By Chief Bisi Akande
As we all know, Chief Fasoranti has led a life of service. His contributions to the growth and progress of Nigeria are many and far-reaching and future generations would consider his contributions as both invaluable and imperishable. I fully associate myself with your decision to honour our living hero while he is still with us. As the chairman, I would not bore you, but I will take some minutes to draw your attention to certain things about the follower-ship in our present society.
When Chief Fasoranti was admitted into the University of Ibadan in 1948, his dream, like the dreams of many of his compeers, was to be the best he could be and to serve the society to the best of his ability. His generation believes in discipline in both private and public life. Therefore, when we were growing up, especially when we were entering politics, members of my generation also look at Baba Fasonranti’s generation as our role models. I am talking, of course, about our leaders – the Immortals like Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Chief Adekunle Ajasin, Senator Abraham Adesanya, Chief Alfred Rewane, Alhaj L. K. Jakande, Chief Bisi Onabanjo and Chief Bola Ige.
I had the good fortune and rare privilege of collaborating at close quarters with Chief Bola Ige, the first elected Governor of old Oyo State, with whom I served, first, as the Secretary to the State Government and, later, as the Deputy Governor. Ige was a great apostle of Obafemi Awolowo and one of his staunchest collaborators in making sure we won the fight against military dictatorship was Baba Fasoranti and many of our leaders in the NADECO vanguard. For those our leaders, service was the main essence of leadership and no living one exemplifies this more than the hero we are honouring today.
Therefore, when I had the privilege of serving in Osun State as the Governor from 1999 to 2003, we followed the old template of Bola Ige and Awolowo to prove to our people that good government is both necessary and possible. We balanced our budgets. We cleared the debts we inherited. We did not borrow money to finance our projects. We did not leave any uncompleted project. We did not owe any worker. We did not owe any contractor or suppliers.
We planned. We executed the plans for the good of our people. Our government did not live beyond its means. We followed the examples of those before us in the Awolowo School of Politics and Public Service. We need to ask ourselves today whether we can say the same thing about the current emerging set of our leaders.
Every member of this audience has a telephone set. Some people may even have two or three. If you look outside, you will see the latest cars manufactured in Europe, Asia and America. Most of us are wearing dresses made in other countries, especially in Europe and Asia. Some of our women are wearing discarded hair from Asian or South American women. We love foreign wine and foreign cuisine. Yet, we complain. We fail to plan and, yet, we are surprised that we fail in almost all sectors as we are all lapsing into generations of plan-less hypocrites I can assure you, that was not what we inherited. In this same country, we use to have Five Years Capital Development Plan and Seven Years Capital Development Plans. Now we only plan for the immediate next election!
We thank God that this time around; Nigerians have elected a leader who has planned for a long time to be our President. Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu is a well-known person to Baba Fasoranti and he is also an inheritor of the Awoist legacy of planning and integrity. When Tinubu was Governor of Lagos State, he did not just plan for his eight years in office; he did a Master Plan for Lagos State which has since been running for more than the past 20 years and which has transformed the city-state into the powerhouse of the Nigerian economy. Therefore, it is right and necessary to expect a 20 or 50 Years Master Plan for Nigeria from President Tinubu which would transform this blessed country into a great one.
In our country, we know the President cannot be the sole agent of change. There are leaders and there are followers! All good patriots need to get involved and keep all hands on deck. We need to align modernity with our development. We cannot be in love with the products of modernity like cars, telephones and air travels while we continue to live in dreadful underdevelopment. But presently, to our collective shame, almost all the cars on Nigerian roads are imported. We import foods, wines, spirits, clothings, perfume, body sprays, toothpick and toiletries and then turn around to complain that the Naira is not strong. Let us, as followers, make the Naira strong by changing our ways. Let us learn to make our own cars, produce our own food, drink our own wine and wear our own cloths because those individuals, corporate entities or countries, who think deep daily, plan meticulously and work assiduously towards the realization of their plans would continue to devise all means to confuse, exploit and enslave the lazy, fun=loving and plan-less pleasure seekers.
All good living can only happen when we change the way we think and the way we educate the next generations. Again, Chief Fasoranti was among the first to chart a new course of educating our youths. After years of serving as Principal of various secondary schools, he and his wife established Omolere Nursery School and St. Francis Grammar School.
They took this path in reaction against the destructive interference in education by the military administration. Today, graduates of these schools are leaders in education, industry, and even in politics.
We need a future that would resemble more of our past when the likes of Baba Fasoranti were the leaders in charge of Nigeria. We need to think more, and plan more about our future as individuals and as collectives. We need to produce more and consume less of those things that we need but had to be imported. We need to be more godly and less religious and we need to be united in demanding accountability and good performance from our leaders. Our country is rich and we need to make her wealth to serve the poorest among us so that the poor would not go to bed hungry. No rich person can sleep peacefully when his poor neigbour is awake because of hunger.
Therefore, your topic of today is very apt as we are on the threshold of a new beginning. Your guest speaker, His Excellency, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, the immediate past Governor of Ekiti, is a public intellectual of impeccable credentials like your lecturer, Professor Mimico. The two are more than capable to address the subject of Good Governance in Nigeria: Issues and Prospects for National Development. Professor Mimico is an erudite scholar and, at the same time, an educational administrator: Fayemi had experience as a two-term Governor and also as a Minister. I hope these two bright scholars, as well as all people of goodwill like them, in and outside this Hall, would still help to redesign the education planning for our youths such that our schools would produce more students of high numerate minds and artisans with technological know-how for true positive transformation in agriculture, food production, building houses and for clothings and the other things of life that are sorely needed at this time of great challenges and new opportunities.
I cherish the opportunity to be part of this programme. As chairman of this event, I can assure you that I will be firm and fair but there would be no need, at the end, for any one among us, including those restless owners of distracting phone ring tones, to take me to the tribunals for being strict at the conduct of Papa’s birthday lectures. To be firm and fair is what we have learnt from Chief Fasoranti, the leader and the authentic chairman of Afenifere..
I wish you happy deliberations. I especially wish Baba Fasoranti, a very happy birthday and many more years in the service of The Fatherland.
Being the remarks by Chief Bisi Akande as the Chairman at the Public Service Lecture, organized by the University of Ibadan Alumni Association (Ondo State Branch), in Commemoration of Chief (Dr.) Reuben Fasoranti’s 97th birthday, Friday May 12, 2023, at the Obafemi Awolowo Auditorium, Federal University of Technology, Akure.