Ado-Ekiti, the Ekiti State capital, came alive yesterday as progressives under the aegis of Afenifere Renewal Group (ARG) celebrated the posthumous birthday of the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo.
Minister of Mines and Steel Development Dr. Kayode Fayemi and Ondo State Governor Rotimi Akeredolu, led a cast of political stalwarts, who came to celebrate the day with local progressives.
They told a crowd of the audience who thronged Eagle Hall, Ikere Road, Ajebamidele, Ado-Ekiti, that all Yorubas must sustain the ideals of Awolowo, which made the Southwest stand out as a beacon of development.
Members of ARG, All Progressives Congress (APC) and their admirers had earlier in the day staged a public walk to mark Awolowo’s 109th birthday from Okeyinmi Roundabout to Ajebamidele, venue of the public lecture in a carnival-like fashion.
Fayemi used the occasion to sound a battle cry that the APC was poised to win back Ekiti State in the July 14 governorship election and implement the four cardinal policies of Awolowo, which was in operation when the progressives were in power.
The former Ekiti State governor regretted that the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has obliterated the four cardinal policies, which include free education, free health services for children, pregnant women, aged, job creation and rural growth.
The minister, whose rumoured governorship ambition has been trending for the past few months, said the July 14 election represents a good opportunity to return the APC to power to restore the Awo-inspired legacies for the good of the people Fayemi said: “If we remember, for the past 11 years (since 2007), we have been celebrating Awolowo s birthday. What is most important is that those of us behind whom God has given the opportunity to lead, must pay our dues and help our people in Yoruba land.
“Awolowo has done a great deal and that is why we are celebrating him since he died in 1987. He is still being celebrated in Ikenne today like we are doing in Ekiti.
“Pa (Ayo) Fasanmi once told me that Awolowo wished he had been born in Ekiti because then his largest followers were from Ekiti and he knew everyone in the state.
“If he was alive today, he would have been in APC as his political party. This is because this party was founded on Awo’s political ideals. We are Awolowo’s descendants in Ekiti.
“We know Awolowo for what we call four cardinal points, from the days of the Action Group (AG) and Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) – these are free education, free healthcare for children, pregnant, old and disabled, job creation and rural development.
“If you remember, all these points were what we ensured when we were in power in Ekiti; sadly they are no more in the state.
“In conclusion, don’t let us not lose hope, just like Governor Akeredolu has said, all these ideas of Awo, we will ensure we do all we could to return them to Ekiti.
“I appreciate the ARG for celebrating late sage Awolowo. In truth, all of us who are of Yoruba race, it is high time we took up our role as leaders. We are the leaders of the black race.”
Akeredolu, who was chairman of the occasion, said the APC is the party that still promotes Awo’s legacies, noting that the first Premier of the Western Region was being celebrated for pioneering the development of his race.
He said: “We are celebrating what Awolowo stood for, which is the advancement of the Yoruba and African race. Ours is pureness of heart. Awolowo has played his part. It remains us to play ours.
“We cannot all forget the immense contribution of Awolowo, especially among the Yoruba race. The Afenifere song was composed by Awolowo. The song says that we the Yorubas are the light of the black race. May God not allow us to draw ourselves backward.
“When Awolowo was incarcerated in those days, Hubert Ogunde counselled us to have a rethink in his popular song ‘Yoruba Ronu.’
“Celebrating Awo’s legacy would make us remember the great contribution of our great forebears. I urge all Yorubas to have a rethink and reunite. We must all work together for our progress.”
ARG National Chairman Hon. Wale Oshun urged the people of Ekiti State to vote APC at the next governorship election, describing the party as “the baby of Afenifere”.
Oshun, who was represented by an ARG leader, Mr. Ayo Afolabi, said the body would work hard to ensure that Awo’s legacies remain alive, adding that the Yoruba would continue to celebrate the late political legend.
Oshun said: “Every society reveres it, forbears. We all talk about Awolowo. His works shall not perish. We are here to celebrate Awolowo so we won’t forget his legacies.
“APC is the party that we the Afenifere have embraced. It is the party that can assist the Yoruba race to the promise land. We enjoin all people to vote for the party in Ekiti.”
A guest lecturer at the event, Prof. Alade Fawole, regretted that many of the contemporary political office seekers lack germane ideas to lead because they haven’t groomed themselves by reading and getting exposed to ideas that would make them better leaders.
Fawole, in his lecture titled: “Obafemi Awolowo and transformative politics:
Sustaining the worthy legacy,” urged politicians to emulate Awolowo by developing ideas that would change the society for better.