Chairman Board of Trustees, Obafemi Awolowo Foundation, Gen.Yakubu Gowon, has urged youths to emulate the life of late Chief Obafemi Awolowo to be responsible, visionary and successful leaders.
Gowon made the call yesterday at this year’s Obafemi Awolowo Memorial Lecture entitled: The Awolowo Legacy and its Message to Nigerian Youths’ in commemoration of Awolowo’s 108th posthumous birthday in Lagos.
He said that Chief Awolowo was a statesman, who never did anything in half measures and fought for the unity of Nigeria.
According to him, if young people adopted the late sage’s vision and follow his steps, greatness will be restored in the country.
“Awolowo overcame adversities and excelled among his peers. Our youths can also learn from his wisdom to scale through the present challenges confronting them in our country.
“The wisdom of old and youthful energy is all that we require to drive prosperity and progress in Nigeria. Such will make our youths get it right.
“I also advice our political leaders to try and prevent rivalry and violence to keep this country united rather than suppress violence,” Gowon said.
On his part, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, Chairman, Selection Committee of the Obafemi Awolowo Prize for Leadership, said lamentations and disappointments must have been the reactions of the nation’s founding fathers.
He said they would be disappointed because the country had no viable federating units and was characterised by impunity, disregard for court order, self-centred pursuit for money, weak nature of politics and governance.
Anyaoku, former Secretary-General, Commonwealth, urged political leaders, youths, media and other Nigerians to invoke the attributes and visions of Awolowo and emulate them in all their dealings.
He said that there was no award of leadership this year as the names of personalities submitted did not depict what Awolowo represented in his life.
In his remarks, governor Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos state, described late Awolowo as an ideological politician, astute administrator, prudent manager of resources and a visionary leader.
Ambode, who was represented by his Deputy, Dr Idiat Adebule, said that there was the need to exemplify Awolowo’s character and everything he stood for to surmount the current challenges in the country.
“The solution to our challenges lies in our ability to be creative and resolute in our determination to do what is right.
“The memories and legacy of Chief Awolowo is a source of inspiration for us, especially the youths, to build the nation of our vision,” he said.
Osun governor, Rauf Aregbesola, decried the current economic, political, social and spiritual states of the nation, saying they were contrary to the visions and legacy of late Awolowo.
Aregbesola said though it was important to restructure the country, the concept of money was the critical weakness of the country.
In his goodwill message, Governor Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun state, said that the foresight of Chief Awolowo was beyond generations unborn and should be rekindled to re-energise our youths.
Amosun, who was represented by his Chief of Staff, Mr Tolu Odebiyi, pledged that the state government would continue to uphold good governance, which was Awolowo’s legacy.
The guest lecturer and African historian, Prof. Banjo Akintoye, said that it was the youths that had continued to bear the brunt of the rot in the country.
Akintoye said the continuous failure to plan for the future of the youths since independence has contributed to the nation’s decline.
He urged the youths to emulate the attributes of late Chief Awolowo and imbibe a purpose driven life that would impact the society, the country and the world.
“Chief Awolowo was a youth when he started to give his life to great exploits, owned a business of his own and founded the pan-Yoruba group in London. At 37, he stepped boldly into greatness.
“If he can do it, you can do it too, “ Akintoye said.
The Oni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi, urged politicians and Nigerians to imbibe quality leadership and live a life of selflessness so as to be celebrated and remembered for good even after death.
“We are here to remember and celebrate Chief Awolowo, who even after his separation from this world, he is still a living legend.
“It is a lesson for our leaders and Nigerians to imbibe the spirit of patriotism, good leadership, stewardship and selflessness rather than acquired so much wealth and material things.
“It is the good that you do that people will remember you for and not your material wealth,” he said.
Executive Director of the Foundation, Dr Olatokunbo Awolowo-Dosumu, said that the foundation was established on April 11, 1992 to serve as the guardian of the legacy of Chief Awolowo to reach out to the younger generations.
She said that Awolowo’s life of egalitarianism, leadership, honesty, hard work and patriotism had continued to attract sustained admiration from all and sundry.
Also present at the event were former governor of Delta, Dr Emmanuel Oduaghan, the Obi of Onitsha, Igwe Nnaemeka Achebe, former governor of Ogun, Chief Olusegun Oshoba, among others.