·As winners of Mike Okonkwo national essay contest take prizes
NIGERIA will not achieve the much-needed change it seeks unless and until parents begin to exhibit and inculcate in their children the values of integrity, discipline, hard work, truthfulness and justice.
This was a common message emphasised by speakers at the 17th Mike Okonkwo Annual Lecture, held Thursday at the Shell Hall of the MUSON Center, Onikan, Lagos.
The lecture, which was in commemoration of the 71st birthday anniversary of the presiding bishop of The Redeemed Evangelical Ministry (TREM), Dr Mike Okonkwo, was entitled ‘The State of the Nation: Redefining Our Values’.
The chairman on the occasion and elder statesman, Chief Arthur Mbanefo, in his opening remarks said that the ills in the Nigerian society today are the direct consequences of persistent lowering of standards over the years.
While he blamed policy makers over the years for removing subjects that used to help provide sound moral, civic and leadership training from the school curriculum, Chief Mbanefo also chided parents for shifting all their responsibilities to the government.
“Why must everything be heaped on the shoulders of the Federal Government? We need to do more than ‘define’ our values; we must make drastic moves that will produce the change that we need.”
One of the two speakers at the event, the executive director, Paradigm Initiative Nigeria (PIN), Mr Gbenga Sesan, thanked Bishop Okonkwo profusely for ‘getting involved’ consistently for 17 years in contributing to developing the Nigerian society through his annual lecture and the essay competition.
He challenged other religious leaders to also step out of the comfort of their churches and be ‘the light of the world’ indeed.
Mr Sesan also advised the government to always treat criticisms by people who may be unsatisfied with the status quo as ‘free consultancy’, build on them and focus on the goal of making Nigeria better.
“What Nigeria will become depends on us. We will need to redefine our values and build on ongoing efforts. For a better Nigeria, we must move from a status-based economy to one that rewards innovation and celebrates excellence over mediocrity,” he said.
To young people, in whose hands he said the future of Nigeria rests, Sesan said: “No matter how good you think you are, keep your eyes on the prize and be the best you can possibly be.”
He urged young people to invest in acquiring skills and deemphasise the false security that certificates acquisition provides.
The second keynote speaker, the immediate past director-general of the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG) and former Minister of Communication, Dr. Frank Nweke (Jnr), also stressed the importance of parental responsibility in the building and sustenance of values that can help build the nation.
Nweke, who physically brought his two sons to the event, recalled how he learnt from his own parents the virtues of honesty, integrity, empathy, compassion, self-control, discipline and respect for God – the same values he said he is now also passing over to his own children.
“This is the way to build the Nigeria of our dreams,” he said.
The state, he said, must also on its part create an environment conducive for all persons to achieve their full potential; adding that it was the combined failure of the state and parents that bred the renegades, militants and terrorists troubling the nation today.
Winners of the 13th Mike Okonkwo National Essay competition were then subsequently presented with their prizes.
First prize winner, Miss Fadilah Saliu-Ahmed of Zamani College, Kaduna, was awarded a plaque and a laptop as well as a cheque for N100,000. Her school was also given three complete sets of computer system.
Second prize winner, Miss Barakat Adebayo was given a cheque of N75,000 and a plaque; while her school, Roshallom International School, Lagos, was given two sets of computer system.
The third prize winner, Miss Wuraola Adeoye got N50,000 and a plaque; while her school received one compete set of computer system.