Speaking Truth to Power: The Land of My Fathers
-Olu Ojedokun, Ph.D.-
It appears to me that every one of us has a unique brand of narrative that defines our essence, motivates our desires and establishes our value systems. For most I would suggest that there are key moments, there is a point in time that has defined us for the future.
Recently I watched a television series, my favourite, the West Wing as you may now realise. This time it is about a soldier, trapped in the jungle of an enemy nation, who having being rescued by his fellow soldiers, some who died in the attempt, went on to become a corrupt bribe giving and unscrupulous businessman. It was sorrowful, so sad to his living colleagues, they felt a deep sense of betrayal had been committed against those men and women who died and gave their lives for him. They felt this soldier owed the dead soldiers, those who gave their lives for him the singular duty to live uprightly and fight for the enthronement of truth, liberty and justice in the society. This soldier betrayed that duty on account of temporal spoils of corruption and its seducing ÔÇśbenefits'.
This leads into the sacrifice of one man who has inspired me over and over again. My father, who lived a very short 35 years of life, was driven and lived for a brief moment in time, filling his life with sacrifice, sorrow, tears and joy. At 35, whilst most of his colleagues were finding their feet, he had made his own mark, achieved, in 2 years, the 1st Ph.D. in International Relations and for over a year and a half after served as the secretary of the panel (under veteran SO Wey), to reorganise the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs, emerged as its acting Director-General. With great pride I had noticed on my last visit to the institute in 2007 that his remarkable achievement had been honoured with his name, Dr Olasupo Aremu Ojedokun placed along side other substantive Directors-General in the lobby of the august institution.
But this article is not and should not be restricted to my father, but rather to the land of my fathers, the land of potential hope and glory.
I am more interested in illustrations and examples of men and women who through their lives and activities speak truth to power. Many have said talk is cheap and I agree, therefore I believe now is the time to demonstrate through living examples that differences can be made and that they have been made. We can demonstrate that we writers and speakers of truth are not simply theorists but also relevant to the transformation of society.
So let me buck the trend and refer to a remarkable young Nigerian based in Kenya with a story to tell, this man appeared to have been frustrated out of Nigeria after a seemingly curious incident. He was counselled by a man of God that he could make no progress with out indulging with a little bribery of the ÔÇśegunje' varieties. This shocking revelation rather than frustrate him into corrupt complicity and the ÔÇśdeadly sin' of silence drove him towards other countries in Africa to seek to make a transformative difference. Today, Rev Dr. Wale Akinyemi is bestriding Africa not like a colossus but as a true servant of the land, with a catalogue of examples of the possibilities that exist and those he has actualised. I shall today share three of these real live examples I have culled from his website: http://www.powertalks.biz/
"Small Business Grants - First we started by teaching people how to convert their ideas into a livelihood. The more we did this the more we realised that to get maximum returns on our investment of knowledge on our students, we needed to give them the tools to get started. This is what gave birth to our Small Business Grants Program. Take a young man in a remote Kenyan town who gets a business grant of ┬ú250. Now, think of what you can do (or what you have done) with ┬ú250. Think of you and a group of friends going for lunch in your favourite restaurant. Think of the designer bag and shoes that you recently picked up. Think of the things you have done with ┬ú250 that you do not even remember unless you really try to remember. Well, with that same amount, a young man in a remote part of Africa can start a business and grow it into something that will provide for him and his family for a long time to come. That is what we are doing today. Changing lives one at a time through the small business grant program. We are building a formidable force of small and medium sized businesses. We are giving hope to the hopeless. We are giving people the opportunity to live a quality of life that is only fair to the human being - a quality of life where they have more than enough to eat and to give. We are giving people a quality of life where they are confident to go on into other things - confident to take the next big step. yes! With our little steps of help we empower others to take big steps of achievement."
Another example- "3 more Kenyan towns to benefit from Afrociti Project: Thika, Nyeri and Malindi will soon have full Afrociti presence which will include Entrepreneurship training program, Small business grants program as well as Afrociti websites. This will bring to seven the number of Kenyan towns with Afrociti websites. CEO Wale Akinyemi has said that by the end of 2009 every Kenyan town would have been covered."
And another one ÔÇô "On Tour with Mayor: PowerTalks CEO Wale Akinyemi recently went on tour of educational institutions with the mayor of Kilifi. This highly revealing trip was an opportunity to see first hand the total breakdown of infrastructure. This has led to PowerTalks pledging a computer centre for Kilifi as well as mobilizing people around the world to help restore the infrastructure by donating classrooms, toilets, books, computers etc."
I end the examples in this article with this ÔÇô "Kenyan MP Praises PowerTalks: Voi Member of Parliament The Hoonourable Dan Mwazo in a speech delivered at the official launch of the Afrociti website for Voi and grant giving ceremony for the PowerTalks Entrepreneurship Program lauded the program and reiterated that his vision was to empower people economically and that PowerTalks through the Afrociti program was working in line with the government desire to eradicate poverty." More on Voi can be found at www.voi.afrociti.com
This remarkable individual has not allowed his earlier setbacks in Nigeria to reduce his appetite for transforming lives, in a nutshell he seeks through The PowerTalks, a 3 point agenda he seeks to achieve a greater plan that is guaranteed to bring rapid development to the underdeveloped Nations of Africa. "This plan is based on the understanding that great nations are not built on aid, great nations are built on the foundations of nationalism. A sense of pride in who they are and not a sense of loss in what they are not. The plan is simple, easy to execute and the results measurable as we have seen. Lives are being turned around. Despair is being turned into hope and giving up gives way to getting up and taking charge."
As Nigeria limps towards its 48th year as an ÔÇśindependent nation', I hope in this small space I can inspire many patriots, many talkers, many writers and most constructive thinkers that they too can find a way to flourish with their ideas or better still join successful initiatives such as Powertalks that they might make a difference in the land of our fathers.
The writer is a Barrister and Solicitor of the Supreme Court of Nigeria.