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Honour For INEC Boss, Others At Olivet Alumni Dinner

By WOLE BALOGUN
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Recently, at the Sheraton Hotels and Towers, old students of the Olivet High School, Olivet Heights, Oyo, were in a joyous mood. They wined and dined. They also had distinguished members of the association of old students garlanded for the meritorious service they had rendered (and still render) to the nation.

Prof. Attahiru Jega, chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was on hand to give the keynote address on his preparations for the 2015 elections and on the need for an urgent rescue for the country's education sector.

It was the 2013 Annual Dinner and Awards night of the association, and the forum provided a much needed opportunity for the alumni, their families, business associates and friends to deliberate on what to do to rehabilitate the school in terms of providing infrastructure and educational facilities, with a view to bringing back the school's good, old days.

The objective was achieved to a reasonable extent.
Delivering his keynote address, Professor Jega, who lamented that Nigerians have allowed unscrupulous politicians to hijack their visions and missions for a better and productive social system through massive rigging of elections, assured that his commission was resolved to stem the tide of rigging in 2015.

Disclosing that certain measures have been put in place to curb election rigging, Jega said: 'The appreciation we receive from Nigerians inspire us to do more than the little we have been doing to ensure that we have free and fair elections in 2015.

'We need to revitalize our democratic system. Good democratic governance helps to address the fundamental needs and aspirations of citizens.

'We have worked assiduously to improve the electoral process and satisfy citizens for their votes to count and for democracy to be deepened. Some of the modest efforts we made with appreciable results include a new bio-metric Register of Voters, a Re-modified Open Ballot System (REMOBS), serial numbering and colour coding of ballot papers, security serial numbering of ballot boxes, revised framework for results collation and returns, revised framework for engagement of Ad-hoc staff, more open and transparent procedures, modalities and process on election day, closer collaboration and partnerships with a range of critical stakeholders, political parties, security agencies, civil society organizations, media practitioners and others, increased voter education and citizen enlightenment and improved training and re-training of staff.'

Jega also saluted the efforts of two alumni of the Olivet High School who serve under him as INEC electoral commissioners: 'I can confidently say that your alma mater has produced distinguished and patriotic Nigerians as I currently work with two as resident electoral commissioners in INEC: Dr. Yetunde Ogunmola and Mr. Akin Orebiyi. By their character, actions and by their disposition, I have no doubt that they are truly worthy ambassadors of your great alma mater.

They are doing their best, diligently, competently and with integrity under very difficult and challenging circumstances as we all try to keep on reforming the electoral process to satisfy the aspirations of Nigerians for free, fair and elections.'

President of the association, Mr. Segun Amadu, who saluted Jega for his meritorious service as INEC chair, also gave visions of the dinner and awards night: 'It was to bring together many old students of the Olivet High School to reunite and bring back the memories of our days in the school. It is to also identify our challenges and celebrate our alumni who have excelled in their various careers.

Also, we reasoned that there is a need to recognize individuals who have done significantly well and have been contributing immensely to national development. So, beyond the celebration is a desire to draw attention to Olivet High School, our alma mater. By so doing, we will put heads together and give something back to the school. It also affords us a platform to bring together our friends, business associates and families to support us in putting resources together to rehabilitate and sustain the facilities and infrastructure in the school.

'In the recent past, we have done some rehabilitation in our school; we have reconstructed the main road from the gate of the school to the principal's office. The project is waiting to be completed, we have provided a building for the I.T centre, and we have provided a new school bus, courtesy of the First Bank Nigeria Plc. Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, we feel we can do more to set our school on the path of excellence.

'We still have more to do, the science laboratories, the administration block, we are remodelling the block and we need support from everyone. We are pleading that we partner with government agencies because our schools are in a bad shape in Oyo State.

In our own days in the school, we had a fairly controlled lifestyle; we had a working boarding system that structured our schooling properly. But now, the students of Olivet have a free life. They go all out because the boarding system has collapsed. And these very young students share so many things with adults.

We do know that the government alone cannot take care of the needs in the schools and that is why we appeal that the government allow us to partner. By so doing, we will reduce the population of criminals in the society because there is a peer pressure in a boarding school, to compete and strive to achieve the best like others do. In the streets also, there is a peer pressure in the negative way, it is to outsmart another in committing crimes.

'We also use this medium to call on our Governor and comrade, Gov. Abiola Ajimobi, to use the same courage and vision he used in providing infrastructure in particularly, to Ibadan and other towns in Oyo State, to improve on the standard of education so that our young ones can have a solid foundation for sound upbringing. We want our children today to be like the distinguished personalities that we are honouring on this occasion.'

Chairman of the occasion, Prince Ajibola Afonja who is the chairman of First Bank of Nigeria plc, and also an alumnus of the school, also lauded Jega in his address. Afonja noted that the INEC boss' efforts have fixed the problem of democracy for Nigerians. Said he: 'Prof. Jega is part of the reason why I am here today. I feel great to share an evening with this great Nigerian who has managed to restore democracy for us from the hands of carpet crossers and dictators.

His achievement in the last general elections showed that he is a hard-working and patriotic Nigerian. I can imagine the enormous tasks he faces, having myself been a victim of political robbery for several times when I wished to serve the country through elective posts.

'Jega deserves prayers from every Nigerian now because he needs our prayers to continue to deliver free and fair elections for us. There is no country in the whole world today that is as blessed as Nigeria is in terms of natural resources endowments, human capital endowments, and even weather. But we are also faced with the problem of diversity. But even that diversity has provided a Jega for us,' Afonja said.

Seven distinguished personalities were garlanded for rendering meritorious service for the nation at the event. The awardees included Rt. Hon. Jumoke Sumonu, Speaker, Oyo State House of Assembly, Dr. Olasupo Ayokunle, president and CEO, Nigeria Baptist Convention, Mr. Ayo Shamonda, D.G, Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency, Mr. Adeleke Adeboye, Registrar, Samuel Adegboyega University, Ogwu, Edo State, Prof. Taiwo Osipitan, SAN, a professor of Law, Mrs. Bidemi Agbedahunsi, permanent secretary, Osun State Civil Service and Dr. Biodun Layonu, a legal practitioner.

The 2013 edition of the association's annual dinner and awards night was attended by eminent Nigerians who are alumni of the school, as well as business associates, families and friends of the alumni. Some of them included Speakers of Oyo and Lagos states House of Assemblies, Mrs. Monsurat Jumoke Sumonu and Mr. Abayomi Ikoforiji, former Head of Service in Nigeria, Prof. Afolabi, Alhaji Lai Mohammed of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), representative of Governor Abiola Ajimobi of Oyo state and Secretary to the State Government (SSG) in Oyo State, Mr. Akin Olajide, chairman of Bi-Courteny, Dr. Wale Babalakin, Prof. Eleganza Elegbeleye, and the first student of the Olivet High School, Pa Akintola among others.