OBAFEMI AWOLOWO FOUNDATION
28 LANRE AWOLOKUN ROAD
GBAGADA PHASE II
‘THE BEST TEACHERS OF HUMANITY ARE THE LIVES OF GREAT MEN’
(Being the text of the welcome address delivered by Dr Ọlatokunbọ Awolọwọ Dosumu at the centenary celebration launch and book presentation, held at Muson Centre, Lagos on Thursday, January 29, 2009.)
I am truly delighted to welcome you all, on behalf of the Ọbafẹmi Awolọwọ Foundation, to this launch of the year-long celebrations to mark the centennial of Papa Ọbafẹmi Awolọwọ.
I suspect that some, though certainly not anyone in this audience, may be wondering, ‘why organise such elaborate celebrations?’ or, indeed, ‘why celebrate at all?’ Our answers are simple.
First of all, any excuse to roll out the drums and generally have a good time has to be a good thing. But our objectives go far beyond that. We celebrate because we believe that ‘the best teachers of humanity are the lives of great men’.
Inherent in the Foundation’s message on the occasion of these centenary celebrations is the desire to inspire, challenge and renew our collective commitment to an ennobling future for our nation by refocusing our attention to the lessons that can be drawn from the life and example of a great man like Chief Awolọwọ.
We aim, in our own small way to encourage the present generation not only to walk worthy of its heritage but also to forge a determination to ‘do business’, in every sphere of endeavour, keeping in perpetual focus the verdict of history. To paraphrase an Edmund Burke quote, ‘people will ... look forward to posterity who ... look backward to their ancestors’.
Our message is directed at leaders and followers alike. After all, one of the key factors to the success of the legacies that we are celebrating was, in my view, the incredible bond of mutual trust and commitment to shared goals that existed between a visionary leader, his lieutenants and the populace. ‘A good example, ladies and gentlemen, is the best sermon’.
In the course of the coming year, the Foundation will invite the general public to more events, including the Centenary Lectures, a Conference which is being organised in collaboration with the Ọbafẹmi Awolọwọ University, a conference on traditional institutions being championed by HRM Oba Okunade Sijuwade, Olubuse II, the celebration of 50 years of TV in Africa and the grand finale will be the celebration of 55 years of free education, in January 2010.
We also plan to host an interactive session with Papa’s associates at which another publication devoted to reminiscences of various individuals will be presented to the public. Our selection of contributors will be widened to include those, for example, who may not necessarily have worked directly with Papa but whose lives have been transformed, subsequently, by his policies and, therefore, have significant stories to tell. We aim to mount effective campaigns for all these events and sincerely hope that you will join us for every one of them.
Mama will, of course, together with the entire Awolọwọ family, host a special celebration on March 6 to which all are invited.
I must seize this opportunity to express my profound gratitude to everyone who has contributed to the success of today’s event and the publication being presented, ‘Awo: On the Trail of a Titan’. In this regard, particular mention must be made of the essayists, the editors and, of course, Professor Wọle Soyinka who wrote the Foreword.
They all rose to the occasion with commendable grace and brought their considerable erudition to bear on their contributions. The result is a ‘collectors’ item’ which I hope will be widely received by all, particularly students, scholars and everyone interested in the history, development, as well as current and projected dynamics of the Nigerian polity.
My gratitude also goes to the Chairman, Price Julius Adelusi-Adeluyi, and the Board of Directors of O’dua Investment Company Limited, for sponsoring the publication. I thank them for continuing the tradition of steadfast support which the Company has established since the Foundation’s inception.
I thank all the members of the Ọbafẹmi Awolọwọ Foundation’s Centenary Celebrations Committee, particularly the Chairman, Ọtunba Mohammed Jọbi-Fẹlẹ, for their assistance. The Chairman gave material and moral support to the initiative and he, with the support of other members, demonstrated exceptional commitment to his assignment. For this I am truly grateful.
The secretary of the Committee, Mr Fọla Ọkẹ deserves special mention for working incredibly hard, putting in long hours and remaining exceptionally focused on the task. And I thank members of staff of ANN, particularly Mr Kọle Ogunmọla, Mr Kayọde Titiloye, the despatch staff and others too numerous to mention for their hard work and assistance. I consider them pivotal to the success of this event.
Special mention must be made of Mama’s role and support as well as those of my siblings throughout these preparations. I thank God that Mama enjoys the abundant grace of God to be here with us today and that she remains so alert and active even at 93.
I have to thank, specially, those who have offered generous financial assistance to the Foundation towards these ceremonies. In this regard, I thank Ọtunba Subomi Balogun, Chief Kọla Daisi and General Adetunji Olurin for their kind generosity.
Chief (Dr) Raymond Dokpesi has also picked up on his tradition of support for the Foundation by carrying the promotional jingles for this event free of charge on Ray Power radio station for the past two weeks. All it took was a phone call. I appreciate his generosity.
Many in this audience have travelled great distances, from within and outside Nigeria, to be with us today. We feel honoured by, and appreciate your presence.
Finally, let me say this: when I started the process of planning for these celebrations from far away in the UK on March 3, 2008, I realised even then that I was embarking on a daunting task and that the challenges of attempting to organise an event of this magnitude from abroad would be enormous.
Nevertheless, thanks to the wonders of modern communications technology but, more importantly, the love and admiration of all, whose assistance I sought, for Papa, as well as their obvious desire to emulate and reciprocate his acknowledged selfless service and devotion to the common good, my task was made easy. I thank every one of you most sincerely.
In closing, I give unending praise and glory to God, from Whom all blessings flow.
May God bless you all.
Dr Ọlatokunbọ Awolọwọ Dosumu