Speech By Chief Ralphs Okey Nwosu, Guest Speaker on the Induction Ceremony of Rotarian Lawrence Chimezie Chukwuka as President of Rotary Club of Lagos West on Saturday September 17, 2011.
First let me congratulate Rotarian Lawrence Chimezie Chukwuka, who will be invested this day as the president of Rotary Club of Lagos West, District 9110, Nigeria. I have known Rotarian Chukwuka for some time now; He is a focused, committed, hardworking young man. Since I knew him, he has displayed good habits of the mind, character and integrity which I consider most essential elements for a leader in the modern time to be successful. I therefore believe that the Rotary and especially his colleagues at this district were insightful in electing him to lead. I hope that he will render good stewardship. However, leading at this modern time does not require one all knowing superstar or heroic figure; to accomplish any meaningful result requires effective teamwork. I therefore would like to call on all those elected to pilot the affairs of Rotary in this district with Chukwuka and in fact the entire membership of this great humanitarian club to note that the only way the Lagos West Rotary could become a leading light is if all hands and all heads pull together as one of my mentors The Rt. Hon Dr Chuba Okadigbo of blessed memory says, it is “all hands on deck” for a winning result.
Rotary in Nigeria turned fifty years only a few months after we celebrated Nigeria at 50; however, the successes achieved by the two are divergent. For while Rotary has recorded outstanding results, our nation’s fortunes took a downwards dive. I commend the men and women who have shepherd the activities of this great humanitarian society. To have transformed Nigeria to one of the most active Rotary nations in the world; and to have grown Rotary to almost 250 clubs from one Rotary Club of Kano which got its charter in April 28th, 1961, I salute you. It takes a lot of sacrifice to do this in Nigeria; in a system where clubs are created as a result of sound leadership vision, and voluntary, active, participatory and disciplined membership with a cake-baking, caring and philanthropic philosophy rather than dictatorial “come and chop” ‘singsong’ speaks volume. Everyone will agree that the leaders of Rotary Nigeria need our commendation. It is on record that your Rotary history which is merely 50years has produced the first African and black president of Rotary International. More Kudos to the leadership of Rotary Nigeria, especially Rotarian Jonathan Majiyagbe; he has been an active Rotarian since 1967, he became Rotary President of Kano 1973, and International President of Rotary worldwide 2003 to 2004. With men like him, and all you great Rotarians seated here today, Nigeria has made a giant stride in Rotary; our fatherland could reenact a new and redefining chapter and glow for the world with exquisite and economically-alluring radiance.
National transformation may have many colorations; leaders may take it from different angles. One thing I know is that Nigeria is well endowed to pursue a vision it focuses well on; and we are overdue and truly over age and should be able to stamp renaissance authority on the global space. Time may be running out on us. Transparency International, Berlin based anti-corruption watchdog, in their most current Corruption Perception Index (CPI) showed that Nigeria still remains one of the most corrupt countries in the world ranking 134 out of 178 countries including war torn and disease ravaged countries like Afghanistan, Somalia and Chad. Transparency International claims that corruption remains an obstacle to achieving much needed progress; as money meant for development get frittered into private pockets. In its 2011 Failed States Index, the United States-based Fund for Peace said Nigeria retained the 14th position out of 177 countries analyzed, the country was only ahead of the world’s 13 most miserable places namely: Somalia, Sudan, Chad, Congo(DR), Haiti, Zimbabwe, Afghanistan, Central African Republic, Iraq, Cote d’ Ivoire, Guinea, Pakistan and Yemen. Indicators used include security, state legitimacy, factionalism and group grievances. Nigeria appeared to the Fund for Peace researchers to be close to the 2005 prediction by acclaimed security/intelligent experts that the country could break up by 2015. The recent ranking of the country as the 14th “most failed” state in the world therefore underscores the precarious national condition as well as the imperative of taking immediate measures to arrest the downward slide. Weak state institutions, corruption, sectarianism, economic adversity and contest for political power were factors cited capable of breaking up Nigeria by 2015. The World Bank similarly published reports in 2006 and 2007 ranking Nigeria among 15 “fragile states” in the world. The American Bipartisan Centre on May 12, 2011, also listed Nigeria among the world’s fragile states. Concerned fellow country men and women, I guess we should be horrified at our regular rating as a failed state.
However, if we start now we can still lead the world because our people have the energy, verves, tenacity and resilience. President Goodluck Jonathan got me on his side when he espoused his readiness to pursue a transformation agenda. He must have felt the way many well meaning Nigerians feel; Nigeria is good for a major overhaul, and if he is willing we shall work with him.
Nigeria has for long been described as a corrupt, backward nation with weak infra structures, epileptic power supply, and decaying educational systems. Across the globe we are cited as a country whose leaders lack the character and are least prepared to transition into a forward looking global market or the black/African epicenter for a new world. To transform means to change and pull ourselves out of these negatives. Defrost our present stupor and make the bold moves towards making Nigeria the epicenter of Africa reemergence; like the roaring Asian Tigers, Nigeria must kick start the flight-engine to power the soaring ‘Eagle-craft’.
As it goes, to begin this process the chief executive must encapsulate the vision, define the course, and ask me and you to come along; even though the road may be turbulent and at times tragically-challenging I believe Nigerians are too tired and ashamed of their past and present state of being that they are willing to work with any leader who comes across as authentic. Are Nigerians willing to follow and work with Jonathan? They answered that question with their votes with great equanimity.
CREATIVE Leadership is described by thought leaders and scholars as the ability to shed long-held beliefs and come up with original and at times radical concepts and execution; and it requires bold, breakthrough thinking. However complex the Nigeria situation may appear creativity remains the most important leadership quality required to nip its continued regression and redirect its fortunes. Again, I do not mean having one super creative architect at the top; rather I mean constructing an ecosystem of creative leadership within the entire government architecture to own and drive the vision/agenda. Collectively they will take more calculated risks and invent innovative solutions that could upset the status quo, counteract the forces of complacency and inertia, while conscientiously and deliberately taking steps to boost the confidence of the people in the ability, care and concern of the government. This would unleash a potent force and attract majority of Nigerians to partner with their government. Once this cord is established, I say that with masterful handling the transformation takes root and the African Eagle will soar.
There are practical and creative solutions which I have encapsulated; if any one of them is well applied changes Nigeria. And if we are able to psyche ourselves up enough to work on all of them simultaneously, Nigeria will emerge among the most progressive, prosperous and respected nations in the world by 2020/2025.
If the federal government commits itself to fight corruption genuinely, Nigeria will experience unprecedented development in that the available money for investment will be adequately utilized and this will show in the level of developments. This will equally boost investors’ confidence in Nigeria and more meaningful investors will flood the country because of the opportunities that do exist here.
If the federal government adequately restructures our educational structures and systems, make the needed investments and restore the quality and standard of our universities, the over 100,000 Nigerian students who seek admission overseas yearly, will plough the foreign exchange into the Nigerian system. Secondly, citizens of West Africa, Africa and other nationals will storm Nigeria in droves; this too has its potency and multiplier effect. In 10 years this country will have a wellspring of the most educated, articulate, creative intellectuals in almost all spheres. When we marry these pools with the Nigeria robust spirit, and the infinite opportunities and untapped possibilities this country cannot but excel.
Non availability of electric power, roads, communal and social infrastructure have dealt a whooping gape in the country’s ability to build a viable manufacturing sector, grow businesses, develop its agro-potentials, and leverage on its native and cultural elements and potentialities of its youths. Lack of sustaining electricity hinders myriads of activities that could engage the youths and give this country the great advantage which its population and special geographical location bestow on it. The federal government is investing heavily in electricity, so too are the states, and the local governments. The parastatals and agencies of these three tiers of government equally plough so much into electric generation. Outside government, the money invested by big corporate organizations; small businesses; international organizations including embassies, NGOs; and private individuals is mind boggling and would astonish any one. Can anyone imagine what it takes each one of the telecommunication companies currently operating in Nigeria to run their offices across the nation, power their masts and substations, accommodate their expatriates and Nigerian experts and executives? They will be importing thousands of special generating sets to do their business. When we run this across the different networks, across our banks with all their branches, hotels, factories, embassies, government agencies, the military, police, other security outfits; state and local government and their paraphernalia, we will not go far to figure out the vampire that is sucking the blood. We produce none; so each generator in this country and its spare parts are denominate in foreign currency.
Ask the bureaucrats and officials in Power Holding Corporation of Nigeria and their Ministry counterparts how much money the country needs to solve their immediate electricity needs; they will say too much. These people may be clueless because of their fixation and limited knowledge of multi-frame solution sources. Governments, public and private sectors and individuals can collaborate to fast track the provision of electric power by consensus and creative partnering for development arrangement. Every year, apart from the official government investments to generate and distribute power for the national grids, the governments and its various arms, agencies, and parastatals, businesses and individuals spend well over one trillion Naira in acquiring alternative power generating sets. We design a creative solution involving all stakeholders Nigeria will solve this problem and witness a catalytic boom in every directions of its live.
Nigerians are deeply religious people; they also appear to cherish their tribes or ethnic heritage. Every Sunday, we have more Christians in our churches than any other place in the world; and every Friday we possibly have more Moslems in the mosques than in any other part of the world. These are fine attributes if we genuinely channel them. If we can count on the ability of our religious clerics; priests, imams, pastors and scholars to mobilize and galvanize their faithful to uphold their piety, this becomes a very credible channel to aid government; collaboration could enrich and stabilize the education, healthcare, and agriculture sectors; promote cooperatives, and make poverty alleviation projects more eventful. Its either the deceit of the elites will be unveiled or partnering with these institutions for nation building will enable the country to gain from the richness inherent in diversity which many organizations and countries are today tapping and benefitting from. The tenets of our different religions are good will, discipline and values; and all ethnic groups pride themselves with richness of conscience and hard work. Therefore government has to creatively find a way to challenge Nigerians of different ethnicity and religion to prove their mettle for the unity and advancement of the country. A country where hatred pervades the air all the time cannot make progress. No matter how hard we try.
The sacrifice required may be a short time of endurance from everyone while government strategically repositions to put things right. Government may opt to supply power 24/7 to all manufacturing concerns; big businesses and could barter electricity to all organizations and persons who could invest about half a million dollars up annually in alternative electric generating sets. While others make the sacrifice for a short time since this process will ensure that businesses and the very productive sectors are up and running and giving collateral benefits of employment, cost reduction and essential social responsibility support, and feeding government with electric and tax money to make our sacrifice bearable and short time.
I am certain that Nigerians are ever willing to make sacrifice for their country when there is trust that their governments are on the right course, and will reciprocate by being more imaginative, transparent, fair and trustworthy. If people with political power could lead with integrity and character, they will be able to engage the energy and untiring spirit of Nigerians.
Standing up for one’s nation; devotion and commitment to our fatherland; and making sacrifice so that the country can move forward and excel is Patriotism. While surfing the net recently, I came across this great but little known lady, Major Heather Penney, as a lieutenant in 2001 she was of Washington DC National Guards and an F-16 pilot who scrambled on 9/11 to prevent another attack on the US capital. Amidst concern than another hijacked airliner was barreling towards Washington, she was prepared to ram her plane into the hijacked aircraft, because there was no time to arm her plane with missiles. Up until September 11, 2001, the threat of an attack on US soil was seen as such a remote possibility that the 121st fighter squadron at Andrews Air Force base outside Washington had no fully-armed fighter jets on standby. While on what would have been her last mission on earth, she was all completely concerned for her country “I knew if I took off the tail of the aircraft, that it would essentially go straight down and so the pattern of debris would be minimized.” She continues “My concern was how do I minimize collateral damage on the ground.” “It wasn’t so much that I kept my emotions in check. It was that they didn’t even exist.” As she took the plane down the runway, she said she believed it would be the last take-off of her life, however, “There was significant adrenaline. It was really just, dear God please don’t let me screw up.” In the end, she did not have to make that ultimate sacrifice; Flight 93 never reached Washington, other ‘patriots-martyrs’ – passengers in the plane had to attack the hijackers in the cockpit, so they volunteered to perish with embers of patriotism (as the plane crashed in a field in Pennsylvania) rather than disgrace America by blowing up the Whitehouse and costing more American lives.
This is a story of unusual courage and patriotism. As I end my speech, I sincerely hope that this act of patriotism and sacrifice would minister and make meaning to us all. I wish all conscientious Nigeria citizens, all of us seated here could emulate, Heather. We could do this in our own little space; little corner seats as policemen, soldiers, custom officers, businessmen, clerks or cleaners. Where ever we work; whatever our professions there are ways we can prevent the further decay or abuse of this great nation. If only our adrenalin can run so high for the good of the nation as to overpower our tribal emotions, urges to conform to the status quo, get rich, or build something for our own personal gains. Wherever you may be, let that adrenalin of love for country flow in you.
God bless you.
Ralphs Okey Nwosu. Ikolo Dike Orabueze Awka. National Chairman, African Democratic Congress ADC.
well researched talk . I defer in your optimism as we have not started to move towards any goal yet . Our president is yet to take control of the state ship . He should stamp his feet and secure Nigeria . Any person who refuses to fall in line should be made to do so.
Shiver me timbers, them’s some great infromiaton.