WELCOME ADDRESS BY PROF. STEVE AZAIKI, OON, CHAIRMAN, AZAIKI FOUNDATION, ON THE OCCASION OF THE UNVEILING OF THE PLAQUE AND OFFICIAL COMMISSIONING OF THE AZAIKI PUBLIC LIBRARY, BY HIS EXCELLENCY, PRESIDENT GOODLUCK JONATHAN, GCFR, ON 19 MAY 2015, AT YENAGOA, BAYELSA STATE.
“To build up a Library is to create a life. It’s never just a random collection of books.” Carlos Maria Dominaguez
I am most delighted to welcome you all to this ceremony, which is the unveiling of the plaque that marks the official opening of the Azaiki Public Library, here in Yenagoa, capital of Bayelsa State.
I was born and raised in this town. Today, the landscape and skyline of Yenagoa are remarkably different from the profile of the city just over a decade or so ago. With the capital city and other towns in the state undergoing rapid transformation, so too are the socio-economic fortunes of our people. But these positive changes do not erase from my memory, the pain of the challenges of growing up in this town, with extreme difficulty in accessing books, not just for academic knowledge, but books and other reading materials that would expose one to the rest of the world. I needed to throw myself into this project, because I am leaving the words of John Dewey: “Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.”
Albert Pike was right when he said “What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have done for others and the world remains with us and is immortal.” In the intervening years, I have had the exceptional benefit and privilege of studying, living, and working elsewhere in the world. In this odyssey, I have always been fascinated by the pride of place accorded public libraries, especially in the developed world. This fascination stirred up in me, a burning desire to replicate the idea of a public library back home, and in the process, give back to my community and society. Here I wish to remind us of what Muhammad Ali said: “Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on Earth.”
I agree with Elie Wiessel that: “When a person doesn’t have gratitude, something is missing in his or her humanity.” The library project that is being commissioned today is the result of an effort that has lasted some 10 years. In addition to my personal resources, the Azaiki Foundation, under whose auspices the library has been established, received support from well-meaning individuals, international organisations, and publishers, whose book donations have helped in no small measure in boosting the library’s collections. I would, therefore, like to use this opportunity to express the profound gratitude of the Azaiki Foundation to the numerous benefactors of the library.
To my wife and children, I thank you for your support. I am sorry I gave you a burden far bigger than I imagined. My happiness is that you all are happy we built this Library. Again Ziq Ziglar is right: “Gratitude is the healthiest of all human emotions. The more you express gratitude for what you have, the more likely you will have even more to express gratitude for.”
Let me say this here and now:”Everything you need for better future and success has already been written. And guess what? All you have to do is go to the Library,” Henri Frederic Amiel. In addition to printed books, periodicals, and journals in various disciplines, the library has audio-visual facilities to access information stored in CDs, cassettes, video tapes, and DVDs. Again let me quote Norman Cousins: “A library is the delivery room for the birth of ideas, a place where history comes to life.” Perhaps, the icing on the cake is that patrons of the library can read digital materials, including 30 million eBooks, as well as electronic newspapers using PCs installed in the library. My justification came from the words of Ray Bradbury: “Without Libraries, what have we? We have no past and no future.”
Your Excellencies, Very Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, it is true, as Ceaser Charvez said: “We cannot seek achievement for ourselves and forget about progress and prosperity for our community… Our ambitions must be broad enough to include the aspirations and needs of others, for their sakes and for our own.” We live in an information-driven world. Today, as part of its changing fortunes, Bayelsa State is host to a number of tertiary institutions. It is our hope that this library, through its collections, will support research by the faculty members and students in the higher institutions within the immediate vicinity. In particular, the library is the launch pad for the new Institute of Science and Technology, Yenagoa, which recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with a foreign university to run a joint degree programme in Systems Engineering and related technical and management courses that will, no doubt, accelerate the capacity development of our people. This will validate what Nelson Mandela said: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
It is my belief that a library, accessible to the public, is a veritable centre that can help build a community of readers. Reading boosts knowledge, which, in turn, aids education. Invariably, aside from the economics of a public library, which will assist in lessening the burden on parents in purchasing books and various reading materials for their wards, I am confident that as the public library becomes an attractive place for meaningful congregation and exchange of ideas, the new environment as well as the motivation it creates, can help in tackling numerous social problems often directly traceable to idleness among young persons. Instead of ending up at drinking joints and growing pot-bellies, because they have nowhere else to go, young persons with access to a well-stocked public library, would soon discover that it is preferable to feed their brains, even in their spare time, than damaging their health through other unsavoury habits. This reminds me of what Maya Angelou said: “My mother said I must always be intolerant of ignorance but understanding of illiteracy. That some people, unable to go to school, were more educated and more intelligent that college professors.”
I say this because, it is a truism that recreation does not consist only of physical activities such as playing a game of soccer, tennis, or other such sport. A library does provide an avenue for recreation through the use of art forms and literature. At this juncture, let me add that integral to this library complex is Museum of African Art, which sits on the top floor of the building. The museum has a section dedicated to creative forms and works of the Niger Delta. I do whole-heartedly agree with Hans Haacke that: “Museums are managers of consciousness. They give us an interpretation of history, of how to view the world and locate ourselves in it. They are, if you want to put it in positive terms, great educational institutions. If you want to put it in negative terms, they are propaganda machines.”
Your Excellencies, Very Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, the library project whose commissioning we are witnessing today bears testimony to the fact that, working together, we can make things happen even in our local communities. Among his many quotable quotes, Mahatma Gandhi said: “The earth, the air, the land, and the water are not inheritance from our forefathers, but on loan from our children. So, we have to handover to them, at least, as were handed over to us.” This library and all her component parts are handover notes to future generations, as we expect them to attain a height higher than we attained in our time. To our youths, let us remember the word of Martin Luther King: “The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the good of true education.” Again, it was Aristotle who said: “The roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet.”
Today we celebrate unity of purpose, we celebrate friendship and community, and more compellingly, we celebrate Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. We celebrate a man who left this backwater of the Niger Delta and by working hard and persevering, and by the Grace of God rose to become No1 Citizen of this country. Twenty years ago, no one would even imagine it, talk of actualising it. So to our dear President let me quote from Vince Lombbardi: “The price of Success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand.” Again, Colin Powel, the great American General said: “A dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work.”
Today, this institution will present an award to our President on behalf of the Institute of Science & Technology, Yenagoa and the Azaiki Foundation and Public Library, for his commitment, service to Nigeria and for services yet to come, especially the Goodluck Foundation for Peace and Democracy and for his contribution for peace and democracy in Africa. Dwight D. Eisenhower said: “This world of ours … must avoid becoming a community of dreadful fear and hate and be, instead, a proud confederation of mutual trust and respect”. Mr President, the decision you have taken to continue to serve must be encouraged and sustained. This is what President Barack Obama said: “The future rewards those who press on. I don’t have time to complain. I’m going to press on.” Again, Sir, the words of Mahatma Gandhi is so true: “The best way to find yourself; is lose yourself in the service of others.”
Let me salute our host Governor, Seriake Dickson, for the support he has given to us and especially the support he gave to our dear President. He did a great job in rallying the Ijaw Nation, the Niger Delta and indeed, Nigerians, to support our nascent democracy. So, now, i call on all of us to bury our differences and support Governor Seriake Dickson for the benefit of our people. Always remember the great words of Paul Ryan: “Every successful individual knows that his or her achievement depends on a community of persons working together”. And according to Douglas Adams: “To give real service, you must add something which cannot be bought or measured with money, and that is sincerity and integrity.”
Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, to the Ijaw Nation let me quote from Franklin D. Roosevelt: “The point in history at which we stand is full of promise and danger, the world will either move forward toward unity and widely shared prosperity or it will move apart.” My dear Brothers and Sisters, no battle is lost. We kept our name Ijaw or Izon meaning truth. Frederick Douglas said this many years ago and sounds true today for us: “A battle lost or won, is easily described, understood and appreciated, but the moral growth of a great nation requires reflection, as well as observation to appreciate it.” This is what the late Ethiopian leader, Haile Selassie, tells us: “We must become bigger than we have been: more courageous, greater in spirit, larger in outlook. We must become members of a new race, overcoming petty prejudice, owing our ultimate allegiance not to nations but to our fellow men within the human community.” Let me also quote for our purpose Muhammad Ali Jinnah: “Again, i say to our people, my message to you all is of hope, courage and confidence. Let us mobilize all our resources in a systematic and organized way, tackle the grave issues that confront us with grin determination and discipline worthy of great nation.”
Mr President, as you officially commission this complex today, we solicit for a presidential intervention as thus: Direct the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, the Petroleum Training Development Fund, Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas and TETFUND, to support the full establishment of the faculty of Oil and Gas of our Institute of Science & Technology. Direct the Niger Delta Development Commission, the Ecological Fund and the Office of the Special Adviser on Niger Delta to support the establishment of the School of Environment and Niger Delta Studies in the Institute of Science & Technology. Also, NIMASA to fund the establishment of the faculty of Maritime Studies and the Goodluck Jonathan Foundation, to provide materials and support the Goodluck Jonathan Centre for Democracy and Conflict Resolution.
We equally use this opportunity to request the Bayelsa State Government to continue to support the growth and development of the public library built for the benefit of our people especially in the area of security and other requirements.
Your Excellencies, members of the National & State Assemblies, Hon. Ministers, very distinguished ladies and gentlemen; I welcome you all to this great event, the official Commissioning of the Azaiki Public Library to the Glory of God and mankind. You are welcome.
I leave you with the words of Beecher;
“It is not what we take up, But what we give up . That makes us rich” – Beecher