“Ìbà àwon àgbàgbà tó di òpó aiye mú
“Ìbà Olójó òní
“Òní á sàn wá O!
Good morning, Our Special and Invited Guests, Panellists, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, it is an honour and privilege to welcome you, on behalf of the entire membership of Voice of Reason, ÒHÙN Àgbà , to this 2nd Goke Omisore Annual Lecture with the fortuitous and apt acronym GOAL.
Today is the 19th of February, it is a day specially reserved in the VOR calendar. Our late Convener, Prince Goke Omisore would have been 72 years old today. Unfortunately he left us in October 2018, a few months short of his 70th birthday. We prefer to remember and celebrate him on his birthday, rather than the sad day he left us.
In his lifetime, Arole, as he was fondly called, enjoyed gathering his friends together to celebrate his birthday. In his honour, we schedule one major event for this day when we invite members of the public to exchange ideas. God sparing our lives and hoping Nigeria is still in one piece, please note it in your diary to expect our invitation next year.
Arole was a patriot and a nationalist. He was disturbed by the palpable decline in all indices of human and societal development in the present day Nigeria, more so when juxtaposed with the trajectory of our early post-independence years. Although a successful entrepreneur and business man, he loved writing. He shared his thoughts on a blog he created called Whispering Cannon. This circulated among his friends and associates who similarly shared his concerns. That was what evolved to become the Voice of Reason, VOR which we translated to Ohùn Àgbà.
As we remember our Convener today, we also remember some of our members who have departed this physical world, the most recent being Prof. Oyewusi Ibidapo-Obe, a former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Lagos. Oye was an active and valuable member of VOR.
We shall continue to keep their dreams of the attainment of good governance in our society alive by working assiduously with others. May their memories be a blessing to us all.
Very early in our deliberations, we concluded that with the 1999 constitution, development would be stunted, corruption would fester as we continue to suffer and retrogress as a people. Hence, we made RESTRUCTURING the focus of our activities. In the spirit of charity beginning from home, we decided to pay particular attention to the states carved out of the old Western Region where Chief Obafemi Awolowo and his team laid a trailblazing example of good governance by a government truly committed to the service of its people. We experienced it,
Although the title of our annual event is VOR’s Goke Omisore Annual Lecture Series (GOALS) This year’s event is not a lecture per se, as can be gleaned from our posters. It is a conversation, an intergenerational exchage, so to speak. The theme is “CREATING AN INTERGENERATIONAL DIALOGUE on the Nigeria we want”. Because of the Covid-19 Pandemic, instead of our usual physical event, we have opted for a 3-hour Webinar with speakers drawn from a wide age spectrum spanning the 20-60 year bracket
There is a universal agreement that Nigeria is not working. Nigeria is “working” for only a few among us who have turned politics into a lucrative profession rather than a call to public service. Our politicians have captured the state for themselves and their cronies in perpetuity. Once elected, they move from one position to the other even when they haven’t performed to justify holding such positions. Public servants are not better, they cling to office even after they are due for retirement. Our retired Service Chiefs who couldn’t defeat Boko Haram for several years and under whose tenure insecurity has festered like wild fire across the country have been moved to our diplomatic service, after being reluctantly retired from the armed forces. Meanwhile The Inspector General of Police is still staying put well past his due date to retire. Their perception that the country is “working” is a stupid and myopic delusion. People amass wealth in a non productive way that does not benefit the society at large. They buy houses abroad which are hardly utilised productively but for hubris and vanity. Instead of building good roads, they equip themselves with expensive and extravagant four-wheel drive utility vehicles. Rather than ensure adequate policing for the whole society they prefer police escorts and armed guards for themselves. Instead of improving our education and health infrastructure fit for everybody from the president to the lowest in society, they prefer sourcing all these outside our shores for themselves and their families. One doesn’t need to claim any direct message or a vision from God before one can assert that this type of iniquitous arrangement is not sustainable but will lead to a disaster ultimately.
The complete breakdown of security and looming economic catastrophe were completely predictable as a consequence of poor governance enhanced by the flawed and controversial 1999 Constitution. It is politicking all year round with no time to govern. Everything revolves around the next election, the next position or the next appointment, it is all about personal ambition. It is Power for power’s sake without knowing how to use it, hence power is misused at all levels.
While many seem unconcerned or complain endlessly, we in VOR are not sparing In our effort to find lasting solutions by creating awareness through regular public statements and dissemination of information on our website, www.vor.org.ng.
We produced a draft constitution which is suitable for a multi-ethnic, and multicultural society like ours. This has been translated to Yoruba and both are available for downloading on our website. We have tried to engage with our political class by writing to our representatives at different levels, regrettably such outreach have been largely ignored. Our representatives wait until there is a crisis, that is when they would be seeking for dialogues. Once the threat recedes, rather than find lasting solutions through genuine engagements, their playbook is to induce, co-opt or settle individuals they deem to be making inconvenient noises. Examples are the #EndSARS imbroglio and meeting of the governors in the Southwest with Myetti Allah recently.
It took a Sunday Igboho to wake our governors up to take the menace of wanton killings, maiming and mayhem on our highways and villages seriously. Amotekun was neglected or politicised soon after it was recently launched with fanfare. VOR, along with many other Yoruba organisations have been warning about the danger of massive influx of able bodied men from the north to the south, proper attention wasn’t paid. Our Senators and Members of The House created the impression that the southwest had no representation in Abuja. Speaking out about the welfare and the anxieties of their constituents would be deemed offensive by the powers that facilitated their current positions. Fealty to the presidential ambitions of individuals thumbs the welfare of their people. It is now All eyes are on 2023! One hopes that an unmitigated disaster can still be avoided by the governors and legislators coming together while leaving politics and personal ambitions aside.
In VOR we have identified a wide gap which has to be bridged for us to successfully chart a course for the future. Those born after the 1966 coup, the Nigeria they know is vastly different from the Nigeria of the dreams of those who experienced Nigeria pre-independence. The former group is a large segment that should be the backbone of production and development in the country. Unfortunately, majority of them have borne the brunt of the misgovernance which we have been complaining about. These “left-behind” are the ones used to frustrate any attempt at change. Their poverty has been weaponised against the society either through rigging of elections or through frustrating legitimate agitation for improved governance. Again #EndSARS is a vivid example. They have constituted themselves as Muscles and Guns for hire instead of contributing to society in a productive way.
It is in this regard that we have chosen today’s theme and our brilliant panellists who will be speaking shortly. At the end of today, we hope that our network would be widened to be all inclusive in terms of generational representation as we together explore the solutions available to solve our problems.
At this point, a word about VOR. VOR is a group of accomplished professionals, successful entrepreneurs and businessmen and women of Yoruba origin. VOR is not affiliated with any political party as a group. The average age of the group is about 65 years. We are self-funded through annual subscriptions and donations by our members. We have members in Nigeria and the diaspora. It is our aim to bring the average age closer to 50 as time goes on.
Finally, I would like to thank members of our Organising Committee for their efforts at putting this event together. At the end of the event we shall be happy to hear your feedbacks through the email we shall be sending out. Enquiries about our membership are also welcome.
I hope we shall all have a most rewarding experience here today.
You are welcome to 2nd VOR GOAL 2021.
By Dr. Olufemi Adegoke