The Nigerian Ideal
My Fellow Citizens,
I stand before you honoured to assume the sacred mandate you have given me. My love for this nation is abiding. My confidence in its people, unwavering. And my faith in God Almighty, absolute. I know that His hand shall provide the needed moral strength and clarity of purpose in those instances when we seem to have reached the limits of our human capacity.
This day is bold and majestic yet bright and full of spirit, as is our precious nation.
As a nation, we have long ago decided to march beyond the dimness of night into the open day of renewed national hope.
The question we now ask ourselves is whether to remain faithful to the work inherent in building a better society or retreat into the shadows of our unmet potential.
For me, there is but one answer. We are too great a nation and too grounded as a people to rob ourselves of our finest destiny.
This nation’s journey has been shaped by the prayers of millions, and the collective sacrifices of us all.
We have endured hardships that would have made other societies crumble.
Yet, we have shouldered the heavy burden to arrive at this SUBLIME moment where the prospect of a better future merges with our improved capacity to create that future.
To the surprise of many but not to ourselves, we have more firmly established this land as a democracy in both word and deed.
The peaceful transition from one government to another is now our political tradition. This handover symbolizes our trust in God, our enduring faith in representative governance and our belief in our ability to reshape this nation into the society it was always meant to be.
Here, permit me to say a few words to my predecessor, President Muhammadu Buhari. Mr President, you have been an honest, patriotic leader who has done his best for the nation you love. On a more personal note, you are a worthy partner and friend. May History be kind to you.
For many years, Nigeria’s critics have trafficked the rumour that our nation will break apart, even perish.
Yet here we are. We have stumbled at times, but our resilience and diversity have kept us going.
Our burdens may make us bend at times, but they shall never break us.
Instead, we stand forth as Africa’s most populous nation and as the best hope and strongest champion of the Black Race.
As citizens, we declare as one unified people devoted to one unified national cause, that as long as this world exists, NIGERIA SHALL EXIST.
Today, Fate and Destiny join together to place the torch of human progress in our very hands. We dare not let it slip.
We lift high this torch so that it might shine on every household and in every heart that calls itself Nigerian. We hold this beam aloft because it lights our path with compassion, brotherhood, and peace. May this great light never EXTINGUISH.
Our administration shall govern on your behalf but never rule over you. We shall consult and dialogue but never dictate. We shall reach out to all but never put down a single person for holding views contrary to our own.
We are here to further mend and heal this nation, not tear and injure it.
In this vein, may I offer a few comments regarding the election that brought us to this juncture. It was a hard fought contest. And it was also fairly won. Since the advent of the Fourth Republic, Nigeria has not held an election of better quality.
The outcome reflected the will of the people. However, my victory does not render me any more Nigerian than my opponents. Nor does it render them any less patriotic.
They shall forever be my fellow compatriots. And I will treat them as such. They represent important constituencies and concerns that wisdom dare not ignore.
They have taken their concerns to court. Seeking legal redress is their right and I fully defend their exercise of this right. This is the essence of the rule of law.
Over six decades ago, our founding fathers gave bravely of themselves to place Nigeria on the map as an independent nation.
We must never allow the labor of those who came before us to wither in vain but to blossom and bring forth a better reality.
Let us take the next great step in the journey they began and believed in.
Today, let us recommit our very selves to placing Nigeria in our hearts as the indispensable home for each and every one of us regardless of creed, ethnicity, or place of birth.
My supporters, I thank you. To those who voted otherwise, I extend my hand across the political divide. I ask you to grasp it in national affinity and brotherhood. For me, political coloration has faded away. All I see are Nigerians.
May we uphold these fitting and excellent notions as the new Nigerian ideal.
My fellow compatriots,
The Nigerian ideal which I speak of is more than just an improvement in economic and other statistics. These things are important; but they can never convey the fullness of our story.
Our mission is to improve our way of life in a manner that nurtures our humanity, encourages compassion toward one another, and duly rewards our collective effort to resolve the social ills that seek to divide us.
Our constitution and laws give us a nation on paper. We must work harder at bringing these noble documents to life by strengthening the bonds of economic collaboration, social cohesion, and cultural understanding. Let us develop a shared sense of fairness and equity.
The South must not only seek good for itself but must understand that its interests are served when good comes to the North. The North must see the South likewise.
Whether from the winding creeks of the Niger Delta, the vastness of the northern savannah, the boardrooms of Lagos, the bustling capital of Abuja, or the busy markets of Onitsha, you are all my people. As your president, I shall serve with prejudice toward none but compassion and amity towards all.
In the coming days and weeks, my team will publicly detail key aspects of our programme. Today, permit me to outline in broad terms a few initiatives that define our concept of progressive good governance in furtherance of the Nigerian ideal:
The principles that will guide our administration are simple:
1. Nigeria will be impartially governed according to the constitution and the rule of law.
2. We shall defend the nation from terror and all forms of criminality that threaten the peace and stability of our country and our subregion.
3. We shall remodel our economy to bring about growth and development through job creation, food security and an end of extreme poverty.
4. In our administration, Women and youth will feature prominently.
5. Our government will continue to take proactive steps such as championing a credit culture to discourage corruption while strengthening the effectiveness and efficiency of the various anti-corruption agencies.
Security shall be the top priority of our administration because neither prosperity nor justice can prevail amidst insecurity and violence.
To effectively tackle this menace, we shall reform both our security DOCTRINE and its ARCHITECTURE.
We shall invest more in our security personnel, and this means more than an increase in number. We shall provide, better training, equipment, pay and firepower.
On the economy, we target a higher GDP growth and to significantly reduce unemployment.
We intend to accomplish this by taking the following steps:
First, budgetary reform stimulating the economy without engendering inflation will be instituted.
Second, industrial policy will utilize the full range of fiscal measures to promote domestic manufacturing and lessen import dependency.
Third, electricity will become more accessible and affordable to businesses and homes alike. Power generation should nearly double and transmission and distribution networks improved. We will encourage states to develop local sources as well.
I have a message for our investors, local and foreign: our government shall review all their complaints about multiple taxation and various anti-investment inhibitions.
We shall ensure that investors and foreign businesses repatriate their hard earned dividends and profits home.
My administration must create meaningful opportunities for our youth. We shall honour our campaign commitment of one million new jobs in the digital economy.
Our government also shall work with the National Assembly to fashion an omnibus Jobs and Prosperity bill. This bill will give our administration the policy space to embark on labour-intensive infrastructural improvements, encourage light industry and provide improved social services for the poor, elderly and vulnerable.
Rural incomes shall be secured by commodity exchange boards guaranteeing minimal prices for certain crops and animal products. A nationwide programme for storage and other facilities to reduce spoilage and waste will be undertaken.
Agricultural hubs will be created throughout the nation to increase production and engage in value-added processing. The livestock sector will be introduced to best modern practices and steps taken to minimize the perennial conflict over land and water resources in this sector.
Through these actions, food shall be made more abundant yet less costly. Farmers shall earn more while the average Nigerian pays less.
We shall continue the efforts of the Buhari administration on infrastructure. Progress toward national networks of roads, rail and ports shall get priority attention.
We commend the decision of the outgoing administration in phasing out the petrol subsidy regime which has increasingly favoured the rich more than the poor. Subsidy can no longer justify its ever-increasing costs in the wake of drying resources. We shall instead re-channel the funds into better investment in public infrastructure, education, health care and jobs that will materially improve the lives of millions.
Monetary policy needs thorough housecleaning. The Central Bank must work towards a unified exchange rate. This will direct funds away from arbitrage into meaningful investment in the plant, equipment and jobs that power the real economy.
Interest rates need to be reduced to increase investment and consumer purchasing in ways that sustain the economy at a higher level.
Whatever merits it had in concept, the currency swap was too harshly applied by the CBN given the number of unbanked Nigerians. The policy shall be reviewed. In the meantime, my administration will treat both currencies as legal tender.
Given the world in which we reside, please permit a few comments regarding foreign policy.
The crisis in Sudan and the turn from democracy by several nations in our immediate neighbourhood are of pressing concern.
As such, my primary foreign policy objective must be the peace and stability of the West African subregion and the African continent. We shall work with ECOWAS, the AU and willing partners in the international community to end extant conflicts and to resolve new ones.
As we contain threats to peace, we shall also retool our foreign policy to more actively lead the regional and continental quest for collective prosperity.
This is the proudest day of my life. But this day does not belong to me. It belongs to you, the people of Nigeria.
On this day, Nigeria affirms its rightful place among the world’s great democracies. There, Nigeria shall reside forever.
The course of our past and the promise of the future have brought us to this exceptional moment.
In this spirit, I ask you to join me in making Nigeria a more perfect nation and democracy such that the Nigerian ideal becomes and forever remains the Nigerian reality.
With full confidence in our ability, I declare that these things are within our proximate reach because my name is Bola Ahmed Tinubu, and I am the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
May God bless you and May He bless our beloved land.
Socio-cultural And Economic Strides Of Anioma
By Augustine Anonyai Ojei
The Anioma people are found in the Northern senatorial district of the present Delta State, originally (at Independence (1960) part of Western Region before the creation of Mid- Western Region in August, 1963.
Rt. Hon. (Chief) Barr. Dennis Osadebay (native of Asaba), one-time Acting Governor General of Nigeria, was the first and only Premier of the then Mid-West Region.
Anioma still remained part of that entity renamed Bendel State in 1976. Anioma constituted one of the five Senatorial Districts (Bendel East) of the defunct Bendel State.
At creation, Delta State which crystalized from the division of the defunct Bendel State into Edo and Delta States, Anioma became part of the newly created Delta state in August 1991, and had the privilege of hosting the State capital in Asaba.
In the geo-political configuration of Delta State, Anioma (called Delta North) is made up of nine out of the 25 local government areas of the state as follows : Aniocha North, Aniocha South, Ika North East (which produced the immediate past Executive Governor Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa), Ika South, Ndokwa East, Ndokwa West, Oshimili North, Oshimili South and Ukwani Local Government areas.
Anioma people are linguistically of different ethnic backgrounds. There are communities within it that trace their origins to Benin, for instance, the Ezechime Clan, Aboh, Agbor, Owa, etc. Other trace theirs to the East ,majorly Nri (some Isu and Nteje, ecetra). These communities include Ogwashi-Uku, Ibusa, Okpanam (which according to tradition have some with different origins), Asaba (in part- Nteje) and some others trace their roots to Igala in present-day Kogi State. These communities include largely Ebu, and partly Asaba and Illah. Some other communities in Anioma,for instance Eko efun (popularly called Ukwu’Nzu, and Odiani communities who speak Olukunmi; a variant of Yoruba language) trace their origin to Ile-Ife and Owo. The same with the Ubulus which claim similar origin and linkage to Ile-Ife ,though with counter linkage claims between them and Afor in Ndokwa.
What can be rightly deduced from these diverse accounts of the origins, is that various communities in Anioma must have likely evolved from the aforementioned language groups. What is equally clear is that various Anioma communities or groups have their spoken dialects with strong linkages to Ibo/ Igbo languages for which reason Anioma dialects are largely grouped as part of Ibo language in Nigeria.
The Anioma people, thus culturally appear to be caught in between her brethren in the East and her geopolitical brothers and sisters in Midwest, now called Edo and Delta States. Music with its emotional soul-lifting attributes is another area Anioma people are known for.
As part of its cultural heritage, Anioma people hold to the highest esteem among others the following values, prominent among which is Eziokwu-bundu (truth is life), put in other words “honesty is the best policy”.
This is complemented by other values such as:
-Respect for the elderly,
-Respect for the healthy family life,
-Respect for hard work (dignity in labour),
-Sanctity of life, – Sanctity of marriage,
-Reverence to God Almighty (Chukwu), etc.
The native attires often adorned by Anioma men and women is white, popularly called “Akwa-Ocha” or Otuogwu. These clothes and related costumes are worn as ceremonial dresses, especially in major ceremonies,such as marriages,burial of the elderly and other major cultural or traditional ceremonies.
These dresses are classy and stand out anyone that adorns them. Most Anioma towns celebrate their annual festivals between the months of August and December every year. Such festivals include Ine , Ogbanigbe, Igwue, Ofala, New Yam, etc. In most of these communities, burial ceremonies of any form are suspended until the expiration of the period of festivities.
Social-political And Economic Spheres
Several Anioma indigenes have contributed ,and many are still contributing to the socio-political and even economic development of Nigeria. We may wish to note that at Independence (1960) Lt Commander O.Z Chiazor was recorded to be one of the most senior military officers in the then Nigerian Navy under whose command the Union Jack (British flag) was lowered on October 1, 1960.
Similar notables include Ms. Helen Anyamelune (Ugbodu) who was Miss Nigeris 1958; the highly celebrated Ms. Rosemary Anieze-Adams (Onicha-Olona) who was Miss Nigeria at Independence 1960, Mrs. Clara Ifeoma Okwechime (nee Emefiene), wife of Rtd Col. (Chief) Micheal Nduka Okwechime (one of the founding fathers of the Nigerian Army). Ms. Rita Anuku (Ika) was crowned Miss Nigeria in 1986. Mention must be made of Reverend Father Paul Obodochina Emecheta, the first West African to be ordained a Catholic Priest, 1928.
In the same vein, honour and reverence must be given to the late Rt Rev. (Dr) Samuel Wadie Martins, D.Litt (Honorary Causa), pioneer Baptist Missionary/Evangelist, who saw to the in-planting of Baptist missionary churches throughout the old Benin and Delta Provinces between 1922 when he returned from USA, till his death in 1976. He saw to the establishment of Baptist Primary Schools in most towns including Asaba, Warri and Benin-City. The same for the establishment of Baptist Hospital, Eku, Baptist Girls High School, Agbor, Pilgrims Baptist Grammar School, Ewohimi, Pilgrims Baptist Grammar school, Issele-Uku, Pilgrims Baptist Teachers Training College as well as the Technical College in Issele-uku, and Baptist High school, Benin -City, among others.
Anioma people are traditionally agrarian, vast in the production of food crops and livestock. Those in the riverine areas ply their trade in fishing and pottery, others generally in traditional cloth making.
This is aside from their great academic attainments in the educational sphere. Many Aniomans are found in the corporate world contributing to national economic development, be it in academics, banking, marketing communication, insurance, real sector/manufacturing industry, public service, non-governmental services, informal sector and the diaspora.
Many mini and micro enterprises have sprung up in Anioma area since the advent of this millennium. Asaba, the state capital and its environs are continually witnessing transformation. Towns like Agbor, Kwale, Okpanam, Obiaruku, Owa, Ogwashi-Uku and others have notably improved in terms of physical infrastructure. There is a clarion call for investment in the area. We welcome the establishment of the Dennis Osadebay University in Asaba, and University of Delta, Agbor. These in addition to earlier existing tertiary institutions in the area will boost socio-economic and educational development in Delta State and the nation at large .The establishment of a Federal University of Health Science in Kwale, is equally a welcomed development.
Our Appeal To Government
We would like to use this medium to passionately appeal to the Delta State as well as the Edo State and Anambra State governments where exist some Anioma people, to take greater interest in infrastructural development in these areas. These include roads, utilities, health and educational facilities.
We also appeal to the Federal Government to establish an industrial hub in Anioma area. The creation of an Export Processing Zone in Illah, Ugbolu, Asaba, Oko, Ewulu, Isheagu, Amai and Aboh/Ndosimili axes of Delta State to boost industrial development which will induce the venturing into the production of goods, that could be exported, and earn foreign exchange for the nation, will be economically worthwhile. The Warri, Sapele and Koko Sea ports would form a good linkage to the proposed processing zone. The multiplier effects this will achieve are better imagined.
Let me at this junction thank the Executives of Nji’ko Ndi Anioma, especially the President, a worthy comrade and champion of Anioma cause, Obuzor Chuks-Smith and his very visionary team. I join everyone in commending their efforts.
God bless them;
God bless Anioma;
God bless Delta state;
God bless Lagos state;
God bless Nigeria.
.Being a lecture delivered during the 2023 General Assembly of Njiko Ndi Anioma in Lagos on September 24, by Chief Augustine Anonyai Ojei, Ugwu’Eze Issele-Azagba; Ugwu’Anioma; member, Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria.
President Tinubu’s First Democracy Day Address
TEXT OF DEMOCRACY DAY NATIONAL BROADCAST BY PRESIDENT BOLA AHMED TINUBU ON JUNE 12, 2023.
1. Fellow Nigerians,
2. It is exactly three decades today that Nigerians went to the polls to exercise their inalienable right to elect a President of their choice to lead the transition from military dictatorship to a representative government of the people.
3. The abortion, by military fiat, of the decisive victory of Chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola of the defunct Social Democratic Party (SDP) in the June 12, 1993, presidential election, up to that time, the fairest and freest election in the country’s political evolution, turned out, ironically, to be the seed that germinated into the prolonged struggle that gave birth to the democracy we currently enjoy since 1999.
4. In rising to strongly oppose the arbitrary annulment of the will of the majority of Nigerians as expressed in that historic election, the substantial number of our people who participated in the struggle to de-annul the election signified their fierce commitment to enthroning democracy as a form of government that best ennobles the liberty, the dignity of the individual and the integrity as well as the stability of the polity. The fierce opposition to the annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential election and the unrelenting pro-democracy onslaught it unleashed was the equivalent of the battle against colonial rule by our founding fathers that resulted in the gaining of Nigeria’s independence in 1960.
5. Just like the anti-colonial movement, the pro-June 12 vanguard demonstrated, once again, the enduring validity of the 19th century historian, Arnold Toynbee’s eternal postulation, that civilization and societies experience progress as they are forced to respond to challenges posed by the environment. The unjust annulment of a widely acknowledged free and fair election was a challenge that elicited resistance by a resurgent civil society, leading ultimately to the attainment of our ‘second independence’ as exemplified by the return of democratic governance in 1999.
6. Fellow compatriots, we celebrate a day that has remained a watershed in our nation’s history, not just today, but for every June 12, for the endless future that our beloved country shall exist and wax stronger and stronger, generations of Nigerians will always remind themselves that the democracy that is steadily growing to become the defining essence of our polity was not gifted to us on a silver platter.
7. We can easily recall the sacrifice and martyrdom of Chief MKO Abiola, the custodian of the sacred mandate that was so cruelly annulled. He sacrificed his life in unyielding, patriotic defense of the ideals of democracy as symbolized in his choice, by his fellow countrymen and women, as their duly-elected President. There was an easier choice for him. It was to forgo the justice of his cause and opt for the path of ease and capitulation in the face of the tyranny of power. To his eternal credit and immortal glory, Abiola said no. He demonstrated the time-tested eternal truth that there are certain ideals and principles that are far more valuable than life itself.
8. Everyday, on this day, down the ages we will recall the several other heroes of democracy such as Kudirat Abiola, wife of Chief Abiola, who was brutally murdered while in the trenches fighting on the side of the people. We remember Pa Alfred Rewane, one of the heroes of our independence struggle and Major General Shehu Musa Yar’Adua (rtd) who were silenced by the military junta while in pursuit of democracy. They gave their yesterday for the liberty that is ours today.
9. The point is that we must never take this democracy for granted. We must forever jealously guard and protect it like a precious jewel. For, a people can never truly appreciate the freedoms and rights democracy guarantees them until they lose it.
10. We have traversed the dark, thorny path of dictatorship before and those who experienced it can readily testify to the unbridgeable gap between the dignity of freedom and the humiliation and degradation of tyranny. True, rancorous debates, interminable wrangling, ceaseless quarrels, bitter electoral contestations may be perceived by some as unattractive features of democracy. But they also testify to its merit and value.
11. This year, we held the seventh in the cycle of elections that have become sacred rituals of our democratic practice in this dispensation since 1999.
12. That the polls were intensely contested is in itself positive evidence that democracy is well and alive in our land. It is only natural that even as those who won and experienced victory in the various elections are elated and fulfilled, those who lost are disenchanted and disappointed. But the beauty of democracy is that those who win today can lose tomorrow and those who lose today will have an opportunity to compete and win in the next round of elections.
13. Those who cannot endure and accept the pain of defeat in elections do not deserve the joy of victory when it is their turn to triumph. Above all, those who disagree with the outcome of the elections are taking full advantage of the constitutional provisions to seek redress in court and that is one of the reasons why democracy is still the best form of government invented by man.
14. For Chief MKO Abiola, the symbol of this day, in whose memory June 12 became a national holiday, democracy is eternal.
15. It is about rule of law and vibrant judiciary that can be trusted to deliver justice and strengthen institutions. It has become imperative to state here that the unnecessary illegal orders used to truncate or abridge democracy will no longer be tolerated.
16. The recent harmonization of the retirement age for judicial officers is meant to strengthen the rule of law, which is a critical pillar of democracy. The reform has just started.
17. The democracy that will yield right dividends to the people who are the shareholders means more than just freedom of choice and right to get people into elective offices. It means social and economic justice for our people. To the winner of June 12, democracy offers the best chance to fight and eliminate poverty. Thirty years ago, he christened his campaign manifesto, ‘Farewell to Poverty’ because he was convinced that there is nothing divine about poverty. It is a man-made problem that can be eliminated with clearly thought out social and economic policies.
18. It is for this reason that, in my inauguration address on May 29, I gave effect to the decision taken by my predecessor-in-office to remove the fuel subsidy albatross and free up for collective use the much-needed resources, which had hitherto been pocketed by a few rich. I admit that the decision will impose extra burden on the masses of our people. I feel your pain. This is one decision we must bear to save our country from going under and take our resources away from the stranglehold of a few unpatriotic elements.
19. Painfully, I have asked you, my compatriots, to sacrifice a little more for the survival of our country. For your trust and belief in us, I assure you that your sacrifice shall not be in vain. The government I lead will repay you through massive investment in transportation infrastructure, education, regular power supply, healthcare and other public utilities that will improve the quality of lives.
20. The democracy MKO Abiola died for is one that promotes the welfare of the people over personal interests of the ruling class and one where the governed can find personal fulfillment and happiness. That is the hope MKO Abiola ignited throughout our country in 1993.
21. On this year’s Democracy Day, I enjoin us all to rededicate ourselves to strengthening this form of government of free peoples that has been our guiding light these past 24 years. In particular, those of us who have been privileged to be elected into public offices at various levels in both the executive and legislative arms of government must recommit ourselves to offering selfless service to the people, and delivering concrete democracy dividends in accordance with our electoral promises.
22. On my part and that of my administration, I pledge anew our commitment to diligently fulfilling every component of our electoral pact with the people – the ‘Renewed Hope’ agenda.
23. We shall be faithful to truth. Faithful to equity. And faithful to justice. We shall exercise our authority and mandate to govern with fairness, respect for the rule of law, and commitment to always uphold the dignity of all our people.
24. On this note, I wish us all a happy Democracy Day celebration and pray that the light of liberty shall never be extinguished in our land.
25. Thank you all and may God continue to bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Acceptance Speech For Distinguished Lifetime Achievement Award By Canadian Association Of African Studies
By Toyin Falola
I am grateful to Mr. President, the Vice-President, the Past President, the Director, the Board Members, and all the members of the Canadian Association of African Studies (CAAS). Having been conferred with the Distinguished Africanist Award by the African Studies Association in 2011, I never expected that another one would follow by yet another global preeminent academic association.
I stand before you at this honorable time, emotionally touched by your generosity towards me and greatly inspired by your rare gesture of recognizing the little I have contributed to knowledge production and the rejuvenation of African epistemic traditions. The decision to acknowledge me, perhaps unknown to you, rekindles in me the spirit of continued dedication, for it reveals that the ability to make changes is unrestricted by age or location, especially when the soul is involved. Meanwhile, change is necessary for sustainable and transcendental transformation; without change, ideas would die of exhaustion, creativity would cease to be itself, and productivity would be sabotaged in the process.
Mr. President, it was within the foundational philosophy of this noble Association to promote the study of Africa in Canada and the world. Over the years, CAAS has done so as a moral and ideological responsibility, thereby contributing to African-Canada relations. That philosophy has yielded substantial results and that we are here today to produce rounds of knowledge affirms the sanctity of this togetherness. When I contributed my tiny quota to your goals by way of once organizing a conference for you, giving two Keynote Addresses, serving on the Joel Gregory Book Prize, and evaluating manuscripts for your preeminent journal, I never knew that a day like this would come. I feel most humbled and grateful, and with limitless appreciation for the confidence you have reposed in me and an unalloyed dedication to honor your belief in me, I accept the Distinguished Lifetime Achievement Award from CAAS.
Distinguished scholars and members of the audience, I am now in the circle of remarkable intellectuals whom you have acknowledged for similar outstanding contributions and performances in their various fields, and I feel the burden of greater responsibility on me. Of a truth, I am an individual culturally reified in a philosophical paradigm of the Yorùbá whose axiomatic saying “Yin’ni, yin’ni, kẹ́ni ó ṣe òmíràn,” which loosely translates as a repeated shower of gratitude is a clarion call to do more, or to whom much is given, much is expected. This has often placed on me the moral burden to expand whatever it is I am recognized for doing. I am aware that it is not within the moral circumference of any culture in the world to publicly award evil, and that presupposes that my contributions to knowledge, which have been recognized, are expected to be multiplied. By virtue of my age, such consistency may be conflicted by nature, but that does undermine the reality that the manifestation of knowledge contribution is fluid and flexible. This means that even if creating a network of knowledge transmission through my books, lectures, listservs, and workshops experiences would decline, age cannot take away from me mentorship to our coming generations of Africans, assisting the academic fledglings to grow, and providing a friendly atmosphere to intending academics.
Mr. President, if we have collectively learned anything from the beautiful development experienced recently as a human family, it would be that the place of knowledge cannot be overemphasized in transforming and sustaining human society. Although this understanding should not elude anyone, we should not be ignorant that knowledge production, distribution, use, and reformation can never be as innocent as we have been made to understand it. This deduction finds its strength in the fact that if it is true that knowledge production is devoid of strange politics, this distinguished body, the Canadian Association of African Studies, would not have been birthed in the first place. However, the awareness that knowledge engagements available in the diasporic environment, especially in Canada, are potentially hostile and hegemonic necessitated an association such as this. CAAS is irrevocably committed to the advancement and upsurge of knowledge so that the epistemic traditions and foundations of Africans here would escape the compromise that the environment proposes. We have both a moral and ideological responsibility to rescue African Studies epistemically because this place has a glistering history that must never be undermined―glistering because the strength and struggles of the displaced Indigenous people have produced stellar results that today’s reality of Africans here has drawn from. Essentially, you and I owe ourselves the right to develop and build a civilization that reflects our thinking.
Ladies and gentlemen, have you not established methodologies in developing and nurturing this Association with which information is sourced and education transferred? Have you failed to raise intellectually vibrant Africans leading in several areas of their careers with excellent and exceptional impact? Have you not created a healthy academic atmosphere where knowledge about critical issues related to Africa has been consistently shared? Mr. President, within the time of establishment, you have, as a collective, harmonized the ideas of outstanding contributors to this project to drive policies and services of immense significance to the various areas of existence. Through the persistent insistence of CAAS, the Canadian Journal of African Studies (CJAS) was created. Who among us here would deny the overwhelming contributions of the journal to African academics? Is it not a journal that provides the platform and motivation for academia who have showcased brilliance and excellence in their research engagements? Have you not also created an opportunity for government representatives, leaders, non-governmental organizations, activists, and non-state actors, among others, to draw on knowledge for policies that drive critical development?
Distinguished scholars, colleagues, and friends, you have, in good dispositions, facilitated the meteoric growth of intellectualism from the beginning of our engagement, and that tradition has continued regardless of different challenges, which your dedication has helped you to overcome. How else can we reiterate the importance of CAAS to the survival of the African identity in the diaspora environment if not through the enumeration of the great things you have done as a people and as an Association? CAAS has stood up for numerous Africans who have witnessed various forms of dreadful challenges because of the color of their skin. The Association has committed itself to issues of development within the Federation to emphasize how its members are concerned about rapid progress for the generality of Canadians. The number of conferences organized by CAAS continues to grow admirably, through which they offer fresh opportunities for scholars across the globe who have brilliant ideas to share with the world, especially by looking at issues from the lens of Africa and Africans. CAAS has always taken on fundamental matters that require urgent attention, and in the spirit of humanitarian compassion, you have executed projects that bring invaluable additions to the human world. That underscores your values as a people and your commitment to making meaningful changes in the global environment. You have enlarged our desire to promote ideas that would bring rapid changes to the human world through the programs, events, and platforms you have created within the time of your existence as an association for scholarship and human flourishing.
Mr. President, your decision to honor me with the Distinguished Lifetime Achievement Award is a form of affirmation by you and the members of the Association to ensure that individuals like me have a continued focus on enhancing a brighter future for the African diaspora. Although I am the recipient of that award, the inspiration it would encourage will not fall on my shoulders alone, for I am confident that those who are available here today will feel that sense of commitment and seriousness, as I do, to issues that would benefit Africa and the world generally. Therefore, this honor is for us all! I am inclined to think this way because I know that the human spirit wants to be triggered by the external motivation to perform the magic already wired in them or that they are naturally capable of.
The continually evolving world, ladies and gentlemen, demands that we also reposition ourselves and understand more deeply the sense of responsibility we owe the generations of Africans to come. We must not forget that it is important that we continue to interrogate ideas produced by our forebears, for they can be more relevant in the modern world than we imagine. Ideas are the result of human mental energy put to use in the course of refining the thoughts in the mind. All we need is to intensify our research trade and ensure that we introduce ideas for the benefit of humankind.
I am most grateful to you all for the well-intentioned recognition accorded to me, leading to this exemplary award. It is mind-blowing and, at the same time, humbling, to say the least. Africa will continue to find its footing, and we will never cease to take the world by surprise.
May 31, 2023.
NEW TIMES CULTURE
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