Guest ColumnistInside Nigeria

Awo’s 110 post-humus birthday: A tribute by Dr. Wumi Akintide

One of my greatest honour and privilege as a Senior Administrator in the Federal Public Service of Nigeria is serving my pupilage under few of the best Federal Permanent Secretaries.

They include Alhaji Damcida, and Yusuf Gobir in the Ministry of Defense, Ahmed Joda in Education, Grey Eronmosele Longe, and Francesca Yetunde Emanuel in Establishments, Chief Oluyemi Falae in the Manpower Department, Abubakar Alhaji Abubakar and Ogbuefi Gilbert Chikelu in the Ministry of Economic Planning and Prince Solomon Akenzua in Health and finally Abdul Azeez Attah in the Federal Ministry of Defense as I vividly recall.

The crown jewel was my service as Secretary to the Special Task Force on Student Financing in Nigeria with Shehu Shagari, Shettima Ali Monguno Wenike Briggs as members and with Obafemi Awolowo as the distinguished Chairman.

I only knew Obafemi Awolowo by reputation up to that point in 1974, but I had the distinguished honour and privilege of working under Papa Awolowo directly and that experience left a deep impact and impression I would never forget till I die.

Obafemi Awolowo, the first Premier of Western Region and one of the founding fathers of Nigeria was a workaholic and one of the greatest minds and statesmen Nigeria has ever produced.

I would never forget his speech as pioneer Chancellor of the Ivy League University of Ile Ife that now bears his name in Nigeria.

I was directed by my Permanent Secretary Abdul Azeez Attah to prepare the first draft of the speech that Pa Awolowo was to deliver at the Convocation and I did.

But unknown to our chain of command in the Ministry and to General Gowon the visitor to the University, Papa Awolowo had meticulously prepared his own speech titled “The Nigerian 1973 Census dead on arrival”

Papa accepted our draft with gratitude but never used one word from that draft much to our collective surprise

Obafemi Awolowo effectively killed that Census with that amazing speech when in deference to Papa Awolowo’s awesome allocutus, General Murtala Mohammed annulled the Census on taking over from General Yakubu Gowon in 1975 following a bloodless Military Coup In Nigeria.

I say Happy Birthday posthumously to Papa Awolowo on what would have been his 110th Birthday, today, the 6th of March 2019.

Eternal rest grant him O Lord in Jesus name. Amen.

Dr. Wumi Akintide.
Oyemekun Terrace
New York

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