Femi Ajayi's Outlook

The North would never do such a thing to Tafawa Balewa, Queen Amina, or Sardauna of Sokoto, even though the Northern leaders might have abandoned the dreams of Sir Ahmadu Bello, and built walls instead of bridges. My Igbo kin would never do that to Dr. Nnamdi Azikwe, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu regardless.

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Monday, January 28, 2008



Dr. Femi Ajayi

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CHIEF ADEBAYO ALAO-AKALA'S ROMANCE WITH THE UNKNOWN SOLDIER STATUE

he replacement of Awolowo's statue with that of the Unknown Soldier, if I may say, is a slap on the face of those who fought, spilled their blood, rot in jail, and are still fighting for democracy around the world. This act of giddiness on the part of Oyo State Government is a disgrace to humanity and a show of outright ignorance on the part of some Nigerian Leaders that ought to make life better for their fellow human beings. Unfortunately, some of them equate themselves to God. Unfortunately, they are nothing but demons.


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It is quite unfortunate that this is happening in Ibadan, the city that harbors one of the best Nigerian Universities. The institution has produced some of the best Nigerian intellects that are making meaningful contributions to the world development. Unfortunately, we are witnessing the most nauseating experience that would never happen in any parts of the country.

The North would never do such a thing to Tafawa Balewa, Queen Amina, or Sardauna of Sokoto, even though the Northern leaders might have abandoned the dreams of Sir Ahmadu Bello, and built walls instead of bridges. My Igbo kin would never do that to Dr. Nnamdi Azikwe, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu regardless. Neither would any other groups would do that to Tarka, Okpara among others. Could this be an extension of politics of bitterness that people refused to let go.

It is quite unfortunate that when some people would be thanking God for producing some leaders within their groups, some would be asking 'nna how you do am now', while some would be asking whether he is going to be the first to attain such a status in the community. What Alao-Akala has done within his mental scope is very inopportune. What Alao-Akala is promoting with his back door ascendancy to the corridor of power in Oyo State is the endorsement of intolerance, disloyalty, exclusiveness and divisiveness. That is not good for the lovers of democracy.

Regardless the excuses for the master plan on the statue, or whose idea it was to re-erect a statue of the Unknown Soldier at the seat of what supposed to be a democratic venue at Agodi Government House in Ibadan, does not make sense to replace Awo's statue with that of the Unknown Soldier. Awolowo was one of those that fought for the Nigerian Independence, who gave the old Western Region the first of the modern opportunities, to be replaced by Unknown Soldier, is absurd.


The statue of Chief Obafemi Awolowo replaced by the governor
Photo: Akin Oyedele

Statue of the Unknown Soldier unveiled by the Governor of Oyo State, Chief Adebayo Alao-Akala
Photo: Akin Oyedele

No one is disputing the erection of a statue in remembrance of those who fought in the wars of unity, freedom and peace around the world. Our generations should applaud their sacrifices. We appreciate their struggle against oppression, dictatorship, and they gave us the freedom that we have today (2008). The question on the lips of the lovers of democracy is that, should the statue of the Unknown Soldier be sited at the spot where the statue of one of those that fought for democracy was originally located?

We believe that there are many sites in the City of Ibadan, one of the largest Cities in West Africa, where the statue of the Unknown Soldier could be sited. It could be places where the Yoruba Baloguns fought some of the Yoruba wars. It could be at any cemetery where the old soldiers were buried. At the worse, it could be erected at Molete, where political thuggery took its root. Whosoever made the decision to site Unknown Soldier at its current spot made a wrong judgment. It is ugly and pathetic.

I would not say that Ibadan is a community without intellectuals. Nonetheless, the Oyo State intellects are not living up to the peoples' expectations. There are thousands of brains in Ibadan that could change the course of history of Oyo State politics, for good. Oyo politics has been in the hands of the ruffians for too long and it is about time that the people of Oyo State, especially those that have benefited from the Free Education of Chief Awolowo, should rise up against the unpopular Government actions and decisions.

Awolowo's years as premier of the old Western Region witnessed the first television station in Africa; the Liberty Stadium; the various farm settlements that still blotch Yorubaland today; the first tallest building in Africa, the Cocoa House; pioneered industrial revolution by building industrial complexes; birth of the nation and instituting democratic culture in Nigeria and implemented the welfare policies to the benefit of the people. Awo banished ignorance from Yorubaland through Free Education. These are monumental historical structures that remind us of Awo's legacy. That is against the thuggery legacy that Pa Adedibu would like to be remembered for.

People should not bring back the old political grudge between Akintola and Awolowo. I believe this generation and the generations to come would not want to see any ethnic cleansing being experienced in Kenya as of now (2008) in Oyo State. In essence the replacement of Awo's statue with that of the Unknown Soldier at Agodi Ibadan is a bad policy.

Alao-Akala should realize that if there was no statue at that location before his actions, no one would raise an eyebrow. But for the destruction of Awo's statue with that of the Unknown Soldier is no excuse for him to tag peoples reactions as playing politics with Awo's statue. This is a simple common sense decision.

Once again no one is questioning or challenging honoring the fallen heroes in the battle field for democracy to strive in our communities. The soldiers who fought during the Nigerian Civil war, the first and the second world wars deserve due recognition. This is not the question of the "armchair critics of the government and all the prophets of doom" issue. It is the issue of a wrong policy and disrespect for our heroes.

The after thought decision to erect Awo's statue in front of the Parliament Building is a misplaced priority. What an excuse that erecting his statue at the Parliament Building more relevant to his role as a consummate parliamentarian and astute political leader rather than the Government House where he never lived.

Unfortunately the erection of Awo's statue at the Government house has been very controversial. A former Military Governor of Oyo State, late Maj. Gen. Abdulkareem Adisa, had constructed the statue of the Unknown Soldier. The statue was destroyed and replaced with that of Obafemi Awolowo by Alhaji Lam Adeshina. Barely 48 hours after Governor Adeshina left the office, was Awo's statue pulled down by unknown people. Chief Lamidi Adedibu was fingered on the incident of which he denied. Alao-Akala is blaming his predecessor, Senator Rashid Ladoja not to have rebuilt Awo's statue while he was the Governor and his deputy.

The irony of what Alao-Akala did was replayed to him after the January 2008 annual Armed Forces Remembrance day celebrations in Ibadan. One the drivers of a truck owned by the Nigerian Military Police, tagged 'Watch Dog', lost control and ran into the premises of the State Universal Basic Education Board, Ibadan. Was that not enough warning or reminder for Alao-Akala of one of the legacies of what Awolowo left for humanity to enjoy, through his Universal Free Education in the old Western Region? Alao-Akala should watch out for the anger of the Nigerian heroes and heroines in their graves. I doubt if the ghost of Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Chile Ladoke Akintola would be happy at his actions.

Alao-Akala ought to have concentrated or focused on some teething challenges facing Oyo State instead of the unpopular shadow programs of his administration. There is nothing wrong for Oyo State Government to honor late Chief Ladoke Akintola as done for Obafemi Awolowo, but not the way Alao-Akala has done because he is from Ogbomosho. That is not how to correct any disingenuous history.

Akintola made his own mark in the history of the old Western Region as Western Premier. He was a premier who established the University of Ife, now Obafemi Awolowo University, and the Sketch Newspapers. The only University of Technology in Oyo State was named after Chief Akintola. Their legacies still stand today (2008). But Alao-Akala is wrong this time around.

We should continue to sing that song of detaching the umbilical cord of the Military psyche in Nigerians brain. No matter what people do to undo the irreducible status of Awolowo, his legacy can never be erased from the world history, especially that of Nigeria and in particular the Yorubaland.

Alao-Akala should be watchful because Governor comes, Governor goes, and there is life after Oyo State Governor. What about his name, his legacy, it lingers on for ever. Awolowo leaves in the heart of Yorubas, those who benefited from his work, and those who love freedom as the most enduring testimony of the greatness of the Yoruba race. As he has chosen to replace Awolowo's statue, so also he would be democratically replaced, in due course as Oyo State Governor.