It is with immense pride and joy that I welcome you all to this second award of the Obafemi Awol?w? Prize for Leadership.
Following the first award to Professor W?le Soyinka in 2013, we naturally wondered how we could possibly match, let alone surpass the standard that was set at that inaugural outing. Today, however, I think we can safely say that we are well on our way to the success and sustainability of the Prize, given the calibre of our second awardee, His Excellency Mr Thabo Mbeki, former President of the Republic of South Africa.
President Mbeki has earned this accolade for several reasons. He was born into a family that not only believed in great ideals but were also willing to make huge personal sacrifices in defence of those ideals. Not content with merely being an heir of such a ‘goodly' heritage, he displayed rare commitment by becoming actively involved in the anti-apartheid struggle from the age of 14. He subsequently played the role of catalyst in globalising the message until victory was won. Not surprisingly, therefore, he became the first Vice President and, later, President of post-apartheid South Africa. He went on to use his opportunity in high office to actualise the core purpose of the struggle, that is, to make significant impact on the socio-political and economic well-being of black South Africans. Today, he remains a credible voice globally.
His life and career thus far can, therefore, be summed up in the words of Christine Gregoire, ‘ It is up to us to live up to the legacy that was left for us, and to leave a legacy that is worthy of our children and of future generations. '
For us at the Obafemi Awol?w? Foundation, the custodian of Chief Awol?w?'s intellectual legacy, and for me, personally, there is a special sense of fulfilment today. Chief Awol?w?'s total dedication to Nigeria and the well-being of all Nigerians is legendary. I can tell you authoritatively that it was his life. He was committed to making sacrifices for the emancipation of future generations whose voice of thanks he would never hear. He was an unselfish soul who forgot himself into immortality. That is true leadership.
There is, surely, a lesson here for all of us, leaders and followers alike, and it is captured, I believe, in the following anonymous quote:
You got it from your father, it was all he had to give,
So it's yours to keep and cherish for as long as you shall live,
It was clean the day he got it, and a worthy name to bear,
When he got it from his father, there was no dishonor there,
So protect and guard it safely, for when all is said and done,
You'll be proud the name is spotless when you give it to your son.'
I congratulate our worthy awardee, President Thabo Mbeki for being a shining example of the virtues espoused in this quote.
Before I take my seat, I must express, publicly, my most sincere gratitude to all the members of the Selection and Technical Committees of the Obafemi Awol?w? Prize for Leadership for their rare display of devotion to this project. I especially thank Chief Emeka Anyaoku for bringing his considerable influence to bear, to ensure the successful outcome of the entire process.
I must, of course, also thank General Abdulsalam Abubakar, most sincerely, for graciously accepting to chair this ceremony. And I thank you all, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, for honouring us with your presence here today.
Today, it is probably even more apt than ever before that I end this address with Papa's words:
‘We must ensure that in an independent Nigeria, individual citizens throughout the land enjoy liberty, human dignity and equality under the law…In the years that lie ahead, those of us who have the good fortune to lead our people will need statesmanship of a high order and God's guidance in managing the affairs of our country for the benefit of every Nigerian citizen'.
Once again, I welcome you all and I wish you a fruitful, fulfilling and enjoyable afternoon.
Dr ?latokunb? Awol?w? Dosumu
March 6, 2015