In­spir­ing women to pro­mote na­tional val­ues and de­vel­op­ment

The Guardian (Nigeria) - - POLITICS - By Am­bas­sador Ola­tokunbo Awolowo-do­sunmu

THE HID Awolowo Foun­da­tion was in­au­gu­rated on Septem­ber 19, 2016, with an Ad­vi­sory Coun­cil that boasts of a stel­lar cast of women and men. As has been widely ad­ver­tised, this is our first out­ing and, judg­ing from the im­pres­sive line-up of key par­tic­i­pants, as well as the qual­ity au­di­ence in at­ten­dance to­day, I be­lieve we can safely as­sume that we are well on our way to be­com­ing a re­spected voice in the area of ad­vo­cacy on women’s is­sues and, in­deed, wider so­cial is­sues.

I es­pe­cially wel­come our Key­note Speaker, Dr Oby Ezek­we­sili. I would be stat­ing the ob­vi­ous if I de­scribed her as a highly ac­com­plished woman, scholar, fear­less ac­tivist and a leader in her own right. We wanted to set a stan­dard of ex­cel­lence, ab­i­ni­tio, for this lec­ture se­ries and we are very glad that she ac­cepted to blaze the trail.

Like our key­note speaker, all the dis­cus­sants, Lady Maiden Ibru, Ha­jiya Naja’atu Muham­mad, Y mi Adam l kun and B lanle Olukanni are also in­ter­na­tion­ally renowned and highly ac­com­plished in­di­vid­u­als. They are a pride to wom­an­hood and they are poised to add sig­nif­i­cant value to to­day’s pro­ceed­ings.

I also wel­come all our spe­cial guests, del­e­ga­tions and all the women and very brave and self-as­sured men who have made time to join us in hon­our­ing Mama to­day. Your pres­ence here en­cour­ages us tremen­dously.

Mama was an ex­em­plary wife, mother and en­trepreneur. But she was also a con­sum­mate po­lit­i­cal leader, not only by virtue of her be­ing the spouse of the sage, Papa baf mi Awol w , but also in her own right. The HID Awol w Foun­da­tion fully in­tends to re­flect her mul­ti­di­men­sional life as we con­tinue to hon­our her in the years to come.

To­day, in re­sponse to the pre­vail­ing cir­cum­stances in Nige­ria, we have opted to fo­cus on is­sues that can also be de­scribed as the hall­marks of the legacy jointly left be­hind by Mama Awol w and, of course her hus­band, Chief baf mi Awol w who gave her ev­ery room to shine ‘in (his own) ra­di­ance’.

I re­fer to the theme of this event, ‘Eth­i­cal Pol­i­tics, Peace, De­vel­op­ment and Se­cu­rity in Nige­ria: The Crit­i­cal Im­por­tance of Women’s Lead­er­ship’.

It is a well-known fact, com­mon sense even, that the pol­i­tics of a coun­try is fun­da­men­tal to its peace, de­vel­op­ment and se­cu­rity. Af­ter all, pol­i­tics is the breed­ing ground from which the man­agers of a coun­try and its econ­omy are re­cruited.

Ac­cord­ing to Ben­jamin Dis­raeli’s rather cyn­i­cal view, ‘In pol­i­tics, noth­ing is con­temptible’. Mar­garet Thatcher, on the other hand, ex­pressed a more ide­al­is­tic view when she said, ‘I am in pol­i­tics be­cause of the con­flict be­tween good and evil, and I be­lieve that in the end good will tri­umph’.

Given the piv­otal role of politi­cians in fos­ter­ing the well-be­ing of any coun­try and, par­tic­u­larly the well­be­ing of her ci­ti­zens, there­fore, the ethics of such politi­cians (or lack thereof) as­sume im­mense im­por­tance when it comes to se­cur­ing the coun­try’s fu­ture. Fac­tors such as good gov­er­nance, cor­rup­tion, po­lit­i­cal sta­bil­ity and cru­cially, for the pur­pose of the theme of this event, dis­crim­i­na­tion against women, among oth­ers, will cer­tainly de­ter­mine the tra­jec­tory of a coun­try and its peo­ple.

The truth is that any coun­try that un­der­mines the con­tri­bu­tion of half of its pop­u­la­tion to its over­all de­vel­op­ment has ef­fec­tively halved its own po­ten­tial. Be­fore I end th­ese re­marks, per­mit me to pay a spe­cial trib­ute to Mama:

Ex­actly one week ago, the Tri­bune Plaza was com­mis­sioned in Abuja. The ed­i­fice was con­structed with­out bor­row­ing a kobo. I salute the Board and man­age­ment of African News­pa­pers of Nige­ria for keep­ing the faith in or­der to record this rare achieve­ment. How­ever, we all know and agree that the real hero­ine of this feat is Yeye Oo­dua HID Awol w . It was her dogged­ness, un­stint­ing sup­port (fi­nan­cially and in ev­ery other pos­si­ble way) and her unique brand of lead­er­ship right to the end of her life that guar­an­teed this out­stand­ing ac­com­plish­ment just two short years af­ter her de­par­ture.

We re­main eter­nally grate­ful to her, and to Papa and, be­yond our feel­ings of grat­i­tude, we must con­sider it our duty, in word, and es­pe­cially in deed, to con­tinue to keep the faith and con­tinue to add as much value as we can, within the lim­its of the ethos of our pro­gen­i­tors, to those en­dur­ing lega­cies.

In con­clu­sion, let me para­phrase an anec­dote that has been trend­ing re­cently on so­cial me­dia, be­cause it is of ab­so­lute rel­e­vance, in my hum­ble opin­ion, to to­day’s dis­cus­sion. It goes thus:

When the an­cient Chi­nese de­cided to live in peace, they built the Great Wall of China. They thought that no one could climb it due to its height. How­ever, dur­ing the first 100 years of its ex­is­tence, the Chi­nese were in­vaded thrice. And, re­mark­ably, at ev­ery in­va­sion the hordes of en­emy in­fantry had no need of break­ing or climb­ing over the wall be­cause each time, they bribed the guards and en­tered through the gates.

So, the Chi­nese built the wall but for­got to build the char­ac­ter of the guards. There­fore, it stands to rea­son that the build­ing of hu­man char­ac­ter must come be­fore the build­ing of any­thing else.

This is a pow­er­ful metaphor, par­tic­u­larly as it con­cerns suc­ceed­ing gen­er­a­tions in any na­tion. They are the ones who, even if they read the his­tory, may be un­pre­pared, or un­able to evoke the pas­sion or, in­deed, the val­ues that in­formed the build­ing of a ‘wall’ in the first place, sim­ply be­cause they be­lieve, of­ten er­ro­neously, that their ‘re­al­ity’ is dif­fer­ent from that of their fore­bears.

The story goes on to state that an ori­en­tal­ist iden­ti­fied three ways to de­stroy the civil­i­sa­tion of any na­tion: de­stroy the fam­ily struc­ture, de­stroy ed­u­ca­tion, and lower their role mod­els and ref­er­ences.

The ma­jor con­se­quences of th­ese courses of ac­tion are that there will be no-one to teach the young­sters val­ues, they will lack the abil­ity to make in­formed choices and they will lose the cor­rect per­cep­tion of right and wrong or, even, what their best in­ter­ests are.

The HID Awol w Foun­da­tion hopes to con­tinue to con­trib­ute to na­tional dis­cus­sions and ac­tions aimed at ar­rest­ing the cur­rent threat of de­cline into a moral abyss, par­tic­u­larly in our youths. We will con­tinue to hon­our our ver­i­ta­ble role model, Yeye Oo­dua HID Awol w and, thereby, sus­tain our mis­sion to ‘in­spire women, pro­mote val­ues and build the na­tion’.

We can­not and must not do less, if we are to con­tinue to ac­cord due hon­our to the mem­ory of the quin­tes­sen­tial ‘jewel of in­es­timable value’.

Once again, I wel­come you all most warmly and I thank you for your at­ten­tion.

• Dr. Awolowo -Do­sumu de­liv­ered this ad­dress at the maiden edi­tion of the an­nual HID Awolowo Foun­da­tion­lec­turein­lagoslasttues­day.

Awolowo

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