Students of Master in Diplomacy and Strategic Studies Class of 2017/2018, under the Department of History and Strategic Studies, University of Lagos, have held the maiden edition of the 'Think Tank Symposium'.
In his opening address at the event, which held on Saturday, Gerald Nwokocha, convener and Team Lead for the Think Tank Group, emphasised that the initiative was formed as an academic forum that not only discusses Afro-centric issues but also proposes workable solutions to them.
A statement by Obamwonyi Hope Imuetinyan, Director of External Relations, For Diplomacy and Strategic Studies, Think Tank Group, UNILAG, said Professor Bolaji Akinyemi, former Minister of External Affairs who was the keynote speaker, made a presentation on the topic ‘On Africa's Contemporary Political and Developmental Challenges’.
Highlighting the peculiarities of pre and post-colonial Africa and how the different eras viewed development, Akinyemi noted that the continent has the potential to become a major force to reckon with globally.
The event ended with a panel discussions, which comprised selected members of Diplomacy and Strategic Studies Think Tank Group, guest speakers and lecturers.
Renowned Marxist, Dr. J. Nkem Onyekpe of History Department, UNILAG, said “revolutions are the festivals of the oppressed”, noting that such a revolution could only be facilitated by the educated elite who could spur the masses into action.
In his address, Pastor Olayemi Abass, Director Western Zone NIMASA, who represented the Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr Dakuku Peterside, advocated for a political structure that is not driven by materialism, but by values and virtues. He also advised that history should be taught at all levels to acclimatize children with their backgrounds so they are better informed to tackle tomorrow’s challenges.
While Honourable Osanyi Taiwo, a candidate for Eti-Osa Constituency in the House of Assembly, added that grassroots politics, as well as mass mobilisation of the ‘street’ was needed to break through the challenges of Nigeria, Ben Modestus Amah noted that restructuring is a much-needed path if Nigeria is to move forward.
Obamwonyi Hope, a student panelist, emphasised the issue of legitimacy as one of Africa’s biggest challenges, and called for mental revolution rather than a violent one.
The panel discussions ended with the Chairman of the occasion, Professor Bola Akinterinwa, former Director-General, Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA), who also spoke on the need for restructuring, while Dr. Irene Osemeka and Dr. David Aworawo, who were the programme coordinators, noted that education was key to solving Africa’s challenges.
It is expected that this maiden edition will pave way for more symposia and discussion fora that not only spur intellectual discussions but lead to workable solutions for Afro-centric challenges.