Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, yesterday, urged the new generation of Nigerians to free their minds from fear to enable them make informed choices at every level of human endeavour.
Fashola, who spoke at the Akin Deko Auditorium, Ugbowo Campus venue of the 42nd Convocation Lecture of the University of Benin, said freeing their minds from fear would enable them to see solutions to challenges of life instead of as insurmountable obstacles adding that it would enable them to look for opportunities, instead of dwelling on and surrendering to problems.
In his Convocation Lecture titled “Freedom from Fear, Choices Before the New Generation”, Fashola, who is an Alumnus of the University, said a mind that successfully eradicated fear would no longer be shackled by words like ‘impossibility’, ‘improbability’, ‘unlikelihood’ and such negative words that impede progress.
The Minister told the graduating students, “I urge you to free your minds from such fears”, pointing out that the only way to free their minds from such thoughts as “impossibility”, “improbability” and “unlikelihood” was to always see such words as negatives and replace them with positive thoughts and actions.
“If you see unmanaged refuse as a problem, you may not think of recycling and re-use and the economic opportunities that have multiple benefits, including the ultimate removal of the refuse. If you dwell on traffic gridlock as a problem, you are unlikely to focus on developing intelligent traffic management solutions like traffic lights or a radio station to manage it and create opportunities for yourself and others,” he said.
Describing freedom from fear as the most important freedom, Fashola declared, “A mind taken over by fear cannot express free will and will therefore not fully optimise or benefit from the other freedoms”, adding that a mind focused on crime and its burden might lose the opportunity to focus on crime management strategies like more policemen, crime detection methods, employment and training of judges.
According to him, although there are many freedoms including those contained in the nation’s Constitution such as Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Association, Freedom from want, Freedom of choice, including the choice of leadership by voting at elections and many others, freedom from fear had remained the least expressed.
Expressing dismay that fear had driven most Nigerians to seek spiritual solutions to almost every problem, Fashola, who professed his belief in God, argued, however, that as a just One, God would only proper those who have worked hard.
The Minister declared, “Let us remember, that at least the two dominant faiths are not original to us. They are inherited. The propagators of the faith have made them personal affairs and not public”, adding that in those jurisdictions, meetings represented public undertakings and places of work and productive undertakings to deliver prosperity.
In his closing remarks, the Sarkin Kano, and former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), His Highness Muhammad 11 Sanusi, commended Fashola for his contribution to leadership in Africa saying he represented the kind of leadership the world had said Africa could not produce.
Describing the Minister as “someone with a vision, someone with intelligence, someone with the love of his people and someone who actually understands what is on ground”, the Royal Father declared, “He was Governor of Lagos State; if you ask him how many kilometres of roads he built he will tell you, how many megawatts of electricity he added to the National Grid he will tell you; how many hospitals and how many schools”, adding that leadership was about accountability.
Sanusi also recalled another incident when the Minister demonstrated this trait recounting that while he was Governor of Lagos State, Fashola organised a Security Trust Fund in which the Private Sector contributed money to improve security in the State.
“He did something I have never seen done in Nigeria. Twelve months after we contributed money, he invited us to a Dinner. We did not know what it was about. He brought the AIG of Police, he brought the Police Commissioner. He stood up before us and did a presentation like this; showed us exactly what was done with our money, showed us statistics of how security in Lagos was improving”, the former CBN boss said.
He added, “After that presentation, we all put our hands in our pockets and brought out more money. You see we don’t mind giving money to the Government, we just want accountability. I think with people like Mr. Fashola, this University is proud because this is the institution that made him what he is”.
Remarking on the lecture, Sanusi, who agreed that there were now many tricksters among the faiths and even those with no faith who capitalise on the fears of the people to exploit them, added that God was being used as an excuse for the failure of the nation.
The Royal Father also re-echoed the Minister’s earlier view about getting the nation out of the current recession saying prayers should go along with productive work as a necessary step and doing the right things through putting the right economic policies in place.
He encouraged the out-going students to work hard while they also pray for God’s miracle pointing out that although the lecturer emphasised hard work, he also believed in God but believed that only those who work hard should expect God to bless the work of their hands.