Vice-President extols Awolowo’s leadership, marks 60 years of television

Cyril Okonkwo, Ibadan

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Nigeria’s Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, has extolled the visionary leadership of the Premier of the defunct Western Region of Nigeria, the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, challenging Nigerians to build on the foundations he and other nationalists laid.

The vice president was speaking on Thursday in Ibadan at the 60th anniversary celebration of Africa’s first television station, the Western Nigeria Television, Ibadan, which commenced operations on October 31, 1959.

Prof. Osinbajo said that the achievements of the late sage “represents sturdy shoulders for us to stand on,” pointing out that Nigerians could do more today.

He said: “the vision of Awo was to build a people capable of excelling beyond his own achievements, adding every generation has a historic responsibility to reach for the highest peaks that human capacity can achieve.”

Vice President Osinbajo noted that the establishment of the WNTV 60 years ago by Chief Awolowo, assisted by his lieutenants, late Chief Anthony Enahoro, and  and late Chief T. T. Solarin, entered the history books as a remarkable achievement in a country that was still under colonial rule.

He pointed out that the WNTV was not only the first television station in Africa, but also preceded television broadcasting in China, which began in 1962, Canada in 1967, New Zealand in 1960 and several European countries, including Netherlands and Ireland.

Speaking further on Chief Awolowo’s vision and achievements, Vice President Osinbajo said: “it would ordinarily have been unimaginable that somehow in a part of the  yet to be independent Nigeria, a man and his team would  build  a television station in three months, the first as we have seen, in many parts of the world. but for the man it was. 

“Papa had laid out a plan for the rapid development of the western region. It included physical infrastructure and human capacity development. 

“The plan included free and compulsory education as of the date of the inauguration of the WNTV almost a million children were in school in the western region. 

“41% of the region’s budget was spent on education the highest proportion anywhere in the free world, a clear demonstration of the importance of education for development.”

According to Prof. Osinabjo, the celebration of the 60thanniversary was historic as for three main reasons.

“First it demonstrated the capacity of the Nigerian mind, to conceive of and achieve anything no matter how complex or difficult.

“Secondly it demonstrates how visionary leadership can inspire and lead people from the lowest levels to the high points of human imagination.    

“Third it exemplifies the use of public resources for the public good. The WNTV was built to inform and to educate.

“So today as we celebrate the 60th Anniversary of the establishment of the WNTV we also celebrate what is possible in our nation and states what Vision, hard-work and a commitment to the public good can do.”

Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, represented by the Director-General Nigerian Television Authority, Mallam Yakubu Ibn Mohammed, said the rapid spread of television is a great testimony to the nobility of the vision of the nationalist and Pan-Africanist, Chief Awolowo.

“What was sown then as a little mustard seed has grown to produce uncountable fruits in the broadcasting world.

“A typical example of this is the fact that NTA alone can boast of over 101 television stations spread across Nigeria.”

The book, “Heritage of Excellence: Reminiscences of Men and Women Behind the Bright Rise of Africa’s First Television,” was presented at the event.

Reviewer of the Book, Prof. Nkechi Christopher of the Department of Communication and Language Arts, University of Ibadan, said the book consists of the voices of individuals employed in the first two decades of television in Nigeria and the trajectory of its expansion.