The Lagos State Government on Friday described the recently unveiled statue of the late premier of the old Western Region, Obafemi Awolowo, as a “piece of artwork expressing the artist’s impression of the late Sage and not a photograph.”
In a statement issued by Adebimpe Akinsola, Special Adviser to the Governor on Tourism, Arts and Culture, the government said the artwork can be subjected to several interpretations.
Criticisms, on social media, had trailed the statue, unveiled last Tuesday by Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, with commentators stating that an artwork of the late sage in a sitting position went against everything Mr. Awolowo had stood for.
But Mrs. Akinsola said many sculptures had been made to illustrate the other essence of the late sage, particularly the ones that portrayed him as a ‘dogged fighter’ standing with his popular victory sign, but the new bust, depicting him in an entirely new mode, simply alludes to his multi-dimensional standing.
“The reality is that Chief Awolowo was a colossus who cannot be stereotyped. Stereotyping such a highly intriguing personality only exposes the lack of depth of the totality of what the late sage represents,’’ she said.
She stated further that great men all over the World, such as Abraham Lincoln, whose statue was sculpted by Daniel Chester French (1850–1931) and carved by the Piccirilli Brother, have been depicted in a sitting position.
She said that rather than concentrating more on the artistic depiction of the Awolowo bust, what should be considered is the desire of the State Government to inspire the unborn generations about his legacies, adding that immortalizing our heroes is surely one way of spurring present and future generation of Nigerians to effectively connect with our past with a view to committing them to the vision and ideals of our founding fathers.
The Special Adviser explained that the State Government unveiled the new statue to celebrate the late sage who has a larger than life image, and whose shoes till date have yet to be filled.
She listed such heroes and heroines that have also been recognised and celebrated by the State Government as late M.K.O Abiola, Ayodele Awojobi, Gani Fawehinmi, Kudirat Abiola, among others.
“Chief Obafemi Awolowo is one of the nation’s nationalists, which the Lagos State Government believes in his ideologies, policies and programmes and as such will consider nothing too much to propagate his ideologies,’’ she said.
According to the statement, the Awolowo family had applauded the statue and commended the Lagos State Government for the honour done to the family.
Segun Awolowo, a grandson of the later premier, said, “I love the statue and I think Hamza (the Sculptor) did justice to his memory.
“As for the large boot, I believe the symbolism is that his shoes are still too big to fill after all this while,’’ he said.
Similarly, Wale Adebanwi, Director African Study Centre, Rhodes Professor of Race Relations, African Studies Centre, Oxford University said, “As an Awo Scholar, particularly one who has written about the politics of Awo statues, I find the statue unveiled by the Governor and his statement during the unveiling very significant.
“In an age in which most of our key players pay lip service to Awo’s ideals as well as the symbolism around his life and service, it is refreshing to find someone in such a critical position as the Governor who not only exemplifies Awo’s commitment to public good, but also recognizes the value of symbolic memory.”