Date: 2017-09-15

Our Community, Our Values, Our Future

Literary giant and one of Nigeria's greatest novelist - Chinua Achebe - famously wrote and I quote "A man who calls his kinsmen to a feast does not do so to redeem them from starving. They all have food in their houses. When we gather together in the moonlight village ground, it is not because of the moon. Every man can see it in his own compound. We come together because it is good for kinsmen to do so. Therefore, let us continue with the team spirit and enjoy the power of togetherness. Let's smile not because we don’t have problems but because we are stronger than the problems".

Within this context, I like to welcome all our distinguished guests to Kwara Development Initiative's inaugural gala and benefit night. This year's theme is on "Our Community, Our Values, and Our Future"

The theme was carefully chosen because at its core, our community is supposed to be the one place where we can let our guard down and enjoy the company of our kith and kin but the degradation of both familial and communal values in the present time has left many a Kwara community behind and disillusioned.

Our youth are entangled in drugs, gambling and violence - and yet - like one Simon P. Kennedy once wrote, a family and in this instance, a community is not a mere sociological construct, it is how people live, how they thrive and It carries with it certain obligations and duties. And because of the attempt over the years to divide and cause chaos amongst our Kwara family through economic exploitation and violence -career professionals across Kwara came together to birth the Kwara Development Initiative on October 1, 2016 in order to arrest this ugly development. We realize that no matter where we have been and what we have achieved, Kwara nurtured us and gave us the foundational opportunity to grow and we have the responsibility to give back.

And when the men and women of the Kwara Development Initiative asked me to lead this organization even though I was resident in faraway United States, they were convinced, there is nothing we can't achieve together regardless of distance. So yes, there was a lot of teleconferencing and virtual collaboration in our lives. Everyone at KDI contributed whatever they can, some financial, some contributed their time and some their intellect. Everyone did all of these selflessly, pro bono, with the ultimate goal of seeing a better, more prosperous Kwara. I salute these men and women for their sacrifice and their love of community. I would like to recognize in particular the significant contributions of the following individuals: Malam Aliyu Tunji Ajanaku, Dr. AbdulRahman Bolaji Afolabi, Mr. AbdulRasheed Akogun, Dr. Muhammad Kabir Garba, Mr & Mrs. Olaseni Imam, Mr. Kamaldeen Olesin, Ms Basirat Seriki, and to the rest of you that I can’t mention due to the paucity of time. Thank you for your service and for your commitment to Kwara.

Our objectives at the Kwara Development Initiative are two-folds. First, we believe in human capital development as a veritable tool towards unleashing human innovative potential and lifting people out of poverty. The development of human capital is at the core of our youth empowerment scheme.

Here, our vision and some of which we would implement here tonight is to provide emerging young and indigent entrepreneurs with targeted and effective assistance in all phases of a business life cycle. Our partnership with beneficiaries would also extend to linking them up with experienced community business leaders to help take their business to the next level.

Next, through the KDI platform, we would love to partner with others (the state government, other NGOs, and civil society) to transform Kwara into a place where innovative ideas and new thinking such as the one exhibited by Haneefah Adam (one of our honorees here tonight) emanates from. We hope to attract Kwarans who are seeking to leverage innovative ideas along with technology to provide products and services in new ways.

As part of our human capital development, KDI also has the ambition to partner with our local schools in order to close the achievement gap between poorly funded public schools and the better funded private schools that some of our kids attend. To achieve this goal, we intend to ask local and international organizations for their old computers as these companies upgrade to newer models. We intend to refurbish these computers and distribute them to our public schools across the state.

We can all agree in this hall that technology use in schools, especially elementary and secondary schools has gained currency in developed countries and these countries continue to gain a competitive advantage over the rest of us. If our kids are going to be competitive in the emerging knowledge economy, then we must give them the tools they need to succeed.

Our second objective at KDI is to see Kwara state become the innovative and ideas capital of not only Nigeria but Africa as a whole. And it is fitting that a state that has produced Sheikh Kamaldeen Al Adaby, Sheikh Adam Al ilory, Bishop David Oyedepo, Professor J.M.O Oyawoye, Professor Shuaib Oba AbdulRaheem and many other fine intellectuals should take the lead in this effort. Like the Aspen Institute in the United States, we envision the KDI to be an organization dedicated to "fostering enlightened leadership, the appreciation of timeless ideas and values, and open-minded dialogue on contemporary issues" And we are joined tonight by one of Nigeria’s finest public intellectuals - Malam Isiaq Modibbo Kawu, Director General, National Broadcasting Commission– who will be speaking on the theme of this evening. Comrade Japheth Philip of the Justice and Development Commission could not make it to Ilorin because Medview airlines cancelled his flight in Abuja. The comrade was billed to speak on “Redeeming the Nigerian State: Imperatives for the Youth of Nigeria"

In order to achieve Kwara Development Initiatives' set objectives, I am committing N500, 000 in the name of my late mother's memorial foundation. Hajia Habiba Bola Ajia Memorial Foundation shares many of the set objectives of the Kwara Development Initiatives and we are happy to be a part of this. I implore those who can that are here tonight to please find ways both financial and otherwise to partner with this Kwara centered organization.

The board of trustee, executives and members of the KDI are grateful to our keynote speaker for setting aside the time to be here tonight especially given the many competing demands on his time.

As we sit down to listen to the Keynote speech and enjoy the atmosphere here tonight, I would like to re – echo the theme of the evening and that is the need to place the interest of our Kwara community above and beyond that of any one single individual. The Igbomina mobile clinic and the community water restoration project led by Kayode Oyin Zubair - are some of the ways we can improve on our community. And finally, there is a need for all these community based organizations to liaise with one another in order to scale up their level of effectiveness. Pooling human and material resources together ensures that our communities are better served and our resources optimally utilized.Once again, I welcome you all and I hope you will have a wonderful evening.

May God bless the state of Kwara and the Nigerian republic.

I thank you all for listening.

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