NIGERIA’S BEST POLITICAL STRATEGIST OF ALL TIME by Professor Moses Akinola Makinde
This discourse on Nigeria’s best political strategists of all time shall be presented in four segments. The first and second parts shall respectively focus on political strategy as a concept and a listing of the top ten Nigerian political strategists of all time. The third segment shall summarily focus on the strategic inclination and activities of the top ten listed Nigerian politicians. In the fourth and final segment, among the selected top ten politicians, one of is to be presented as Nigeria’s best political strategist of all time with a detailed presentation of reasons why he is chosen as the best among the lot in time.
The concept of political strategy is apparently open without a definite end. It comes in multifarious perspectives and is determined by variations of experience. It cannot be determined strictly by theory or ideology; however, both theory and ideology spur political strategic positioning in the course and evolution of times and human experience. Political strategy is probably as ageless as the period when men became aware of the necessity for social organization. Political strategy is often times induced by the ‘will to political power and authority’ for the purpose of exercising leadership with a mission to attain intended goals of organized societies. These organized societies may vary, depending on the scope, goal, and nature of organization.
Variations in nature and configurations of organized societies and the complex components alongside experiences of each present a basis for peculiarity of political strategy which arises at the juncture of government and the establishment of socio-political and economic orders. In the course of societal development, competition and conflict are inevitable. They must arise, as a matter of natural instinctive necessity. At this juncture, reality beckons, and ideal oriented strategists are driven to re-evaluate and review their positions and execution of strategy. In competition and conflict, for example, hard-line positioning may, in strategic consideration, welcome compromise as a political strategy. It is noteworthy that compromise in its own right, as a political strategy, could oftentimes emanate from another strategy known as negotiation.
Political strategy is a global phenomenon. Across the continents of the world, leaders have emerged in history who have demonstrated a colossal capacity for political strategy in pursuit of the attainment and exercise of political power and authority. The most remarkable of these are those whose strategies are pronounced in their ideologies. Ideologies serve as a strong influencer of character. In world history, some remarkable strategic political conceptions which have driven most political strategy of truly democratic States with regard to development and civilisation spring from Aristotle. His famous work, Politics, is an indispensable evergreen repertoire of concepts for many truly democratic and civil society.
It could be averred that political strategy may be positive or negative. This can arise from circumstances of the model presentation of the operative social contract or politically organized society, which drives political ideal and will. Greek Aristotle and Englishmen John Locke, James Mill, and John Stuart Mill (the son of James Mill) are good examples of grand strategists whose theoretical propositions are aimed at influencing political will. [i] The will, as stated, is strongly hinged on understanding the need to uphold and preserve the dignity of humanity. The ideals of the aforementioned European great thinkers proposed in socio-political ideology are found at the strategic foundations of socio-political organization and civilization of the developed Western world. In the course of society and its evolution, where there are many powerful and influential individuals or organizations making overtures and covertures in will to political power, the necessary competition and conflicts arising extend strategic considerations from the Aristotle-Locke-Mill perspective towards that of Niccollo Machiavelli, author of The Prince.
Machiavelli’s strategic outlook can be stated to be akin to expected incidents within the socio-political organizational experiences in the spirit of Thomas Hobbes State of Nature and the instinctive quest for survival in a highly competitive and volatile world.[ii] Machiavelli’s strategic overtures are centred on competition, self preservation, and outwitting of opponents or opposition by all possible means—as a matter of necessity—without regard to common moral inclinations.[iii] In essence, his strategic inclination represent the reality of a highly competitive world where strategies such as lying or deception, obstructionism, discrediting and other negative-necessities suffice.
There are many individuals in world history who have demonstrated great strategic capabilities in politics. Two of these phenomenal individuals shall be referred to, but briefly. In Asia, Chairman Mao is an unforgettable principal strategist and Chinese political ancestor. In Africa, Kwame Nkrumah, the Ghanaian colossus was, in his lifetime, a political strategist per excellence who began activism as a student with a focus on the decolonization of Africa. These individuals executed their political will through the course of Public Administration.
It is essential for any political personality or class to have a political strategy. Advantages that may arise from having a good political strategy are expectedly found in the attainment and manifestation of success in political conquest, and excellence in general administration of self and the public, political machinery organization, and international relations. The advantages of having a good political strategy can be summed up in Aristotle’s view on the end of strategy as victory.[iv] When this perspective is related to political organization, the principal reason to have a good political strategy is an achievement of the aims and objectives of political authority, and the manifestation of political will. It is interesting to note that those whose strategies are founded on great positive ideals apparently achieve the indelible in legacy, and become positive points of reference in an endless course of socio-political discourse and history of the world. Hence, in such dimensions of strategy considerations, executors of ideals adopt—probably unconsciously—‘heroism’ as a political tactic to exercise charismatic powers and appeal.
TOP TEN NIGERIAN POLITICAL STRATEGISTS
In this section, a list of the top ten Nigerian political strategists in history is presented, with brief biographical references, in alphabetical order. [v]
- AKINTOLA, SAMUEL LADOKE (1910-1966)
He was the second Premier of Western Region, succeeding Awolowo in 1959. Education: Primary and Secondary at Ogbomoso. In 1946, he left Nigeria for England where he studied Public Administration at Oxford and later qualified as a lawyer before returning to Nigeria in 1949.
- ANENIH, ANTHONY M.Sc
Born on September 25, 1941 in Uromi, Edo State. Education: Odu Abore Memorial School, Mushin, 1948-54, Lagos City College, Yaba, 1955-58. University of Bath, United Kingdom, 1983-1986. Former Chairman, National Party of Nigeria (NPN). Former National Chairman, Social Democratic Party (1992-1993). Former Chairman, Board of Trustees, of the People’s Democratic Party.
- AWOLOWO, OBAFEMI 1909-1987
Born on March 6, 1909 at Ikenne, Ogun State. He was an astute politician and successful business man. First Premier of the Western Region.
- AZIKIWE, NAMBDI 1904-1996
Nigerian Statesman and Pan Africanist. Born in Zungeru, Niger State to Igbo parents from Onitsha on November 16, 1904. He was popularly called ZIK. First President of Nigeria (1963-1966). A principal figure amongst the fathers of Nigerian nationalism. A pioneering newspaper proprietor, journalist, and politician. Education: Storer College, USA, West Virginia University, Howard University, Washington D.C, Lincoln University, Pensylvania, USA.
- IKOKU, ALVAN AZINWA 1900-1971
Born in Amanagwu, Arochukwu on August 1, 1900. He was a foremost educationist and politician.
- NZERIBE, ARTHUR
An author, engineer, industrialist, politician and philantropist. Born in Oguta, Imo state on Novenber 2, 1938. He was educated at the Portsmouth College Technology, UK, Chesterfield college of Technology and Manchester University. A lover of jazz music. He enjoys swimming and playing tennis.
- SARAKI, OLUSOLA ABUBAKAR 1933-2012
Physician, administrator and politician. Born on May 17, 1933. Education: Edward Blyden Memorial School, Lagos. Eko Boys High School, Lagos, 1946–47, Chatham Technical College, Chatham, England, University College, London. St. George’s Hospital Medical School, London. Before his demise, he held a highly revered traditional title: Turaki of Ilorin.
- TAFAWA BALEWA, ABUBAKAR (1912-1966)
The first and last Prime Minister in Nigeria’s history. Born in 1912. Education: Katsina Higher College.
- TINUBU, BOLA AHMED.
Businessman and Politician. Born on March 29, 1952 on Kakawa Street, Lagos. Governor of Lagos State from 1999-2007. Founding father, Action Congress and Action Congress of Nigeria. One of the founding fathers of the present ruling party, the All Progressives Congress (APC). He presently holds a very highly revered traditional titles of Asiwaju of Lagos and the Jagaban of Borgu kingdom in Northern Niger State.
- TUKUR, BAMANGA MOHAMED
Accountant, politician and administrator. Born on September 15, 1935 in Kanjakara, Borno State. Education: Elementary school, Jada, 1946-48, Yola Middle School (now Ramat College), Yola, 1949-53; Bauchi Secondary school, 1953-57; Institute of Administration, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, 1958-59 (Diploma in Administration). Northwestern Polytechnic, England, London School of Economics and Political Science, Pittsburgh University, Pennsylvania, USA (1965-66). He presently holds the following traditional titles: Wakili Chamba of Ganye and Tafidan Adamawa.
TOP TEN NIGERIAN POLITICAL STRATEGISTS OF ALL TIME[vi]
AKINTOLA, SAMUEL LADOKE (1910-1966)
He was one of the founding members of Nigeria and orator per excellence. One of his main strategies was the utility of power of communication. He used the power of oraory to his full advantage. He also understood the need to have a political base of homogenous character. His target of control was the South West to which he held the need for undiluted communication dear. At that time of his adventures in politics, there were not too many that had been cultivated to communicate in the English language. Hence, he was aware of the necessity to communicate with the wider audience of the grassroots among people of his tribe in the language which they can comprehend. In this quest, he founded Iroyin Yoruba, a newspaper written in Yoruba to execute the strategy of propaganda or counter propaganda. His unique agenda makes his adopted strategy a hallmark of outstanding intelligence.
He was second Premier of Western Region, succeeding Awolowo in 1959. Administratively, in history, he was a success, having held positions of Minister for Communication, Health and Aviation. Politically, he was a colossus. He was co-founder of the Action Group and deputy leader under the premiership of Obafemi Awolowo. In the service of Action Group, he was a parliamentary leader of opposition in the Federal House of Representatives. He had his own vision, of which he had faith in his own political strategy which conflicted with Awolowo’s. He stood in opposition to Awolowo’s choice of restraining the Action Group from joining the coalition government, and felt that preeminent positions of Yoruba people of the Western region were being lost to the Igbo in the central administrative scheme.
To him, the loss of the Yoruba and Western region was the gain of the Eastern region based on the alliance between the Igbo controlled NCNC and the government. He held on to his vision and conviction and formed a new political party known as the Nigerian Democratic Party (NNDP). He pressed further to forge an alliance with the party that controlled the government, NPC (Northern People’s Congress). By the time of the general elections of 1965, Akintola secured the position of Premier of the Western Region, not as a member of the Action Group, but as a member and leader of his own political organization.
The Edo strongman who, in history, is usually entrusted with great organizational responsibilities. Between 1981 and 1983, he was the chairman of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN). In that position, he was instrumental to the achievment of electoral victory for Dr. Samual Ogbemudia in his overture to secure the post of civilian governor of old Bendel State. His iconic figure and strategic capacity earned him the position of national chairman of the Social Democratic Party from 1992 to 1993. In this position, he played significant role in the election of Chief MKO Abiola as President in an election which was later annulled. Anenih was a deputy national coordinator of the Olusegun Obasanjo Campaign organization in the 1992-2003 elections. He was also a former Chairman, Board of Trustees, of the People’s Democratic Party.
AWOLOWO, OBAFEMI 1909-1987
Awolowo was a peculiar specie of businessman and politician. Throughout the course of his political activities, his aspiration to attain political power was to solve problems. What, in his view, constituted part of the drive towards political authority was the desire to secure freedom from British rule, freedom from ignorance, freedom from disease, and freedom from want.[vii] The perceived lack of freedom as stated was attacked by his overtures towards the termination of British rule, his rigorous policy drives towards compulsory education for all children of school-going-age, and the enlightenment of illiterate adults above school age; free healthcare services, and the drive to abolish want in the society by means of sound economic policy and robust economic agenda. He had an all embracing political outlook which was far above cerebral flamboyance of the common political class. His strategy was centered around the development of man before infrastructure and economic systems structures. This made him a distinct politician in history.
AZIKIWE, NAMBDI 1904-1996
A foremost Nigerian nationalist, Statesman, Pan Africanist and journalist. He was an advocate of Nigerian and African nationalism. He was a mentor and inspiration to Ghanaian Kwane Nkrumah, a phenomenon that projects his influence beyond the boundaries of Nigeria. ZIK’s political experience was built over a course of remarkable time. He was active in the Nigerian Youth Movement, the first genuinely nationalist organization in Nigeria. In later years, he ventured into active politics. In pursuit of political agenda, along with Hubert Macauley, he co-founded the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCNC) in 1944. In this organization, he served as Secretary-General in 1946. He was a pioneering newspaper proprietor. He founded a newspaper called the West African Pilot which was used in part execution of his political strategy of media influence on society. In 1934, he moved to Accra, Ghana, to pursue his Pan African agenda through the media. In this scenario, Zik started a newspaper called the African Morning Post for which he set the mission of enabling the citizens of Gold Coast to achieve greater political freedom. In the line of this glorious duty, Zik developed what he called ‘the philosophy of the New Africa’. This conception was positioned to guide all his journalistic, business, and political activities. By 1937, after being rocked by crisis in Ghana, Zik returned to Nigeria to further his cause of liberation by establishing the aforementioned ‘West African Pilot’ newspaper. He also founded the ZIK Group of Newspapers. By this act, he became a pioneer of the concept of group newspapers in Nigeria. His papers were thereafter used for vigorous campaigns against colonial rule and the pursuit of self rule.
IKOKU, ALVAN AZINWA 1900-1971.
He was an educationist and politician who was deeply involved with the national administration of teachers, in the course of which he was once the national president of the Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT). He was noted to have a massive capacity for work, organization and leadership. This quality was nationally recognized. By 1940, he was elected 2nd Vice president of the NUT. Generally, his primary interest and vision scope was education. In this base, he exercised his political will to contribute to the educational development of citizens through political opportunities presented to him. At the time he gained influence in government, Ikoku applied the influence to foster the interests of the NUT and education in general. In his wisdom, and an understanding of the need to preserve indigenous languages, he became a harsh critic of the educational system which failed to teach indigenous languages in schools. In his wisdom, and an understanding that creative crafts is also an essential education for man, he introduced carpentry as a subject which he referred to as ‘education of the hand’. Being politically active in organization, he was a leader of the United National Party.
For a little more than two decades, the Orlu phenomenon was in full control of his Imo state base. He was a very successful businessman who gained inspiration for engaging in the art of politics from his interaction with Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana. It is noted that he worked for Nkrumah in public relations. He is one of the early set of politicians to understand and utilize the strategic essence of money. As far back as 1983, he is reported to have spent N12 Million naira in the campaign and due electioneering process to win a senatorial seat in Imo State. From May 1999 to May 2007, Nzeribe was a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, representing Orlu constituency.
SARAKI, OLUSOLA ABUBAKAR 1933-2012
In his political history, dating from his advent into politics and his latter years layback from the social art of politics, he apparently rested his strategic overtures on self-belief and will. Apparently, he was a believer in individuality which is, as a matter of fact, a very good attribute of a politician who wants to fulfill most of his ambitions. To such, political association is a necessary good and evil that warrants compromise as a matter of necessity and political strategy. In Olusola Saraki’s history, his first adventure into politics was as an independent candidate in the 1964 parliamentary elections. Even though he failed in his quest, this grand demonstration of self-belief was compromised on realizing the need for political association in his quest for the attainment of political power and authority. By 1979, on the platform of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN), he was democratically elected as a Second Republic Senator. He progressed to become the Senate Leader. His political intelligence earned him leadership space all through his political career. By 1998, he became a national leader and member, Board of Trustees of the All People’s Party (APP). He was pivotal in the success of the APP in both Kogi and Kwara states which were his political power base. He contributed immensely to Mohammed Alabi Lawal becoming Governor of Kwara State in 1999. In order to secure one of this dearest legacies, he switched political allegiance from APP to the People’s democratic Party (PDP) in 2003 to support his children. His son, Olubukola, had been groomed to become Governor. Olusola Saraki vacated his support and political machinery from the camp of the incumbent, Mohamed Alabi Lawal, in order to back up his son, Olubukola. Lawal was defeated at the election and Saraki’s son, emerged as Governor of Kwara State. At the same time, his daughter, Gbemisola, also emerged as a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
TAFAWA BALEWA, ABUBAKAR (1912-1966)
Nicknamed the ‘Golden Voice of Africa’ for his power of oratory, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, was an instinctive diplomat and humble politician. He was highly charismatic. This individual quality was his booster of strategy. Instinctively, he was a leader that was driven to social organization with a primary cause to promote the general well being of the Northern Nigeria. In history, he is noted to have formed the Bauchi circle in 1943. Alongside Ahmadu Bello, he co-founded the Northern People’s Congress (NPC). In 1946, he was elected into the Northern Region’s House of Assembly. By 1951, he was elected to the Federal House of Representatives. While a Legislature, Tafawa Balewa was a radical advocate of the rights of Northern Nigeria.
He was skilled in the art of negotiation and administering the formation of inter-organizational collaborations. As Prime Minister, he was a strong standing leader in the formation of the Organization of African Unity. It is noteworthy that as prime Minister from 1960-61, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa doubled as a Foreign Minister which was then referred to as Foreign Affairs Advocate of Nigeria.
TINUBU, BOLA AHMED.
The Asiwaju of Lagos and Jagaban of Borgu Kingdom is a colossal figure in contemporary Nigerian political history. A political activist of the era which opposed military rule in Nigeria in the 90’s. In the course of execution of his political will, he is known to have demonstrated exceptional intelligence in the art of crisis and conflict management as Governor of Lagos State. This makes him stand out as a member of the order of master strategists. In the face of an onslaught of the strategy of deception unleashed by the People’s Democratic Party which swept off 5/6th of the Southwestern states from the control of the Alliance for Democracy (as it then was) in 2003, and a further administrative onslaught from the Pro PDP and PDP led Federal Government, this living legend survived, only to emerge stronger that his opponents over the course of time. Within the tenure space of his second term in office as Governor of Lagos State, to achieve his political agenda and exercise his evolved political will, he formed a new party called the Action Congress. Through this platform, in leadership, he was able to lead a reclaim all five States directly and indirectly. For example, in Ondo state, his political machinery was instrumental to the enthronement of the Labour Party Candidate as at then, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko, as Governor. His machinery also played an indelible role in the merger with some other political parties in the course of ousting the People’s Democratic Party from the position of political authority at the national level in 2015. In this regard, he is one of the founding fathers of the All Progressives Congress (APC). Like the strategists of the preceding generation, Jagaban explores the media influence strategy with mercurial fervor.
TUKUR, BAMANGA MOHAMED
Alhaji Bamanga Tukur is a highly successful businessman. In his administrative history, he gained a lot of experience from the civil service. He attained political authority as a Governor of the Old Gongola State. In 1992/1993, he was the Chairman of the National Republican Convention (NRC). His experience and political tact contributed to the success of the People’s Democratic Party during the party’s sixteen years exercise of political authority at the highest level in Nigeria. In that party, he once served as National Chairman.
NIGERIA’S BEST POLITICAL STRATEGIST OF ALL TIME
Having listed ten outstanding politicians earlier as the top ten best Nigerian political strategists, at this juncture, one of them is to be singled out as Nigeria’s best political strategist of all time. This distinct personality who is chosen in this discourse as Nigeria’s best political strategist of all time in history so far, is no other person than Chief Obafemi Awolowo. There are many circumstances which grant him the well deserved distinction. Almost thirty years after his demise, his legacies remain visible and living.
Awo demonstrated an understanding of man and society as the essential and chief focus of leadership responsibility. To him, man is considered first before the economy and its operative systems. This is responsible for his belief in, and overtures to, the development of man as the principal priority of the state. Awo’s overtures were driven by positive ideology which makes him tower above his contemporaries. His vision for the acquisition of political power and will to power had no end, but rested at the juncture of simultaneous positive human and economic development in which man was the first consideration. One of his set goals of economic development as such was to preserve human dignity, and not just to attain economic development at the expense of human dignity and development.
In his call for ideological reappraisal in Africa, Awolowo stated that ‘Man is the sole creative and purposive dynamic in nature: everything else by comparison is in a state of inertia’.[viii] Following his position on man, he understood the key problems of the human society. In this case, Awolowo was of the view that ‘the central problem of man is economic’. All other problems whatsoever are ancillary.[ix] He understood the need to examine the foundations and evolutions of society as essential to determining governability and State stability. He averred that ‘every multi-ethnic or multi-nation state that has come into existence has done so as a result of coercion by one of the constituent ethnic units, or by the act of a colonising power and not as a result of voluntary agreement for a union on the part of the constituent ethnic or national units.[x]
Awolowo was a ready-for-the-task politician. His party had a publicly known and available manifesto driven by positive ideology, unlike many manifestos of contemporary Nigerian politics which are verbally presented as agendas in the execution of weak strategy. Based on his understanding of the need for positive evolution of man, he was aware that the 1960 independence was not an end in itself but a means to an end. For this reason, he proffered a Philosophy for an Independent Nigeria in a lecture delivered to Nigerian students at Conway Hall, London, on Sunday, September 3rd, 1961. This was to serve as a part of a guide to the good end for Nigeria.
Awo was in tune with the necessity of understanding history in the course of strategic planning. The history of Nigeria and colonialism were close to his heart. He was very aware of the diverse differences in Nigeria and focused his strategy on a commonwealth of diverse homogenous societies which made up Nigeria. Hence, his position that ‘in order to be a good Nigerian, one must first be a good member of his homogenous tribe, be it Yoruba, Hausa or Igbo. This was, for him, the only way to ensure and secure the general development of Nigeria. And for this, in error, many thought he was tribalistic and non-nationalistic.
With his vastness of knowledge in history, he had an extraordinary hindsight upon which he relied on in consideration of the circumstances of his time to exercise an extraordinary foresight and awareness of further consequences of government failures of that time in history and recurring incarnations in the course of time. Awo’s great sense of attention to history is an attribute that was not limited to historical books alone, but to his personal experiences in relation to his overtures towards self development, political power, and authority. An instance in which he executed a grand developmental strategy in furtherance of his political will was, according to him in a private discussion, an occurrence in which British emissaries advised him not to pay much attention to investment in education as they did to the Northern leaders who were advised to enrol in the army instead of investing in education. On reflection upon the proposal, Awo taught within himself that if he could leave Nigeria to study in England, and the English emissaries advised him not to invest in the education of his civilian subjects, there must be some reason for this which was neither pleasing nor acceptable to him. He then resolved that while he holds political authority and power, not only will education be free, it will also be made compulsory.[xi] This sworn intention was executed as a developmental strategy in the course of his holding political authority. The legacy established from this noble intention remains unequalled and indelible in the history of the development of the then Western Region of Nigeria.
Awo’s hindsight and foresight in matters concerning Nigeria and Africa is a key subject in his four part lectures delivered at the fist Kwame Nkrumah memorial lectures held in the University Cape Coast, Ghana, on the 13th, 15th,17th, and 20th days of November 1976. These lectures were altogether made into a book titled The Problems of Africa: The Need for Ideological Reappraisal. This same attribute of hindsight and foresight apparently drove him to developing, at that time after independence, a concise ‘Philosophy for Independent Nigeria’ which was published as a monograph with the same title as heading. While everyone celebrated the independence of Nigeria and apparently were rested on the achievement as an end in itself, Awo was aware of the challenges which kept him realistic about the state of the Nation and the inevitability of the disillusionment of African nationalists who held high hopes on Nigeria. In his political intercourse with these nationalists from other nations, he was able to deduce that
Those African nationalists who, since our independence, have come to Nigeria for succour and added inspiration, have gone back to thier homes disillusioned and frustrated. The high hopes which we cherished in Nigeria, as an unassailable bastion in the last phase of Africa’s struggle against colonialism of whatever nature and guise, are fast receding. Among the true African nationalists, Nigeria, as at present led by our government, is thoroughly suspect, and does not enjoy the respect and confidence to which she is entitled by virtue of her natural potentials...At home, our pressing problems not only remain unsolved, but are also not being tackled with vision and vigour...and not with the correct ideological orientation.[xii]
His strategy for education succeeded 100% in the South. In his typical attribute of an exercise of hindsight and foresight, he wrote that
Education is still in its inchoate stages. The masses hunger after education but are not being satisfied. In regard to primary education, the position in the South is good. All children of school-going age are now receiving primary education in the South. But it is very far from being so in the North. A little over 250,000 children are now receiving education in the North, as against 1.3 million in the East and 1.2 Million in the West. Secondary education ought to be free, but only the well-to-do can afford to send their children to post-primary schools. The award of scholarships tenable in institutions of higher learning, and for technical and vocational studies, now lags very much behind the present needs of the country. With the result that many a lustrous talent is wasting and rotting away either in a soul-depressing job or in an asylum.[xiii]
In strategic economic and financial planning, his hindsight and foresight was evident in his thought on the failure of government, which is purveyed in writing, that:
The finances of the Federation are being badly managed. We are now right on the brink of a balance of payment crisis. Yet, according to the latest pronouncement by the Federal Minister of Finance, our imports of consumers’ goods have increased appreciably; but as far as is known, no visible effort is being made for a big export drive. I have told the Federal Government, on a number of occasions, that unless the present adverse trends which have continued for four years are checked, Nigeria would, figuratively speaking, one day find herself in a debtor’s prison!... Bribery and corruption, especially in high places, are alarmingly on the increase. A large percentage of moneys which are voted for expenditure on public projects find their way into the pockets of certain individuals. There is unemployment everywhere. The standard of living in the country is very low, and in most parts of the country the peasantry and the working class wallow in abject poverty and misery.[xiv]
In respect of efficiency in public administration as a strategy towards achieving the good developmental will and solving the perceived problem of slow pace of government and development at that time, Awo’s hindsight and foresight is blazingly evident in his position concerning quality of administrators at the point where he wrote on the failure of government. He wrote:
Federal government...often applies criteria which have no regard at all for merit...The present dispensation is, provided your region of origin is in the privileged category, and your connections in government circles are strong, mediocrity and want of requisite qualification are no bar to any high post, even though a number of other Nigerians who are infinitely better qualified in all respects may be unjustly superceded.[xv]
In a characteristic exercise of his hindsight and foresight in the face of national problems, Awo averred that ‘Nigeria is helplessly and hopelessly on an uncharted sea in the face of Her problems’.[xvi] Hence, there was no meaningful progress in sight. The only consequence of the helpless and hopeless voyage is, perhaps, best described in Fela Anikulapo Kutis song, Perambulator where he sang (summarily stating), that we will just keep perambulating around familiar problematic matter but remain in a static position.
It is noteworthy that in Awo’s political career, he based his overtures on the lines of understanding nature, of which man is, in his words, the sole dynamic of nature. It is upon this platform that he had a strong conviction that if a country is bi-lingual or multi-lingual, the constitution must be Federal and the constituent states must be organized on a linguistic basis. In this regard, Awo believed that it was the destiny of the Intelligentsia of each of Nigeria’s ethnic groups to organize the groups and come into some Federal arrangement for governing the nation.[xvii]
It is evident that all educational pursuits of Awo was also partly executed for self development to become a Grand Intelligentsia, and not just for personal economic and social security reasons which is prevalent in the intention of educational pursuits in Nigeria. By virtue of the testimony of his wife that Awo made up his mind to establish the Tribune newspapers for political purposes while still studying in England,[xviii] it is evident that he had a vision for political task. Awo’s driving vision made him prepare for the leadership position, mentally and strategically. Simply put, HE WAS READY in fullness of clues and know how. His achievements as Premier of Western region is proof of the validity of his ideas. He practiced what he preached when opportunity set him up as a Southern Nigerian political principality who executed his ideological and administrative strategies to great effect.
From experience, observation and knowledge of political issues in human history and understanding, Awo identified a prerequisite for the development of efficient utilitarian political strategies in the principle of mental magnitude. Awo’s theory of mental magnitude is an effectual orientation key that shuts the doors of the human mind against corruption and most of the pitfalls of political leadership that characterises Nigeria’s political leadership. The theory earns him a place amongst the world’s league of socio-political strategic theorists and practical strategists.
As we draw close to the end of this paper, discourse on spirituality and voodoo practice is inevitable. It is almost common knowledge that leaders engage in spirituality of all sorts in the course of strategic overtures in politics for personal empowerment and defence against psychic attacks. However, it is important to take note of the fact that most of the spirituality/psychic engagements are centred on self protection and conquest of perceived enemies. Awo was different in his understanding of limitations of such engagements—an occurrence that makes reliance on them still wanting with regards to the luminous transcendence of the inner man. He understood the mystical essence in its distinct form and operative base within the nest of the higher self aside from voodoo which is limited to the lower-self, irrespective of its force and efficacy. By discovery of self in the higher planes of consciousness, he was also adjudged to make calls for a revolution or new order of thought and direction in African mysticism. Quoting from Fajemilua’s work on Awo in respect of the previously stated sentence,
For a long time in the past, the growth of mystical consciousness appeared retarded and misguided in African societies...The revolution is necessary for breaking off the chains and fetters which has enslaved the continent and held it bondage of misconception regarding the creative possibility that lies within the continent...In other words, it is a revolution which promises the Africans moral elation and considerable advancement in social, political, economic, industrial, scientific and technological arena.[xix]
It was based on Awo’s mystical awareness that he made public his desire to lead the country along the path and direction (of higher-self and mental magnitude) which he had discovered.[xx] His political overtures, particularly the profession and propagation of mental magnitude, are borne of his lifestyle and mysticism. According to Fajemilua,
Awolowo believed in man’s ability to use his introvertic mystical nature or the potentialities of the Inner Self to master the external environment as the keynote of his unique mystical doctrine that revolve around his dictum: ‘man is the sole dynamic of nature’...it is upon this dictum that Awo built all his socio-political philosophy, economic theories, political ideas and public actions throughout his earthly career...This is what made his cardinal aim of education as was perceived by Awo to be a production of leaders with a balanced and disciplined instinctive urge and who must possess ‘mental magnitude’ and spiritual depth. [xxi]
In conclusion, it is in order to affirm that Awo was a colossus! Among the political class of his era and the present time political leadership, he remains unrivalled.
[i] See the following: Aristotle, Politics, in The Basis Works of Aristotle, Richard Mckeon Edited, New York, Random House, 1941, pp. 929-1112; Nicomachean Ethics, in, The Basis Works of Aristotle, Richard Mckeon Edited, New York, Random House, 1941 pp. 1113-1316; James Mill, An Essay On Government, in, The English Philosophers from Bacon to Mill, Edwin A Burtt Edited, New York, Random House, 1939, pp 857-887; John Stuart Mill, Utilitarianism, in, The English Philosophers from Bacon to Mill, pp 895-948, John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, in, The English Philosophers from Bacon to Mill , pp 949-1041. John Locke, An Essay Concerning the True Original Extent, and End of Civil Government, in, The English Philosophers from Bacon to Mill, pp 403-503.
[ii] Leviathan, in, The English Philosophers from Bacon to Mill, New York, Random House, 1939, pp. 129 – 234.
[iii] Machiaveli, The Prince, Penguin Books, London , 1999.
[iv] Aristotle, Politics, p. 935
[v] Information in this section and are derived from the following sources: Makers of Modern Africa: Profiles in History, 1996, Africa Books Ltd, London, 3rd edition; Africa’s Who is Who, Africa Books Ltd, London, 3rd edition, The New Who is Who in Nigeria, Published by Nigerian International Biographical Centre, Apapa, 1999; The Nigerian Book of Great People, Lagos, Green Bough Communications Ltd. (A PSR Magazine Publication), 2007; Wikipedia.org, Nijagist.com.
[vi] Information in this section derives from the same sources as the second segment stated directly above.
[vii] Fajemilua,B., Mystical Attributes and Philosophy of Obafemi Awolowo, Akure, Flocel Publishers, 1998, pp. 42-48
[viii] Awolowo, Obafemi: The Problem of Africa: The Need for Ideological Appraisal, MacMillan, London, 1977, p. 53
[ix] Op cit, p. 54
[x] Op cit, p 56
[xi] Makinde, M.A, Awo as a Philosopher, Ile-Ife, Obafemi Awolowo University Press, 2002, p. 278
[xii] Awolowo, Obafemi: Philosophy for Independent Nigeria, 1961, London, p. 19
[xiii] Op cit, p. 20
[xiv] Op cit, pp.20-21
[xvi] Op cit, p. 23
[xvii] Makers of Modern Africa: Profiles in History, London, Africa Books Ltd, 1996, p. 61
[xviii] Awolowo , HID: A Memoir of the Jewel; Makinde M.A edited (with Introduction by Makinde M.A), Ile-Ife, Obafemi Awolowo University Press, 2003, p. 43
[xix] Fajemilua Op cit, 118-121
[xx] Op cit, p. 123
[xxi] Op cit, 57-68
Moses Akinola Makinde, FNAL, FIAMN, JP
Professor of Philosophy and DG/CEO,
Awolowo centre for philosophy and Good Governance, osogbo, the state of Osun, South-West Nigeria
Olumide O. Okunmakinde