The Inaugural Address
The Chairman Council of Elders
Prince Y. Abioye Oyeleke
On Saturday 13th May, 2006
I cannot adequately express how delighted I feel, standing before you this morning in all humility to deliver my inaugural address as the first elected Chairman of Offa Mesi Society Elders’ Council.
The Venue for this occasion, the quadrangle by which is *** embedded the initial walls of Offa Grammar School our first seat of higher learning in Offa, is both historical and symbolic.
Offa Grammar School stands out today as one of the heritages from our forebears. Established in 1943, this Institution is the first Community Secondary School in the whole of the then Northern and, if not the only, it must rank as one of the very few in the country as a whole.
The Genesis of Offa Mesi Society
Offa Mesi Society was conceived fairly recently in the course of year 2005 in the mind of one of our Community leaders, Professor M.O. Oyawoye who consulted with a few of us here gathered this morning to share his thought with us.
The whole idea behind this movement is that, regardless of our difference in faith, and irrespective of the divergent views we may hold onOnimoka/Moremi crisis and the controversy over the appointment of a Chief Imam in Offa, we ought to cast aside such differences and face the common challenges in front of us over which we are undoubtedly united: the challenges to work towards unity and cordial relationship among ourselves as individuals and groups for the political, economic and social development of Offa Community.
May I take this opportunity to salute Prof. Oyawoye’s foresight and initiative in spearheading the formation of Offa Mesi Society. I also want to thank all those who have been consulted and with whom minds have been rubbed in the process of forming this society.
The Offa Mesi Society: Its Structure, Vision and Modus Operandi
The formation of practically every great organisation with future promises good intentions are nearly always greeted with suspicion and skepticism to start with. That was the case with Rotary International for example, which was formed over one hundred years ago on 23rd February 1903. It was wrongly perceived to be a secret society with despicable motive. As time went on, its basic noble objective of encouraging and fostering the ideal of service as a basis of worthy enterprise among all citizens became widely acknowledge and acclaimed. Today, Rotary International stands out and continues to wax stronger as the largest humanitarian service organisation around the world. It is not surprising; therefore, that such traditional skepticism greeted the formation of Offa Mesi Society.
Let me assure all present on this occasion at the launching of Offa Mesi Society on this great day that our intentions are noble progressive and sincere.
With the fear of God Almighty we shall execute our programmes putting the interest of Offa Community above our personal interest always.
May I make it clear to all doubting Thomases that Offa Mesi Society has not been formed to overturn the Offa Descendants Union (ODU). On the contrary, the execution of its programmes will be complementary to that of the ODU with a view to filling the gaps left unfilled for whatever reason by the ODU.
Essential Differences from ODU
In the interest of comparison and future record, it may be helpful to articulate some of our basic differences:
First, Offa Mesi Society has two chambers namely:
- Council of Elders whose members shall not be less than 70 years old, among other qualifications is good character, public image etc. They will be serving the Society essentially in an advisory capacity.
- They second chamber is the Executive Council who shall be responsible for the running of the Society’s affairs and the execution of its programmes through distinctive committees, working on their respective and variable road maps each headed by a Chairman who, with the nomenclature of Secretary will automatically be a member of the Executive body headed by an overall Executive Chairman.
Put simply, the Council of Elders will be to the Executive Council what the House of Lords is to the House of Commons under the British political structure. Better still, in comparison, the Council of Elders is to the Security Council of the United Nations Secretariat. Other members of the UN General Assembly each with every right to contribute to debates and cast his vote on resolutions whenever necessary.
Secondly, membership shall be by recommendation and invitation by the existing members to ensure qualitative membership. There is nothing snobbish at all about this arrangement.
Third, officers hold office for two years only after which the seat shall be vacated for an elected successor.
Fourth, it can be seen from the perimeter thus analysed that abuilt-in succession plan within the Society membership shall be smooth and friction-free.
May I at this juncture express my sincere thanks to all those who have been contacted individually and in few cases collectively for their positive response and cooperation so far. The way such key figures in our community have received the consultative delegates of the society is an indication of the friendly and cordial relationship about which feel optimistic for the future of our community. Such personalities were perceived to be the “Dramatis personae” of the prevailing events.
Before not, one cannot but feel sad about the heavy cloud of mistrust and acrimonious relationship that has characterized the behaviours of a good number of the eminent citizens of Offa Community.
It is perfective understandable, therefore, that the Committee on Reconciliation was the very first of Offa Mesi Society Committees to go to town and embark on its consultative mission with a view to heading the wounds of the past. The degree of success that has been achieved so far justifies the Society’s decision to put reconciliation effort on the front burner of its mission.
If we can develop the habit of encouraging dialogue to discuss whatever differences may occur among ourselves ab initio, therewill be no room to harbour grievances. And that is a lesson we need to learn. “Jaw jaw is better than war war”, Wilson Churcill. Offa Mesi Society, if I may emphasize, is not just like any other group of individuals with aims an objectives that are no more than wishful desires on paper. We have a series of objectives to accomplish. We shall be objective, just and fair in all our dealings.
The series of humiliating and embarrassing experiences we have, by and large, suffered, in the hands of those in whom we repose our trust to help sort out our differences is a salutary lesson. Let us resolve from now henceforth in the interest of dignity, self-respect, mutual affection and cultural heritage never again to take our problems beyond the boundary of Offa Community for settlement by others on our behalf. We have the pool of human resources, intellect, experience and knowledge to deal with and resolve our differences internally. The Council of Elders of Off Mesi will see to a satisfactory resolution of any misunderstanding that may occur in future.
The society will from time to time ask pertinent questions and will endeavour to get answers. For example, we shall be asking whether or not our Community is getting its fair allocation from the resources of the State; whether or not positions in the public sector and in the parastatals are being fairly shared on the basis of merit in knowledge and experience, among other qualifications. These are simple questions to which other representatives in the State and Federal Assemblies whom we voted for to protect answers. In this regard, the Society will mobilize and educate members of the Community to ensure voting for candidates essentially on the basis of their character and track record of their past behaviour. The Political Affairs and External Relations Committee of the Society, working jointly with Committee on Information and Communication, will see to that.
At the Local Government Level, we receive budgetary allocation from the Federal Government amounting to a monthly average of N50 million. According to the date ranged available to me, the amount ranged from N50 million to N60 million for the period nearly 20 months as an example. We also have monthly collections from Owode Market stalls and other dues is too much to ask how these enormous regular revenues meant for the executive benefit of Offa Local Government are spent? The Community Development Committee if Offa Mesi will address that issue.
And what are we doing about falling standard in Education in our Community. The fact that that it a widespread problem in this country is no excuse for not beginning our own charity at home. Offa Mesi Committees in Education will ensure that our schools are better equipped, better staffed and disciplined on all fronts. These are examples of the gaps left unfulfilled for so long by our corporal Community leadership and which our newly formed society is out to tackle.
Such example remain problems of common concern to all of us jostling for attention irrespective of the divergent views we may hold on the prevailing Community crisis. Those are instances of challenges, which Offa Mesi Society is out too tackle.
I like to observe that never in the history of the Community has so much been happening in negative terms or so long to the embarrassment and disillusionment of so many and now with a concerted remedial action by so few.
In conclusion, let us all be reminded that we inherited a great Community from our forefathers, and our children and grandchildren ‘in specie’ deserve no less.
A good number of us, certainly those within my age group in our Community, have less to spend on this planet in time frame than we have thrown behind us; and we have a sacred and moral responsibility to do something glorious and positive for our coming generation to inherit before it is too late; and that is the crux of my message.
Like all great men, “let us”, in the word if Longfellow, “make our lives (as leaders of this Community) useful and sublime so that we may leave good footprints on the sands of time”. At the risk of being accused of exaggerating the prevailing crisis in our Community I want to draw a parallel between the world Community at large and the small Community of Offa Local Government. I will argue that relative to any widespread crisis, the principle underlying my comparison analysed hereunder remain the same.
Like us liken Offa Community to a fragile spaceship in which all inhabitants are passengers; we have talents and resources, which we need to preserve and develop for our advantage. We have responsibility to ensure that the spaceship that is Offa Community is not run in a manner that could encourage the passengers to abandon the plane i.e. in a manner which Offa natives and inhabitants will feel reluctant to come home and instead feel more inclined to make their home outside Offa in reaction to persistent Community strive and crisis one after another.
Continuing with my analogy, we shall regard the Olofa of Offa as the Chief Pilot and his traditional Chiefs as the Co-Pilots, working in harmony for the safety and security of the plane. Members of the Society’s Executive Council represent the crew members who include the flight engineers, doctors and nurses looking after the passengers’ welfare and consulting with the cockpit whenever necessary. The Council of Elders takes the back seat in the plane with watchful eyes for consultation by the crew members during flight.
With this picture in mind as an aphorism, you will readily understand the reason for the grave concern articulated by the United States of America (US) Permanent Representative during a passionate debate at the United Nations when the world community was locked in deep and dangerous crisis during the cold war between the Soviet Union leading the Eastern block on the one hand and the USA on the other hand leading the Western nlock.
This is what Adlai Stevenson had to say in a solemn address of warning to the Security Council of the United Nations:
“We travel together, passengers in a fragile spaceship;
We are dependent upon its vulnerable reserves of air and fuel;
We are committed for safety, to its security and peace
We can be preserved from annihilation only by the care, work and love that we give to our fragile spaceship”
Mr. Chairman, the purpose of our mission is abundantly clear
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, our collective responsibilities and commitment in the circumstance do not require any further elaboration.
I thank you all for your kind attention. God bless.