REMARKS BY HIS EXCELLENCY, PROF. YEMI OSINBAJO, SAN, GCON, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA, AT THE 60TH ANNIVERSARY OF WESTERN NIGERIA TELEVISION, IBADAN, ON THE 31ST OF OCTOBER, 2019.
It is a special honour to be here today, to celebrate the pioneers of the first television in Africa. Exactly 60 years ago today, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Premier of the Western Region, then flanked by Governor General, Sir John Rankine, Chief Anthony Enahoro, the region’s Minister of Information, and Chief T.T Solaru, first Board Chair of Western Nigeria Broadcasting Corporation, formally entered the history books by commissioning the Western Nigeria Television, the first in Africa; and ahead of China in 1962, Canada in 1967, New Zealand in 1960, and several European countries, including the Netherlands in 1960, Ireland in 1961, Greece in 1966 and Malta in 1962.
It was not just first in Africa, but first in many parts of Asia and, as you can imagine, even in Europe without even talking about Eastern Europe.
The event was historic for three reasons. Firstly, it demonstrated the capacity of the Nigerian mind to conceive 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.
Thirdly, it exemplifies the use of public resources for the public good. WNTV was built to inform, to educate and entertain. As Papa Awolowo himself said on that day sixty years ago, television is a powerful influence for good.
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 not so surprising because Papa (Awolowo) 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 WNTV, almost a million children were in school in the Western Region. Forty-one per cent (41%) of the Western Region’s budget was spent on education, the highest proportion anywhere in the free world, the highest proportion at that time anywhere in the world.
In the free world in particular, it was obvious that those who understood the value of education used it as a powerful proponent for the advancement of their people. Papa Awolowo clearly understood that so long ago.
Today, as we celebrate the 60th anniversary of the establishment of WNTV, we also celebrate what is possible in our nation and states, what vision, hardwork and a commitment to the public good can do.
As Ambassador Yemi Faronmbi said, the celebration of the phenomenal achievement in 1959 would be wasted unless we recognize that the achievement represents sturdy shoulders for us to stand on. Today we can do more and the vision of Awolowo was to build a people capable of excelling beyond even his own achievements.
Every generation has a historic responsibility to reach for the highest peaks that human capacity can achieve. Today we are at the most advanced moment in science, technology and innovation in human history.
The smartphones you have in your hands have more computing power than all the computing power that the Apollo spaceship that took men to the moon in 1969 had. All things are possible and we are able! Let us be inspired by Papa’s words, that our only limit is our imagination.
Congratulations to the Foundation for Ibadan Television and to all of us friends, families and admirers of the pioneers.
Thank you very much and God bless you!
Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity
Office of the Vice President
31st October, 2019