Monday, 5 March 2018

Obafemi Awolowo’s Message on His Birthday

Chief Obafemi Awolowo would have been 109 years old today, March 6, were Baba Olusegun to be alive. More than 31 years after the death of the legendary statesman, his philosophy remains constant, and his legacies remain evergreen.

To mark his birthday, Onigegewura brings you the speech delivered by Papa Awo in 1976 on the occasion of his 67th birthday. It is a timeless speech and it is as relevant to today’s Nigeria as it was when it was delivered 42 years ago. It is titled A community in which a dog kills a tiger is unsafe to live in.


First and foremost, I would like to thank most deeply Mr. Gani Fawehinmi and other members of the Free Education Association of Nigeria for the tremendous efforts and expense they have put forward and gone into in organizing the various events, including this lecture, to mark my 67th birthday anniversary.

From year to year since 1963, my friends and admirers in different walks of life and in different parts of the country have laid on some arrangements to mark my birthday anniversary.

I am sincerely overwhelmed and profoundly grateful for this long and persistent demonstration of affection by the few I know as well as by the several millions I have never had the privilege of meeting.

When one is faced with this magnniturde of demonstration of affection in one’s life time, one feels naturally called upon and impelled to strive continually to improve upon one’s rating and specific gravity, in order not to let one’s friends and admirers down.

I assure my friends and admirers and other fellow Nigerians (whatever may be their private or public attitude towards me) that I will continue to justify the confidence and affection, which over the years, have been so munificently bestowed upon me.

I am happy and ineffably thankful to God to arrive at this 67th milestone in my earlthly journey. I am happy and grateful for successes and failures, and for all the defeats and triumphs.

I have come to learn from my personal experience that failure and defeat always serve as springboards for greater achievements for him who never acknowledges their potency, and who is prepared to meet the challenges posed by them – for they always pose challenges.

For upwards of ten years now, Nigeria has witnessed a long series of successes and failures. Instead of meeting both with equal mind, we are unduly ecstatistci when we succeed, and terribly depressed when we fail. Our national attitudes to public events are therefore wrong, and must be correctly orientated.

The fault is not in Nigeria as a physical entity that the structure of our society is like a pyramid with an extremely disproportionate base; it is we her sons and daughters that have failed to rise, from time to time, to occasions dictated by Nigeria.

An Ikorodu singer once rendered a song in which the following pithy saying occurred: a community in which a dog kills a tiger is unsafe to live in.

Last February – on 13 February to be precise – a dog did kill a tiger along a traffic-congested street with many people around, and got away with it. If that happened to a tiger, what can we say of the sheep and the lambs?

We must admit that at that tragic moment in time, we failed to display a spirit of vigilance and daring and a sense of patriotism and self-sacrifice which are among the indispensable ingredients of national integrity. By our failure, Dimka almost succeeded; and if he had succeeded the hand of our national clock would have been put back many decades.

Since that tragic event of February 13, however, our mood as a people does not show that we regard the event of that day as a stepping stone to greater national conquests. We have been unduly dejected, pessimistic and scared stiff about the future. If we persist too long in this mood, we will surely realize our fears, and will have none but ourselves to blame.

Let us, therefore, like good Christians and Moslems bless the tragedy that has befallen us and be of good cheer. Let us also realize that we have made a bad job of our past: ours is a long story of missed opportunities. Fortunately, however, opportunity is never lost for good. When, during the day, it is neglected, it goes back to its forgiving abode at nightfall to rest: but at dawn it is back again to knock at our doors.

In the devilish of act of Dimka, there is certainly the cloaked hand of the angel, if only we can take the trouble to discern it beneath the cloak and grasp it.

It behoves us, therefore, to recall vividly to mind and resolutely rededicate ourselves to national aspirations, and rally around the present military regime for the eventual and early realization of those aspirations.

Twenty-one years ago, free primary education was introduced in the then Western Region of Nigeria; and at the beginning of the next school year, the universal primary education for the whole country will begin.

I seize this opportunity to congratulate wholeheartedly all those who conceived, implemented, and benefitted from the old scheme, and to send my best wishes to all those who are labouring to introduce and implement as well as to those who will benefit from the new scheme.

May his soul continue to rest in peace. Happy Posthumous Birthday!


PS: The Free Education Association of Nigeria referred to by Papa Awo was an association formed in 1975 by Chief Gani Fawehinmi to champion the cause of free education in Nigeria. Earlier in 1974, Gani had published a seminal work on the subject, Peoples' Right To Free Education [At All Levels].

PPS: I have been wondering who the Ikorodu singer mentioned by Papa Awo was. Could it have been Nosiru Atunwon? My people from Ikorodu Oriwu, over to you.


  1. Visionary leaders like Pa. Awolowo seems like a flux to the new generation. Atenuje ti poju

    1. Yes. The singer referred to by Pa Awolowo is Nosiru Atunwon.

  2. We must be able to emulate hood ones among the leaders like Late sage chief Obafemi Awolowo.RIP.