By Eugene Agha.
The Lagos State governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, yesterday unveiled the new 20-foot statue of the late sage and nationalist, Chief Obafemi Awolowo in Ikeja, using the occasion to declare that the state was in sync with the position of the All Progressives Congress (APC) on restructuring and devolution of powers.
The giant statue is located on Obafemi Awolowo Way, by the Lagos Television (LTV) junction.
Ambode said the party’s position, as stipulated in its manifesto, seeks to amend the Nigeria Constitution with a view to devolving powers to states and local governments “in order to entrench true federalism and the federal spirit” and that the state supports the restructuring committee of the party going round the country to achieve same. “Hence, we welcome the restructuring committee of the APC presently going round the country,” he said.
The governor, who also spoke when he thereafter hosted members of the Awolowo dynasty at the Lagos House residence in Ikeja, said like himself, “new generation leaders have a lot to learn from the ideals and principles of Pa Awolowo if they intend to impact positively on the lives of the people they govern.”
He recalled that Awolowo had charged leaders in the country to rise up to the occasion to engender true federalism and devolution of powers, saying that it was only such a circumstance that can prevent the country from disintegration.
“I think Papa lived above his time; he was way ahead his ideals and principles. If you talk about public discourse right now, 30 years after, the things people are talking about are true federalism and devolution of powers and state supremacy. There are things that he had actually answered to, but people were not able to put the questions together and also process them because of the way Nigeria had been divided into craters and valleys,” the governor said.
Ambode said that his vision through his political journey was particularly motivated by Pa Awolowo’s principles, which were basically anchored on improving the welfare of the people and reviving the South West region as the economic bastion of the nation.
“If there is anything I really want to do which I had spoken about in terms of this political journey, it is to touch humanity, and the only example that I could see that had greater vision than anybody else is in more or less everything that Papa Awolowo stood for. So, in my own small way, I am trying to emulate him. But it’s a photocopy; it’s not original. But, again, the ideals are the same; to strive for a better Nigeria and then to carry the Yoruba people as the real power house for Nigeria’s growth and development,” he said.
Ambode said Awolowo’s legacies and landmark achievements, particularly in the Western region including the Lagos colony, have endured and remained a source of inspiration and benchmark for progressive leadership in the country even till date.
He recalled Awolowo’s commitment to the growth and development of Nigeria, especially during the post-independence era, adding he was a shining light among his contemporaries and displayed an incredible ability to use leadership as a tool for the advancement of the welfare of the people.
“Thirty years after his death, his thoughts and ideas on a wide range of issues relating to the economy, fiscal federalism and education among several others, are still as relevant today as they were back in time,” he said.
The governor added that the quest to sustain the ideals which Awolowo stood for prompted Lagos to join hands with five other South West states in the Oodua Investment Conglomerate to champion the political and economic integration of the region.
“This statue is not just about beautifying the environment or serving as a tourist attraction. More importantly, it is meant to be a constant reminder to all of us and future generations of the need to value the sacrifice of our heroes and strive to uphold and promote the ideals which they stood for. May the labour of our heroes past never be in vain,” Ambode said.
In her remarks, daughter of the late sage, Dr. Tokunbo Dosunmu, said her late father was able to utilise taxes to drive most of his people-oriented policies, and that those who once criticized his tax drive later rallied round him and adopted same for economic growth.
She said that over the years, her late father’s success story had become a template for any government desirous of making meaningful impact in the life of its citizenry, adding that prompt payment of taxes is essential to the development of any state.