Inspiring women to promote national values and development
The HID Awolowo Foundation was inaugurated on September 19, 2016, with an Advisory Council that boasts of a stellar cast of women and men. As has been widely advertised, this is our first outing and, judging from the impressive line-up of key participants, as well as the quality audience in attendance today, I believe we can safely assume that we are well on our way to becoming a respected voice in the area of advocacy on women’s issues and, indeed, wider social issues.
I especially welcome our Keynote Speaker, Dr Oby Ezekwesili. I would be stating the obvious if I described her as a highly accomplished woman, scholar, fearless activist and a leader in her own right. We wanted to set a standard of excellence, ab initio, for this lecture series and we are very glad that she accepted to blaze the trail.
Like our keynote speaker, all the discussants, Lady Maiden Ibru, Hajiya Naja’atu Muhammad, Yẹmi Adamọlẹkun and Bọlanle Olukanni are also internationally renowned and highly accomplished individuals. They are a pride to womanhood and they are poised to add significant value to today’s proceedings.
I also welcome all our special guests, delegations and all the women and very brave and self-assured men who have made time to join us in honouring Mama today. Your presence here encourages us tremendously.
Mama was an exemplary wife, mother and entrepreneur. But she was also a consummate political leader, not only by virtue of her being the spouse of the sage, Papa Ọbafẹmi Awolọwọ, but also in her own right. The HID Awolọwọ Foundation fully intends to reflect her multidimensional life as we continue to honour her in the years to come.
Today, in response to the prevailing circumstances in Nigeria, we have opted to focus on issues that can also be described as the hallmarks of the legacy jointly left behind by Mama Awolọwọ and, of course her husband, Chief Ọbafẹmi Awolọwọ who gave her every room to shine ‘in (his own) radiance’.
I refer to the theme of this event, ‘Ethical Politics, Peace, Development and Security in Nigeria: The Critical Importance of Women’s Leadership’.
It is a well-known fact, common sense even, that the politics of a country is fundamental to its peace, development and security. After all, politics is the breeding ground from which the managers of a country and its economy are recruited.
According to Benjamin Disraeli’s rather cynical view, ‘In politics, nothing is contemptible’. Margaret Thatcher, on the other hand, expressed a more idealistic view when she said, ‘I am in politics because of the conflict between good and evil, and I believe that in the end good will triumph’.
Given the pivotal role of politicians in fostering the well-being of any country and, particularly the well-being of her citizens, therefore, the ethics of such politicians (or lack thereof) assume immense importance when it comes to securing the country’s future.
Factors such as good governance, corruption, political stability and crucially, for the purpose of the theme of this event, discrimination against women, among others, will certainly determine the trajectory of a country and its people.
The truth is that any country that undermines the contribution of half of its population to its overall development has effectively halved its own potential.
Before I end these remarks, permit me to pay a special tribute to Mama:
Exactly one week ago, the Tribune Plaza was commissioned in Abuja. The edifice was constructed without borrowing a kobo. I salute the Board and management of African Newspapers of Nigeria for keeping the faith in order to record this rare achievement.
However, we all know and agree that the real heroine of this feat is Yeye Oodua HID Awolọwọ. It was her doggedness, unstinting support (financially and in every other possible way) and her unique brand of leadership right to the end of her life that guaranteed this outstanding accomplishment just two short years after her departure.
We remain eternally grateful to her, and to Papa and, beyond our feelings of gratitude, we must consider it our duty, in word, and especially in deed, to continue to keep the faith and continue to add as much value as we can, within the limits of the ethos of our progenitors, to those enduring legacies.
In conclusion, let me paraphrase an anecdote that has been trending recently on social media, because it is of absolute relevance, in my humble opinion, to today’s discussion. It goes thus:
When the ancient Chinese decided to live in peace, they built the Great Wall of China. They thought that no one could climb it due to its height. However, during the first 100 years of its existence, the Chinese were invaded thrice. And, remarkably, at every invasion the hordes of enemy infantry had no need of breaking or climbing over the wall because each time, they bribed the guards and entered through the gates.
So, the Chinese built the wall but forgot to build the character of the guards. Therefore, it stands to reason that the building of human character must come before the building of anything else.
This is a powerful metaphor, particularly as it concerns succeeding generations in any nation. They are the ones who, even if they read the history, may be unprepared, or unable to evoke the passion or, indeed, the values that informed the building of a ‘wall’ in the first place, simply because they believe, often erroneously, that their ‘reality’ is different from that of their forebears.
The story goes on to state that an orientalist identified three ways to destroy the civilisation of any nation: destroy the family structure, destroy education, and lower their role models and references.
The major consequences of these courses of action are that there will be no-one to teach the youngsters values, they will lack the ability to make informed choices and they will lose the correct perception of right and wrong or, even, what their best interests are.
The HID Awolọwọ Foundation hopes to continue to contribute to national discussions and actions aimed at arresting the current threat of decline into a moral abyss, particularly in our youths. We will continue to honour our veritable role model, Yeye Oodua HID Awolọwọ and, thereby, sustain our mission to ‘inspire women, promote values and build the nation’.
We cannot and must not do less, if we are to continue to accord due honour to the memory of the quintessential ‘jewel of inestimable value’.
Once again, I welcome you all most warmly and I thank you for your attention.
• Dr. Awolowoọ-Dosumu delivered this address at the maiden edition of the annual HID Awolowo Foundation Lecture in Lagos last Tuesday.