Mr Ray Ekpu at his 70th Birthday Colloquium at the Agip Recital Hall, Muson Center, Onikan Lagos on the 6th of August, 2018.
Photo: Ayodele Efunla

By Funmilola Olukomaiya

Prose craftsman, veteran journalist and co-founder of Newswatch Magazine, Mr Ray Ekpu, who turned 70 today, 6th August 2018, was celebrated and honoured at his birthday colloquium with the theme: ‘Nigeria: The Leadership Question’.

Ace broadcaster, Bisi Olatilo was the Master of Ceremony at the colloquium which was held at the Agip Recital Hall, Muson Center, Onikan, Lagos.

Former Minister of External Affairs, Professor Bolaji Akinyemi, chaired the event with Dr. Chidi Amuta, former editorial board chairman of the Daily Times and The Guardian, as the guest lecturer, he was represented by Mr. Dan Agbese.

In his speech read by Agbese, Amuta opined that only strong and purposeful leaders could rescue a nation from the brinks of tragic failure to a new sense of direction.

According to him, “We remain frozen in that moment and mired in that intractable crisis,” while stressing that the crisis of leadership remains a problem in Nigeria.

He believes Nigeria needs the kind of leadership with the ability to develop a vision of community and the capacity to translate that vision into beneficial reality in a manner that carries the followership along.

According to him, a leader must be enlightened to envision an alternative higher reality; he must have the executive capacity to translate the vision into reality and also possess personal electricity or charisma, including integrity, to attract and carry the followership.

In his words, Amuta said: “The consequences of past leadership missteps and failures now haunt us all,” he said, adding that they manifest in dangerous highways, insurgency and general insecurity to the extent that life in villages has been rendered “even more capricious, brutish and short. Let us not be deceived. Leadership can kill or save a nation. History is as full of nations that have been ruined by bad leadership as it is of others that have been saved and resurrected from Hell because of the emergence of true leadership in the midst of disaster.”

Mr. Agbese moderated the colloquium with Ms Yemi Adamolekun, Mr Debo Adesina and Mr Sam Omatseye, Ms Toyosi Akerele-Ogunsiji and Mr Seun Okinbaloye as discussants at the event.

The event saw in attendance the creme de la creme of the society some of which include Governor Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos State(represented by the Commissioner for Information), Governor Udom Gabriel Emmanuel represented by Akwa Ibom SSG), Chief Olusegun Osoba, former governor of Ogun State, Mr Kingsley Moghalu, former deputy CBN governor, Mrs Modele Sharafa-Yusuf, Prof Pat Utomi, Chief Dubem Onyia, Mr Nsima Udo Ekere, Managing Director, Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and a host of other dignitaries.

Ray Ekpu on Aug. 6 also marked his 45-year career in journalism and without mincing words, he is one of the most inspirational figures in modern Nigerian journalism.

Ray along with his colleagues at the Newswatch magazine – Dele Giwa, Dan Agbese, Yakubu Mohammed, Soji Akinrinade and the generations of journalists that they helped to groom and others of their own generation, too numerous to mention, gave Nigerian journalism new meaning through innovativeness, entrepreneurship but more importantly through the courage to speak the truth.

The media world, family, and friends of the renowned columnist and activist graced the colloquium to celebrate the many years of exceptional contribution to national development through his writings, speaking engagements, and leadership roles.

Ekpu’s consistency and forthrightness in speaking and writing the truth to authorities deserve special commendation, especially the many times he placed his life at risk in fighting for democracy and the institutionalization of good governance in Nigeria.

Also present at the event were his beautiful wife, Mrs. Uyai Ekpu and his adorable children, Mrs. Elu Mbakwe, Mrs. Edikan Osho and Mfonison Ekpu.

Ray is very passionate about quality leadership, good governance, a democracy that delivers dividends and a society that is just.

Mr Anthony Mbakwe, Ray Ekpu’s first son-in-law gave the vote of thanks after lending his voice to the topic of the colloquium, ‘Nigeria: The Leadership Question’.