|Femi Ajayi's Outlook|
Monday, January 12, 2004|
. By: Dr. Femi Ajayi Kwarans in Diaspora in Washington Metro area under their organization, Kwara State Association of Nigeria North America, Inc., KSANG, Washington D. C. Chapter, celebrated a decade of excellence with gratitude to our Creator for making the 10th anniversary celebration a huge success with a change of direction. This happened during the Thanksgiving holidays, November 29, 2003, with a strong message to the Nigerian Government, especially Kwara State, to do something about the plight of the Disabled in the State. KSANG Washington, Chapter felt that it was about time the government started treating Nigerian disables with some passion and respect. According to one of the Chapter's prominent leaders, Lateef Adebisi Adegoke Amolegbe, who revealed that the organization has mapped out strategies to get the message across to the home government both at the State and National levels. According to him, KSANG would mobilize forces to get their case to the National Assembly for a legislation to address issues of the handicapped both in Kwara State and Nigeria as a whole.
The remarkable thing about the celebration was the focus on the plight of the handicapped in Kwara State. The first Principal of the School of Handicaps, Ilorin, Kwara State, Dr. Gabriel Adepoju, made a very emotional presentation about the School of Handicaps, Ilorin. Dr. Adepoju is deaf, and he was the first handicapped to obtain a Doctorate degree in Kwara State and the second in Nigeria. He was the first Nigerian, who is deaf, to establish a residential school for deaf children under the auspices of Kwara State Government; and with some others, championed the education and welfare of handicapped Nigerians.
Dr. Adepoju, a Kwaran, from Erin-Ile, obtained B.A. (History), M.A., (Education of the Deaf), Ph. D. (Special Education) all from at Gallaudet University, Washington, D.C. He, in addition, obtained M. A., Leadership and Supervision, California State University, Northridge. He actively participated in the development of Special Education in Nigeria. With such a vast educational background, he urged KSANG to assist in reviving the ailing School of Handicaps, Ilorin.
His first challenge to everyone present at the symposium was to reaffirm that everyone on the face of the earth, was in one way or the other handicapped. He requested those who wore glasses to take them off and asked them to read what was at a distance to them, if they could do that. In a way everyone has one disability or the other. If that is the case, why do we treat those with some disabilities like outcasts in the society, especially in Nigeria, Dr. Adepoju remarked.
He narrated his life story when he was going to be dumped like a garbage because of his hearing which was impaired. He was saved and still able to make a contribution to those who needed it. The plight of the students at the School of the handicapped, Ilorin, made him cry each time he visited the school. There is no roof to their heads, the toilet bowls looked like those of houses that have been abandoned for over 10 years, infested with rats and roaches. Their beds have no mattresses talk less of bed sheets. He wondered what the State government had been doing with the students at the School of handicaps, Ilorin.
In conclusion he advised Kwara State Association of Nigeria, North America, Washington D. C. Chapter to intensify its efforts to support the School of handicaps in Ilorin. The level it is now might be too much for a local chapter to handle. Since there is a national umbrella of the association, it is time to mobilize all efforts to get the Government actively involved in the plight of the students at the School of handicaps, Ilorin, Kwara State. Maybe Oprah could be encouraged to take her humanitarian crusade to Ilorin, Kwara State in the year 2004, as she did to South Africa in 2003.
Another handicap individual at the symposium, is David Akanji, a Ph. D. candidate, blind, recites poems in Yoruba language. According to him he never had any dream of going to school, talk more of being a Ph.D. candidate. David Akanji, born at Bode, near Iwo, Osun State, Nigeria, became blind as an infant. His philosophy, which he carries with him to this day, is that "Physical deformity is not a barrier to a willing soul." That life philosophy has helped him in his education goals in life from elementary school at Ogbomosho Blind Training Center (1961) where he graduated in 1963 and learnt how to read Braille.
Braille is a reading system for the blind which originated from France. Louis Braille, who modified the system was born in Coupvray, 29 miles away from Paris. Braille was born to a harness maker. He became blind when he was playing with one of his father's tools in his workshop.
David Akanji took us through some lessons on Braille. For anybody to learn Braille, one has to begin with the alphabet just as people do when they start learning how to read and write regular writing. Braille system is divided into grades, grade one and two. Just as we use pen and pencil in the regular writing, the blind use slate and stylus in the Braille system. As we have the typewriter in the regular writing, we also have the Perkins braller in the Braille system.
According to David, letter A is dot one. B is dot one and two. C is dot one, and four. D is dot one, four, and five. E is dot one and five. F is dot one, two, and four. G is dot one, two, four and five. H is dot one, two and five. I is dot two and four. J is dot two, four, and five. K is dot one, and three. L is dot one, two, and three. M in Braille is dot one, three, four. N is dot one, three, four, five. Letter O is dot one, two, three, and five. P is dot one, two, three, four. Letter Q in Braille is dot one, two, three, four and five. R is dot one, two, three, and four. S is dot two, three, and six. T is dot two, three, four and five. Letter U is dot one, three, and six. V is dot one, two, three, and six. W is two, four, five, and six. X is dot one, three, four, and six. Y is dot one, three, four, five, and six. Z is dot one, three, five and six.
David Akanji went through Oshodi Vocational Training Center for the blind and trained as a telephone operator. He also attended Iwo Catholic Secondary Modern School, where he was trained as a typist, and completed his High School at Ibadan Christ Apostolic Grammar School. In the year 1981 the then Oyo State Government gave him a scholarship to study at Philander Smith College, Little Rock, Arkansas completing his Bachelors in three years. With the assistance of Dr. Joseph Amprey, he got scholarship to attend Howard University for his Masters degree in Special Education completed in three Semesters. Gallaudet University gave him an admission to pursue his Ph. D. in special Education administration. What can Nigerians do in addition to KSANG to make David Akanni realize his dream in life. He comes with this philosophy again that "there is no mountain a man cannot climb if he sets his mind on it." His advice is that people should never lose hope in life.
Reacting to the two individuals on the handicapped, hearing impaired and sight, the audience, who are mainly Kwarans in Diaspora, vowed to take the plight of the handicapped to their home government. There was a suggestion from the floor to sponsor a Bill to protect the Handicapped in Nigeria. The Minister for Communications, Chief C. O. Adebayo, who was in attendance, was challenged that Kwarans in Diaspora would like him to sponsor the Bill, and Kwarans would assist him, if needed, in putting the Bill together.
Kwarans present at the symposium, based on their comments, were determined to take aggressively encourage the Kwara State and the Kwara State House of Assembly pass a legislation addressing the plights of the handicap in the State and beyond. I am convinced that they would not allow the Kwara Sate Government to bear the responsibility alone. They have vowed, through one of their leaders in DC area, Lateef Olabisi Amolegbe, to mobilize their resources and network with their host communities to get the challenge in the State for the sake of the handicapped. I am very convinced that they can do it in a grand style.
Passing a Bill might be the first step of getting the Government involved in offering Special Education for the handicapped in the State to start with. According to my research legislation for Special Education can be traced as far back as 1810 in Australia, 1961 in Brazil, 1901 in Argentina, 1945 in Iran, the earliest law in Nigeria that made mention of educational provisions for the handicapped is said to be the Lagos Education Act of 1957, which merely advocated for "organization of Special Education in Lagos if and when necessary."
An attempt was also made in the Northern Law of 1964, which only suggested "special schools might be established for handicapped children if the Ministry of Education considered it necessary." However, in spite of these isolated laws, most of the early school for the handicapped were established by Christian Missionaries, and later were grant-aided by the Government. Such schools included the School for the Blind Children, Gindiri, Plateau State - 1953, Ibadan Mission School for the Deaf - 1960, the Nigerian Training Center for the Blind, Ogbomosho - 1960, Atunda Olu School for the Physically Handicapped, Lagos - 1965, and a lot of others. It would be great if KSANG North America could revive these Schools through legislation. Hopefully, C. O. Adebayo would be able to pilot the passage of the Bill at the National level. At the Federal level, active government involvement in special education of nearly every category dates back to October 1, 1974 when Gen. Yakubu Gowon, the Head of State then, through his personal experience, remarked that:
As a matter of fact that was the beginning of active Federal Government involvement in the education for the handicapped in Nigeria. Generous government scholarships and bursaries were awarded to both qualified handicapped persons and intending teachers of the Federal Advanced Teachers' College for Special Education, now Federal College of Education (Special), Oyo in 1997. It was in the same year that the historic National Policy on Education, which gave prominence to Special Education, was developed.
There is no reason why KSANG North America could not reenergize the Federal Government involvement in Special Education for the handicapped in Nigeria. Kwara State has two Ministers at the Federal level, Chief C. O. Adebayo, Communication Minister, and Princess Funke Adedoyin, Minister of State for Women and Youth Affairs. Most the members of the National Assembly are of the same Party with the National Government, PDP, General Abdulkadri, Obasanjo's Chief of Staff, is also from Kwara State, Governor Bukola Saraki, Kwara State Governor is PDP, most members of the Kwara State House of Assembly are of the same Party, PDP. What is the excuse for this current set of politicians from Kwara State not to make a difference in the progress for Kwara State between now and 2007?
KSANG should tap into the set of political unison at its disposal now, otherwise, Kwara State could kiss any progressive hand good bye for decades to come. They should realize that the greatness of a nation is not the number of skyscrapers available, but is assessed by the services of what she provides for her less-fortunate citizens, especially those who are handicapped. Like Dr. Gbadegesin remarked at the symposium, Kwara State Association has done what most of other associations are unable to do with their home governments. This is the time for KSANG to make a huge difference with its home government.
In his remarks at the evening event the President of KSANG Washington Chapter, Alhaji Abdul Kareem Kadiri, a politician to the core, former member of the Kwara State House of assembly, Chairman, Finance and Appropriation Committee (1979-1983), shared with the audience, the Chapter's involvement with the School of Handicaps, Ilorin. About three years after founding the Association, it made commitment to support the Kwara State School of handicaps, Ilorin. In his own words
"Since the passage of the resolution in 1996, we have been supporting the institution on a yearly budgetary allocation, in addition, we sent various representatives to the School to assess the progress of the school. We believe that those people that found themselves in such a predicament for no fault of their own can also make a difference in the society if necessary support and assistance were made available to them. As we progress in our tonight's event, we have two distinguished guests that will make presentations on the project. It is on this note that today's event centered on what we can do to make a big difference in other people's life. Fellow Kwarans, distinguished guests, It's time to re-evaluate our thinking and approach to the physically impaired individuals, they need our help, they need our support, we must support them, we must make them feel that they are part of our society. We have committed ourselves to make life more meaningful to them.This has become a challenge to all Kwarans in Diaspora to wake up to the plight of the disabled individuals attending the School of Handicaps, Ilorin. My understanding is that the school serves almost 18 States in Nigeria.
Other presenters at the morning symposium were Professor Ogunbiyi, Program Director, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Maryland. He spoke about Food production and preservation. Professor Oluropo Sekoni, a Professor in Linguistic, spoke about economic potentials of the State, while Professor Mobaliji Aluko, Professor of Chemical Engineering, Howard University, Washington, D.C. gave some statistics regarding the state of the economy in Kwara State, and Dr. Femi Ajayi spoke about Tourism, a multi billion Naira natural resources that the State Government is yet to tap into.
The speakers agreed on one point that, Kwara State Association of Nigeria, North America, has done what most Associations are finding very difficult to put together, especially in making their State government to be responsive to the needs of the people of the State. That is a credit to the Washington D. C. Chapter which began this noble organization in the past decade. The fact that they thought of establishing a State association, not an ethnic one like, Igbomina, Ekiti, Ibiolo, Edu or any other micro organization is a testimony to the unity of all Kwarans in Diaspora. Kwarans are grateful for the DC Chapter to have started this association. Since its inception, they have adopted the School of the handicapped and each year has continue to send goods and money to the School to help the students at the school. In addition, the Association have assisted quit a number of Kwarans that were being displaced from Nigeria, to settle in the area, and groomed them to be useful to themselves and their communities.
Kwarans championed the Yoruba course in the DC area as well. Most of these success stories have been centered around Bisi Amolegbe, recipient of Special Recognition Award, the man I once described in one of my articles as a blind lover, who would jump from the top of the Washington Monument just for the sake of Kwara State. Believe it or not, Amolegbe has his own strengths that he builds upon very well at the expense of others. The fact that he is the life Chairman of KSANG, DC Chapter and the Activity Director, from the testimonies from his Chapter members, with award in most of their gatherings rolling to him, he might have been a hero among his people in the Washington D. C. metro.
Propitiously for Amolegbe, he is blessed with a wife from heaven. She allows him the freedom to do whatever he feels is good for the community. She might not like much publicity, however, true to the letters, she is beside her husband 100%. Mrs. Agnes Aderonke Amolegbe has not changed from the way I knew her years past, in our elementary school days at Opo-Malu, Ilorin where we both grew up together. Another unique thing about Amolegbe is that he is very liberal when it comes to religion. His wife is a Christian and the children are free to choose any religion of their liking. That is what faith is all about. You don't have to be fanatic about your beliefs. We all believe in the same God. He is lucky to have a very supportive wife.
The vote of thanks, eloquently given by Dr. Tolani Abdulkadri, a potential future leader, at the conclusion of the morning session, made me feel more proud of being a Kwaran. She is a Medical Doctor, by profession, from Ajasse-Ipo, so also her husband (Adegboyega from Ijagbo), both at Howard Medical/Health Department. She summarized the presenters papers offered during the symposium. She assured the audience that things would get better for the Disabled individuals in Kwara State, and even in Nigeria, for the fact that the School of Handicaps Ilorin, serves the neighboring States.
The appreciable night event, which though started very late, was referred to as an "abused privilege" by Professor Ibrahim Agboola Gambari. It was however fully attended. Dr. Olusola Saraki was honored with Citizens Award, Chief C. O. Adebayo with Outstanding Service Award, while Dr. Olusegun Gbadegesin, the man that speaks Yoruba as if he is the author of Yoruba alphabets, bagged Community Service Award.
In his key note address to the evening gathering, KSANG DC Chapter Patron, Omo-Oba Professor Ambassador Agboola Gambari, encouraged Kwarans in Diaspora to start getting involved in the political dispensation at home so that their vision will be actualized through their Representatives. Alhaji Kadiri, the Chapter President avows, "Words cannot express our appreciation, he's been there for the Association as the Patron, Counselor and Advisor." Professor Gambari, my mentor, has been very supportive of KSANG efforts in making its home government receptive to the need of its citizens.
I joined Alhaji Kadiri in congratulating Washington Chapter of KSANG for graduating from merry making upon which foundation it was laid ten years past (1993) to "serious thinking body" today (2003). The transformation of Kwara State Association, KSA, as it was formerly known, according to Alhaji Kadiri, was made possible by
"the pioneer chapter of KSANG, .. are working with indigenes of Kwara State across the United States of America under the umbrella of KSANG North America and Canada to reach out to individuals, Government and other interest groups."The success of any association depends on the cooperation of the members and their understanding of the leader's vision, while building towards greatness. We congratulate all for the work well done.
He gave accolade to those that started the Association about ten years ago (1993)
"that created the platform of happiness, tent of brotherhood that now become the household names of Kwarans in Washington Metropolitan Area. Among them are: Alhaji Jumat Yusuf Olaleye, (Chief Imam of Nigeria Muslim Council) Princess Risikat Bukola Babalola, Razaq Alao, Shariff Alabi, Bola Kadiri, Alhaji Lasun Atolagbe, Razaq Alabi, Kamoru Alabi, Tajudeen Salami, Funmilayo Bello, Afusat Afolabi, Theophlos Ojo and of course Pioneer President, Lateef Amolegbe. They labored days and nights to nurture the organization to where it is today. We also thank all the past presidents and their executive in succession from Lateef Amolegbe, Funmilayo Bello, Theophlous Ojo for their dedication and wonderful job. May Allah continue to guide and bless your family."
He could not have accomplished the great show of success for the anniversary if not for the support of his current Executive members "for their tireless contributions both day and night, the entire anniversary committees for their sacrifices." They are: Moses Adepoju, VP; Abiodun Owolabi - General Secretary, Dr. Gboyega Abdulkadri - Asst. Secretary, Alhaji Ismaila Atolagbe - Financial Secretary, Bukola Babalola (Oyigbo) - Treasurer, Rasaq Agboola - Social Secretary, Debo Owolabi - Publicity Secretary, Abaas Olasupo - Auditor, Wahab Olasehinde - Chief Whip.
Alhaji Kadiri also paid tributes to individuals that had made tremendous contributions to the Association who had passed on to the other world. Chief David Olumuyiwa Oriyomi Wellington, and Alhaji T. A. Sanni, former President of Kwara State Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KWACCIMA). In his tribute
In the thank you note to those that graced the occasion from its General Secretary, Biodun Owolabi, he described the symposium as informative with words of appreciation to the presenters: Professor Mobolaji Aluko, Professor Oluropo Sekoni, Professor Ogunbiyi, and Dr. Femi Ajayi; The symposium was moderated by Dr. Femi Ajayi. Other participants include Chief C.O. Adebayo (Hon Minister for Communications, Federal Republic of Nigeria), Dr. Gbadegesin (Isokan), Mrs. Olobayo (CEO, Global Soap in Ilorin), Dr. Adepoju (Foundation Principal, Kwara State School of Handicaps),and Mr. Akanji.
In his own words:
"We thank you all for your detailed presentations; our prayers are that your fountain of knowledge shall not run dry, AMEN. All who made the long trips, especially the representatives of KSANG National and our sister chapters: Atlanta, New York, Texas, Chicago, Florida; All members of the high table at the Night Gala: Dr. Saraki, Chairman of the occasion and Honoree (Citizenship Award), who could not attend due to last minute constraints; Mrs. Olobayo, Chairwoman of the occasion; Chief C.O.Adebayo, Special Guest of Honor and Honoree (Outstanding Service Award); Professor Ibrahim Gambari, KSANG DC's Grand Patron and event's Keynote Speaker; His Royal Highness Alhaji Y. A. Babalola Egunjobi II, Elesie of Esie, our most Special Royal Guest of Honor. Other guests of Honor include Mr. Jude Rotimi, an entrepreneur of Kwara State origin from Seattle (WA), and Mrs. Kollington (DC). Tons of thanks to all of you for the grace with which you participated at the Gala. All those that contributed during the fundraising; may your pockets never run dry, AMEN."Some made pledges at the night gala and the Secretary was nice enough to remind them to "Please mail pledges and contributions to: KWARA STATE ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA, N.A. WASHINGTON, D.C. CHAPTER, P.O.BOX 91276, WASHINGTON, D.C.20090."
The Secretary was full of praises to everyone that made the event a success, a way of showing appreciation to people's contribution toward the success of the anniversary.
It was a wonderful 10th anniversary that Washington D. C. put together; gathering from all testimonies, it was one of the best shows DC chapter ever put together. The event brought home the plights of the disabled in Kwara State most especially and in Nigeria in general. I believe that KSANG, DC Chapter has started the crusade against the government's cold attitude toward the people with disabilities. Other Kwarans would mobilize their resources to get the Government attention on the subject.
Kwara State belongs to everyone of us, especially those that are true Kwarans, who have Kwara interest at heart, who want something from the Government, that is, catering for our people, with no place to go except Kwara State. We do not have any other place to run to when we have to run. Since we are not as fortunate as others to run to another location in case things don't work in Kwara State, we have to work harder to protect the State.
Once again THANKS TO DC CHAPTER for putting the Kwara State name on the world map. It is a challenge for the rest of other Kwarans to build upon, so that we won't end at the 'most expensive nursing home' in our places of residence.
The two-day convention in getting practical approaches to these areas of need for our people through any State Government is coming to Atlanta, June 18 and 19, 2004, forming partnership with the State Government. It is the race for all Kwarans to run, not only Atlanta Chapter, or officials, it is for the true Kwarans. No truly born Kwarans would want to be left out at this time when we have a hearing Governor; the same party in the State with the National Party, two Federal Ministers, reliable Senators and those at the House of Representatives, and at the State House of Assembly are about 98% of the same Party.
We have friends of Kwarans supporting us. Only a telephone call to the presenters within a very short notice brought them to the discussion table. Joining hands together brings about the success.
Keep it up. The race has just begun. KSANG D.C. Chapter has just sentenced OWAMBE style of Association to death and nailed its coffin.
Kwarans are inviting you all to join them in Atlanta, June 18 and 19, 2004, as they form partnership with the State of Georgia. KSANG takes another stride in its efforts in making its home government responsive to the needs of its citizens.