“Men of genius are admired, men of wealth are envied, men of power are feared, but only men of character are trusted” Arthur Friedman.
Chief Jeremiah Obafemi Awolowo was a Nigerian nationalist and statesman who played a key role in the Nigerian Independence movement. A strong and influential advocate of nationalism and a great thinker. He was born on the 6th day of March 1909 in Ikenne, Ogun State of Western Nigeria, which was then part of the British Colony as Protectorate of Southern Nigeria. He was the son of Chief Sopohi Awolowo.
EDUCATION AND CAREER
Chief Obafemi Awolowo got his early education from the Mission schools of Ikenne, Abeokuta and Ibadan respectively. During these times he often engaged in menial and odd jobs to raise funds for his education. After so many hassles and struggles, he was able to further his education at the University of London where he got a bachelor degree in Commerce in the year 1944. He thereafter pursued his ambition to study law by enrolling at the same university from 1944-1946, when he was called to the bar. He returned to Nigeria and set up a thriving law firm and worked there as a barrister in Ibadan. Chief Awolowo also established the Nigerian Tribune, one of the foremost leading daily newspapers in Nigeria.
In 1937 Obafemi Awolowo got married to Hannah Idowu Dideolu (HID) Awolowo nee Adelana and their marriage was blessed with five children amongst whom is Oluwole Awolowo who later became the publisher of the Nigerian Tribune. Awolowo lived a happy family life with his wife until his demise.
Chief Obafemi Awolowo was the leader of the Action Group Party and the first indigenous Premier of Western Nigeria. He campaigned for developmental change and implemented free primary education and childcare health policies across the Western Region. He also expressed his belief that federalism was the best form of government suited to the diverse populations of Nigeria. In 1945 in London he founded the Egbe Omo Oduduwa (an organisation devoted to the study and preservation of the Yoruba culture）.
The Action Group formed by Awolowo called for the immediate termination of British rule in Nigeria and the development, of various public welfare programs, including the Universal Basic Education (UBE), increase in health services, diversification of the western regional economy and the democratization of local governments.
In 1963, Awolowo was found guilty of a conspiracy to overthrow the government and was thereafter sentenced to 10years imprisonment. In 1966 a coup d’etat led to the suspension of the Nigerian Federal constitution and the imposition of a military government. Thus leading to the release of Awolowo from prison. The following year, he was invited to join the Federal Military Government as Federal Commissioner of Finance and as Vice Chairman of the Federal Executive Council.
In 1979 and 1983 respectively he ran for the post of President on the platform of the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) but lost to Shehu Shagari. Awolowo returned to private life upon the overthrow of the Shagari’s government in December 1983. He died in Ikenne, his hometown in 1987.
Since 1999, a portrait of Chief Obafemi Awolowo appears on Nigeria’s 100 naira note.
In conclusion, always remember that Life is a journey heading to an unknown destination, however, the life you live on while on the journey is what puts your name on the sand of time.