Remarks By Mr. Oseloka H. Obaze On the Occasion of the Public Presentation of His Books Here To Serve– Advocacy for Good Governance and Regarscent Past– A Collection of Poems, On Wednesday 15 June, 2016, Finotel Classique Hotel, Awka, Nigeria
My Lords Spiritual and Temporal,
Family, Friends and Distinguished Guests, Good Afternoon.
First, I want to thank all of you who left your various duties, businesses and family to be here this afternoon. I am sincerely humbled by the turn out and high-level of presence and representation. For a strictly literary event, this show of interest is heartening given our growing lack of interest in reading books.
As I welcome all of you, I thank especially, my two successive bosses, HE Chief Peter OBI, CON, and HE Gov. Willie OBIANO for finding time to be here. I remain grateful for the opportunity they gave to me to serve Ndi Anambra. I welcome and salute HE Dr Alex Ekwueme, former Vice President of Nigeria, who continues to uplift us all. Ide, thank you Sir for being here.
The three arms of government in Anambra – the Executive, Legislative and Judiciary — are well represented as are our neighbouring states. I salute you all- Our Speaker Rita Maduagwu and my childhood friend, our esteemed Chief Judge Hon. Justice PNC Umeadi. I salute the high-level representatives from Delta, Enugu, and Abia, including my dear friend Hon. Eboh Duke Okorie, the Abia State Commissioner Physical Planning and Infrastructural Development. Our royal fathers and the clergy are also in attendance; I salute them singularly and collectively. I salute also my friends and interlocutors in the organized private sector and our key stakeholders.
I have immediate family members here; my siblings, cousins, aunts, and uncles. My sisters Winnie, and Ifeoma, my brother Dubem, my aunt Justice Funmi Ofodile, my uncle, Chief Ngozi Emeni thank them all for coming. I love you all. To my many friends and well-wishers, especially my colleagues in the Nigerian Foreign Service, you are all very dear and special to me. I welcome especially HE Amb Edward Aina, who is is representing Prof Ibrahim Gambari, but also attending in his personal capacity. Thanks for this high honour, Sir.
The team of planners and friends, led by Odili Ujobuonu, Dr. Francis Asokwu Sea, Dr. Azubike Akpati, Moses Adedeji, Chinazor Ezimorah, Chioma Iteghete, Chinelo Ofoche, Collins Nwabunwanne, Nnonyem Nwogbo, Izu Okoye, Chidi Omo, Christy Maduafokwa and Ekene Nwamah made today’s event possible. I thank them sincerely.
The Chairman has spoken. The presenter has done his bit. And the reviewers have done an awesome magisterial job; in written and verbalized form. I thank them all for honouring me by their show of love and support. [Sir Emeka Offor] Ochendo S.N. Okeke, Dr. Eric Ifeanyi Okoye, and Prof. Ikenna Onyido, I salute you all. I salute Prof Emeka Aniagolu, our other reviewer in absentia. My publisher Chukwuemeka Ben Bosah is most inevitably absent, but with us in spirit. I owe him a great debt of gratitude.
This is not a day of speeches, but a day of appreciation. First, I’m thankful to God for every opportunity that has come my way; especially the opportunity to serve our humanity and our people. I also thank everyone with whom I have had the privilege of interacting, in the course of my private life and public service; and they are all part of this story — this gathering today.
I have ventured to write two books in a rather very short span. Well, I had the advantage of free time, and being a private citizen, and was not hobbled by public office responsibilities. The two books — Regarscent Past, which is an anthology, and Here To Serve, which is a chronicle of governance activities and policy challenges, come respectively from the heart and the head.
A friend of mine, Barrister Chuma Uwaechia, who is privy to both books had this to say: “It was In 1959, that the celebrated American novelist, Norman Mailer, who is considered to have been the innovator of creative nonfiction said that “writing books is the closest men ever come to childbearing.” From conception, nurturing of the idea, plotting the layout, writing, and eventual delivery of the book, the similarities are glaring. But writing like childbearing can be a wrecking experience. Writers sometimes spend enormous amount of time, just sitting at a spot trying to churn out a miserable sentence.” I concur fully.
So why did I engage in this enterprise? I did so strictly for three simple reasons. First, as a private citizen, writing offered me a preoccupation and escape. Secondly, when we write, we immortalize facts and records; and add to our body of history, while expanding our knowledge base. Thirdly, we are witnesses to active national revisionism of political and historical events that happened in our lifetime. We have even stopped teaching history in our schools. Such unacceptable development, born out of political convenience, makes it imperative for us to document every public, community and governance event, which we were part of, for the sake of our posterity.
Let me touch briefly on the two books we are presenting today. Regarscent Past is a collection of poems that span several years. As any reader who is brave enough to grapple with trenchant poetic vignettes will discover, the anthology includes some poems that immortalize people, events and places, while others are more exploratory and therefore, revelatory. Some indeed, promote cultural and heritage sites in our dear State, Anambra.
The poetic domain of this anthology is universal; with an understandable slant towards Nigeria, America and our global village. Individually and collectively, the poems aim to inform and educate. One or two of the poems are about events in Biafra, which coincidentally, has resurfaced in our national lexicon. It’s possible that some poems might be considered cynical and even harsh, since they demythologize people and events; but then who says a poet cannot be permitted a brief moment of licentiousness? What is important to my mind is that the poems are honest, historical, cultural, informative and educative.
Here To Serve is not a novel, memoir or treatise, even though it has been categorized under the political science genre. Broadly, the theme running through the book is good governance. Essentially, the volume documents good governance activities and events that transpired during the Peter Obi and Willie Obiano administrations that I witnessed, was part of, as well as the process of turning theoretical constructs into laudable programmes and projects. Some quality of life issues are also addressed. Certain challenges prevailing during the period under review are also recorded. For convenience the volume is divided into four parts: Responsive Leadership; Ethics in Governance; Policy Interrogation; and Confronting Realpolitik. The book also features an appendix with twenty (20) questions, which serves as a teaching aid for those in academia. If per chance these two books add a modicum of value to good governance and literature, my mission would have been accomplished.
Let us resolve to leave a better legacy for our children, than the one we were handed. We must remember also that the consequences of our governance action or inaction are by no means a coincidence.
Since I presume everyone here will endeavour to leave with a copy of each book, I don’t want to spoil your reading appetite. So do I have a singular word of wisdom to share? Yes, in whatever we do, let us resolve to leave a better legacy for our children, than the one we were handed. We must remember also that the consequences of our governance action or inaction are by no means a coincidence.
Let me end these brief remarks with perhaps my most important task of the day: by thanking my dear wife, Ofunne, for her love and support. Our children are inevitably absent, but surely are here in spirit. In many ways it is they who made this day possible by lovingly giving me the quiet space and time to write. They continue to do so as I grapple with my next book, which by God’s grace, will be completed before the end of the year.
Thank you and may God bless you all and reward you for your kindness, support and generosity.
Mr. Obaze is the former Secretary to the State Government of Anambra State, Nigeria from 2012 to 2015 - MD & CEO, Oseloka H. Obaze. Mr. Obaze also served as a former United Nations official, from 1991-2012, and as a former member of the Nigerian Diplomatic Service, from 1982-1991.
Selonnes Consult Ltd. is a Strategic Policy, Good Governance and Management Consulting Firm, founded by Mr. Oseloka H. Obaze who served as Secretary to Anambra State Government from 2012-2015; a United Nations official from 1991-2012 and a Nigerian Foreign Service Officer from 1982-1991.