15th October, 2012
“In political terms, he would be considered an adversary of the Igbo given the intense rivalry between him and Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe. As a leader of the modern cast, he has left Nigeria standards which are indelible, standards beside which future aspirations to public leadership can be eternally measured. He was, for a long time, the only Nigerian leader that enunciated principles and played down personalities. He was a brilliant political administrator and a most erudite teacher. He not only identified himself wholly with the aspirations of the Yoruba people of Nigeria but also he was able to convince the Yoruba people of Nigeria that he, only he epitomised the highest point of their political aspirations and consciousness. He was loved, he was feared but above all he belonged to the people he professed to lead. At his death I had the singular honour of proposing for him this epitaph that has endured — ‘he was the best President that Nigeria never had.’
Many have wondered what I meant by this, but I believe the statement was clear. Nigeria would have benefited from his presidency because of his innate presidential qualities. Nigeria must continually regret that he never, for many reasons, had the opportunity to serve at the presidential level. Awo was a leader of great stature. He was a leader who was eminently successful. That he did not fulfill a presidential ambition cannot detract from his leadership, and us, poor us, who were not his people, must continue to regret that our own leaders had not led us as he did his people or achieved for us as he did for his people.
He perceived his job as leading his people and God bless his soul. He did a lot for them. Whenever he saw an opportunity for his people, he went for it. He had a dream for the Yorubas and was steadfast in the pursuit of that dream. He knew where he was going and he took his people with him without deceit. That is why he will remain immortal in the area of his influence.