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For the Record: BEING A SPEECH DELIVERED BY CHIEF OLUFEMI SHODUNKE AS GUEST SPEAKER AT THE LAUNCH AND FUND-RAISE OF LIFE OF HOPE FOUNDATION CANADA TODAY, FRIDAY, OCTOBER 4, 2019 HELD AT VENETIAN BANQUET HALL, CONCORD, ONTARIO, CANADA.

BUT permit me to say that the decision to constitute the BOD is in accord with God’s direction as espoused in the Bible in Proverbs 15: 22 which says “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.”  Sister Stella, thank you for obeying the Lord with the composition of the BOD, which I am fortunate to be a member.

HOWEVER, in line with the theme for this year’s International Youth Day, “Transforming Education,” I will enjoin us to rise to the occasion to help educate and support our young people in whatever will make them grow.  Please, allow me to say that not only that I have been educating the adults, particularly members, in the various groups and associations that I belong to, over the years in Canada and US, against social vices in our midst, but my family had, in 2010, envisioned the Late Oluwadarasimi Ayodele Shodunke Health Foundation in memory of my deceased daughter, who died in India after surgery barely nine years ago while I was still in Nigeria.  Indeed, despite the present crucial judicial katzenjammer facing me in Alberta – in this regard – I remain committed and cleaved to this ideal of striving to educate the children and young adults, in our society, too, in order to stamp out indecent and immoral acts that tend to degrade and humiliate them – with specific focus in the area of healthcare.

LET us assist our youth to realize their potentials.  As a matter of urgency, we must offer the required supporting hands to lift up those below the ladder (I mean within the poverty level), of course I am undoubtedly one of them and I think some of you, children and young adults, whose parents are struggling harder to make ends meet – working two to three jobs daily to feed their families in order to survive. 

DISTINGUISHED guests, ladies and gentlemen, at this juncture, it must be stressed that we are all gathered here today to help humanity.  Our gathering is to help save the future and, of course, the planet.  This is because profound devotion and investment of our human, material and financial resources on children and young adults who are leaders of tomorrow to inherit this planet from us are the right step in the right direction. 

APPARENTLY in eloquent support of this, ex-US President Barack Obama, while speaking at Safaricom Indoor Arena, Nairobi, Kenya in Africa on July 26, 2015 – during official visit to his ancestral root in Africa – said of this proverb, which says: “We have not inherited this land from our forebears, we have borrowed it from our children.”  Definitely, the former President was apt, and sincerely speaking, we have borrowed this land, and indeed the entire world, from our children and we must do all within our resources to leave it better for them – to save their future, particularly after our departure from the surface of the Earth.

RELATED to the 44th US President’s proverb is the August 2019 speech, barely a couple of months ago, by Canada’s Prime Minister, The Honorable Justin Trudeau.  In his statement to mark this year’s International Youth Day, the PM said: “…I know that when young people can create change and make their voices heard, they help build a better world.  Young people are leaders – and we will keep fighting for you, and with you, to build a better future.”

THE import of my message to you – distinguished personalities present here this evening – is to stress the significance of youth in our society.  In fact, our Prime Minister went further to say this: “Earlier this month, I welcomed new members to the Youth Council, who will help shape government decisions on issues like advancing reconciliation, fighting the climate crisis, and creating more jobs and opportunities for Canadians.  Together, the Council will help inspire young people to shape their communities – and our country – for the better.”

AND indeed, the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development in the present administration of PM Trudeau, The Honourable Jean-Yves Duclos, also corroborated this remarks when he said: “…Canada’s first-ever Poverty Reduction Strategy is built on the vision that all Canadians should have a sense of security and be hopeful that tomorrow will be better than today for them, for their loved ones and for the generations to come.”

I don’t want to sound as an alarmist, but then I must bring this agglomeration of information to fore to inform you that unless we do something fast, like what Life of Hope Foundation Canada is set out to achieve, the future is not that bright and great for our future leaders; indeed it is bleak.

FOR instance, the President and Chief Executive Officer of ONE Campaign blog and a former Administrator of United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Gayle Smith, early this year wrote on the theme that says “2019: The year we put extreme poverty on the defensive.”  Smith, however, painted a pathetic picture when she declared: “January should be a time for new beginnings, but for half a million children, this month will likely be their last on Earth.”  Smith also said: “2019 should be remembered as the year we put extreme poverty on the defensive, but getting there will require world leaders to match bold ideas with strong leadership and immediate action.”

 WITH this challenge, however, what are we expected to do?  Is it to sit down and watch?  No, we can’t!  We must promptly act – particularly with this stupendous concept of Life of Hope Foundation Canada.  Therefore, I seek not only your support for this Foundation, but I want you to begin ruminating in your mind on how to save and guarantee a better tomorrow not only for your own children, but everyone, particularly children and young adults in our immediate midst and across the world, as actually enjoined by our Creator.

AT least, the Bible says in Galatians 6:2 thus: “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”  The Holy Book said similar thing in Matthew 25:35 “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in.” 

LET me start from home here in Canada.  Despite the message of hope coming from our PM Trudeau, today there is still high level of poverty in Canada and indeed the entire world.  For instance, the Canadian Poverty Institute informed us – not long ago – that poverty in Canada is multi-dimensional, and the institute identified three, which are material poverty, social poverty, and spiritual poverty.

THE institute declared on its website: “Considering Canada’s wealth and resources, a disproportionate number of Canadians are living in poverty.  Poverty affects millions of Canadians. Income inequality is growing and recent estimates indicate over 14% of Canadians suffer from low income.  Many more live precariously from pay cheque to pay cheque and are at risk of falling into poverty…It is estimated that over 150,000 Canadians are homeless on any given day.”

IN lending credence to the fact that poverty has become a malaise that Canada must focus on, the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development confesses in a book entitled “Opportunity for all, Canada’s First Poverty Reduction Strategy,” which was published last year when he said this: “Through roundtables and town halls, in person and online, via conversations and conferences, I have heard diverse experiences and insights on how we can understand and reduce poverty in this country.”  The minister further stressed: “The range of voices we heard during our consultation process allowed us to get a better understanding of poverty and ways to reduce it.”

BUT the good thing, at this juncture, is that the Canadian government has realized the essentialities to tackle headlong the poverty in our midst, particularly in the overall interest of our leaders of tomorrow.

LADIES and gentlemen, while this is cheering news for all of us present here today in Canada to relish over, but can we proudly say the same thing about Nigeria nay Africa?  For the purpose of our gathering here today, however, let us focus on Nigeria, the most populous country in the continent of Africa.   As a matter-of-fact, the radar of hope by Life of Hope Foundation Canada is to be beamed in the direction of our youth in Canada and especially Nigeria.

INDEED, Nigeria is a blessed nation in abundant natural, human and financial resources.  But when the country lacks good leadership, unlike a country like Canada, what do you expect will happen to these abundant resources?  Absolutely, the country will witness maladministration, monumental corruption, misappropriation of funds, and the consequences, among others, will be lack of fund for capital projects and investments that will lead to provision of economic development, social and infrastructural amenities and, of course, jobs.  The youth, ultimately, will bear the brunt of these maladies in the country.

IS it not in this great country (Nigeria) that a former Head of State, the late Gen. Sani Abacha, stole between 3 to 5 billion US dollars, which he kept abroad while fellow Nigerians wallowed in abject poverty?  This staggering and whopping amount, according to Transparency International in its 2018 report, is part of the 20 to 40 billion US dollars stolen from developing countries and hidden in some of these advanced countries.  Though in 2006, Switzerland returned 723 million US dollars of the illicit fund stolen by kleptomaniac Abacha to Nigeria, but where is and what has the money, and other financial provisions too, done to improve the economic, infrastructure and social well-being of the youth and generally the teeming populace of Nigeria?

IN fact, the US based Bloomberg News gave a gory picture of the state of affairs in Nigeria in its February 21, 2019 reports.  It said this: “While poverty in India, which has five times the population, is declining, the number of destitute in Nigeria is believed to be growing by six people every minute, according to a recent paper from The Brookings Institution.  The UN expects its population to double to 410 million by 2050, potentially swelling the ranks of the poor.”

TO support this report that danger looms ahead in Nigeria, the Vanguard newspaper in Nigeria published last year the views expressed by President Muhammadu Buhari’s Special Advisor on Social Protection, Mrs. Maryam Uwais, who disclosed that about 67 per cent of Nigerians live below poverty line. 

MEANWHILE, the InfoGuideNigeria.com gave us what I think should be our guide this evening.  In its article entitled “10 problems of youth development in Nigeria and possible solutions” it says: “The youth are the spirit of today and the hope for a better tomorrow, the future.  The ideas and vision of youths are important for a continued development of societies they find themselves. Their development and intellectual perspective are key for the progress and growth of societies.”

THEN it went further to emphasized in the May 15, 2018 report that, “Our youths are not failing the system, the system is failing our youth.  Ironically, the very youth who are being treated the worst are the people who are going to lead us out of this nightmare.”

NO doubt, this is where we urgently need your assistance to support this Foundation with whatever is available at your disposal: material, human and financial resources to enable it attain its goals and objectives.  Without your giant support, the path is going to be rough and wobble, and the journey will be far.   But with your ample donation – starting this evening – we shall be embarking on a not too distant a trip to improve the betterment of our people. 

THOUGH the present administration is reported to be trying its best, but with the various reports I read out to you this evening, which exposed the contemporary state of affairs in Nigeria, government cannot do it alone.  No doubt, it is impossible for the government – at the three tier-level of administration – to meet the needs of its citizens.  While the private entrepreneurs will surely try their best, we must not overlook the roles of wealthy individuals and agencies outside the direct control of governments, and, of course, non-governmental organizations that operate under charities, endowments and foundations.

ONCE again, I want to borrow the word of former US President Obama on what he said in Kenya: “We are investing in youth.  We are investing in the young people of Kenya and the young people of this continent (that is Africa).  Robert F. Kennedy once said, ‘It is a revolutionary world that we live in,’ and ‘it is the young people who must take the lead.”

PRESIDENT Obama further stressed: “…we are empowering and connecting young people from across the continent who are filled with energy and optimism and idealism and are going to take Africa to new heights.  And these young people, they’re not weighted down by the old ways.  They’re creating a new path.  And these are the elements for success in this 21st century.”

CORRELATEDLY, I want to bring to your utmost attention this germane statement by our  Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, when he said: “Whether fighting the climate crisis or pushing for social justice, young people are changing the world, and shaping a better future for all of us. That’s why supporting young people is so important – and that’s exactly what our government is doing.”

THEREFORE, let us help the young people, and others too, that this Foundation is going to focus its attention – time, energy and resources – on for them to lead this planet today, tomorrow and, of course, in the future.  Obviously, that is the challenge I am throwing to everyone present here tonight.  Donate to assist this foundation whose beneficiaries are not the immediate family members of BOD, but the disadvantaged ones, particularly our youth – who are your children, my children and the children of this world.

AT this juncture, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, I thank you all for listening and I appreciate, in advance, your sincere readiness to support Life of Hope Foundation Canada, and may God bless all of us. 

AMEN. 

  • Chief Olufemi Shodunke,

HND (Mass Comm), Moshood Abiola Polytechnic, Abeokuta, Nigeria

MCA, University of Ibadan, Ibadan, Nigeria

MA (Media Production), Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada

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