Ogun, the Gateway State, in the South-Western part of Nigeria, has continued to blaze the trail in the supply of the much needed human resources towards national development.
The state, no doubt, stands tall and occupies an enviable height considering the number of men and women who have laboured selflessly in all areas of human endeavour to make the country the giant of Africa. Arguably, no state in Nigeria can push Ogun aside in the hierarchy of importance.
Ogun is a state that prides itself as the cradle of civilisation, Christianity, and journalism. It is the state that housed the first church in Nigeria, built in Abeokuta, the state capital and a state that also provided shelter for the first Bible in Nigeria brought by the missionaries.
It is also worthy to put on record that the first indigenous newspaper in Africa — Iwe Irohin Fun Awon Ara Egba ati Yoruba — was published by Revrend Henry Townsend of the Christian Missionary Society in Abeokuta.
The state has a high number of tertiary institutions and religious centres in the country. These include one Federal Government university, two state-owned universities, one state-owned polytechnic and one state-owned college of education, one federal technical college, and a state owned college of health technology.
The state can boast of more than 10 private universities and over eight large places of worship for both the Christians and Muslims. This is the state of elder statesmen and notable personalities like Chief Bisi Onabanjo, Tai Solarin, Subomi Balogun, Bayo Kuku, Olusegun Osoba, Afolabi Olabimtan, General Adetunji Olurin, Fola Adeola, Pastor Tunde Bakare, Chief Femi Majekodunmi, Lateef Owoyemi, King Ayinde Wasiu, Dele Odule, Odunlade Adekola, Taiwo Hassan, Chief Anthony Asiwaju, Chief Bayo Adedeji, Dimeji Bankole, Kuforiji Olubi, Toyosi Craig, Oba Otudeko, Peter Jasper Akinola, among many others who are still doing the state proud.
Little wonder the state has produced a military Head of State, Head of Interim National Government, and a democratically elected President who served for two terms.
The contributions of these heroes and heroines from the state towards national growth were appreciated last Friday, at the grand finale of the Centenary Celebrations of the Amalgamation of the Northern and Southern Protectorates of Nigeria in 1914 by the late Fredrick Lord Lugard.
The labour of these great indigenes of the state was not in vain as they were duly accorded the honour, alongside other notable Nigerians, at a reception organised by the Federal Government, which was also attended by world leaders.
This is why many have regarded the choice of 13 awardees from Ogun alone, out of the 100 from the entire 36 states, during the celebration more as a deserving honour rather than a favour.
The names of those who made the state proud have been etched in history forever and they include: the first Premier of the defunct Western Region, Chief Oyeniyi Jeremiah Obafemi Awolowo; Chief Olusegun Okikiola Aremu Obasanjo, Chief Ernest Shonekan, late Chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola, Professor Adeoye Lambo, Mrs Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, Dr Mike Adenuga (Jnr), Sir Adetokunbo Ademola, Professor Akinlawon Ladipo Mabogunje, Professor Wole Soyinka, Fela Anipulapo-Kuti, Chief Adeola Odutola and Pa Hubert Ogunde.
Awolowo, founder of African Newspapers of Nigeria (ANN) Plc, publishers of the Tribune titles, posthumously bagged the award in the category of Heroes of the Struggle for Nigeria’s Independence/Pioneer Political Leaders. He was honoured alongside 13 others in this category. He was one of the three National Heroes of the Nigerian nation.
His party, the Action Group (AG), was the first political party to move motion for Nigeria’s independence in the federal parliament. He had so many firsts to his kitty.
He was the first Premier of the defunct Western Region. He was the first black man to established a television station in Africa. He built the Liberty Stadium with 35,000 seating capacity, the first in Africa which was recently named after him by President Goodluck Jonathan.
Awolowo’s name cannot be easily forgotten in the country for introducing and successfully implemented Free Primary Education Programme in Africa and also introduced and managed successfully the first Free Medical Service Programme.
Obasanjo, former Nigerian Army General served the nation’s twice as Head of State from 13th February to 1st October, 1979 and as democratically elected president from May 29, 1999 to 29 May 2007.
He presided over democratic elections, won by civilian northern politician Shehu Shagari. In doing so, Obasanjo became Nigeria’s first military ruler to hand over power to a democratically elected civilian government. Obasanjo won presidential elections on 27 February 1999 with 62 percent of the valid votes cast.
He created the country’s first Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, which secured in excess of 275 convictions, including high profile members of Nigeria’s elite, recovering a total of $5bn in assets. This was the first time in the country’s history that public officials were prosecuted for the misuse of state funds.
On his part, Chief Ernest Shonekan was appointed as interim president of Nigeria by General Ibrahim Babangida on 26 August 1993. Babangida resigned under pressure to cede control to a democratic government. Shonekan’s transitional administration only lasted three months, as a palace coup led by General Sani Abacha forcefully dismantled the remaining democratic institutions and brought the government back under military control on 17 November 1993.
The duo of Obasanjo and Shonekan were honoured in the category of outstanding promoters of peace, patriotism and national development.
The late acclaimed winner of the June 12, 1993 Presidential election, Bashorun MKO Abiola, was honoured with an award of promoter of democratic transition in Nigeria. His election was declared Nigeria’s freest and fairest presidential election by national and international observers, with Abiola even winning in his Northern opponent’s home state.Abiola won at the national capital, Abuja, the military polling stations, and over two-thirds of Nigerian states.
The late Professor Adeoye Lambo was honoured with an award of pioneers in professional/careers as he was credited as the first western trained psychiatrist in Nigeria and Africa.
The literary giant, Professor Akinwande Oluwole Soyinka was bestowed with the centennial award in the category of Internationally acclaimed artists, literary icons and journalists for his contribution to literary works in which he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literaturein 1986, becoming the first African laureate. He was described as one “who in a wide cultural perspective and with poetic overtones fashions the drama of existence”.
Late Mrs. Olufunmilayo Ransome-Kuti was honoured in the category of Heroes of the Struggle for Nigeria’s independence/political leaders for her political activism which led to her being described as the doyen of female rights in Nigeria, as well as to her being regarded as “The Mother of Africa.” Early on, she was a very powerful force advocating for the Nigerian woman’s right to vote and the first woman to drive a car in Nigeria.
Sir Adetokunbo Ademola, a prince by birth was the first Chief Justice of Nigeria and was instrumental in the establishment of the Nigerian Law School. He was honoured in the category accomplished pioneer civil servant.
Professor Akin Mabogunje bagged the outstanding contemporary public servants award.
Dr Mike Adenuga’s (Jr) company, Globacom, is Nigeria’s second-largest telecom operator. He was recognised during the celebration alongside Aliko Dangote and Chief Innocent Chukwu in the category of accomplished contemporary entrepreneur.
For late doyen of theatre, Pa Hubert Adedeji Ogunde, the Ososa born artiste in Odogbolu Local Government Area of Ogun State was awarded in the same category with Soyinka as an international artiste in his calling.
The late Chief Adeola Odutola, born of Ijebu-Ode parents was a prominent Nigerian businessman. He was one of the pioneers of modern Nigerian indigenous entrepreneurship and the first president of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria and was so honoured with Pioneer in Commerce /Industry award while the late Afrobeat legend, Fela Anipulapo -Kuti bagged the same award in the category of Soyinka.
These awardees in their own unique ways have contributed their quota to the development of Nigeria. The state, in this generation, is still blessed with many indigenes that are performing creditably well in various fields, and such ones would also be honoured one day.
It is no gain saying that Ogun, the home of Awolowo, is blessed with men and women of great abilities and potential.