The Glory Days Are Gone, Yoruba Wake Up!
Yorubas always lay claim to being the most educated and brilliant ethnic group in Nigeria. They often claim to be so good, that only Nigeria is holding back their greatness. When Yorubas talk this way, they often make the statement with the backdrop of the Awolowo achievements when the education standard of the Southwest was high. They talk in reference of the glory days. Well, those years are long gone. Besides Awolowo achievements what exactly have Yorubas been famous for, what have we done exceptionally well, where have we distinguished ourselves? Nothing more, just as much as all other ethnic groups in Nigeria. Unfortunately for us even though we talk so laudably about our glory days, yet there are almost no more remnants of those days, the memories are almost completely erased in Yoruba land. Our Yoruba people still live in the illusion that all what Awolowo attained, it’s because of who we are, we are Yorubas, hence we are still capable of the same thing, forgetting that people like Awolowo only come once in a thousand years. It’ll be a rude awakening when we eventually discover that we are not better than our fellow Nigerians.
Today, if you take a visit to any of our education institutions in the Southwest, you will readily agree with me that Yorubas no longer hold all the aces when it comes to education. Our educational standards have fallen. The premiere University, that is the University of Ibadan has become a shadow of its glory. Obafemi Awolowo University has become an eyesore to those who used to know of its fame decades ago. The University of Lagos today is not world class and surely not an envy of nations.
The leadership of these institutions are mainly Yorubas so there is no one else to blame for their decadence. Whatever depreciation and degradation that happened in these institutions happened under their watch. Yoruba sons and daughters can be fingered in the corruption of these once revered citadels of learning.
During the glory days of Awolowo era, these schools saw admissions from all over the world. As a matter of fact, a French man once told me how it was the dream of his father to attend the University of Ibadan for a degree. Same way, it is the dream of many young people to attend Harvard or Princeton. This French man did all he could to make his admission into the University of Ibadan possible. Unfortunately, he was denied. He later narrated to me how his French father cried for days because his admission application into the University of Ibadan was denied. Those were the glory days. Can same still be said of the institution today? The story today is Ichabod!
How did the glory depart? Who were the people responsible for the eventual ruin of our educational systems? Were they Igbos, Hausas, Fulanis or Ibiobios? Who destroyed our schools? Yorubas themselves did. I know we can always find who to blame, the federal government, the lack of money, the Hausa and Fulani people etc. Same Yorubas who are now clamoring for secession destroyed their own educational heritage. What is the hope that forming a new country will not be the end to the ruin of these once glorious schools?
We cannot afford to keep dwelling in past glory. We cannot allow schools that our fathers built with limited resources keep falling into disrepute as it is right now. A new country with the same set of people won’t change things for the better, only a new people with a new set of values can build a better institutions and nations. Awolowo achieved so much in education because he committed his life to ensure that he himself first becomes a person of quality then after he committed to give almost every citizen of the Western Region quality education. That education was not only quality, it was free. Today, almost every politician in the Southwest is shouting about free education, but where is the quality. A visit to any of these present schools across Nigeria, including the Southwest will make you cry. Schools with no teachers can hardly be called schools. Schools with no adequate classrooms and furniture are no schools. Schools that hardly have good books and libraries can as well be called a play ground only. Yet, these are the schools that abound in the Southwest. It is hard to imagine, but it must be said that Awolowo’s legacy on education is gone.
The kind of leaders that we have today are those who still wear caps like Awolowo but do not think like him. They have no semblance of him. Awolowo became the sage not because he was simply a Yoruba man, but because he developed himself, he worked to make himself a person of values. “I will, more than ever before, subject myself to severe self- discipline. Only men who are masters of themselves become easily masters of others. Therefore, my thoughts, my tongue, and my actions shall be brought under strict control always.” By Obafemi Awolowo. What our Yoruba people need to emphasize is not secession but development of concrete values in our masses and leaders that’ll make them do unusual things.
It is time for us as Yorubas to start thinking again. It is time to realise our place and destiny within Nigeria. It is time for us to show the way and pioneer extraordinary things just as Awolowo did.
Awolowo’s legacy was not just free education, he declared free and qualitative healthcare for children and older citizens. He established and built the first Television Station in the whole of Africa, this was before television was introduced in France and many other European countries.
Awolowo built the first skyscraper in Africa, still known as the Cocoa house, it was a landmark building in those days.
All these achievements are asides the infrastructural feats of Awolowo in housing and road constructions.
Today, States in the old western region are no longer replicating these feats. We are just living in the past glory of the region. The past glory is what is giving some the audacity to clamor for secession. We are praising ourselves for nothing all that we can refer to belonged to the past. Maybe in those days, the Southwest of Nigeria was the most educated region. That is no longer the case today. Other regions of Nigeria have attained same level of education. What Awolowo did and devoted his life to was what gave Yorubas the edge that they had in those years. Today, who is still giving such devotion and sacrifice to the Yorubas. Who is the concrete leader of the Yorubas that is widely accepted today? Who is the arrow head of the Yorubas in politics, education, and socio economic spheres of life. Who is giving Yorubas developmental blueprints and a path to follow?
Awolowo was able to do what he did because he was fearless, bold audacious, this is what he said about himself. “It is, I think, enough for me to say that life itself is, from the cradle to the grave, a series of unbroken risks. I make no boast about this, but those who know me intimately will testify to the fact that I have never, at any time, shrunk from taking my full share of the risks which life, with its unending opportunities and vicissitudes, offers.” Chief Obafemi Awolowo.
Thank God for Awolowo. Thank God for such a rare gem. Thank God for the privilege of history. Thank God for those who lived in his lifetime to see that such feats are possible. It is time to stop referring to the past without building the present, it is time to build our own story. It is time to raise thousands of Awolowos not just in Yoruba land, but across Nigeria as a whole.
What Must Be Done
It is time to show commitment to free and quality education again. It is time to showcase that qualitative healthcare is possible and it can be free. It is time to lead the world again. It is time to pioneer feats ahead of the rest of the world.
What is stopping the Yoruba Governor’s and leaders from replicating the achievements and standards of Awolowo? Why is it that no one amongst them is like him or has same commitment to excellence? What is the difference between Governors who have led in the Southwest and those from other parts of the country? The Hausas have not been leading us at the Southwest, neither have the Igbos been leading the Yoruba states. The Yorubas have provided leadership over the years. We must accept responsibility for the current state of affairs of the Yoruba states and Nigeria as a whole. Over the years, none of the Yoruba Governors has repeated the accomplishments and success of Awolowo.
What we urgently need is not regional government, what we need is men and women with excellent minds and character such as Awolowo had. Awolowo was successful not because he had a regional government, rather, he was successful because he had an excellent system of values. He was a man committed to excellence and the welfare of his people. All that came out of him came from his core values. We need to urgently create systems that will produce leaders of values and great virtues like Awolowo.
Nigeria, not just the Southwest is suffering from a dearth of quality leaders. When I speak of leaders, I do not mean people who occupy positions of power, rather, I am talking about people with excellent qualities. People who see a need and fix it, those who are movers and shakers. It does not matter whether they have a position or not. Awolowo distinguished himself as a leader in his generation as an excellent example for all of us, we need more men like him. In his words “Those of us placed in a position of leadership must be prepared to grasp the nettle if we unite in doing so, and if, in addition, we set a worthy example and a marat on pace in probity, unselfishness, and self-sacrifice, the people will follow, all too readily, in our footsteps. ”
We need visionary leaders like Awolowo again, we need somebody that will be able to replicate such great feats again. I challenge our Governors, Senators, House of Assembly members, Local government chairmen to be men like Awolowo. Awolowo’s scorecards and blueprints are still there today despite the fact that he ruled western region for less than 10 years. Why is no one looking at surpassing his records? Awolowo’s blueprint on free and quality education is still there. Our governors and leaders in the Southwest and across Nigeria must go back to that blueprint. The Action group’s policy on free and accessible healthcare is still there, we need to readopt this policy for the entire Southwest and Nigeria in general. Since the days of Awolowo the world has changed, we have more means and resources to do much more than simply readopting his policies, but instead of doing nothing a repeat of his accomplishments will still be better than what we have on ground now in Southwest.
Awolowo accomplished the great feats before Nigeria gained independence and within seven short years. With limited time and limited resources, he was able to create the greatness that we are still talking about today.
If Awolowo could do those things before Nigeria’s Independence, then what is holding the Yorubas back from achieving the same thing even before clamoring for Oduduwa Republic or an independent nation. Awolowo used the greatness of the Western region to showcase to the world that Nigeria was indeed ready for independence. The man understood that it is either you have the right quality within you to do great things or you don’t have them. Awolowo didn’t wait for independence before he achieved most of the successes he achieved. As a premiere, he was like any of our modern-day governor’s with greater responsibilities and limited resources. Yet, he achieved what none of the governors and administrators after him achieved. You will recall also that the great things which Awolowo did were done before the oil boom of Nigeria. However, the meager resources of Cocoa were enough for him and his team to set the Southwest on the global map.
With this, we can affirm that the problem with us is not our geography or location, the problem with us is our minds and values. The problem is not that the Yorubas are stuck with Nigeria or do not have their own independence. Awolowo did not have an independent country to govern either. The problem between that generation and ours is the quality of value system. Over the subsequent generations after Awolowo, there has been sharp and rapid drop in the quality of our values the nation. We are in want of men with excellent character and system of values good for development. Our nation is in want of men who are selfless and committed to the ideals of their people, those who can be called real Omoluabis. Our people is in need of statesmen who will use themselves for the state and not politicians who use the state for themselves.
As Nigerians, we must urgently rebuild quality in ourselves. We can adopt all needed qualities to become great wherever we are, either within Nigeria or outside of Nigeria. Our nation is a reflection of the average quality of a Nigerian at the moment. There are values responsible for development and civilization we can adopt them to become the greatest country in the world. What we need to do is ensure that we build quality of character and these values in every citizen.
Secession, separation or breakdown of Nigeria will not give us these values nor will it empower us. It will not give us the content of character we need. It will not give us development. It will not give us the ability nor the strategy to build a great country. Countries rarely become great after secession, as they soon find out that those calling for secession have been the problem all along. In 1965, Malaysia decided to separate from Singapore. This was not what Singapore wished for. But Malaysia had made up its mind. Singapore was kicked out. At that point, it was apparent that Singapore was going to be the poorer nation. Oh, they were indeed poor, and the people suffered. It took the resolve of a great man, who was committed to excellence and the welfare of his people called Lee Kuan Yew to lift the nation out of poverty through a serious set of rigid values. Today, Singapore is a first world nation from a lower class third world nation. As of Malaysia that kicked Singapore out, Malaysia today is still regarded as a developing country. In fact, in some economic circles, they are regarded as underdeveloped. The difference is the value system introduced into Singapore.
When Singapore was a part of Malaysia, Malaysians saw Singapore as the cause of their problems and underdevelopment. They thought Singapore was the reason why they were poor and backward. Few decades later, it is apparent for all to see that the problem of Malaysia was not Singapore, but Malaysians themselves. If Malaysia had allowed Singapore to stay within them and be a part of them, it is possible that they would be a big, United first world nation today.
When Singapore got kicked out of Malaysia, Lee Kuan Yew provided a blueprint and a system of values for them taking them from a third world country to become a first world country. Within 30 years they achieved this blueprint by building values and quality in their people. Strict laws were made for the citizens that would build character, excellence and core values within each citizen. For example, in Singapore, if you leave a Public toilet unflushed, you will be arrested and made to pay fine. If you are caught chewing gums on the street, you will also be arrested, flogged or made to pay fine. If you are caught loitering and walking about aimlessly, you will be arrested. If you deface any public property, you will be sent to jail. These laws were part of Lee Kuan Yew’s project to expunge from his people the lawlessness and other vices they inherited from Malaysia which hinders progress and development.
I have personally developed such set of values that could lead our nation Nigeria into growth, and development. The question is are Yorubas or Nigerians ready for a value transformation or they’re simply waiting for a miracle to one day wake up in a developed Oduduwa heaven. Strong nations are built on strong people, but there must be building blocks. These building blocks are the set of values responsible for national development. I have managed to come up with 20 of such values that must be ingrained in each of our citizens. Once we build a strong and conscious citizenry, they’ll automatically build a great country for the good of all the citizens and posterity.