VP’s Remarks At Townhall Meeting In Benin City, Edo State.
OUR RESILIENCE, TENACITY AND CREATIVITY SHOULD INSPIRE US AS A NATION FOR GREAT ACHIEVEMENTS
REMARKS BY HIS EXCELLENCY, PROF. YEMI OSINBAJO, SAN, GCON, THE VICE PRESIDENT OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA AT THE TOWNHALL MEETING IN BENIN-CITY, EDO STATE ON THE 25TH OF OCTOBER, 2019.
I am very delighted to be at the National Festival of Arts and Culture in Benin City, a veritable citadel of culture and an ancient city steeped in the splendour of our finest traditions. I cannot think of a more befitting host for the Festival or of a site more appropriate for us to celebrate and reflect upon our cultural heritage.
The importance of events like these is to highlight the importance of memory. We must always look back to our history not because we want to romanticize the past but because the ancient landmarks of history give us a sense of our bearings and help us to navigate the present and the future.
I think that it is apt that the Edo State Government is pursuing a cultural agenda that includes the recovery of the lost treasures of Benin from all of the places it has been taken across the world.
The invasion of the Benin Kingdom in 1897 would have ended a lesser civilization. Instead, the royal dynasty survived and the legacy of Benin endures not only through the lineage of its noble royal houses, but also in the evident resilience of her people.
I have just had the pleasure of inspecting some of the works of the local guild of craftsmen and artisans that have existed for more than five hundred years. This is an example of what the spirit of Benin is all about – resilience, tenacity and creativity. These are attributes that can elevate and inspire our nation as a whole to greater achievements.
I would like to commend His Excellency the Governor for his vision and his leadership in seeking to reposition Edo State as a foremost destination for investment and tourism. As we diversify our economy and move our nation in the direction of revenues beyond oil, tourism is clearly one sector with untold potential for growth. Edo State is clearly blazing a trail in this direction.
The Governor has rightly prioritized the arts and culture sector and by showcasing its rich heritage, Edo State will attract global attention for all the right reasons.
Before coming here, I was taken round the National Museum on a most fascinating tour and I have seen much that fills me with great hope. Among the treasures on display are artifacts that highlight the deep socio-cultural linkages between the Bini on one hand and other ethnic communities such as the Igala, the Urhobo, the Igbo and the Yoruba among other groups.
Both archaeological and historical facts validate something that many of us have always intuitively known – that there is much more that unites us than divides us.
Often, we look to our past to emphasize or exaggerate our differences. But part of the legacy of ancient Benin is the constant reminder of the similarities between our diverse peoples.
I am delighted to have been able to tour the museum with very enthusiastic students from various schools here in Edo State. By acquainting themselves with the treasures of Benin, they have also hopefully been infused with a thirst for historical knowledge and have also received an invaluable awareness of the depth of the things that bind us together.
One of our tasks as artistes, scholars, enthusiasts and citizens interested in reclaiming our heritage is to ensure that we constantly interrogate our past with an eye for our commonalities rather than merely rehashing our differences. This matters because it is only by standing together that we can prevail over the challenges confronting us. These challenges know neither tribe nor tongue; they afflict us all universally and only by uniting in our diversity can we hope to overcome them.
This is why we have gathered together as a community this afternoon, to deliberate on some of those issues of mutual concern. I know that this is officially called a townhall meeting but I urge you to see it more as a village square meeting in the finest traditions of our people.
I have listened very carefully to the contributions and questions, and I will answer very quickly, those that I can.