Awo Memorial Lecture: Youths, Not Politicians, Must Restructure Nigeria —Prof Banji Akintoye
NIGERIAN youths have been charged to see the needful restructuring of the country as solely their responsibility which must not be left in the hands of politicians.
The call was made on Monday by renowned retired university lecturer, Professor Banji Akintoye, at the 2017 Obafemi Awolowo Memorial Lecture, held at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA), Victoria Island, Lagos.
Professor Akintoye spoke on the topic, “The Awolowo Legacy and its Message to Nigerian Youths,” at the lecture organised by the Obafemi Awolowo Foundation.
The guest lecturer classified youths as those within the age bracket of 18 to 40 and these, he said, constituted about 55 per cent of the nation’s population.
He challenged them not to allow the struggle for the full restructuring of Nigeria to be championed by politicians.
“Do not leave the struggle for the restructuring of Nigeria to politicians. They are playing with your future,” he said.
Professor Akintoye, who served as a senator in the Second Republic, identified a number of things he tagged “The Awolowo ways” which he said a youth who wishes to also leave an indelible mark in the sands of time must emulate and strive to achieve.
“Any youth who chooses to learn from Awo stands a chance to live a life that influences others, enriches and builds for themselves respectable images all over the world.
“Though things are tough in Nigeria today, things will eventually work for those who are given to learning and who continuously strive to learn new ideas. This is the Awolowo way.
“Papa Awolowo relentlessly put himself in search of knowledge, therefore, anyone of you can also start from somewhere in search of knowledge,” he said.
Challenging youths to draw lessons from the life of the sage, Professor Akintoye reminded everyone that at 37, Chief Awolowo had stepped into greatness by forming the Egbe Omo Oduduwa, a feat he said was followed by the publication of his first book which was channelled towards Nigeria’s greatness two years later.
“This is a reminder that we can achieve anything we set our minds on. This is a message to our youths in these terrible times and history of our country,” he noted.
Professor Akintoye also said except room is given for proper recognition given to individual ethnic nations, in line with the dreams of Chief Awolowo, Nigeria is heading for disintegration.
The retired university lecturer, who has an enviable record of being one of the few disciples of the sage, among other things, spoke of Awo’s dream and vision of a Nigeria where room would be given for each region to develop, with the South-West region leading in all areas of development.
According to him, if Chief Awolowo could look back at the state of the nation, he would not be happy, especially when considering his dream of a Nigeria where the rights of any tribe, irrespective of population, or location, would be respected.This, he said, could be hinged on the gross neglect of individual ethnic rights under the guise of building a central government system.
“Over-concentration of power in the Federal Government is the root of all evils threatening Nigeria. Except room is given for proper restructuring of Nigeria where no single tribe’s rights is subsumed by another, Nigeria is heading for disintegration. If you deny any nation such as the Igbo or Yoruba nation or others of their nationality, then we are piling up more problems for the future,” he said.
The professor took time to, once again, call attention to the unprecedented feats of Chief Awolowo as Premier of the Western Region in singling out the free education system that became one of the hallmarks of his government.
“There are thousands of Yoruba professors scattered in different universities in the United States and other parts of the world. Majority of these are products of the free education programme initiated by Awolowo.
“Awo remains alive because his legacies continue to impart the lives of Nigerians,” he further noted.