Vera Songwe, head of UNECA and other speakers at the Adebayo Adedeji Memorial Symposium in Lagos
By Kamal Tayo Oropo
Former military head of state, Gen. Yakubu Gowon, speaking at a memorial symposium in honour of Professor Adebayo Adedeji, defended the Udoji awards to civil servants, four years after the Nigerian civil war.
The Memorial Symposium, which held in Lagos on Saturday, was organised by the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA). Adedeji was the pioneer Executive Secretary of the United Nations body.
The symposium took place a day after Adedeji was interred in his hometown of Ijebu-Ode in Ogun State.
Gowon said that contrary to the belief that Adedeji was against the Udoji awards, which jacked salaries of government workers by more than 100 per cent in 1974, every member of the executive council at that time, including Adedeji, supported it.
Adedeji was the federal commissioner for Economic Development and Reconstruction under the Gowon – led government.
According to Gowon, everybody, including the civil servants were very excited about the post-civil war award.
He recalled that during his period there was no industrial (strike) action by the organized labour during his nine years in power.
“We decided within ourselves that it was important to reward the workers for their support and dedication during the difficult period of the war,” he said.
Vera Songwe with Yakubu Gowon
Gowon also praised the contribution of the late Adedeji, describing him as a selfless international civil servant.
“Adedeji, though a global personality, always put Nigeria first. His key role in the formation of the Economic Community of West African States was worthy of emulation.
“Adedeji worked tirelessly with the Nigerian Foreign Affairs and all our diplomatic diplomatic missions in the West African African sub-region.
“His belief was that if ECOWAS was successful, it would be easier to recommend it to other sub-regions on the continent.
“The world recognises his achievements, making him more than a Nigerian product.
“We are exceedingly proud of him. Particularly, he will always stand tall in my estimation,” Gowon said.
The symposium had in attendance representative of the Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, in the person of Dr Yemi Dipeolu, the Special Adviser on Economic Matters in the office of the vice president.