Building institutions for community service and development


Let me first of all express my sincere appreciation to the executive council of Ikenne Development Association, under the able leadership of Otunba Sola Odumosu, for the singular honour of inviting me to chair this significant landmark – the grand finale of the 40th Ereke Day Celebrations.

On a personal note, it is truly gratifying for me to be part of these celebrations, having participated, as a member of the Ikenne Progressive Ladies’ Club, at the 1st Ereke Day in 1976 and annually thereafter for many years.

I am very happy to note that the spirit of community that informed the inauguration of the Ikenne Development Association (IDA) is still very much in evidence and has survived the vagaries of time and circumstances.

I am particularly delighted that the IDA continues to be a powerful rallying point and unifying force for all Ikenne sons and daughters to this day. It is a fine example of the wisdom inherent in the concept of institution building as a strategy for enduring community service and development.

At their best, such institutions have the potential for being participatory, consensus-oriented, accountable, transparent, responsive, effective and efficient, equitable and inclusive. I wish to urge the executive of IDA to continue to exhibit all these noble characteristics even more than hitherto.

In addition, I urge them, and of course their successors, not only to ensure that the voices of the most vulnerable in society are heard in decision-making at all times, but also to be always responsive to the present and future needs of the Ikenne community.

In this regard, as development inevitably inches closer towards Ikenne, by virtue of her proximity to Lagos, and juicy offers of business partnerships begin to flow to the community, permit me to advise that negotiations take the interests of ‘the voiceless’ into serious consideration, and that every effort is made to ensure that those who represent the town at such negotiating tables have the legitimate right to do so, for the sake of posterity.

I trust that the ‘Ikenne instinct’, so admirably extolled by her most illustrious son, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, will be evident in all transactions.

It would be disingenuous of me to end these brief remarks without mentioning the conflict that has ravaged our community for well over 30 years. I refer to the issue of the dispute over the Alakenne stool.

This is neither the time nor place to launch into a narrative about the issues in contention. In any case, in the words of an anonymous quote, ‘when you talk you are only repeating what you already know…’

Furthermore, the goal of resolving conflict is not victory or defeat. It is about reaching understanding and letting go of our need to be right. And why would anyone even consider letting go, you might ask? The answer is, for many reasons, but a few will suffice:

  • Because the confrontation will continue to create new, unresolved conflicts or agitation and lead to the breakdown of the social fabric of the community and complete chaos.
  • Because resentment will continue to grow, creating despondency, distrust and low morale within the community.
  • Because groups will become more polarized and the perpetuation of ill feelings will lead to continued deterioration, stalemate and stagnation within the community.

President Bill Clinton’s account of late President Nelson Mandela’s reply to his question about how he (President Mandela) felt towards his jailers upon his release after 27 years’ incarceration goes partly as follows:

‘…I said, ‘Weren’t you really angry all over again?’ And he said, ‘Yes, I was angry. And I was a little afraid. After all I’ve not been free in so long. ‘But’, he said, ‘when I felt that anger well up inside of me I realized that if I hated them after I got outside that gate then they would still have me.’ And he smiled and said, ‘I wanted to be free so I let it go.’

Permit me to end these remarks with one more quote,

‘Every conflict we face in life is rich with positive and negative potential. It can be a source of inspiration, enlightenment, learning, transformation and growth – or (a source of) rage, fear, shame, entrapment and resistance. The choice is not up to (your) opponents but to (you)…’

I pray that the peace process that has already begun will take us forward into the phase of compromise and consensus-building and that peace will reign, once again, in our beloved town.

I congratulate the leadership and members of IDA, and, indeed, the entire Ikenne community, for a very successful celebration. I pray that we shall celebrate many more, in peace and harmony. I thank you all for your attention.