Friday, June 16, 2017

USA Africa Dialogue Series - UGORJI'S REMARKS AT PROGRESSIVE POLITICS CONFERENCE

WELCOME REMARKS BY DR. UGORJI O. UGORJI

AT THE FIRST INTERPARTY CONFERENCE ON PROGRESSIVE POLITICS IN NIGERIA

 

Your Excellences: Owelle Rochas Okorocha, governor of the great state of Imo; Senator Dr. Ken Nnamani, former distinguished President of the Senate; Chief Emeka Ihedioha, former honorable Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives; the now legendary founder and chairman of both the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and the United Progressive Party (UPP), Chief Dr. Chekwas Okorie; His Royal Highness Eze Stephen Nwabueze Ugorji, our royal fathers present, our civil, business, religious and political leaders in attendance, sisters and brothers, ladies and gentleman, good morning! Ndi nwem na ndi nkwuru nwere, ekene m unu.   

Please permit me to stand on and be guide by all protocols known to me and those yet unknown to me.          

It is my singular honor to welcome all of you to this seminal event. May the great honor and charity you have extended to all of us who have organized this event, be returned to you in multiples of four!          

Let me start by stating the obvious, which is that all of us here stand on the broad, strong and noble shoulders of those men and women who came before us. Everything we do today and tomorrow can only be to build on what those who came before us did or failed to do. And so in a gathering such as this, it behooves us to always pay tribute to our glorious ancestors from whose lineage we all come and whose heritage we all share. To Dey Sam Mbakwe, after whom this hall is named, and to Nnamdi Azikiwe, Michael Okpara, Dennis Osadebe, Obi Wali, Philip Efiong, Akanu Ibiam, C.C. Onoh, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, Ugorji Onyeukwu, Nwaebo Ugorji and others who came before us, we do well and do the right thing to pay our respects.           

We are a people of creation. We have never been, are not now, and shall never be alienated from our creator, Chukwu. Chukwu's universal and immortal presence in our collective consciousness is reflected in the Chi of our individual destinies. On a day such as this, we say all glory belong to our creator; I ask with all humility that Chukwu's kindness and blessings remain with all of us!           

I bring you greetings from HRH Eze S. N. Ugorji and Ugoeze Ngozi Ugorji. Both are my parents, and in the case of Eze Ugorji, he is the author of the book that will be presented at the end of this gathering. I am joined here today in Owerri by the love of my life, Uchenna Ugorji, my wife. I greet you in her name and in the names of our five children.          

I also bring you greetings from Organizing For Opportunities (OFO), a non-profit and educational foundation registered here in Nigeria, with an affiliate entity in the US. Those of us in OFO seek simply to make a difference in the lives of as many people as possible, as quietly as possible, and with emphasis on developing opportunities for young people in all fields of human endeavor. It is not enough to be educated – our education must be such that empowers us to be masters of our destinies and apologists for none who dehumanizes us. It is not enough to know, one must act based on such knowledge in furtherance of liberty.         

Our goal at OFO is to work towards self-actualization for our brethren and peaceful and progressive self-determination for African peoples. And yes, we do have a Pan-African world view, devoid of the ethnic and religious barriers to our collective cohesion and progress. This world view shall be reflected in the programs developed, the institutions established, and the ideas and principles espoused.         

One of those ideas is the notion of progressivism in politics and governance. The discussion of that idea, especially as it affects politics and governance in this part of the world, is what we have invited some of our prominent political leaders to discuss today.           

So, what exactly does being a "progressive" mean in our contemporary politics? How do we arrive at a standard set of criteria to measure progressivism in politics and governance? How does "progressivism" in our part of the world differ from "conservatism" and which approach will serve us the best in the different areas of our public life and public service? We shall seek to get answers to these questions and more during the first segment of the gathering today. It is my hope that we will begin to move our people from the politics of personalities to the politics of ideas.          

On my part, I would opine that progressivism is simply as progressivism does. Progressivism is open to as much freedom and liberty as possible, at an individual citizen's level, as well as at the level of the constituent entities of the federation; progressivism sees the role of government as greatly important, especially in economies where the public sector is as dominant as it is here, recognizing that market forces are not necessarily rationale, nationalistic or humane – as such if we get government and governance wrong, we would have that much more heavy lifting to do; progressivism is democratic rather than authoritarian and seeks the expansion of the democratic space, even while allowing for the evolutionary nature of new democracies; progressivism is comfortable with as much resource control for the owners of the resources as possible; progressivism respects labor and intellect and supports minimum, sustaining wages for the least skilled among workers; and rather than exploit our religious and ethnic cleavages, progressivism is proactive in bridging these differences. I would assert that progressivism also envisions and works for an even greater, larger, stronger and more equitable and just federation, not a diminished one.           

The second segment of our gathering will be the presentation, review and launching of the book Truth is Life: An Autobiography of HRH Eze S.N. Ugorji. Those who know me know that books, for me, are among the greatest things in the world. The contributions to the body of human knowledge, which can be found in books, articles, essays, movies, documentaries, plays and other media, are what transforms societies and times.            

The Igbo say that he who knows his father, knows the ancestors. When we celebrate our parents, we celebrate both ourselves and our ancestors, and in so doing, we also celebrate Chukwu. Every religion of the world (without exception) involves ancestral veneration in several forms. The question is: which ancestors or whose ancestors are you venerating? While there is nothing necessarily wrong in the seemingly free choice of deifying other people's histories and heritages, I find more homeostasis in deifying our history and heritage, hence my joy about the book. It is a matter of honor for which I am grateful, that the Foreword to the book was written by Chief Emeka Ihedioha and the Afterword was written by Chief Dr. Chekwas Okorie.        

And now, sisters and brothers, let's get this program started. Whatever we do, let's not sweat the small stuff. Let's go climb our Kilimanjaro and sail on our West African ocean. May the Force be with all of us!

 

Dr. Ugorji Okechukwu Ugorji

President, Organizing For Opportunities

Publisher, Sungai Books

27 May, 2017

Owerri, Imo State

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