By Malam Isa Yuguda
Governor of Bauchi State
I feel highly honoured to send this short message of goodwill to this august occasion of the award of the 2 nd Obafemi Awolowo Prize for leadership to the former president of South Africa His Excellency Mr. Thabo Mbeki. When the Foundation's selection committee headed by His Excellency Chief Emeka Anyaoku announced in January that President Mbeki has won the Foundation's leadership award for the year 2014, I was very pleased because I felt that the circle of greatness, integrity, visionary and people-oriented leadership was complete.
I say so because this award was created in honour of the sage Chief Obafemi Awolowo, the personification of visionary leadership in Nigeria, across the African continent and far beyond. It is equally fitting that this award ceremony is taking place on the late sage's birthday anniversary. If Chief Awolowo were here with us he would have been 105 years old. Unfortunately he left us prematurely in 1987 and since then Nigeria's political, intellectual and leadership scenes have never been the same again.
In this election year in Nigeria, one can hear many complaints that our national politics and leadership selection process have departed widely from the system bequeathed to us by our great founding fathers, namely Chief Awolowo and his contemporaries. While there are small glimmers of hope here and there, there is every reason to believe that the era of great and visionary leadership that the sage Chief Awolowo and his contemporaries such as Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Sir Ahmadu Bello, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Malam Aminu Kano, Chief Joseph Tarka and Dr. Michael Okpara represented is a thing of the past.
However, all hope is not lost. It is to the eternal credit of the Obafemi Awolowo Foundation that it instituted a lecture series in memory of the late sage. This lecture series has over the years contributed enormously to the continuous search for dynamic, principled and visionary leadership in Nigeria and Africa and also to finding solution to the problems that afflict our country and society in the modern day. The Foundation has even gone beyond talking to institute this leadership award, the first of which was won by our Nobel laureate Professor Wole Soyinka. The 2014 award which is being awarded to President Thabo Mbeki is only the second in the series but already the foundation has been laid for what will soon turn out to be the African Nobel Prize.
I am personally very impressed by your fine example. It fully accords with our own effort in Bauchi State to immortalise the memory of our native son, the first and last Prime Minister of Nigeria Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, a contemporary of the sage Chief Awolowo and a member of that elite group of Nigeria's great Founding Fathers. Over the years we have instituted formal and informal programs at various levels to inculcate in the youths of Bauchi State the virtues of simplicity, honesty and selfless service that Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa represented. While there is still a long way to go in this regard, I believe that a good foundation has been laid which will bear fruit in the near future.
President Thabo Mbeki, who is being honoured with the 2 nd Awolowo leadership award is a man who has earned our tremendous respect since his days as a young activist of the African National Congress [ANC]. He was the ANC's international face during the years of the epic struggle against apartheid and we here in Nigeria were very familiar with his face in our newspapers and television screens. Looking at him today I can see that he has not changed much despite the passing of the years. He held aloft the golden torch of African liberation that he inherited from his illustrious father Mr. Govan Mbeki of blessed memory as well as from the sage Nelson Mandela and other great leadership of the African liberation struggle.
I agree fully with the Foundation that His Excellency President Mbeki is receiving this award because he encapsulates the example of visionary leadership that Chief Awolowo promoted all his life. Not only was he a dedicated freedom fighter and an eminent intellectual, but he also provided his country and Africa as a whole with exemplary leadership qualities during his years as deputy president and president of South Africa. Ever since he left office, he has also spared no effort to the search for peace in troubled African nations such as South Sudan of late. Your Excellency, we thank you for your untiring efforts in the search for enduring peace and good governance in our continent and the world.
Therefore, on behalf of the Government and people of Bauchi State I wish to convey to your our sincere congratulations for this historic occasion of the 2 nd Obafemi Awolowo Prize for Leadership. We also congratulate His Excellency Mr Thabo Mbeki, the winner of the 2014 award. We wish you many more years of illustrious service to our country by striving always to uphold the golden legacy of the sage Chief Obafemi Awolowo. Thank you very much.