Three eminent Nigerians were specially honoured last week by the Hallmarks of Labour Foundation for their stellar achievements, moral uprightness and patriotism in their respective professional undertakings, writes Peter Uzoho
Hallmarks of Labour Foundation, a reputable non-profit, non-governmental organisation, formally and publicly presented the Hallmarks of Labour Book 9 last week at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs, Kofo Abayomi Street, Victoria Island, Lagos.
The book written in some 339 pages chronicled the lives and times and testimonials of three eminent Nigerians: former governor of Lagos State, Alhaji Lateef Jakande; first female Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Chief Folake Solanke, and Renowned Health Specialist, Prof. Adetokunbo Lucas, who have distinguished themselves in their respective professions.
The hall was full to the brim as the high and mighty registered their presence. From the academia to the bar, to the members of the syringe family, to the political class, the business community, the royal family and down to the striving youths, the occasion really gave credence to the importance of the honourees to their countrymen.
Every year, since 1999, the foundation picks three of its previously crowned role models and feature in one volume of its book series, which was informed by the need to document their lives, achievements, and contributions to national development, for the purpose of history. It is also part of the effort of the foundation to hand down good virtues of these worthy role models to the younger generation, to enable them read about them and take inspiration from them.
Even in their old ages, these three Nigerians continue to receive accolades, commendations and glowing tributes for keeping to the golden rule of truth, justice, and unalloyed love for the nation, as they refused to cut corners for success during their professional practice.
The ceremony attracted high powered dignitaries including former Minister of External Affairs and Chief Host, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari; Lagos State governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode who was represented by the Commissioner for Establishment, Training and Pensions, Dr. Akintola Benson-Oke; former governor of Ogun State, Chief Olesegun Osoba; former governor of Delta State, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan; Emeritus Professor, Chief Olujimi Akinkugbe; and Senior Advocate of Nigeria and Chairman, Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, Prof. Itse Sagay.
Others were: the Ashagbon of Lagos, Chief Ahmed Asokoro who represented the Oba of Lagos, Rilwan Akiolu; Ojomu of Ajira Land, Oba Adetunji Akinloye; Book reviewer and Deputy Vice Chancellor, Development Services, University of Lagos, Prof. Folashade Ogunsola; amongst others.
In his remarks, the chairman of the occasion and former Nigeria’s High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, Dr. Christopher Kolade, said the book shows the possibility of restoring the country’s respect and honour.
“This book, as well as the eight volumes before it, show that it is possible for everyone to make up their minds to give something to this country that will make us command respect; because if we don’t respect ourselves, other people will not respect us,” he said.
Kolade who is also one of the foundation’s Role Models and Vice Chairman of its board of trustees, noted that honouring the three excellent octogenarians was to renew the confidence that Nigeria still has people who deserve respect, not because of the titles they bear, nor because of the wealth they can display but because of the eminently positive things they have done.
“It’s to raise the tone of our national expression and to show us all that it is possible for every individual to make up their minds that they can give something to this nation that will make this nation respect itself.
“I am honoured to say that as I look at the people honoured today and before, it fills me with renewed confidence that Nigeria is the nation that God has created her to be. And we ought to ensure that we do what is within our powers to make this nation answer its proper name and fulfill its destiny.”
Advising Nigerian youths to emulate the honourees, he noted: “We can all break new grounds like them. These people have been at it for a long time. So, young people should start now to emulate them. Don’t be distracted by looking for money or fame. Believe in and concentrate on adding value, and time will come that you too will be celebrated.”
He noted that there’s nothing the youths cannot achieve if they put their talents to work, remain focused and work hard.
The Book reviewer and Deputy Vice Chancellor, Development Services, University of Lagos, Ogunsola, described the book as very inspiring, saying it is about public service and about putting Nigeria and the public at the centre of leaders’ plan and action.
“It is about visionary leadership and courage to do what is right. It celebrates three role models and their achievements, their vision, their integrity, selflessness, dogged determination, tenacity and willingness to be different,” she said.
According to her, a common trait that runs through the lives of the three achievers is that they continually broke new grounds, adding: “it’s also a book on what is possible in today’s Nigeria if we emulate and learn from these three models.
“It is a book of history, a book of management. As well, it is a book that is so easy to read. It is a book I recommend for all of you to read. Reviewing this book has left me changed and more determined that we must all buckle down and do our bit for Nigeria.”
While unveiling the book, Lagos State governor, Ambode who was represented by the Commissioner for Establishment, Training and Pensions, Benson-Oke, said the honourees used their talents to distinguish themselves.
“From their resumes, we have seen that they distinguished themselves in their respective fields. Alhaji Jakande, Chief Solanke and Professor Lucas have rich resume that speak of greatness,” Ambode said.
In their responses, the three honourees thanked the foundation for deeming them worthy of the recognition and appreciated the audience for coming to honour them.
Jakande who received millions of tributes for his good leadership and giant strides in government both as a state governor and as a federal minister, said: “Thank you. I am very happy for this occasion. I’m very glad, and I thank God Almighty. Nigeria will do better and never go back.
“I commend the Hallmarks of Labour. Long live Hallmarks of Labour! You will succeed always. This country, Nigeria will survive forever. We shall make Nigeria the greatest nation in Africa. And I thank all of you for sparing this time to come.”
For Lucas, who has received several local and international awards for his outstanding practice in medicine: “I wish my parents were here today. They taught me the basics. I thank all of you.”
He seized the moment to rebuke any notion that Nigerian youths are lazy, saying “there is no such thing as Nigerian youths being lazy. What they need is to give them what they need to do a good job. Like in the words of Winston Churchill: ‘Give us the tools and we will finish the job.’ That is what this foundation stands for and I support it. It is small but it is effective. I will continue to support it in any way I can.”
Solanke on her part, expressed her gratitude to the foundation for featuring her in the book, and thanked the guests for coming to celebrate them. “A lot of NGOs have been shady but I make bold to declare that the foundation stands out as the most credible organisation, because it funds laudable charitable causes under the management of Patricia Otuedon-Arawore,” she said.
In her vote of thanks, the Executive Secretary/Founder of the Foundation, Chief Patricia Otuedon-Arawore, congratulated the honourees and thanked them for making Nigeria proud through their lives, and also appreciated the guests for attending.
Otuedon-Arawore dedicated the book to the Chairman of the foundation and her mentor, Prof. Umaru Shehu, who was unavoidably absent. She thanked Shehu and the foundation’s board of trustees for their support to the cause of the foundation, saying “the foundation reflects what the BoT stands for.”
“I want to thank all our honourees, all our role models. It is your exemplary life that inspired me. It is your character, the personality that you people have that have charmed me so much that I believe that if we have a few more people like you in Nigeria this country will be a good place to live,” she said.