Kemi Olaitan in Ibadan
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Thursday called on Nigerian leaders to build people capable of excelling beyond their own achievements if the country will join comity of developed nations.
He gave the admonition at the grand finale of the 60th year celebration of television in Africa, organised by former staff of Western Nigeria Television (WNTV) under the aegis of Foundation for Ibadan Television Anniversary Celebrations, held at the International Conference Centre, University of Ibadan.
The WNTV started operations as the first television station in Africa on October 31, 1959 after its inauguration by the late Premier of the defunct Western Region, Chief Obafemi Awolowo and supported by two other visionaries, who were former Minister of Information for Western Region, Chief Anthony Enahoro; and first Chairman of the Western Nigeria Broadcasting Corporation, Chief Tanimonwo Solaru.
The WNTV, however, ceased to be in existence in 1977 when the federal government took over the station and renamed it Nigerian Television Authority (NTA).
Osinbajo, who chaired the occasion, said every generation has a historic responsibility to reach for the highest peaks that human capacity could achieve.
According to him, “Papa Obafemi Awolowo flanked by the then Governor-General, Sir John Ranking; Chief Anthony Enahoro who was the region’s Minister of Information; and Chief T.T Solaru, first chair of the Western Nigeria Broadcasting Corporation, formally entered the history books by commissioning the WNTV, first in Nigeria, and this was ahead of China and several other countries.
“The event was historic for three reasons. First, it demonstrated the capacity of the Nigerian mind to conceive of and achieve anything no matter how complex or difficult. Second, it demonstrates how visionary leadership can inspire and lift people from the lowest level to the highest point of human imagination. Third, it exemplifies the use of public resources for the public
“Today, as we celebrate the 60th anniversary of the establishment of WNTV, we also celebrate what is possible in our nation and in our states. We celebrate also what vision, hard work and a commitment to public good can do.
“The celebration of the phenomenal achievement in 1959 will be wasted unless we recognise that the achievements represent steady shoulders for us to stand on and that today we can do more and that the vision of Awolowo was to build a people capable of excelling beyond even his own achievements.
“Today, we are at the most advanced moment in science and technology and innovation in human history. The mobile phones have more computed power than all of the computing power that the Apollo space ship that took men to the moon had in 1969. So, all things are possible and we are able. Let us be inspired by Papa’s words that our only limit is our imagination.”
The Vice President added that WNTV was built to inform, educate and entertain and as “Papa Obafemi Awolowo said on that day, 60 years ago, television is a powerful influence for good. It could ordinarily have been unimaginable that somehow in the part of the then yet-to-be-independent Nigeria, a man and his team would build a television station in three months.”
“But for the man himself, Papa Awolowo, it was not so surprising because he had laid out a plan for the rapid development of the Western Region, which included physical infrastructure and human capacity development. The plan included free and compulsory education. As of the peak of the inauguration of WNTV, almost a million children were in school in the Western Region. Forty-one per cent of the Western Region budget was spent on education, the highest proportion at that time anywhere in the world.
“In the free world in particular, but obvious, that those who understood the value of education used it as a powerful proponent for the advancement of their people and Papa (Awolowo) clearly understood that so long ago”, he said.
While fielding questions from journalists on partisanship of some radio and television stations, Osinbajo said: “I know that we have very many government stations where we have high quality staff, who do their best to be as fair as possible. So, I am in full support of non-partisanship of government-owned television or radio stations. Of course, it makes sense to be balanced and fair. This is what the public expects. This is what government’s funds are meant to be used for.”