The best Nigerian heroes our children, youths should emulate (Part 2) By Adeolu Ademoyo

Adeolu Ademoyo

Continued from last week…

“These are our children

We shall either pay for or profit

By whatever they become.”

James Baldwin.

As we celebrated our 52nd Independence, my mind was with our children and youths. A week before our independence day, I  moved around a high  school here in the US. I went to this school in search of answers to some questions on behalf of my children. Right there on the wall was this quote by James Baldwin. Pronto, I decided there and then that I would  share it with fellow Nigerian parents – the bearers of the bearers of our future. I took this decision for one reason. The reason is moral. The first  is our collective moral responsibility to Nigerian children. Second, is the moral failure of the  the Nigerian state to these children. We see that failure in the moral damage we inflict on these children everyday.

Therefore, as we continue to reflect the past, path and future of our “independence”, I dedicate this list of Nigerian heroes to you Nigerian children, our today, our tomorrow, our forever. In the weeks of  our independence, it is also so that we remember, so that “the labour of our past heroes shall never be in vain.” So come along with me.

Mahmoud Modibbo Tukur: The Nigerian historian who understood, knew and was committed to  the delicacy, fragility, nobility and honour of truth in historiography.  For him knowledge is fragile  and therefore the noble vocation of history must cuddle knowledge with care, reverence and truth. He was called and he answered the call to put his knowledge behind the thirst of Nigerian youths for better education from 1981. As a honest  historian with depth and rigour,  from him we learnt that knowledge is inseparable from truth and truth and knowledge are inseparable from history. In  him, the historian is not a map maker who is selective with facts and truth. He gave his today for the tomorrow of Nigerian youths. Etched in simplicity, he    exemplifies the truth that greatness can come to us in   simple form, as indeed he, Mallam Tukur  came to us  donning the simplicity of and in radiant greatness. He etched this in the truth and knowledge  which he handed over to us and the Nigerian youths and students before he was suddenly called eternally  in a controversial state in November 1988. His truth continues to live  in us and he will  forever.

Ayodele Awojobi – A professor of mechanical engineering, he attended Imperial College England. First class mind and brain. A hero in science. Has a unit in  physics after his  name. An inventor,  first rate scientist who put the science of human  and society at the centre of his thought. The Nigerian society is his laboratory, the Nigerian condition was his material. For his genius, he was known as “Dead Easy”, “Akoka Giant” “Macbeth”. He believed in the infinite potential of the human mind. For him, Nigeria came first and last. He breathed progressive Nigeria, thought Nigeria,  taught progressive Nigeria, walked Nigeria, dreamt Nigeria, and slept Nigeria. He was with us from March 12 1937  and departed eternally on September 23 1984. His patriotic, nationalistic and scientific teachings, beliefs and actions remain installed in our memories forever.

Pa Michael Aikhamen Imoudu – Undisputed Nigeria Labour Leader Number One, first president of Nigerian Union of Railwaymen in 1940. Made a historic statement when he led 3,000 railway workers to  put workers demand to the colonial governor. He instructed us that the correct act of history making is the act of increasing the forces of the working people in history and, for this without iphone or blackberry, Imoudu led 500,000 Nigerian workers in 1945 in a 44-day general strike that struck a blow at British colonialism. Pa Imoudu taught us that truth and knowledge are fruits of social practices, and that genuine heroism is rooted in the lived conditions of the working people. He arrived this world early 20th century, on September 17, 1902 and taught this moral truth  to us ceaselessly until  July 22, 2005. His heroism, set in the existential conditions of Nigerian working peoples, remains fresh and eternal.

Fela Anikulapo Kuti – an artist, a symbol of perfection and excellence in human ingenuity and talent, a walking  and living genius. In him every strand of musical talent coalesce. Trained at the prestigious London Trinity School of music. With saxophone, piano, guitar, dance, voice, drums, the pinnacle of excellence in art, he taught the world how to put the sanctity of the human person at the center of art and music. For him truth and the human condition are inseparable from art. These remain the source of his inspirations in art. He resisted formalism in art and music for music that is empty of the human condition is equally empty.    A thoughtful humanist crusader, a genuine, sincere  and consistent pan Africanist to the core, he consistently, in the face of adversity and state brutalities  put Africa and the condition of the black and African person in the world  at the center of his crusade and music. His art teaches. His art instructs. His art is a soothing  balm and an earnest  call. to act. He arrived this world on October 15, 1938 and left on August 2, 1997. His tools-songs and music ooze and  echo eternally, wrapped in truth.

Mogwuko Okoye – The radical storm on the Niger,  progressive historian of  Nigerian independence from below-the youths and the Nigerian working people, belonged to the  more progressive  tradition of Nigeria’s independence struggle, lived as one of the  progressive vessels of the struggles of Nigerian youths to Nigeria’s  independence, faithful to  knowledge, facts and truth as a historian, a believer in the open society, as he taught us in his words  that to be silent in the face of so many evils crying for action is to give consent to their  continued existence, for progress demands discussion and action. The Radical Storm On The Niger came to this world in 1926 and left us in 1998-he gave us a legacy of progressive history from below.

Dan Maraya Jos– Born Adamu Wayya in 1946, a quintessential artist, and griot.  With his name Dan Maraya Jos  which translates to the “little orphan of Jos”, he radiates and instructs  a moral lesson in human fortitude as triumph over  social adversity. With a divine, gifted   and soothing baritone voice, wrapped in sweetness, friendliness and warmth,  and a Kuntigi, the single stringed flute on hand as accompaniment,  he etches the diversity of Nigerian cultures, aesthetics  and human conditions in lyrical forms. A griot, who crosses court line to the street, he presents to the world  the human conditions of Nigerian working peoples in his lyrics. He teaches us that even if the griot has a blue eye and is of the court, the griot must cross to the street to  put his talent behind the yearnings and conditions of working peoples. Born in 1946, his friendly and neighborly  baritone  voice and  Kuntigi continue to ooze out  truth about our conditions in his lyrics.

Funmilayo Ransome Kuti – Teacher who lived and breathed freedom and justice. She  taught us that equity is the first condition of the human condition. She applied this ground rule to the woman condition in Nigeria and led Nigerian women in Egbaland, Abeokuta in a successful resistance against excessive taxation rate . This led to the abdication of Oba of Egbaland , Oba Ademola in 1949. She inspired and articulated the Nigerian feminist  movement principles of suffrage and equal rights for Nigerian women long   before the second wave of women’s  movement in the US. She was a major force in Nigeria’s anti-colonial struggle. For this she earned the honor of being called “The Mother of Africa” and the “Lioness of Lisabi”.  She came to this world on October 25 1900, taught us and  espoused the principles of equity, freedom and justice among us until April 13 1978 when she answered the eternal call. She remains fresh, eternal and nostalgic in our memories.

Balarabe Musa – A teacher of politics  and political intervention as social truth and social intervention on the side of the working people, and  as undiluted and unceasing progressive service to Nigerian working peoples, Governor of Kaduna State in Nigerian second Republic between October 1979 and June 23 1981, he represents the concept of the Talakawas as a signifier of service to Nigerian working peoples and as truth and commitment to a united Nigeria based on service of the greatest public good to Nigeria’s greatest number-the working peoples. Balarabe Musa taught us youths  to ever put our education and knowledge  in the service of Nigeria and Nigerian working people, to believe in Nigeria, Musa is a dogged believer in the greatness of Nigeria, a constant and an unflinching   star in the memory of the possibility  and potential of a progressive  and united Nigeria. He was welcomed into this world in August 21, 1936,  a neighbourly gentleman, he continues to teach and act progressive social intervention from Kaduna. He remains fresh.

Gani Fawehinmi – A lawyer who taught and  thought law, read law, talked law, walked law, knew law, slept law, lived law  all from the standpoint of ethics of the human person. An ethicist in law, he put the indivisibility of law and ethics at the centre of his work. He has zero tolerance for corruption and his works and lives predated the EFCC. For him the moral nature of law and its practice  are the first conditions of a human, open and civilised  society. Nigeria will stand tall among the comity of nations the day we begin to implement and practise this moral call.  Gani came on April 22, 1938, and departed eternally on September 5, 2009. His teachings remain eternal and embedded in our public lives.

Wole Soyinka: Nature’s generous gift to the world, Africa and Nigeria, the very soul of human freedom, an academic,  scholar,  aesthetician, musician, writer, playwright, poet, novelist and theorist of the human and African condition, a truth-smith, wordsmith whose muse is human qua human, and  freedom as the very first condition of humanity, took a gamble with his life (in a last ditch bid to seek for a way out of Nigeria civil war) by meeting Col Odumegwu Ojukwu in 1967, was jailed for that act, and spent the next two years in deprivation and solitary confinement. In his golden voice and ever true words, he teaches us that the greatest threat to freedom is the absence of criticism, and that The Man Died in him who keeps quiet in the face of injustice, and that the first thing is that truth and power form an antithesis, an antagonism which will hardly ever be resolved. He instructs us that the history of human society is the evolution of human society as a contest between power and freedom, a consistent, unwavering, undiscriminatory and un-selective ethicist of freedom and the condition of the human being. The global  world awarded him the Nobel Prize in literature in 1986. He was welcomed to this world in July 13, 1934. Ever in peaceful solidarity at the barricades with the struggles of the Nigerian working peoples, he lives an  intellectually productive, peaceful  and good neighbourly  life in the city of Abeokuta, Nigeria, from where he continues to instruct us  to always put  the living  condition of the human beings at the center of our thought and social practices.

Some Nigerian Heroic Movements. These movements are part of our social heroes.  They are:

a.Aba Women’s Resistance -1928-1929.

b.Egba Women’s Movement 1930s-1950s.

c. Enugu Miners Resistance 1945.

d.Nigerian Students ‘Ali Must Go” Movement 1978.

e. Ogharefe Women’s Resistance 1984.

  1. Ekpan Women’s Resistance 1986.

As we bring to an end and round off  the two weeks of our Independence remembrance, I have committed these two-part series on Nigerian heroes to our youths. As I accept and take responsibility for  all the errors  in my sketch and  my narrative, I ask Nigerian youths to remain  faithful and not to ask what Nigeria can do for them, but to combine what Nigeria can do for them with what they can do for Nigeria. Unto Thee I Grant.

Adeolu Ademoyo ( is of  Africana Studies and Research Center, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY.

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