A Short Commentary on Awolowo and his Critics

by Sabella Ogbobode Abidde

Revisionists are everywhere. And for the most part they are attempting to rework history by allowing their prejudices, illiteracy, and preconceived notions to cloud their reasoning. These arm-chair critics have become masters at injecting willful fallacies, intentional falsehood, and historical nonsense into their understanding of history; and in so doing have began to cast aspersions on the memory of the great Obafemi Awolowo who was a political giant with a brilliant mind. He was graceful, charismatic and purposeful. Most of all he had vision and was a nice and decent human being!

Chief Obafemi Awolowo had his shortcomings. He was not a saint. However, his failings and missteps were far fewer and less injurious than those of his contemporaries. Within the context of Nigerian, and indeed within African politics, Awolowo had no equal. He towered above his contemporaries. Not only that — all the leaders we have had since his exit from government and politics have been political dwarfs. One would be hard-pressed to name a political leader in Nigeria — during the second-half of the twentieth century — who did more for his people and for his country than Awolowo.

His accomplishments as the Premier of the Western Region are still evident and remain unmatched by any leader in Nigeria today. And as a federal minister under General Yakubu Gowon, he saved Nigeria from self immolation. From the time he began his political career until his passing to the heavens – his two great public missions was to make Nigeria better than the way he met it; and also to secure Nigeria’s economic, social and political future for the next generation. Unfortunately, he was unable to achieve all his dreams.

He was unable to achieve his dreams because he refused to compromise his principles. He refused to betray his constituent and his conscience. He refused to bow to the wishes of the colonialist. He refused to obey the barking orders given by Dodan Barracks. For these and other reasons therefore, he was denied the ultimate political price; and because he was denied his political aspiration, Nigeria has remained in the doldrums ever since. In Chief Awolowo, we lost the brightest star we ever had and may have to wait another seventy-year for a man like him (to free us from our bondage and take us to the summit of prosperity).

To say he was a statesman is an understatement. If he was an American or a European, the world would have placed him in the same league as Churchill, Roosevelt, Charles de Gaulle and many others. But because Nigeria is what it is – we have no regards for our heroes. Any wonder then that no one wants to lay their life for a country that does not appreciate her citizens? An ungrateful country aside, we now have a budding school of shortsighted, myopic, and mean-spirited critics who are now into Awo-bashing. These intellectual ants want to rewrite history. And so they repeat age-old falsities by painting the great one with sloppy and spiky brush. It’s so sad!

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Lagbaja April 27, 2006 - 3:58 pm

Sabella, I nefa see dis one before. But I must say that it is well written.Awo forever. How many politicians in Nigeria will claim to be Zikist, Balewaist or Belloist? I doubt it. Everyone including our own "dear" segun wants to be an Awoist.

sabella abidde April 7, 2005 - 11:21 pm

What’s the point you are trying to make? I was merely stating that the criticism against the late sage is both unfounded and unwarranted. Compared to his contemporaries, Awo was a better manager of resources, and was also a better politician. The long-running rap against him is/was that he was a tribalist. He was not! He had a constituent; and politicians attend to their constituents first and foremost!

Fola Akins April 7, 2005 - 10:15 pm

Who the hell are you to judge Awolowo ? You need to be more saddled with the problems that was peculiar to your generation. I am sick amd tired of this ‘Penkelemess’ over anti-Awoist crusaders.

Fola Akins January 1, 1970 - 12:00 am

This is a brilliant essay. I am glad that you took the effort to clarify the subject matter. I totally agree with your cliam that Awo was a nationalist rather than a tribalist as described by many … !


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