In academic world, distinguished lectures are meant to refresh the brain and stir up discourse at a wider scale.
The Abeokuta Club distinguished lecture was not an exception. The occasion which started at four in the afternoon was a carnival-like celebration that pulled people from divergent backgrounds. It attracted Captains of industries, business moguls, erudite academics, and the intelligentsia, top brass in the military, legal juggernauts, political bigwigs, students and hundreds of well-meaning knowledge seeking citizens from many parts of the country. The occasion was part of activities marking the fortieth anniversary of the Club.
Welcoming guests to the ceremony which took place at the SoboSowemimoPavillion Abeokuta, its President, ProfessorAfolabiSoyode thanked them for gracing the occasion despite their tight schedules.He opined that the development and progress of any nation hinges on peace, harmony and unity of purpose, adding that Abeokuta Club was trying to ensure such oasis of development. He said the distinguished lecture was an intellectual component aimed at charting a credible leadership solution to the sub-Saharan Africa.
Professor Soyode explained that this year’s lecture titled: Leadership challenges in black Africa is meant to calm the leadership deficient- storm ravaging Sub-African nations, adding that the Lecturer, Aare AfeBabalola was the best choice because of his sterling leadership qualities in all facets of endeavors. He appreciated and acknowledged the efforts of Aare AfeBabalola to the Club and humanity generally. He described Aare AfeBabalola as a true patriot, a nationalist and an epitome of excellence.
The Club’s President congratulated him for being the conveyor of quality University education through the establishment of the world class citadel of learning which had been adjudged at various times as a miracle, reference point and a benchmark for Private Universities in Nigeria.Professor Soyode summarized ABUAD as an eloquent testimony to Aare’s great vision, planning and determination to remove rot in University education by example. He reiterated his belief in Aare’s transformatory efforts, adding that his untiring burst of energy and ideas will propel Nigeria’s University education system to the next higher level.
The Chairman of the occasion, who was a former Head of States and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, Chief OlusegunObasanjo described Aare AfeBabalola in glowing terms. He called him, a priest in the temple of justice, a good man in many ways, a triumphant lawyer who does not flinch at his convictions because of lucre and a great scholar with simple, time-tested weapons of hard work and courage.
Chief Obasanjo was particularly happy that Aare’s selfless services to mankind thrusted him above his peers. He congratulated him for adding another year to his sojourn on this planet. Chief Obasanjo prayed for Aare’s good health so that he can continue to render more useful services to the Nation.
Responding, Aare AfeBabalola thanked the Abeokuta Club for inviting him to share his experience on leadership with them. He congratulated members for their vision and desires in elevating the Club to its present height.
Aare AfeBabalola told his audience that his acceptance to deliver the lecture hinged on three premises- the opportunity to be in the company of the many illustrious personalities who were gathered at the ceremony, his love and respect for them and the Club’s core objectives of philanthropy and service to humanity which also conform with his belief. He commended the club for their humanitarian gesturesand for holding afloat the time-tested virtue of love, giving and sharing in a nation which has promoted the interest of self above others. He explained in details his inner feelings, rationale and motivations for choosing Leadership as the topic of discourse. According to him, lack of leadership breeds problems besetting the nation today. He cited unemployment, youth decadence, corruption which has permeated virtually every aspect of our national life, the deplorable state of necessary infrastructures(roads, hospitals, educational institutions etc), the intractable state of our political and Constitutional development, electoral violence and our eternal search for a perfect electoral system as effects of bad, deficient and poor leadership.
The ABUAD Founder said despite the abundant rich natural resources and promises, Sub-Saharan Africa are still a troubled region. Its earth has been scorched by the heat of many battles fought for the control of her resources. He blamed exploration and exploitation by both Colonial masters and modern day multinationals coupled with the transatlantic slave trade as part ofcauses of her underdevelopment.
He described the attitude of many Sub-Saharan leaders going to war without first exhausting dialogue, saying the earth here is red, not because, nature decrees it so, but because, it is saturated with the blood of innocent millions who have been sacrificed in many needless conflicts.
The legal icon posited that Sub-Saharan Africa is so troubled because of our seemingly acceptance of the status quo and our reluctance and aversion to positive change.
While espousing on making of leadership, the President Emeritus of ABUAD placed priority on three theories which he said include trait, situational and transformational leadership in black Africa. He enjoined African leaders to embrace democratic system as against Authoritarian and laissez faire because it employs collective decision making processes.
On the making of a leader, Aare identified genetics as a vital ingredient of Nature and Nurture since a child must have learnt some experiences from his senior. Others are training company, parental connection i.e. heritage, leadership training, schools and professions.
Aare frowned at the attitude of many Sub-Sahara African leaders who are bereft of self-control, discipline and foresight. He compared their behaviours with Lord Lugard’s assessment made a century ago about the characteristic of black Africans which according to him “Africans love the allure of power without full realization of its responsibilities, acts with little apprehension for the future and failure to make adequate plans even where such is required. He added that they lack the power of organization and are conspicuously deficient in the management and control of men and businesses.”
Aare AfeBabalola reminded leaders that services to the people while constantly evolving ways to improve the lot of the governed should be paramount in their minds. He blamed them for failure to appreciate the responsibilities of power their lack of succession plan and lack of partnership as concomitant for the present state of backwardness of most African nations.
He urged them to build upon the success recorded by their predecessors in office and to groom capable successors without perpetuating themselves or installing members of their families in power. Aare AfeBabalola called on them to shun corruption in governance and use State resources for the benefit of the greater number of people.
On lack of political vision, identifiable ideology or philosophy, Aare said most politicians do not have the faintest idea of what their political philosophy is, rather they display politics of self-aggrandizement and self-enrichment adding that political office is too attractive with huge percentage of government revenue expended on retinue of officers.
He therefore suggested the way forward for effective leadership in running the affairs of Nigeria. He proposed that the position of Councilors should be reserved for retired and much experienced professionals with little or no remuneration. Aare called for a reduction in the size of local, State and National Assemblies, adding that drastic reduction in the power and revenue offered to the government at the center must be done without delay.
The ABUAD Founder argued that there is need for the total devolution of power to enable each state or geo-political zone, effectively administer its resources, political need and social responsibilities. He advised the Federal government to concentrate on the management of common national issues like currency, foreign affairs etc.
He also told the congregation that the present presidential system of government being practiced in Nigeria encourages politicians to do everything and anything to attain power. He enjoined them to shun bribery, intimidation and allow votes to count. Aare AfeBabalola therefore called on the Federal Government to put in place constitutional and legal framework that will reduce, discourage, and if not totally eradicate the factors upon which bad leadership thrives.
Such a move, Aare opined, will be a total restructure of the framework of the country hence the Centre will become weak and political offices, less attractive. This can only be done through the convocation of a Sovereign National Conference and not through piecemeal amendments to Federal Constitution which is a Unitary Constitution.
Present at the well-attended lecture were many traditional rulers including the Osile of OkeOnaEgbaland, Oba (Dr) AdedapoTejuoso and students from many institutions of higher learning.