Second Republic Governor of Kaduna State, Balarabe Musa, on Friday said that the educational disparity between the southern and northern Nigeria is responsible for the latter being a stumbling block in the country’s national unity.Mr. Musa stated this at the Obafemi Awolowo Memorial Lecture in Lagos. The lecture, holding three days after the late sage’s birthday, was titled ‘Power Politics or Welfare Politics?: Chief Obafemi Awolowo in the History of African Nationalistic Political Thought.'”If his (Awolowo) policy of free, qualitative, and functional education, for instance, had been implemented and sustained throughout Nigeria, the 40 year gap in educational development between the northern and the southern parts, which inevitably makes the north stand more in the way of peace and national unity, would have been avoided,” said Mr. Musa, 75.”And the result of higher educational advancement would not have been almost absent in Nigeria,” he added.The lecture turned out to be a gathering of traditional rulers as well as who-is-who in Nigeria’s politics.Oba Okunade Sijuwade, the Ooni of Ife; Alhaji Ado Bayero, the Emir of Kano; Igwe Nnaemeka Achebe, the Obi of Onitsha were among the traditional rulers present.Also in attendance were Bisi Akande, National Chairman of the Action Congress of Nigeria; Tunji Braithwaite, lawyer and activist; Segun Osoba and Gbenga Daniel, former Ogun State governors; Bola Tinubu, former Lagos State governor; Professor Ben Nwabueze; and Justices Mohammed Uwais and Alfa Belgore, former Chief Justices of Nigeria among others.Rewarding excellenceIn her welcome address, Olatokunbo Awolowo-Dosunmu, the Executive Director of Obafemi Awolowo Foundation, announced the foundation’s latest initiative.”The Obafemi Awolowo Foundation has chosen to seize the opportunity of this lecture to unveil…the Obafemi Awolowo Leadership Prize,” said Mr. Awolowo-Dosunmu, a former ambassador to The Netherland.”The prize will be awarded to Nigerians who have demonstrated excellence in leadership and good governance within the country or abroad, within the public sector, or civil society,” she added.Some of the members of the Selection Committee for the Prize include Justice Uwais, Professor Anya O. Anya; Emeka Anyaoku; Bola Ajibola; Felix Ibru; and Ayo Adebanjo amongst others.”Further details of the prize will be made public in due course…. “The prize will be awarded every two years,” Mrs. Awolowo-Dosunmu continued.”Where no suitable candidate is found in the year of award, the selection will take place in the immediate successive year.”Mrs. Awolowo-Dosunmu further said that the date of the award would be on March 6, the late Mr. Awolowo’s birthday, but the announcement would be made a few months earlier.Awolowo in FocusProfessor Toyin Falola, the guest speaker at the lecture, while chronicling the early life and doctrines of the late Awolowo which “included his struggle to navigate the social realities tied to being in an environment filled with youth” noted that his visionary leadership was key to the advancement of his people.”The most important lesson to take away from Chief Awolowo’s work is his prescription for the implementation of welfare politics… “He argued that leadership must be grounded in ethics – a morality of spending resources more carefully, without corruption, and with compassion for people,” said Mr. Falola, a Professor of History at the University of Texas.Mr. Falola’s presentation, originally a 111 page text but later reduced to two versions, lasted for 56 minutes.”When you speak for too long, people tend to stop listening to you. There is a limit to human endurance….,” Mr. Falola noted.”But there’s no limit to the amount of money a greedy politician can steal,” he added, drawing applause from the gathering. Mr. Musa, who was the chairman of the lecture, maintained Nigeria lost the opportunity of having Awolowo as her President.”For the 1983 presidential election, even the arch opponents of Chief Awolowo, the semi-feudal and conservative northern oligarchy or Kaduna Mafia, as represented by the political group of late Shehu Musa Yar’adua, preferred him and went into a principled electoral alliance with the UPN, the political party he led,” said Mr. Musa.”Nigerians are still hoping for Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s equivalent to emerge,” he added.
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