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Chief Obafemi Jeremiah Oyeniyi Awolowo was a Nigerian nationalist and statesman and a man of great legacy who played a key role in Nigeria’s independence movement, the First and Second Republics and the Civil War. These are a collection of thought-provoking quotes penned by him during different facets of his life…


Awo’s Motto Formulated On His 30th Birthday
“After rain comes sunshine; After darkness comes the glorious dawn. There is no sorrow without its alloy of joy; there is no joy without its admixture of sorrow. Behind the ugly terrible mask of misfortune lies the beautiful soothing countenance of prosperity. So, tear the mask!”
– My Early Life, 1968.

Awo on His Wife of 50 Years
“Throughout all the changing fortunes of my life … , my wife, Hannah Idowu Dideolu Awolowo (nee Adelana) has been to me a jewel of inestimable value. She is an ideal wife … The outpouring of her love and devotion to me and to our family is exceeding and beyond words … I do not hesitate to confess that I owe my success in life to three factors: the Grace of God, a Spartan self-discipline, and a good wife. Our home is to all of us, a true haven; a place of happiness, and of imperturbable seclusion from the buffetings of life.”
– My Early Life, 1968

Awo on Risk Taking
“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.”
– Voice of Reason, 1981

Awo On “The Courage To Look”
“The gloom of the world is but a shadow, and there is radiance in the darkness, if we could but
see. To be able to see this radiance, all you need to do is to cultivate the courage to look, and theinsight to apprehend the light which shines, at all times and in all places, for those who make Truth the object of their daily pursuit.
Speech to University Graduands (1967): In Voice of Courage, 1981.

Awo On Failure As Springboard To Success
“I have come to learn, from personal experience, that failure and defeat always serve as springboards for greater achievements for I, whom who never acknowledges their potency, and who is prepared to meet the challenges posed by’ them – for they always pose challenges.
Statement on Attaining the Age of 67; 1976

Awo On Light and Darkness

In the presence of light, darkness cannot exist; nor can the night of misery and suffering… The compelling urge to be a harbinger of light over Nigeria has been my one consuming passion for more than four decades now … My yearnings for the descent of light upon Nigeria became so deep that they were soon transformed into an irrepressible call to duty…”
– Text of a Broadcast on the Nigerian Television, Ibadan, 1979

Awo On Self-Discipline
“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.”
– My March Through Prison, 1985

Awo’s View of The World

“I must take the world as I find it: with its sprinkling of saints and its multitude of evil-doers, … ; with its source of happiness and its tons of sorrow. My duty, therefore, is to view anything that may happen to me in this world with Christ- like calm and equanimity and to do all in my power to promote the progress and advancement of mankind”.
– My March Through Prison, 1985

Awo On His Lifestyle As Example To The Youths
“Those who desire to reach, and keep their places at the top in any calling must be prepared to do so the hard way.”
– Awo (Autobiography). 1960

Awo On The Temporary Nature Of Human Problems
“In the long run, all human problems do settle themselves aright, whatever anyone or group of people may do. This is so, because all those who do wrong and injustice, are merely setting themselves against the powerful tide of Nature’s or, if you like, History’s dialectical progression. Temporarily, this tide can be held back; but certainly, not permanently. ”
– Address to 4th OAU Summit in Kinshasa, Sept, (/967): In Voice of Courage (1981)

Awo On Leadership By Example
“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. ”
– Call to Rededication and Reconstruction (1961): In Voice of Reason (1981)

Awo On The Law Of Sowing and Reaping
“Like cause always produce like effect. In kind, we always reap what we sow; but quantitatively, we always reap much more than we sow.”
– Lecture at the University of Lagos (1968): In Voice of Courage (1981)

Awo On Good and Evil
“The touchstone of what is good, be it thought, or word or action, is LOVE. We are to love our neighbours as ourselves. That is the law and the prophets. Anything therefore – any thought or word or action – which falls short of LOVE is evil, and holds within itself the germ of its own eventual and inevitable destruction.”
– Lecture at the University of Lagos (1968): In Voice of Courage (1981)

Awo On Man and His Environment
“Man is not born to grope in the face of adverse environmental circumstances and conditions: he is ordained, and endowed with the capacity, to comprehend the universe, conquer his immediate surroundings, and rule the world. But first, he must understand the world and all its phenomena: he must do so systematically and scientifically.”
– The People’s Republic, 1968

Awo On Man As The Sole Dynamic In Nature
“Man is the sole dynamic in nature; and accordingly, every individual constitutes the supreme economic potential which a country possesses. It is axiomatic that man can create nothing. But, by an intelligent and purposive application of the exertions of his body and mind, he can exploit natural resources to produce goods and service….. Therefore, other things being equal, the healthier his body and the more educated his mind, the greater will be his morale and the more efficient he becomes as a producer and consumer.”
– University of Ife Convocation Speech (/974): In Voice of Courage (1981)

Awo On Development of Human Personality
“A man whose personality is fully developed never fears anything; he cringes not, and never feels inferior to anyone; His breadth of mind enables him to exercise his freedom in such a manner as not to endanger the interests and freedom of others. He is a citizen of the world – free from narrow prejudices. He is what he is because the three main constituents of his entity – his body, brain, and mind – are fully developed. Mens Sana in Corpore Sano!”
– Voice of Reason (1981)

Awo On The Cultivation of The Human Mind
“Whether we are conscious of or acknowledge it or not, the fact remains stubborn and indestructible that poverty, disease, social unrest, and instability, and all kinds of international conflicts, have their origins in the minds of men … It is only when the minds of men have been properly and rigorously cultivated and garnished, that they can be safely entrusted with public affairs with a certainty and assuredness that they will make the best of their unique opportunity and assignment.”
– Inaugural Address as Chancellor of the University of Ife (1967) Voice of Wisdom, 1981

Awo On The Cardinal Aim of Education
“Any system of education which does not help a man to have a healthy and sound body and alert brain, and balanced and disciplined instinctive urges, is both misconceived and dangerous.”
– The People’s Republic. 1968

Awo on Free Education and Free Health Services
“In order to attain to the goals of economic freedom and prosperity, Nigeria must do certain things as a matter of urgency and priority. It must provide free education (at all levels) and free health facilities for the masses of its citizens.”

Awo on the Welfare of the Individual
“Man is the Alpha and Omega, the only dynamic means and the sole end, of all earthly human activities …. All productive activities, if they are to be meaningful, equitable,just and human, should be geared to one and only one goal- the welfare of the individual.”
– The People’s Republic, 1970.

Awo On Citizens General Well-Being
“He needs a healthy body which can be reared only on good food, adequate shelter, decent clothing, a reasonable measure of comfort and luxury, and a wholesome environment. He needs a sound and cultivated mind which is free to know and meditate upon the things of his choice. He has natural, conventional and legal rights which must be protected and upheld, with impartiality and inflexible justice by government and the society in which he lives.”
– Voice of Reason, 1980

Awo On Full Development And Employment Of All Talents
“When all the talents in society are not fully developed, it is not the individuals that are adversely affected alone who suffer; the society as a whole suffers as well. Now, granting that every Nigerian is given an opportunity to develop his talents, it is imperative that he should also be given an opportunity to employ these developed talents. Full development of man and his full employment are not only social imperatives, but also inseparably inter-connected and complementary.”
-Address delivered to Ondo State House of Assembly (1980): In Voice of Wisdom (1981)

Awo On The Development of the Soul-Personality
“Throughout my adult life, I have learnt about the development of the soul personality, I know the law and the prophets, that is to say, that love is the cornerstone of the universe both visible and invisible.”

My March Through Prison, 1988
Awo On Moral and Spiritual Reconstruction “There is an urgent and massive need for moral and spiritual reconstruction: the kind which will help to demolish morbid desire for naked power and domination … and ensure justice equity and fair play for all.”
– Lecture delivered to the Christian Laity of Nigeria. Lagos (1972): Voice of Wisdom (1981)

Awo On Human Desire For Power
“Let us make no pretense about it, every human being loves power; power over his fellow men in the state, or in business enterprises; or failing that; power over his wife and children, and over his brothers, sisters, and friends, or, in the case of children, power over his playmates. Of these categories of power, the desire for power over one’s fellow men is the strongest.”
– Address to Students’ Parliament (1975): In Voice of Wisdom (1981)

Awo on Equality of The Blackman with Other Races
“The Blackman shall be absolute and undisputed master in his own home, and shall enjoy unaffected and un-patronising equality with the other races of the world.”
– Press Statement (196/): Voice of Reason, 1981.

Awo on Power and How It Enslaves
“Power enslaves: absolute power enslaves absolutely. I have made a diligent search through history, and I have not come across a single instance where a regime, be it military or civilian, which has come to power at its own will, and has wielded that power for many years, has found it easy to extricate itself from the sweet uses and shackles of power, and then hand it to others outside its own hierarchy. It is possible, quite possible, that my search is not exhaustive and so, I stand to be corrected.”
– University of Ife Convocation (1974): In Voice of Courage. 1981.

Awo on Africa’s Dependence on Former Colonial Masters
“Today, Africa is a continent of COMPETING BEGGAR-NATIONs. We vie with one another for favours from our former colonial masters; and we deliberately fall over one another to invite neo- colonialists to come over to our different territories to preside over our economic fortunes … Unless a beggar resolutely shakes off, and irrevocably turns his back on, his begging habit, he will forever remain a beggar. For, the more he begs, the more he develops the beggar characteristics of lack of initiative, courage, drive and self-reliance.”
-Address to 4th OAU Summit in Kinshasa (1967): In Voice of Courage, 1981.

Awo on Self-Seeking African Leaders
“Africa has produced more self-seeking leaders than public-spirited ones. But, thank goodness, the masses of the people remain largely unspoilt and uncorrupted, and are developing fast the technique of differentiating gold from lead and real metal from dross. What is more, they have begun to show their preparedness for very rough action against any political leader who may be caught in the game of public trickery and fraud.”
– The People’s Republic, 1968

Awo On People’s Revolt Against Bad Leadership
“A greedy, corrupt, and evil administration is bound to wither, sooner or later, in the face of obsessive desire and mounting clamour on the part of the masses of the people for a welfare regime which will benefit all equally. In the course of time there will be a clash of desires and wills between the exploiters and the exploited. These clash of desires and wills will stir the universal mind into action, and a situation will then arise which will bring about the termination of or radical change in the greedy, and evil regime.”
–  The People’s Republic, 1968

Awo on the Wisdom of Managing Rivalries
“It is safer and wiser to cure unhealthy rivalry than to suppress it.”
– Thoughts on The Nigerian Constitution, 1966.

Awo on the Danger of Not Practising What We Preach
“If we are in the habit of practising the opposite of what we preach, our admonition will not only lose their force and cogency, but also we ourselves will forfeit every claim to credibility. An ounce of example, it has been widely said, is far better than a ton of precepts.”
-Address to the Congregation of the University of Ife (1970): In Voice of Wisdom, 1981.

Awo on Thoroughness in Doing Things
“A half-hearted slipshod doer may be likened to a fool who takes five steps forward and three steps backwards … Again, a half-hearted doer may be likened to a man who sweeps a dirty room with a dirtier broom, and throws back into the room a good quality of the dirt which he has managed to remove from the room.”
– Voice of Wisdom (1981)

Awo’s Self-Assessment As A Leader
“While many men in power and public office are busy carousing in the midst of women of easy virtue and men of low morals, I, as a few others like me, am busy at my desk thinking about the problems of Nigeria and proffering solutions to them. Only the deep can call to the deep.”

Awo On The Risk That The Few Rich Are Running
“We have in our midst about 1,000 rich Nigerians who in the past cleverly rigged the sources of the wealth of our nation, and we are now tactically poised to oligopolise all the munificent avenues of riches that may supervene now and in the future. The rich, and the highly-placed in business, public life, and government, are running a dreadful risk in their callous neglect of the poor and down-trodden.”
– Address delivered to Ondo House of Assembly (/980): Voice of Wisdom, 1981.

Source: Obafemiawolowofoundation

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