Recap on iconic Nigerian leaders
We shall today, continue and conclude our discourse on another iconic Nigerian leader, Sir Ahmadu Bello, and start a new treatise on the acclaimed late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo.
Contd. from last week
The Sardauna of Sokoto was Minister of Works, Local Government and Community Development in Northern Nigeria. In 1954, Bello became the first Premier of Northern Nigeria. In the 1959 independence elections, Bello led the NPC to win a plurality of parliamentary seats. Bello’s NPC forged an alliance with Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe’s NCNC to form Nigeria’s first indigenous Federal Government, which led to independence from Britain. In forming the 1960 independence Federal Government of the Nigeria, Bello as president of the NPC, chose to remain Premier of Northern Nigeria and devolved the position of Prime Minister of the Federation to the deputy president of the NPC, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa.
Bello’s leadership characteristic was a blend of religious, traditional and modern values. His obligation in colonial and post-independence Nigeria was performing these different roles in the northern region. A major priority of his was making sure the region was at par politically and economically with the western and eastern regions. This contributed to the decision to replace both Southerners and Europeans in the Northern Region’s civil services with northerners, a policy that received criticism from opposition leaders, such as Ibrahim Imam.
Bello originally embraced the indirect rule system of colonial Nigeria before gradually embracing reforms.
Various institutions were created under Bello, including the Northern Nigeria Development Corporation (NNDC), Bank of the North and Northern Nigeria Investments Ltd. (NNIL). NNDC was an holding company with capital sourced from the region’s marketing board, while NNIL was a partnership between the Commonwealth Development Corporation and NNDC, created to assist in the industrial development of Northern Nigeria.
Bello initiated planned to modernise traditional koranic education in Northern Nigeria. He set up a commission to this effect and gave official recognition to the schools. The commission recommended the introduction of secular subjects and creation of different classes for pupils.
Part of his educational objectives was building a school in each province in Northern Nigeria.
Bello was assassinated on 15th of January, 1966, in a bloody coup, which toppled Nigeria’s post-independence government, whilst still serving as Premier of Northern Nigeria at the time.
According to Shehu Shagari, those who came up during the time of the Sardauna are grateful for what he did for the North. These include leaders in politics, civil service and business: “Before his time, we were down-trodden. He made the northerner feel proud of being a Nigerian. We regarded him as a champion of the North. He liberated us. The generation of his time would remain grateful to him. The younger people see him as feudalist and religious fanatic. He made distinction between those in the South and those in the North. This was unfortunate. If he had treated the South like the North, it would have been more satisfactory. The Sardauna had a wonderful ability to win enemies to his side by his generosity. He gave away everything he had. If you did anything to him, he would not retaliate. He brought you up with generosity and you were disarmed.”
The main selling point of Sardauna was his ability to look ahead. He wanted to shield the North as long as possible from the South, and then do merger. Regarding religion, the Sardauna wanted coexistence with the Middle Belt.
Regarding tradition, he took away powers from the native authority courts. He introduced the penal code laws of Northern Nigeria. The Sardauna wanted to keep the Emirs as an institution above politics. One remarkable thing about Sardauna was his memory and his concern for people. If he meets you today in kano and six years later he sees you in New York, he would call you by your name and refer back to the previous meeting. The Sardauna stopped the customary taking off of shoes in offices and bowing to expatriates in Northern Nigeria. Northerners were afraid to drink alcohol during the period of the Sardauna and he discouraged women in public offices.
Education was free in the North during the time of the Sardauna. It was the Sardauna’s initiatives that produced the establishment of “Gaskiya Tafi Kwabo”, an Hausa Language newspaper and the “Nigerian Citizen” newspaper. He further established the Bank of the North, the Medical Auxiliary Training School, Kaduna, the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, the Kaduna Polytechnic, the Cement Company of Northern Nigeria, the Northern Nigeria Textile, Kaduna, and the Northern Nigerian Marketing Board.
Nigeria won over the Northern Cameroon territory through the personal efforts of Sardauna. This was, in fact, named the Sardauna Province and became the 13th northern province, now stretching across Borno, Adamawa and Taraba states. (Concluded)
Chief Obafemi Awolowo: Here comes the sage
We now beam a search light on the sage, Awo.
Chief Obafemi Jeremiah Oyeniyi Awolowo, GCFR (6th March 1909 – 9th May 1987), was a Nigerian nationalist, philosopher, thinker, author, Senior Advocate of Nigeria, and statesman, who played key roles in Nigeria’s independence movement, the First and Second Republics and the bloody 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 Chairman of the Federal Executive Council in the Civil War era. He was thrice a major contender for Nigeria’s highest office. 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 and rose to become Western Provincial Secretary. Awolowo was responsible for much of the progressive social legislations that have made Nigeria a modern nation. 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 Yoruba (Yoruba: Asiwaju Awon Yoruba or Asiwaju Omo Oodua).
Obafemi Awolowo was born on 6th of March, 1909, in Ikenne, in present-day Ogun State of Nigeria. His father was a farmer and sawyer, who died when Obafemi was a mere seven-year-old. He attended various schools, including Baptist Boys’ High School Abeokuta; 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. 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 19th of November, 1946. In 1949, Awolowo founded the Nigerian Tribune, the oldest surviving private Nigerian newspaper, which he used to spread nationalistic consciousness among his fellow Nigerians.
Awo’s imperishable strides
While in London, Awolowo founded, in 1947, the “Egbe Omo Oduduwa”, an association dedicated to the preservation and advancement of the Yoruba race and culture in the new world. 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 designed 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 Yoruba, during the peak goodwill period, following his release from imprisonment for about three years on the political charge of plotting to overthrow the national government. He was later appointed Federal Commissioner for Finance and Vice-Chairman 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 Igbo of the Eastern Region in the Civil War. IBB was later, upon Awo’s death, to describe him as “the best president Nigeria never had”.
To be continued next week
Thoughts for the week
“Outstanding leaders go out of their way to boost the self-esteem of their personnel. If people believe in themselves, it’s amazing what they can accomplish.”
“Leadership is not about a title or a designation. It’s about impact, influence and inspiration. Impact involves getting results, influence is about spreading the passion you have for your work, and you have to inspire team-mates and customers.” –Robin S. Sharma
Change – It’s true essence
“Change means that what was before wasn’t perfect. People want things to be better.” -Friedrich Durrenmatt
“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” -R. Buckminster Fuller
God bless Nigeria.