—Commissions Makoko office
A Lagos-based Non Governmental Organisation, Centre for Children’s Health Education, Orientation and Protection (CEE-HOPE), has honoured a foremost environmentalist, Rev. Nnimmo Bassey on his 60th birthday in Lagos.
The event which held at the International Press Centre (IPC), Ogba, Lagos preceded an eventual commissioning of a community centre, office of the organisation in Makoko slum of Lagos where it has its biggest community project for venerable slum children.
CEE-HOPE is an NGO that focuses on the rights and welfare of vulnerable children which it has championed in the Makoko slums for years.
Earlier in the day, participants took turn to eulogise Nnimmo Bassey who was the reason for the first leg of the event at the IPC.
A member of the board of CEE-HOPE, Mr. Lekan Otufodunrin at the event appreciated the celebrant, appreciating him for the mentorship and support for the organisation.
“There is one thing to have a vision and there is another ting to have passion but you also need help. We really appreciate the support Rev. Bassey has given to CEE-HOPE. So many advocacies are going on around the world and we thank you for all you are doing,” Otufodunrin said.
Otufodunrin, Online Editor at The Nation Newspaper however prayed for more strength and health for the man being honoured at the event.
A lecturer and activist who has been influenced by the celebrant, Dr. Tunde Akanni at the event said, “I have known him since over 24 years ago when the Civil Liberty Organisation (CLO) and other activist groups were doing activism. Rev. Nnimmo was one of those who gave the then military government sleepless nights by his activism. In spite of all his persecutions by the military, he kept on going.”
The scholar explained what Bassey meant to him and the environment in Nigeria and around the world. “He has written a whole lot of poems and I still keep and treasure my copy of his poems. He was known to be one outspoken person, he is someone that wakes up with a dream and makes sure he actualises that dream,” Akanni said.
Another environmentalist at the event and Deputy Director at the Environmental Rights Action ERA/FoEN, Mr. Akinbode Oluwafemi said he has been motivated by Bassey who he learnt activism from many years ago.
“Nnimmo is our teacher, our mentor and we have learnt activism from him. He led us into activism even when some of us didn’t know what we were doing was activism but he taught us. Nnimmo taught me humility, I knew what humility means. I saw it in him. I have learnt a lot from him,” he said.
As part of what he learnt from the architect and poet, Oluwafemi added that people should stand up for the cause they believe in instead of complaining.
“We should stand out and we should stop complaining about what we don’t like,” he advised. According to Oluwafemi, “We spend so much energy on Facebook complaining about Nigeria but when you call people to come out you’ll see few people. We cannot reclaim our country if we don’t come out to the streets. So when we are on Facebook, we should also come to the streets when we are called to come out.”
Eulogizing Bassey for his humility, Oluwafemi added that, “Today you would see Nnimmo sitting with the Prime Minister of Norway and later you see him sitting with the poor people in the Niger Delta, that is the humility we have learnt from him.”
In her own comment, Executive Director of CEE-HOPE, Betty Abah appreciated the participants at the event.
“I thank everyone on the high table and everybody here today. I also appreciate our special guest, my boss Nnimmo Bassey for mentoring us,” she said.
“We had a birthday party for him on 11th June, people that had left the Environmental Rights Action (ERA) 10 years ago came back to honour the man who had impacted us a lot, who had shown us example, Abah said.
The Executive Director also told the participants about the life of integrity of the celebrant. “I have learnt a life of integrity from him. He had opportunity to become very rich by compromising but he stood on his feet, he stood for integrity,” Abbah said, advising the school children from Makoko who came to perform at the event that, “If you chose the way of integrity you will be more successful than if you compromise.
“It is about your dedication to work. Some of the things keeping me going on my job are the mentoring I received from him. He has been very patience with me and I appreciate him,” she said.
Another commentator at the event, Mrs. Ugonma Cokey, an Assistant Director, News at the Voice of Nigeria also appreciated the celebrant for always being ready to mentor young people.
“He mentored us in reporting the environment and I appreciate him for that. He is a person to be associated with. If you associate with him and your life remains the same, we should ask questions,” she said.
Responding to all the comments, the celebrant, Rev. Nnimmo Bassey was full of appreciation at the event which he said was a surprise to him.
“Let me mention that this is a big surprise to me. As we were coming here today, I was asking what is happening, what is the agenda of the event? Betty never mentioned anything, it is a big surprise to me and I am very grateful,” he said.
Continuing, he said, “I grew up in the village where even my parents didn’t know their birthdays and I never celebrated my birthday. I’m committed to work more with young people. I am very humbled.”
Talking to the students from Makoko who had come to grace the occasion, Bassey told them how lucky they are to belong to this generation.
“Every generation always feels their generation is better. Things may be tough but the world is getting better. When I was a young man, to make a phone call you would go and line up in NITEL office or you would tell your neighbor who had a telephone line that you were coming to receive a call by 4pm but today every family has a phone,” he said, commending young people on their tech savvy nature.
Commending and charging the youths, he said, “You young people know how to utilize technology and the future belongs to you. I want you to take all the small exercises you are doing seriously. I see you already as leaders.”
Challenging further, Bassey encouraged the youths to be focused and take learning seriously. “You have to decide where you want to stand and stand well there. Can you imagine if a tree decides to stay in different places, can it survive? So if you really want to add value in life, you must know where you stand and don’t be tired of learning and reading,” he said.
Encouraging the students further, he said, “The more you read the more things you would know. It is like laying blocks and by reading you are building your life. I pray by reason of coming out today God will lead you and give you understanding and there is nothing will push you below what God plans for you. I see hope and I see you at the top. That is where you’ll go and nobody would stop you.”