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When their royal highnesses identify with children on their day

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Three First Class traditional rulers decided to mark this year’s Children’s Day with pomp and pageantry to uplift the spirit of teachers, parents and their children.

Three First Class traditional rulers decided to mark this year’s Children’s Day with pomp and pageantry to uplift the spirit of teachers, parents and their children. From Ile-Ife to Iwo town and to Oke-Ila, all in Osun State, the story was almost the same.

While the Arole Oodua and Ooni of Ife Adeyeye Ogunwusi, Ojaja II, played host to about 5,000 students, parents and teachers drawn from 80 public and private schools, Oba Adedokun Omoniyi Abolarin, the Orangun of Oke-Ila hosted a large number of financially disadvantaged students, together with parents and teachers in Abolarin College premises in Oke-Ila. And in Iwo town, the Oluwo of Iwo, Abdulrasheed Akanbi, hosted students, teachers and their parents who were transported from various locations to the premises of Bowen University, Iwo.

The Ooni, who was surrounded by some Obas at the Children’s Day event expressed emotions and concern for the Nigerian child, as he quoted former U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s famous lines: “The true test of our progress is not how much we add to the abundance of those who already have too much, but how much succour we give to those who have too little in our society.”

He appealed to government to create without delay a ministry to be called “Ministry of Children Affairs,” which will cater for the welfare and well-being of Nigerian child.

He said: “Children are the future of any nation. And if we don’t want to put ourselves and the nation in a precarious situation, this is the time to start inculcating what Nigeria is all about into these children and dedicate a special space for them in the country’s budgetary allocation.

“Indeed, we should be mindful of this country’s future by hugely investing in these children because today’s youths are the country’s future. We should learn how to celebrate these children every day, and not just on May 27, which is Children’s Day.

“If you look at the country’s demography today, you will see that 60 per cent of the population is below 30 years. This group of Nigerians is growing very fast and as we speak, they are not being given any sense of belonging. This is quite dangerous.”

The highlight of the day’s event were colourful displays and March past by pupils, students and teachers.

At the end of the event, the Ooni gave the teachers the sum of N200, 000.

To stimulate interest in mathematics, a quiz competition organised by the Ooni’s Charity Foundation, Hopes Alive Initiatives (HAI), also gave out money to schools that came first, second and third.

The Orangun of Oke-Ila told Palace Watch: “When I ascended the throne, I immediately discovered the need to have a school in my domain, where basic and quality educational foundation would be laid for the children.

Although I had no fiscal cash then, I resolved to establish a school where the school fees will be completely free, including boarding facilities.

So, I decided to establish the Abolarin College with the vision of providing free world-class quality education for children picked from the streets and those from very poor homes around here who are bright, but whose parents cannot afford their education.

“So far so good. We have been able to provide all the students require to make their stay in this college not only memorable, but also meaningful.

We now have conducive learning environment and all the students have access to all necessary modern learning gargets, such as free uniforms, personal laptops, e-library, textbooks, school bags, as well as writing materials.

The quality of education imparted by carefully selected teachers distinguishes our students wherever they go, as they speak and write English, French and Yoruba languages fluently. They are groomed to approach the future with confidence.

“As a political scientist and a federalist, I can say nation building is a process. The most important thing we need now is to groom our children in the area of education and for us to continue to survive as a nation.

We all must learn to give and take, as there are too many nationalities within the Nigerian State.

This is a fact we must never ignore; we must all learn to promote diversity. Nigeria can never remain the way it was before and during independence.

“Nation building is not a tea party. Except and unless we are no longer interested in Nigeria, we have to do something that will not rock the boat along the way. It is, therefore, in our collective interest to care about Nigeria.

Traditional rulers and institutions must lead in these areas. If there are differences, that is why we have federalism.

We should sit down to talk, attempt to promote diversity and tolerate ourselves. I am already inculcating these ideas in students of Abolarin College.

“The school’s Head Boy is not Yoruba; he is from Abraka in Niger Delta. He got the post purely on merit. Not only is he brilliant, but we have also seen in him many leadership qualities.

“From our current experience in Nigeria, nobody can afford to be nepotic. Nigeria is ours, and though it is a complex place to be; that is the beauty of a federation.

All required now to move the country forward is to have in place brilliant people that can weld together our complex people and cultures. This is the process we are in now.

“As traditional rulers, we must continue to show good examples. We exist because of the love our people have for culture and tradition. That is why I always say our right is nothing but cultural legitimacy.

Although this is not within the ambit of today’s Nigeria constitution, Nigerians, no matter their level of education, will not take it kindly, if any government wakes up one day to say there would no longer be an Oba, Obi or Emir. In my domain, I have many Professors and educated people.

Once any government makes such a pronouncement, they will rise up and say: we will not take any of this, because this is what our forefathers bequeathed to us as a people. And this is one of the reasons traditional rulers must learn to provide good leadership at all times.

“Presently and in the future, I am in charge of what happens in Oke-Ila. Whatever I decide to do will have ripple effects on the people and community.

This is another reason traditional rulers must learn to provide good leadership at all times.

It wasn’t government that told me to establish Abolarin College, but through the school, I try to promote hard work and discipline.

Whenever people come here, they ask: ‘Are you trying to build another Mayflower?’ I tell them yes, why not if it is possible.

In our own little way, let us be nationalistic and patriotic. Let us conscientiously think of this country’s future.

Part of the problems we are having is that there are too many poor cooks in the kitchen. People who are not cut out for leadership go into politics thinking through it they can make huge money.

This category of people is presently in leadership positions. With this attitude, nobody should be surprised at what we are experiencing as a nation. All we need do is to collectively put a process in place to remedy this ugly situation. Once this is done, we will be free again.”

The Oluwo said he is compelled to encourage the pupils, students and teachers in Iwo because he believes absolutely that education is the only way to guarantee the country’s future and security.

He said: “When I started the yearly Children’s Day celebration three years ago, students enrolment in Iwo schools were abysmally low, but since then the enrolment has gone up considerably.

This year’s Children’s Day celebration is an opportunity to bring all the pupils, students, teachers and some of their parents together to celebrate not only the students but the teachers, who are working very hard to help the children carve a niche for themselves.”

After the march past, there was festivity for the students, teachers and their parents. The schools that emerged first, second and third in the march past and other events, such as cultural display, went home with prices ranging from N20, 000 to N50, 000.

The Oluwo said he is doing this because he believes very strongly that the country’s future lies in quality education, as the easiest way to build a viable and productive nation is through education.


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