THERE are Nigerians born with the grace of advancing the cause of humanity using their abundant skills. These set of persons, who are rear to find in societies, derive their source of power from their vast writing skills. Prof Monsignor Obiora Francis Ike belongs to this category of Nigerians.
From a humble beginning 58 years ago in remote Ezeagu in Ezeagu local government area of Enugu state, the Catholic Priest in charge of the Independence layout branch and Director of many institutions has become a world figure through writing. Monsignor, as he is fondly called, was the deputy leader of Southeast delegation to the recently concluded national conference where he served in the religious committee. He has written several books in seven different languages across the globe.
The writer, orator, teacher and researcher was recently honoured as he was enrolled into the membership of the prestigious European Academy of Science and Arts. He is thus the first African and Nigerian to receive the prestigious honour and membership of the Academy. The honour came after his 70th book, which span such areas as governance, economics, culture, religion, theology, philosophy, society and some politics.
The European Academy of Science and Arts, which had been in existence in the past 50 years, is an amalgam of brains in the academia working together in institutions of higher learning or specialized research centres to produce and impact the world with their thoughts. This organization has grown over the years to now include 1500 intellectuals from various countries and Africa had not been within until now.
Speaking on the feat, the versatile writer had told The Guardian: "As we all know that the world of human beings is the world of thinking and of leadership because human beings are rational beings; they can only use their brain to organize the world. When we think about electricity, medicine, surgery, natural sciences, chemistry, physics, astronomy, subjects like humanity and what information technology meant. These are the various subjects that surround the theatre of Science and Arts.
In March this year, I was humbled not only to be nominated but also to be inducted as a member into the European Academy of Science and Arts in Salsburg in Australia. The nomination I have received is one that has made me to say when you work hard; you will be recognized. What it means for us is that an honour has been done to this continent, Nigeria and Enugu state. It is a great act of gratitude for which I feel that our people should learn to work hard and do more. This honour came after my 70th book, so people are also watching and reading. People have seen the hard work and felt we should be recognized".
To Prof. Ike, the award would spur him to doing things he believes would change the wrong perception about the country's way of life, especially corruption, which has eroded values, adding that there was plan to bring like minds together in the pursuit to rediscover lost values.
"The challenge facing Nigerians especially at this time is that of scholarship, mentoring and aspiration to excellence. No amount of power can stop any idea which time has come. The time has come for us to accept the truth that corruption cannot be a continued way of life. We cannot truncate the entire life of our society as we see implosion at all levels. My agenda going forward is first of all to my university where I have full professorship to start the Godfrey Okoye Graduate School of Business. This school of Business will train people, bankers, politicians, educationists, media personnel, and the larger society on the rudiments of business ethics, leadership styles, content, development and strategies for moving a society forward.
We have gone into discussions already with the South African School. What we can start with the society is to challenge our own youths to thrive to excellence and to challenge those who corrupt the system by calling a spade, a spade. There must be a way of galvanizing society by ethical or moral reasoning, galvanizing society to such extent that will be a force to counter that which is evil. Sometimes it's overwhelming when you live in a society and say I cannot do anything; each and every one of us can do something and my message to Nigerians is a message of hope, time has come for people to think that we have a great opportunity to rise again. It will be part of my agenda as a member of the European Academy of Science and Arts.
We should be thinking of the African Academy of Science and Arts. We should be thinking of the Nigeria Academy of Science and Arts. We should be thinking of the Enugu Academy of Science and Arts and we should be promoting young people to strive towards reading, scholarship, research, teaching and training. I will be calling an education summit towards the end of the year on this subject matter, so that the problems we have in these areas will now be discussed. We want to create innovations and initiatives that can move our society forward", he said.
Although he said that no country in the world is without corruption, he agreed however that the ugly trend had thrived because of lack of political will to sanction those who engaged in them.
"Corruption is worse when it has to do with moral decadence, when the will to power, the will to doing it right and doing good fails and impunity becomes a way of life and bribery and corruption undermines a system, where people get what they want beyond law, corrupting those who must protect the law. Corruption in Nigeria has been talked about by various persons and why it is spreading is because no one is called to order. How could you have a system where someone is accused and tried but there is no judgment pronouncing him guilty and there is no discipline and justice? So, whistle blowing is one level, fighting to ensure justice is done when there is impunity is another, using the pulpit and writings become another.
We would soon set up an NGO that is called Governance, Ethics in Nigeria. People are coming together to think that the issue of governance is very key. We must innovate. We are in an emergence in Nigeria and we think that the rule of law is the best way to fight corruption. Let us establish the rule and let the rule be free and fair, those who truncate the rules go through what the rules stipulate.
The other is education; we need to re-orientate our society and I am very optimistic that if the youths are prepared today, it will be a different ball game for Nigeria. We should continue to fight that corruption be banned in Nigeria. What I think about the institutions set up to regulate corruption in Nigeria is that they should be given more teeth and the leadership is also challenged to take courage and responsibility when it is necessary."
Speaking further on how worried Nigerians have become about the issues of corruption, he explained that all the 20 committees of the just concluded national conference "had a sentence on corruption". "How would you have a civil or public service and economic resources cannot move the country forward because of corruption? The national conference, which has wrapped up its work took the issue very appropriately and seriously. The national conference came up not only with issues of corruption, it came up with other issues like fiscal federalism and derivation. And there was consensus in many areas such as those that deal with justice and leadership but one that was very important towards the end was on devolution of power. If you have control at the local level, like there is state police whom the national conference agreed on that a state that wants a state police should go and deliberate on it. I believe that we arrived at a level playing ground where we can still have one Nigeria and created agenda for development among others", Ike said.
He added on corruption: "There must be a way of not paying lip service to corruption. We need to have the political will to implement the laws guiding those anti-corruption agencies that we have set up. We don't just have to appoint someone who is half blind to lead a campaign that is greater. You don't just send anybody to run an office, you send people with the right pedigree and quality and people who have a strong will, vision and patriotic and not just those whom you patronize and put in the position of power. If we encourage such qualities, issues of corruption would be different in Nigeria".
Born on April 7, 1956, Prof Ike studied at the All Hallows Seminary, Onitsha and St John's Seminary, Nsukka with Graduate Certificates of West African School Certificates (WASC, 9 subjects, Grade One result); General Certificate of Examinations, Cambridge, UK, Ordinary Levels and Advanced levels.
He had his Postgraduate diploma in International Studies at Yugoslavia (1983), Diploma in Journalism at Cambridge University (1979), studied Philosophy at Pontifical Urban University Rome, studied Theology at University of Innsbruck and Doctor of Theology at Friedrich Wilhelms University, Germany.
He has won many national and international awards, and he is member and patron to many institutions and organizations including International health foundation and American Association for Advancement of Science, among others.
He taught Ethics and African Studies at the Godfrey Okoye University, Enugu. He was also a Senior Lecturer for Political and Socio-Economic Sciences at the Spiritan International School of Theology, Attakwu.
A Director and consultant to many organizations, he is the founder and executive Director of the Catholic Institute for Development, Justice and Peace (CIDJAP), Enugu and Co-founder and Chairman of Umuchinemere Procredit Microfinance Bank.
Some of his books include Nigerian Prisons, Hell above Ground; Ten Years of Nigerian Congress of Catholic Prison Pastoral Care (NCCPPC), Reflections and Action; Globalization and African Self-Determination - What is our Future?, among others.
(Culled from The Saturday Guardian of September 13, 2014)
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