that brought Akintola’s NNDP into power without an
election. Shortly afterwards Awolowo and several disciples
were arrested, charged, convicted (of treason),[10] and
jailed for conspiring with the Ghanaian authorities under
Kwame Nkrumah to overthrow the federal government.[11]
The remnants of the Action Group fought the national
election of 1965 in alliance with the largely Igbo, and south-
eastern NCNC. Amid accusations of fraud from the NCNC-
AG camp, the NPC-NNDP won the election; the AG
supporters reacted with violent riots in some parts of the
Western region. Awolowo was later freed by the military
administration of General Yakubu Gowon who
subsequently appointed him Federal Commissioner for
Finance and Vice-President of the Federal Executive
Council. This took place in the unsettled circumstances
immediately preceding the Civil War.
Free Universal Primary Education and Health
Awolowo pioneered free primary education in Nigeria in the
Western Region and also free health care. Although
Awolowo failed to win the 1979 and 1983 presidential
elections of the Second Republic, he polled the second
highest number of votes and his polices of free education
and limited free health were carried out throughout all the
states controlled by his party, the Unity Party of Nigeria.
Awolowo is best remembered for his remarkable integrity,
ardent nationalism, principled and virile opposition, and
dogged federalistic convictions. His party was the first to
move the motion for Nigeria’s independence in the federal
parliament and he obtained internal self-government for
the Western Region in 1957. He is credited with coining the
name “naira” for the Nigerian standard monetary unit and
helped to finance the Civil War and preserve the federation
without borrowing. He built the Liberty Stadium in Ibadan,
the first of its kind in Africa; established the WNTV, the first
television station in Africa; erected the first skyscraper in
tropical Africa: the Cocoa House (still the tallest in Ibadan)
and ran a widely-respected civil service in the Western
Awolowo was reputedly admired by Ghana’s Kwame
Nkrumah, and some of his disciples in the South-West have
continued to invoke his name and the policies of his party,
the Action Group, during campaigns, while his welfarist
policies have influenced politicians in most of the other
geopolitical zones of the nation. He was a Senior Advocate
of Nigeria and Chancellor of the University of Ife (his
brainchild) and Ahmadu Bello University. He held many
chieftaincy titles, including those of the Losi of Ikenne, Lisa
of Ijeun, Asiwaju of Remo, Odofin of Owo, Ajagunla of Ado-
Ekiti, Apesin of Osogbo, Odole of Ife and, among the
Ibibios, Obong Ikpa Isong of Ibibioland. He was also
conferred with the highest national honour of Grand
Commander of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, a rank and a
title that have ordinarily been bestowed upon the country’s
presidents. Many institutions in Nigeria have honoured him,
and some regional and national institutions are named
after him, including Obafemi Awolowo University in Ile-Ife,
Osun State (formerly University of Ife), Obafemi Awolowo
Stadium (formerly the Liberty Stadium) and the Obafemi
Awolowo Institute of Government and Public Policy in
Lekki, Lagos State. His portrait is on the ₦100 naira note.
He was also the author of several publications on the
political structure and future prospects of Nigeria, the
most prominent of which are Path to Nigerian Freedom,
Thoughts on the Nigerian Constitution, and Strategies and
Tactics of the People’s Republic of Nigeria.
In 1992, the Obafemi Awolowo Foundation was founded as
an independent, non-profit, non-partisan organisation
committed to furthering the symbiotic interaction of public
policy and relevant scholarship with a view to promoting
the overall development of the Nigerian nation. The
Foundation was launched by the President of Nigeria at
that time, General Ibrahim Babangida, at the Liberty
Stadium, Ibadan.[12] However, his most important
bequests (styled Awoism) are his exemplary integrity, his
welfarism, his contributions to hastening the process of
decolonisation and his consistent and reasoned advocacy
of federalism-based on ethno-linguistic self-determination
and uniting politically strong states-as the best basis for
Nigerian unity. Awolowo died peacefully at his Ikenne
home, the Efunyela Hall (so named after his mother), on 9
May 1987, at the age of 78, amid tributes across political
and ethno-religious divides.