It is with a sense of history that I welcome all of you to this occasion – the celebration of Africa and indeed the celebration of the communal hospitality, the friendship, and the cultural exchanges that can only be described as African.
I am an African and I am proud to be African. I belong to the hills and the valleys, the rivers and the ever changing seasons that define the face of our motherland – our mother Africa, a continent conceived in hope, and dedicated to the proposition that Africans can lead themselves and also lead the world someday. I therefore welcome you to the emergence of the new Africa – where peace, democratic values and justice reign.
For it was in Africa that civilization was born. And it was in Africa that humanity took its first faltering towards learning, freedom and the organised community that have given birth to nations. And until we begin to deepen the connection between Africa and nations like the United States, we would have failed to take advantage of a strategic opportunity in our bid to move society forward for the greater good of our people. Therefore we must build bridges of hope, and handshakes across the Atlantic for the peace and prosperity of both continents. We must continue to create opportunities for investments and cultural exchanges for our people. We must open our doors to new ideas, best practices and superior cultural practices that protect our institutions, our families and our collective aspirations as fellow human beings. For there is more that unite us than divide us.
And on this journey towards the actualization of our common destinies, people oriented leadership is no doubt the key. Like Lee Kuan Yew, the father of the Singaporean revolution observed in his ground – breaking book, From third world to First world, “honesty and effective government, public order and personal security and social progress did not come about as the natural course of events” They germinated from the increasing realization that only visionary, ethical and competent leadership can address the crises of African development.
It is why we are gathered here today. It is why we honour and celebrate those individuals who have consistently given their all for our society to thrive and for the sustenance of our democracy, unity and development. According to Dr. Mo Ibrahim “The importance of high quality leadership in sub-Saharan African cannot be overstated. There are many challenges and often few resources of state to address them. It is why the efforts of those leaders who rise above these constraints to develop their countries, lift people out of poverty, and pave the way for future prosperity and success should be recognized and celebrated”. We are therefore so committed to strengthening great African leadership by recognizing and celebrating the individuals who play such a critical role in determining the future prosperities of their countries.
And today, we celebrate one of Africa’s finest leaders to watch, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, a senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria who has meritoriously emerged winner of the prestigious African Emerging Political Icon of the Year Award, after a rigorous screening process. The selection team, comprising of leading African Business and political and media Leaders, in arriving at this decision took into cognizance his enormous contributions to Nigeria’s Socio – Economic Growth through the transformation of Kwara state, when he as Governor of the state introduced innovative approaches to Agriculture, healthcare, education, fiscal policy and environmental reforms. Dr. Saraki, also, as Chairman of the Nigerian Governors Forum championed a peer review mechanism among Nigerian Governors that brought about harmony in government, peace and stability, as well as a healthy competition among Governors that resulted in an improvement of the quality of governance which greatly befitted the people. A consummate politician and leader, Dr. Saraki’s influence and impact on the Nigerian economic landscape has continued to grow, yet he has not lost touch with the people.
Therefore join me to celebrate an extraordinary achiever and a leader per excellence, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, as he steps in to the African Leadership Hall of Fame as the African Emerging Political Icon of the Year. By this investiture, Dr. Saraki joins other past eminent recipients of the African Leadership Award like Dr. Mo Ibrahim, Sudanese Business Mogul and Founder Mo Ibrahim prize for African leadership; H.E. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of Liberia; H.E. John Kuffour, former president of Ghana, and Dr. Donald Kaberuka, President of the African Development Bank Group, among others.
By this award, Africa beckons on you as a key player of the African dream team; for you have become a beacon of hope to future generations of our people.
And as we leave legacies for the future of Africa, may I invite all of you to join the African Leadership magazine group, who through its Corporate social responsibility arm – the Centre for Economic and Leadership Development, an NGO currently in special consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council, has adopted the SEND A CHILD TO SCHOOL PROGRAM, a program dedicated toward providing educational access and support to orphans and vulnerable children in 4 African countries. We currently have 82 children under our care and we urge you to support us as we are in the process of accepting 200 additional children, who must necessarily get the desired educational support towards safeguarding the future of Africa; – for the future is now.
And in closing my remarks in my traditional pitch, may I re – state that we are a continent of opportunities, conscious of our potentials and committed to bettering the lots of the present and our future. Let it be known that Africans are a people of open, honest convictions who refuse to be defined by our unpleasant past foisted on us by a criminal few. Let it be known that we are not the denigrating caricatures profiled by western media. For we are defined by our resilience and industry, our unity in diversity, and the awesome hospitality in our communal life. We might not be where we wish to be as a people, but we are not where we use to be. We are moving forward because of the contributions of leaders like the ones we are celebrating here today. Our hopes are therefore rekindled, our expectations are high our sights are set. We shall not give up, we shall not let up. No, we shall not let the world find us in their pre cast moulds. We shall stay strong, we shall stay true, until that day when the aspirations of people are fully met and when we can truly say that the labours of our Heroes past has not been in vain.
Thank you for Listening!