His Eminence, Anthony Cardinal Olubunmi Okogie, former Minister of Foreign and Internal Affairs, Ambassador Olu Adeniji and Chairman, Presidential Advisory Committee on Corruption, Professor Itse Sagay, were honoured by the Hallmarks of Labour Foundation for their display of moral uprightness, hard work and excellent achievements in their professional and individual callings. Peter Uzoho who covered the event, reports
On Thursday, April 27, 2017, senior Nigerian citizens, friends, relatives and associates, lovers and admirers of integrity, hard work and excellence, thronged the conference hall of the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA), Victoria Island, Lagos, to join the Hallmarks of Labour in honouring three of Nigeria’s shining lights.
It was at the occasion of the public presentation of the Hallmarks of Labour Volume Eight, which featured three men of impeccable character, Catholic Prince, His Eminence, Anthony Cardinal Olubunmi Okogie, two-time former Minister of Foreign and Internal Affairs, Ambassador Olu Adeniji, and Senior Advocate of Nigerian (SAN) and Chairman, Presidential Advisory Committee on Corruption, Professor Itse Sagay, for their display of moral uprightness, hard work and excellent achievements in their professional and individual callings.
The book authored by the Founder and Executive Secretary of Hallmarks of Labour Foundation, Patricia Otuedon-Arawore, was part of the effort of the foundation towards changing the orientation and perception of Nigerians, particularly the youths about wealth and material things, by showcasing Nigerians who have achieved success through genuine means as worthy role models.
The Book Reviewer and Head, Department of International Politics, Nigerian Institute of International Affairs, Professor Osita Agbu, quoting from the forward written by Chief Philip Chikwuedo Asiodu, described Cardinal Okogie as having a prodigious capacity for hard work. “Okogie is a constant commentator on economic, political and social issues. He has been most concerned with improving the lot of the people generally. He has frequently denounced the abuse of power, greed, corruption, self-seeking and greed of those in power.”
Asiodu described Sagay, who is currently the Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee on Corruption, as “a defender of truth, and an outstanding scholar.”
In her keynote speech, Lagos State First Lady, Mrs. Bolanle Ambode, described the Hallmarks of Labour Book Eight as a great intellectual accomplishment that points the right and honourable direction for the youths and Nigerians in general.
Ambode who was represented at the occasion by the wife of the member representing Ikorodu Federal Constituency at the House of Representatives, Mrs. Jumoke Benson, pointed out that many Nigerians, both young and old have given up on the virtues of honesty, hard work and integrity, as the most honourable vehicles to success, and that some even sleep and wake up daily in the firm belief that it is not possible to achieve success in Nigeria through honest means except through crooked and fraudulent channels.
“But when you remember the evergreen phrases: ‘there is dignity in labour; honesty, peace and integrity cannot be valued in monetary terms’ then we know how strong they are to hold that notion,” Ambode said.
The Lagos First Lady described the three honourees, Okogie, Adeniji and Sagay, as integrity personified, going by the records of their public life. “If these highly revered patrons can rely solely on honesty and hard work to attain covetous status in the society, then who says integrity does not pay? These personalities putting the best in their respective career, pursuing and attaining excellence in the most upright manner. Doubting Nigerians have much to emulate in the exemplary lives of these societal role models.”
She appealed to Nigerian youths not to lose hope in the destiny of Nigeria but to see the positive side of its challenges and draw inspiration from the dazzling records of the individuals featured in this book. Ambode also commended the author, Patricia Otuedon-Arawore for the great intellectual piece, and the entire foundation for the relentless struggle towards the moral rebirth in the country.
Speaking to journalists at the occasion, the special guest of honour who chaired the occasion, Prof. Oladipo Akinkugbe, described the exercise as a significant one, saying the three honourees were distinguished role models in their different professions. Dr. Christopher Kolade was originally scheduled to chair the event.
“The clergy, the Senior Advocate and the Ambassador, each has his own role to play in the theatre of interaction in this country and there are many lessons to take home regarding all three of them. It’s a good tradition to bring three awardees together and form a volume because when all these volumes are put together they really cut across the real value system of this country.”
He admonished Nigerians not to be over-dazzled by wealth but by the contribution of labour, noting that people who rose from the ranks and are self-made, are the kind of people the country need to move forward. Akinkugbe commended the three honourees for being found worthy of the honour. He extended his commendation to Otuedon-Arawore and Hallmarks of Labour for touching an area that has been neglected.
“Taking people back to the old value system and helping them to learn from the achievements of people who rose from the ranks. The values of integrity, of hard work and of a sense of achievement – achievement not just for oneself but for the society in general.
“Money is not everything and of course in our society there are so many people who are so consumed by the quest for material wealth and this has led to a great deal of corruption in our country. But these three people and those who have gone through the exercise in the last seven volumes and this eight volume, in there you will see that the yardstick of achievement is completely reassessed and so the currency of moral integrity has not been devalued if you look at what they have achieved and what they are really trying to promote,” he added.
Responding to the honour, Sagay said his first feeling when he was intimated about the honour as role model was that he was elevated to the place of titans.
“I’m extremely highly honoured because it places me in the circle of very great men whom I’ve always admired and whom I’ve always looked up to. It inspires me; it motivates me to better things. Look at those who have received it in the past you can see that I will not normally feel that I can mix with that level of achievers. So for me it’s a great honour and I know also for the other honourees it’s also a great honour,” he said.
He said he appreciates the Hallmarks of Labour as an organisation because of the seriousness, the integrity and the commitment with which they carry out their duties and callings as an organisation.
“You can see that there is something genuine about this organisation. There is one other organisation I know which has the same type of character which I respect a lot. That is the Centre for Leadership in Values run by Prof. Pat Utomi. Those are the two that I know that are absolutely serious, that have integrity, that should be respected, whose honours should be received with gratitude. And so on behalf of my colleagues I say we’re very grateful. We’ll continue to be part of the organisation in order to contribute in our own little way to ensure that the work of this organisation is carried on to make it an established name in this country and a huge success.”
Advising Nigerian youths, Sagay said they should be principled and avoid shortcuts and easy ways of achieving success. “They should avoid convenience; they should avoid shortcuts; they should avoid opportunism; all those cheap easy ways of doing well immediately or immediate gratification. Stay principled. It may be hard at the beginning but as time goes on you will get your reward and your conscience will still be clear and you would have made a contribution to the society in which you are living.”
Rising from the occasion, the author, host and Founder of Hallmarks of Labour Foundation, Otuedon-Arawore, said the book series focuses on men and women of distinction who by dint of hard work and moral uprightness have done Nigeria proud, and who should be emulated by the youths of the country. “The whole idea is to create more people in the mold of these old people who seem to be getting to their 80s and above,” she said.
“We believe that Nigeria needs many more people in this mold and we believe that the only way to do it is to bring out these role models, give their life history so that children can read them, know them and try to fashion their lives after them. I’m also a mother and I believe that it will be very good for me if my children grow up to be any of the people that I’m focusing on today,” Otuedon-Arawore noted.
She revealed that the idea of featuring men and women of high integrity and presenting them before Nigerians came into her mind after she saw a programme on television where people were engaged in immoral dance and she decided to do something to correct the anomaly.
“And then, I opened television one day and all I could find was people dancing and shaking different parts of their bodies and I thought that was not what I wanted my child to be like or to want to emulate. So the idea of now looking for people who I think that my children should emulate, whom I think that the Nigerian youths should emulate came into my head and that was how Hallmarks of Labour started. It was a television.
We used to air these people and later on we graduated into the book series,” she explained.
Citing the influence of her late boss, Chief M.C.K. Ajuluchukwu, who she described as a great writer that inspired her to go into writing, Otuedon-Arawore noted that building up role models was very important to the development of the country.
On his part, Adeniji said: “I’m grateful to the organisation for listing me as a role model in the diplomatic service. I will contribute to the credible work of Hallmarks of Labour and other efforts of the author.”
Okogie represented at the occasion by Monsignor Ogumodede Francis said, “It is with great pleasure that we receive this honour. We wish to continue to wish the foundation well. Forward ever, backward never.”
Dignitaries at the occasion were: former Secretary-General of Commonwealth, Chief Emeka Anyaoku; Chief Alele Williams; Publisher of Vanguard, Mr. Sam Amuka; former Lagos State Commissioner for Education, Mrs. Olayinka Oladunjoye and many others.