Friday, March 6, 2009


If Papa Obafemi Awolowo were alive, he would be celebrating his 100 years birthday.
He was 22 years short of that when he answered the call of nature by May 9, 1987.
The birth of Awo was a cause of joy to all of us Nigerians especially the Yoruba people and others who were living in the West during the golden era of his rein because his program knew no ethnic coloration as all Nigerians in the region drank from his fountain of the ‘life more abundant’ provided by his Action Group in the services for humanity.
In the wisdom of his Royal Father, Oba Okunola Sijuwade , the Oni of Ife , Obafemi Awolowo , the Odole of Ife , was on his merit , the next most important human creation after Oduduwa , the progenitor of the Yoruba world .Well said Kabiyesi, Olu Aiye .Some people even believe Awo was a reincarnation of Oduduwa .
Today we are celebrating the 100 birthday of the father of Nigerian federalism that much he humbly agreed to in a documentary interview conducted by the ace ‘Village headmaster’ Mr. Femi Robinson and my self when I suggested in ‘The Man Awo’ that he was the father of Nigerian federalism. His achievement as Premier of Western Region even during the colonial era became so much a legendary demonstration convincing the colonial authority of the capability of the Africans to rule themselves thereby hastening the Nigerian, Nay! African journey to independence.
With the attainment of self rule in 1952, the Action Group which he formed won the first election into the Western Regional House of Assembly .On the authority of the late Chief Adisa Akinloye ,the IPP (Ibadan Peoples’ Party ) which he headed joined the Action Group which had the highest number of seats (plural majority ) in the House when Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe refused to give way to a Yoruba man within the NCNC to be Premier of Western Region.
The truth of course is that party insignia was not used to contest the election but the Action Group members were the only party members that were organized with the symbol of brass made palm tree affixed to their dress as the House met before the IPP members joined them. That was the truth that made lie out of the wicked lie that Awolowo used that occasion to introduce tribalism into Nigerian politics through carpet crossing. Awolowo was not a member of the IPP and the IPP was not affiliated with the NCNC even though the competition between the IPP and the AG was fierce during the election in Ibadan because Ibadan was the operational base of the Action Group. The IPP took its independent decision to join the Action Group to form the government in good conscience based on the sentiment of the people they were elected to represent and that is what republican democracy is all about .
The achievement of that Awolowo government is there today even though it has been abused in various degrees over the years .
Free primary education , community school buildings , Western Television first in Africa , Rediffussion , mechanized farming , free health services , rural development manifesting in the tarred road connecting towns and villages.
Awolowo did not stop there , he wrote books for us to read as reference in his absence- ‘Thoughts On Nigerian Constitution’ where he expounded his federalized theory which now forms the basis of our constitutional development .Others are ‘Awo-an autobiagraphy ’; ‘The Peoples’ Republic ; Fagbamigbe’s trilogy : ‘ The Voice of Reason’ :‘ The Voice of Courage and the ‘ The Voice of Wisdom ’ .
The remaining are ‘ Awo and the Nigerian Civil War ’;‘ The Strategies And Tactics For The Federal Republic ‘ and “ The March To Prison”. Oh , Awo where art thou!
I hope we are not being frustrated by the challenges posed by the enormity of Awo’s achievements that makes us helpless. What do we see today ?We have professed Awoists who are planning to close public schools or return them to private hands .
Some people say Awo was born before his time . I disagree because saying that diminishes Awo’s relevance . If Awo was not born the time he was , only God would know the fate of Nigeria. May be there would be no Nigeria the way it is today consuidering the contribution of Awo to its existing through his participation in its constitutional conferences and politics where issues were woven around him. You remember when President Ibrahim Babangida described Awo as the issue in Nigerian politics for whom you are either for or against. Awo played his role so well that he died too young at the age of 78. Nigeria has been worse off since almost twenty two years he died only for us to be crying like spoilt children that we turned to be as he would do every thing for us including establishing political party. Awo over pampered us .
If Awo were to be alive General Babangida would not have foisted two party wagon on us that squeezed us between the left and right giving no room for the centre , an experiment that collapsed like a pack of cards with annulment of its June 12 election that would not have been held.
There would have been no AD, a protest party that only gave way to Obasanjo Presidency destroying the ambitions of Chief Olu Falae and late Chief Bola Ige in the process as a result of doing the wrong thing at the wrong time.
If Papa were to be alive there would be no division in the Awo camp . The division in the Awo camp is constituting a danger to the progressive group in Nigeria because the Awo camp is the principal and dominant camp in the progressive movement in Nigeria and any division in that camp would constitute a danger to the polity of Nigeria and that is what we have been witnessing since the inception of this fourth republic .
When Papa Awolowo left us for the great beyond , the Awoist Movement ( not the Awo Camp at large ) emerged at Ikenne through the instincts of young Awoists then to protect the myth of Awoism in the progressive movement.
The Awolowo movement (distinct from the Awoist Movement ) that started with the formation of the Action Group in the first republic was planted firmly in the Western region, Middle Belt, North Eastern Nigeria and South Eastern Nigeria .
While the Action Group headed the the Government of Western region , its members were leaders of opposition in both the Eastern and Northern regions before the creation of Midwestern state making the Awolowo Action Group the most nation wide political party in Nigeria as other big political parties were confined to sections of the country, the NPC to the North and NCNC to the South .
The progressives of the first republic formed the UPGA ( United Progressive Party Alliance ) before the collapse of that republic as it bit the finger that fed it . Then came the 2nd republic when the Awolowo’s UPN tried to build on the achievement of the Action Group but tragically lost its middle and South Eastern allies to the conservatives through what Papa Awo had earlier described as second fiddle mentality .
At the end of the day ,while NPN won in five States in the core North and the two traditional Awolowo allies of Cross rivers, Awolowo’s UPN that narrowly lost in Cross
Rivers State won massively in Western States and lost narrowly to Waziri’s GNPP in the North Eastern State of Gongola and competitive in Borno as the NPP won in the core Eastern States of Anambra and Imo and Plateau States while PRP won in both Kano and Kaduna States . It was the Awolowo UPN that had members in the highest number of Houses of Assembly among all the parties in this period . No wonder the desperation in mathematically ‘ twelve two thirding’ the result thereby preempting the electroral college that could have possibly resulted into Awo’s Presidency by NPN inclined FEDECO supported by the Obasanjo regime in what Papa Awolowo called FEDELEX coup (Federal Electoral Commission and Executive conspiracy to stop Awo).
As history often repeats itself , the Progressive group did not get its thoughts together soon enough as some of them embarked on the struggle for national cake sharing and failed to prepare for the following election until late when the PPA ( Progressive Party Alliance ) was formed and internal bickering could not allow the alliance to give Pa Awo the much unified support he needed to face the NPN in 1983 election thereby giving room for the NPN to ‘ moonslide’ the election .
After the NPN succeeded in stealing the mandate , Pa Awo in his last political message, in his last political Convention at Abeokuta where he professed his theory of thesis and anti-thesis that the best from all political parties in Nigeria would come together in the future to form a formidable party , postulated that ole to gba nkan enia, elomiran agba lowo e ( if a thief steals something from some one , someone else would take it from him) . He there after ordered us to embark on a three day fast for Nigeria . After the three day fast, General Buhari ‘ took the thing’ , the stolen mandate from the NPN and became Head of a military regime after which Pa Awo withdrew to his Ikenne home responding to national issues as he deemed fit.
Then came Gen.Ibrahim Babangida rightly paying tribute to Pa Awo describing him as the issue in Nigerian politics for whom one is or against . President Babangida was doing relative well when Awo was alive to such extent that some people rumored that he was privy to Awo’s secret file. But when the ‘ lion at Ikenne’ , (the tactical military code for Awo ) fell to the call of nature , Babangida went imperial .
We have talked about the party system foisted by Babangida – SDP and NRC. What remains to be added is that the victory of the SDP was in progression with the Awolowo laid ground work for progressives in the UPGA in the first republic and the PPA in the second republic. It was not an accident that the SDP won in the progressive states of the West, East,Middle Belt , North Eastern State and Eastern States.
The failure of the leadership of the SDP to acknowledge this manifesting in his presidential candidate’s failure to attend the meeting in Owo where he was to accept the Awo agenda is nothing but the proverbial denial of its source by a river .Owo meeting itself was the first wrong foot in this direction. It is not generally known that the movement out of Ikenne was the first source of bickering among the Awo associates .
During the celebration of the first anniversary of the Awo’s transition , Dr. Oluwole Awolowo gave his leaving room to Mr. Gbolabo Ogunsanwo to host his meeting of a rainbow coalition . Ogunsanwo’s ambition was to build a political party in line with Awo’s thoughts. He felt ‘called’ as President Babangida had banned all the former governors and top notchers of the banned political parties. Chief Ebenezer Babatope was notified of the meeting by Dr. Oluwole Awolowo as we ( Chief Babatope , Tola Oseni,

Yomi Olusanya ,Tola Oseni, Akanni Odumuyiwa , Nosiru Yossuf and Bari Salau) were sitting in the dinning room. Dr.Awolowo himself was not in the meeting as he was busy attending to guests.
With Chief Babatope in , the meeting took a different dimension and adjourned till another day. The next meeting hosted by Dr. Awolowo intuitively resulted into the formation of the Awoist movement , a name we have used earlier in my election for Somolu chairmanship in 1987.
The Awoist movement was formed to keep the myth of Awolowo political family in tact as a basis for contacting the progressive forces for which the Awolowo camp was a pivot throughout Nigeria.
Because political meeting was banned at the time , the Awoist meeting was held regularly at night in Ikenne that it was nicknamed iso oru ( night vigil ) . Before we realized it , the meeting had become the biggest political gathering in Nigeria and President Babangida turned the other eye probably because of his regard for Pa Awo and her jewel of inestimable value, Chief (Mrs.) HID Awolowo in whose compound we were meeting.
At the meeting we would talk and debate from night to the morning and eat and drink appropriately from the hospitality of the Awolowo family ( no alcohol ) at the Efuyela Hall before every one dispatched to where he came from -all parts of Nigeria especially the West .It was boisterous and energetic but we had a fifth columnist .
We have to put on record some of those Awoists who insisted on retaining Ikenne as our reference point at the time .Chief Gani Oladiran ( first President) , Chief Ebenezer Babatope, Dr. Olu Onagoruwa , Chief Dayo Abatan, Chief Tayo Soyode , Chief Gbolabo Ogunsanwo, Chief Akin Omojola , Hon. Wale Oshun ,Chief Biodun Okunuga,Chief Jide Ogundipe ,Chief ( Mrs.) Iyabo Apampa , Chief (Mrs.) Iyabo Anisulowo , Chief (Mrs.) Bola Sobowale , Mrs. Nike Mayungbe , Comrade Nosir Yusuf, Alhaji Abubakar Sokoto , Hon. Honokpona ,Comrade Akanni Odumuyiwa , Comrade Tola Oseni, Comrade Gbenga Ladipo, Comrade Tunji Olateju and my humble self –Bari Salau .
We must also seek the blessing of God for the soul of our comrades that have transited to the world beyond –Chief John Omo Ikirodah ( 2nd President ) , Comrade Yomi Olusanya , a veterant youth leader of the Youth thinkers and the Awo Vanguard fame , Comrade Samusideen Ojuroye ,Comrade Kunle Babatope and lady Theresa .
Ayo Opadokun was misrepresenting our intention to the former governors that we were planning to move the carpet out of their floor.
The result was the meeting of the former governors at Owo with Ayo Opadokun as their secretary. That was the stroke that broke the camel’s back leading to a chain of events that led the Awolowo camp to the position of disunity in which we are today.
How do we get out of it? At this 100 years of our founding father , common sense seems to be prevailing and we can still redeem ourselves in order to bequeath to our children, the legacy of public service based on probity that Awolowo taught us . The truth is that the disunity in the Awolowo camp is causing poverty of ideas and the bastardization of our body politics that bare us in the face . Being the pivot of progressivism in Nigeria, the Awolowo camp should on returning to Ikenne reappraise honestly the political situation in Nigeria and try to find solutions to the political problem

in Nigeria. The first question we should ask ourselves is where did we go wrong and how
did we lose our leadership role in the progressive movement and how can we redeem our glory? Since the progressive movement is larger than the Awolowo Camp even though we are its pivot , another question we need to ask ourselves is that ,where are our friends that we lost during the June12 Crisis? The honest answers to these questions will show us the way forward . Time is not on our side .
The origin of Afenifere as a Yoruba translation of the welfarist policy of the Action Group as denoted in the motto of the party –Life More Abundant - for the masses must always be remembered in our meeting at Ikenne . Afenifere is not a replica of Egbe Omo Oduduwa . Its message is political. There is nothing sacrosanct in the present political set up and is not even working anyway. The Awolowo Camp must take the challenge to unify their forces and purify the dirty political water that is prevalent in Nigeria today.
We must tap the political puritanism of Lateef Jakande, Ayo Adebanjo, Tunji Otegbeye, Olu Falae,Wole Awolowo, Reuben Fasonranti ,Lam Adesina, Bisi Akande , Rafiu Jafojo; political cognoscentism of Ebenezer Babatope, Gbolade Osinowo,Dayo Abatan,Seye Ogunlewe, Olusegun Mimiko,Iyabo Apampa, Iyabo Anisulowo, Bola Sobowale , Busura Alebiosu, Rasheed Shitta- Bey ,Tony Adefuye ,Lanre Razaq,Tayo Soyode, Femi Okunrounmu, Dipo Jimilehin,Seye Ogunlewe, Olorunfunmi Bashorun ,Bari Salau; the good naturedness of Bode Olajumoke, Martins Kuye , Kunle Olajide, Kola Ogunjobi, Kayode Salako, Abubakar Sokoto , Kashim Imam ,Gbenga Daniel, Segun Agagu , Olagunsoye Oyinlola , Tunji Almoroof ; the literary ingenuity of Tola Adeniyi, Segun Osoba, Gbolabo Ogunsanwo , Bimbola Awofeso , Odia Ofeimun, Ebenezer Falobi,Biodun Adeneye and the political sagacity of Dapo Sarumi, Bode George,Kola Oseni, Bola Tinubu , Biola Babatope , Remi Adikwu- Bakare, Nikepo Oshodi, Bosede Osinowo, Aduke Maina, Yetunde Arobieke, Debo Olasoji , Adeniji Adele, Musiliu Obanikoro, Segun Adesegun , Segun Adekoya;the enthusiasm of Shina Akanni ,Dotun Osunkoya, Jide Kosoko, Nike Mayungbe,Debo Ogunade , Tola Oseni, Samusideen Rabiu,Kayode Alabi, Babatunde Adesida, Gbadebo Rabiu, Kamar Rabiu, Taiwo Oshodi, Adebowale Adebomojo, Ade Salau, Muftau Lawal , Babatunde Ahmed, Femi Salau, Niyi Adeleye, Kola Alabi,Omololu Falowo, Dele Quadri, Fatai Raji,Sola Afolabi, Sola Balagun , Abiodun Emmanuel, Adedoyin Banjo, Dapo Olasope, Fatai Gbadebo ,Dele Fapounda , Gbolahan Bagosto ,OriyomiSulaiman ,Taiwo Idowu Abayomi Ojuri, John Adenuga, Ishola Gbadebo,Wole Diya,Rotimi Abiru, Rotimi Layemo,Gori Ogbara, Gbenga Abdulai, Yakubu Alebiosu, Mondiu Olatilewa, Wale Onile-ere , Banjo Agoro and others to build a renewed strength for our movement once again in other to stimulate and energize Nigeria politically and economically.
Papa Awo, Happy birthday and thank you for sparing us your jewel of inestimable value . May she continue to lead us to the promised land for many more years . Yeye Oba HID Awolowo a pe renio
By Bari Salau

* Bari Salau is the Political Consultant for The Movement For Progressive Change In Nigeria . Contact : or


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