‘’To make matters worse, those who successfully cornered a substantial part of the society’s wealth engaged in wanton profligacy and demonstration of affluence, a development that led to a feverish struggle for acquisition of wealth at all costs by the old and the young, male and female. Here lies the very salient factor that produced armed robbers in a nation that placed great premium on family values, morality and good name. This development could be reversed with time”
In the past 15 months, TERRIFIC HEADLINES, an information outfit established by Femi Adelegan, a professional communicator has continually preached family values and virtues on its network. Adelegan, strategic planner, publisher, author, and writer, has had a long walk in the corridors of power as Chief Press Secretary to four consecutive governors of Osun State from 1994-2000; after which he served as Chief Private Secretary/Special Adviser (Policies, Programmes and Plans Implementation) to the governor of Osun State from 2003-2010. In this capacity, he was the head of the governor’s Secretariat. At various times, (2008-2012) Femi Adelegan, who has authored some books on good governance served as a member of Nigerian Government’s Official Delegations to the General Conference and Executive Board Sessions of UNESCO in France; and Nigeria’s Presidential Delegations to the United States, Peoples Republic of China, Vietnam and the G-20 Summit in Canada. He also attended the 41st session of the United Nations General Assembly held in New York. In this interview, Adelegan unfolds details about the family values campaign that is being prosecuted by his outfit in an interactive session with newsmen in Abuja.
From your writings and a number of books that you have authored, it is noticed that good governance forms the major thrust. Why are you so inclined?: Let me state by saying that every sincere educated person knows that good governance is the major ingredient for development. And without ensuring that this policy is embraced and practiced, no society could develop. God governance is about doing things the right way and must be the guiding policy and principle in both the public and private sectors. Good governance entails accountability, transparency, adherence to the rule of law, freedom of expression and association and such other factors that ensure that necessary changes are firmly fixed into the process of managing an organization or society. Globally, good governance is about the judicious management of the available human and material resources for the achievement of set goals and objectives, for improvements in the political and bureaucratic systems. I acquired some invaluable experiences in government and I am generating literature on this critical activity.
Why have we failed, as many opinions suggest, in ensuring that this policy of good governance that could advance our society is faithfully embraced by government and the citizenry?: I have always said that we are all complicit. From the civilians who encouraged the military to govern, to the civil society who prefer to be subdued instead of holding their representatives to task, to voters sell their votes and rights, on to the purchaser of votes, as well as all of us who are insincere about moving our society forward, and the government and the governed; have contributed to our inability to advance beyond our present level of development. There are so many issues that stand between us and development. These include insincerity, tribalism, religion, nepotism that have combined to affect the quality of leadership at all levels. It is like we are all individually concerned about what we can get out of the system and not what we could contribute to evolve a near-perfect system where everything works. We are our own enemies through our preference for selfishness instead of selflessness. I think that will suffice.
You are currently running a campaign on family values. What are the moving factors?: This idea actually dropped on my mind in the first quarter of 2018 while reflecting. I try to read any literature that comes my way, except it is esoteric or too technical. I get influenced by that. Then, each time I have travelled out of Nigeria, I observed how things work and how citizens of those developed nations conduct themselves. It occurs to me, from my observations that our hard-earned democracy would achieve the objectives we set only if we devise appropriate remedies for our perceived shortcomings. It is important that we discuss our changing social, economic and political circumstances in order to reconcile all opposing interests and assuage our various feelings. And it seems to me that we could commence this process from our individual homes. And it is never too late for any parent, no matter how old, to get closer to the children or even grandchildren. What we are saying is that we cannot be too busy to take care of our families. We must pay attention to our families, to our children. In the words of Elder Felix Ohiwerei, any nation that neglects its children is destroying its future.
You appear to be extremely passionate about this agenda and you are putting in a lot. What are the reasons for your disposition?: Like I have explained, I have a very strong passion for reading and writing cultivate over the years. I also believe that Nigeria is a country that is destined to be great by the grace of God. My social life is almost ZERO, and that has been prompted by some unfortunate incidents of the loss of my beloved junior ones in the 1990s. I just discovered that I started withdrawing from the social scene and my old friends and extended family members kept wondering what was happening and some counted this against me. The situation was such that if anybody knocked on my door, the sound reverberated in my heart and I was told it was the tremendous shock that I experienced that caused that. At that time, I was Chief Press Secretary in Osogbo and was living alone in my official apartment. But I knew what I went through and my decision to embrace Jesus Christ fully brought me out of that unpleasant situation. I was in a state of shock for 3 years and I could have died of heart attack but for God. How many people would I explain this to? The responsibility for socials got devolved to my wife and I encouraged my siblings, relations, and church members to deal with her on socials and functions generally; while I paid attention to working on my computer. So, I kept on reading and reading and got more deeply involved with serving my God. Again, that state of shock was brought about by the deep love I had for brothers, excellent first class brains; but God knows best. Our bond was the result of family values.
And how did you come about family values in your campaign? : It is a product of reflections. I also want to belief my interest is being influenced by nature and nurture. I had parents who demonstrated those virtues and who appeared inseparable. They wore same clothes, went out together; were at the dining table same time and so on. But I feel the fast life that we now live do not permit of total emulation because of some complex situations but we could at least imbibe most of those things our old ones did. Like Baba Obafemi Awolowo appreciating his wife as his ‘’jewel of inestimable value’’ things like that. I decided that I should lead an advocacy and public enlightenment campaign to promote family values as part of our mandate of encouraging virtues and values that are worth emulating for the purpose of reforming the society, particularly the growing ones.
Does this have any correlation with the family values that you are preaching? :Yes, it does. We all are told, and we believe that governance started from the Garden of Eden, inhabited by the first couple. God created a man and woman, and housed them in the privileged place with regulations that must not be violated. But Adam was a weak governor who succumbed to temptations. As it was then, so it is till now. A family is a microscopic component of the society. There is hierarchy and there must be regulations governing conducts and responsibilities. In our part of the world, our culture allocates the role of the head of the family to the man, while the woman is the deputy head. Both have the joint responsibility for training their children and managing their home. If they fail, it will take the grace of God for their offspring to succeed in life. And this trend cumulatively affects the society.
To what extent are parents responsible for the rot in a society?: I would say the rot in the society is terribly huge, perhaps more than what we imagine. The expectation is that parents, right from the birth of their children through impressionable ages must take responsibility for ensuring that these children are well brought up. The Creator said in Proverbs 22:6 that: ‘’Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.’’ The truth is that too many children these days shirk their responsibilities. A deceitful parent would surely breed deceitful children. At impressionable ages, children mimic their parents; hence the need for spouses to be cultured in their conducts because children would mimic parents. This is one of the reasons why we must allow virtues of unity, love, praying together and leading them aright be watchwords in homes. Parents must also teach their children to be obedient.
Let’s now go to your campaign whose major thrust is family values and reorientation: It is being implemented to bring about attitudinal changes across all strata of the society, in order to promote positive family values and the attainment of desirable goals that are set out in the country’s national plans. We have been on this campaign for over one year because such social development activities must be continuous for long to have the desired impact. The activity focuses on the need for an urgent intervention in family values and virtues, at a time that the whole world faces multi-dimensional challenges, including security breaches, and criminal and social vices that are threatening peaceful coexistence and values that were handed down by progenitors. We have come a long way. That oil boom era bred several multi-millionaires and promoted the high propensity of Nigerians for the acquisition of wealth. To make matters worse, those who successfully cornered a substantial part of the society’s wealth engaged in wanton profligacy and demonstration of affluence, a development that led to a feverish struggle for acquisition of wealth at all costs by the old and the young, male and female. Here lies the very salient factor that produced armed robbers in a nation that placed great premium on family values, morality and good name. This development could be reversed with time. We also preach non-discrimination as enshrined in the Nigerian Constitution to encourage parents to pay equal attention to both male and female children.
So, how do you correct these perceived distortions?:Whoever still touts the belief that successful children belong to the father; while unsuccessful offspring are for mothers is living in the past. Reversing awkward beliefs is a huge task because of cultural beliefs. It is important to address the target audience through an articulate Plan of Action. And the target audience consists of parents who have the greatest responsibility for bringing up their children. It doesn’t seem wise to bring into the world children you have no capacity to provide for. Other stakeholders include government that must create the enabling environment, organizations with parental responsibilities, including educational institutions; places of worship; civil society organizations and the civil society itself. In sensitizing the citizenry, our social intervention campaign strategies suggest preventive, rather than reactive strategies, as well as joint responsibilities by both parents. Our plan takes cognizance of the need for attitudinal changes across all strata of the society, in order to promote positive family values and the attainment of desirable goals that are set out in the country’s national plans. For this purpose, a dedicated website and other social media channels are in place for interaction and publishing of information on family values and virtues all year round; with a view to contributing to local and global efforts to build families and encourage women emancipation.
What form does your campaign take?: It is a multi-pronged campaign with three segments. We commenced the first segment one year ago and we are pleased with reactions and feedback. Everyone in a society has some basic functions to perform as influencing development is a joint task of the government and the governed, as well as organizations with parental responsibilities. The roles of these bodies are so important that in situations where they are not able to perform efficiently and effectively, the society suffers tremendously. It is what they sow in terms of bringing the young ones up that they reap. We also preach that proactive steps are required to control social and criminal ills, and also promote family values. The second segment is the awards ceremony planned to hold in Lagos. We tell whoever bothers to listen or read our plans that we are organizing a distinct event. Who are we honouring and why? Couples, who are graded as ROLE MODELS, whose conducts could positively influence other couples and the growing ones are being celebrated through publications on family units that could promote feelings of empathy. One should be interested in couples like the Adeboyes, the Olasubomi Baloguns, the Adekunle Ojoras, the Yakubu Gowons, TY Danjumas, and others at the lower rungs of the societal ladder. Those prominent people appear to be still on honeymoon decades after their marriages. And these are people who don’t joke with their family units. We are promoting the interests of the female gender too, because we believe women are the pivots around which family units revolve. A woman combines several roles that place her at a unique and advantageous position of a major stakeholder in whatever happens in a family unit. Women are actually proving their worth, particularly in corporate governance, and getting more space would be advantageous for the society.
How do you gauge the success and acceptability of your campaign? : We maintain about ten interactive channels that have the capacity of reaching the whole world. Our blog, which is our primary feeder has a facility for the automatic translation of our posts into the three major Nigerian languages; as well as foreign languages. We have constructed our facilities as interactive sources of information to promote understanding and measure reactions of our readers. Communicative feedback enables us modify our campaigns and employ specialized integrated communicative options to ensure that our messages sink deep. We have a network of social media channels that penetrate deeply around the world. One advantageous factor is our ability to regulate our messages and flood desired and specified areas with our messages. They all come under the titles: TERRIFIC HEADLINES, through which we promote socio-economic and political development, link our local readers with the international community, and promote discourse through issue-based discussions based on merit, patriotism, fair play and justice. It is important I add the fact that our efforts are chiefly directed at influencing the citizenry for improvements and better standards of living and conducts, through sensitization and advocacy activities.
What is the plan to expand this activity about and the mode of execution?: We consider the fact that Nigeria occupies a strategic position in the African continent. It is the engine of the economy of West Africa and a motivator of the African Union. Nigeria is also the catalyst of African Renaissance. It should be expected that whatever happens in Nigeria has the tendency of spreading to other African nations, particularly West Africa. And of equal importance is the fact that the event aligns with the United Nations agenda of promoting family values and women emancipation. It also keys into the UN Agenda that designates Years 2015-2024 as the International Decade of People of African Descent; and the African Union Agenda 2063, which is the continent’s strategic framework for inclusive and sustainable development, Africa’s drive for unity, self-determination, progress and prosperity . We plan to unfold this segment at the Lagos awards event in September by the grace of God. It is a continuous activity whose scope must be widened.
How are you funding this project and what is the level of support you are receiving by those who consider it a worthwhile venture?: We have been wholly responsible for financing this activity. But we believe we could sustain the initiative if we are supported and have, therefore, made contacts for this purpose. People hear or read about awards and they say ‘’here they come again’’ given the several types of awards that have been staged in the past few years. But we are telling them that this is a distinctive event. We are running this campaign that is for the common good. Through campaigns being fed into several communication channels every day continuously and is not restricted to awards which is a one night affair. We are subtly and directly influencing the society positively, particularly family units and the younger generation. Nigeria is a strong economy with huge potentials, and we have the responsibility of leading Africa and the black race to greatness. We must continue to preach to our young ones the importance of honourable conducts. Thank God the affluent amongst us are increasingly becoming aware of the need for philanthropy. And we will continue with our message for Nigerians to shun ostentatious lifestyle, engage in philanthropy; encourage Nigerians in the Diaspora to be more committed to building a greater Nigeria; and provide a two-way communicative feedback between the government and the governed.
Let’s talk about the God factor: Religion has an immense role to play, possibly after the roles expected of parents and government. Proper upbringing is important to the goal of preventing social and criminal vices. We must go beyond that. All organizations with parental responsibilities, including churches, mosques, and civil society organizations must collaborate to ensure that the young ones are properly brought up.
You appear to be convinced that God must be put at the forefront of this campaign, but there are people who practice traditional religions: All faiths recognize God called: ‘’Olodumare’’ in Yoruba; regarded as the Supreme Being. On a visit to the Peoples Republic of China, I engaged some people on this subject. They pointed to the sky that they believed someone was up there but they don’t practice my own type of religion. Well, that was a starting point for follow up evangelism. On that visit, I met Primate Peter Jasper Akinola in the residence of the then Nigerian Ambassador to China, Amb. Wole Coker, an affable gentleman. God must be at the forefront in all situations. I say so because I know the value of intercessions without which Nigeria would have collapsed long ago. Concerning Nigeria, I believe I have paid my dues. I sowed my time and skills, at the invitation of Bishop Francis Wale Oke in 2002/2003, to be part of the team that organized the first Nigeria Turning Point Prayer programme to pray for a smooth political transition of May 2003. I remember that programme with nostalgia as I was in charge of VIP contacts and the media. Bishop Wale Oke personally handled President Olusegun Obasanjo and Anyim Pius Anyim, while I followed up on the Hon. Ministers and others. At the closing of the event held at the Papal Grounds, Kubwa, Abuja, there was noticeable frenzy. I still visualize Samuel Afolayan, then Chief of Naval Staff, shaking his tambourine vigorously and Hon. Ministers Kema Chikwe, Dupe Adelaja and Paullen Tallen, whom I visited in their offices danced enthusiastically for God. President Obasanjo who came in about midnight too danced to present Nigeria to God. That is the type of passion I have for Nigeria. We fasted for one hundred days (100 days) before the event, as if we were the only people responsible for the ills plaguing Nigeria. It was during that period of 100 days of fasting that I first heard God audibly tell me during a prayer walk that: ‘’I am a rewarder of those who diligently seek me’’. I was excited and hurried back home in Ibadan. Before then, He spoke to me in other ways. I must confess that God rewarded me for the service. I believe that one of the female ministers that I have tried to meet, in the past three years, though unsuccessfully, will now agree to see me following some recent developments. If not, to God be the glory. We must put God first in all situations. He is the Alpha and Omega.
Are there some points you wish to raise to create more awareness and support for this campaign?: The whole world is in a defining period. These issues are not peculiar to Nigeria alone. It is a global malaise; but we cannot, as a result of that fold our arms and should watch. Ideally, we must anticipate negative developments and control such before they occur. What honour can be greater than a name engraved on the positive pages of history? What service could be greater than solid commitment to the development of humanity? Silver and gold cannot purchase precious names. What example could be greater than lessons of selflessness instead of selfishness? This is the patriotic campaign that we are mounting. Evidently, there is a compelling need for intervention through a collaborative approach by stakeholders for anticipatory and preventive steps; while deemphasizing the reactive options, particularly with regard to managing the home and bringing up the child. For the purpose of mass communication, we will livestream the event to all parts of the world.
There must be constraints: Yes, there will always be constraints in the lives and programmes of human beings because we are not God. Periodically, God permits challenges to arise so that we can magnify His holy name. There will be hard tackles and people close to you must stab you on the back. But every challenge has a bus stop and expiry period. During these periods, all sorts of things happen that test your faith as a child of God. But we are taught not to put our trust in man, but in Jesus Christ, who is able to calm every storm. People must disappoint. Only God never disappoints and He creates ways of rewarding faithfulness. Being alive alone is worthy of praise to God given all I have gone through in life. By the reckoning of man, I am not supposed to be alive. And that is one of the reasons I quote my favourite Bible verse in which I appreciate God all the time. It is boldly inscribed on the opening pages of every book that the Holy Spirit has enabled me to author: ‘’Then King David went in and sat before the LORD, and he said: “Who am I, Sovereign LORD, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far?’’ So, we continue to hold on to Jesus Christ who is the Author and Finisher of our faith and who knows all things and who can do all things. I have come to discover that most of those things that thrill people no longer seem important to me. It is better to give God full control of our lives.