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"Free Your Minds From Fear In Order To Make Informed Choices", Fashola Tells Nigerian Youths
• Maintains that the only way out of recession is by engaging in planning and producing back to prosperity
• Warns Nigerians to beware of "confidence tricksters who would prosper at other peoples' expense by preying on their fear"
• Sanusi describes the Minister as representing the kind of leadership the world had said Africa could not produce

Nov 25, 2016 - The Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola SAN, Friday urged the new generation of Nigerians to free their minds from fear as the only means to enable them make informed choices at every level of human endeavour.

Fashola, who spoke at the Akin Deko Auditorium, Ugbowo Campus venue of the 42nd Convocation Lecture of the University of Benin, said freeing their minds from fear would enable them to see solutions to challenges of life instead of as insurmountable obstacles adding that it would enable them to look for opportunities, instead of dwelling on and surrendering to problems.

In his Convocation Lecture titled "Freedom from Fear, Choices Before the New Generation", Fashola, who is an Alumnus of the University, said a mind that successfully eradicated fear would no longer be shackled by words like 'impossibility', 'improbability', 'unlikelihood' and such negative words that impede progress.

The Minister told the graduating students, "I urge you to free your minds from such fears", pointing out that the only way to free their minds from such thoughts as"impossibility", "improbability" and "unlikelihood" was to always see such words as negatives and replace them with positive thoughts and actions.

"If you see unmanaged refuse as a problem, you may not think of recycling and re-use and the economic opportunities that have multiple benefits, including the ultimate removal of the refuse. If you dwell on traffic gridlock as a problem, you are unlikely to focus on developing intelligent traffic management solutions like traffic lights or a radio station to manage it and create opportunities for yourself and others", he said.

Describing freedom from fear as the most important freedom, Fashola declared, "A mind taken over by fear cannot express free will and will therefore not fully optimize or benefit from the other freedoms", adding that a mind focused on crime and its burden might lose the opportunity to focus on crime management strategies like more policemen, crime detection methods, employment and training of judges.

According to him, although there are many freedoms including those contained in the nation's Constitution such as Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Association, Freedom from want, Freedom of choice, including the choice of leadership by voting at elections and many others, freedom from fear had remained the least expressed.

Expressing dismay that fear had driven most Nigerians to seek spiritual solutions to almost every problem, Fashola, who professed his believe in God, argued, however, that as a just One, God would only proper those who have worked hard.

The Minister declared, "Let us remember, that at least the two dominant faiths are not original to us. They are inherited. The propagators of the faith have made them personal affairs and not public", adding that in those jurisdictions, meetings represented public undertakings and places of work and productive undertakings to deliver prosperity.

He illustrated the virtue and benefit of hard work by citing the example of two Island nations situated on the Northern Hemisphere where the people of one of the cities believe in God and work hard while citizens of the other city believe in voodoo and spend all their time practicing it adding that the history of the two cities showed that while the first city where the people work hard is prosperous the voodoo city "seems to have made a permanent contract with poverty".

Also ventilating the fact that faith in God is different from working hard on one's undertaking, Fashola recalled that during his days in the University as a Law student, a Greek Philosophy lecturer had charged them not to believe things that were not demonstrable by evidence adding that the lecturer on being asked why he attended church services and worshipped God replied that his faith was different from his job.

The Minister pointed out that the situation of the voodoo city could change to prosperity only if the citizens could make the right choices adding, "When those people have worked hard for the week, they go on Fridays and Sundays to their places of worship and their homes to offer prayers, for God to bless and prosper the work of their hands".

He, however, expressed sadness that in Nigeria "the head of Governments, heads of ministries, and businesses, devote early mornings at work to prayers with their staff while productive man hours tick away", adding that while they did the same at home, at weekends the people also socialized. "In effect we spend a lot of time praying and socializing", he said.

Noting that this lifestyle could not take the nation to prosperity, Fashola, who maintained that the faith being exhibited by some Nigerians was influenced by fear, added, "We have invested a worrisome amount of money in building places of worship compared to what we have in building factories, businesses and schools. This is worrisome compared to the investments I see in businesses and schools that outstrip investment in places of worship in the West and Middle East".

The Minister buttressed this point with the result of "an unplanned census of building types" which he and a colleague of his took while driving on a five kilometre road in a city in the country, pointing out that out of the 22 buildings counted, 12 were job places while 10 were places of worship.

Urging the graduating students and members of the audience to undertake such counting anywhere they eventually found themselves, the Minister, who reiterated that he was not against worship, declared, "We will not pray our way out of recession, we will plan, and produce our way back to prosperity and out of recession and you are the freshest, youngest and most energetic workforce we will have to work with".

"You are the new batteries to power the engine of growth of our country. Your choices must be clear, free from fear, not reckless but driven by analytical thought, questioning and probing and ultimately determined by convictions", he told them adding that the only solution that could possibly be evolved to solve a problem involving a nail was a hammer.

Elucidating on the essence of freedom, Fashola cited the process of elections which, he noted, are conducted on the basis of polls, campaigns and analysis of human behaviour pointing out that candidates who wished to win elections must persuade people to agree to their messages and promises, and seek to change the minds of those who were not persuaded, by understanding what they wanted and taking steps to address them.

The Minister, who cited President Muhammadu Buhari's election as example of winning by persuasion, pointed out that Buhari won after three unsuccessful attempts because his campaign message was based on the core desire of Nigerians- eradication of Corruption, strengthening national Security and reviving the Economy.

He declared, "Let me reiterate again that I have no quarrel with faith. What I seek to advocate is the lack of fear and the resort to faith out of conviction rather than as a result of fear". He added, "Fear takes choices away and choices can, and must be the product of conviction. If we pursue our choices with as much conviction as we pursue our faith, we will certainly be a more prosperous society".

Also using the difference between traditional medicine and divination to buttress his argument about faith and fear, Fashola argued that while nature has its place of pre-eminence in the assurance of wellbeing and good health through the use of herbs, roots, and other endowments, the same could not be said about divination and sacrifices.

"We must choose to work our iron ore to produce steel and build skyscrapers; machines and tools like others do instead of worshipping the god of Iron. We must use engineering to manage and control flooding and erosion. We must probe the treasures of our forests and depths of our oceans as bastions of possibilities that we must manage and dominate instead of worshipping the god of the sea", the Minister said.

The Minister said instead of fearing forests and the sea, the people should undertake to understanding and dominating them for energy and transport adding, "We must approach our rock formations as treasure troves of building materials like marble, tiles and granite rather than treat them as totems of salvation that require animal sacrifice".

Acknowledging that some of the students have been raised in an environment dominated by such fears and may have been adversely affected by it, Fashola, who assured them that freedom from fear was not the same as courage, added, "Instead while fear is an emotion, freedom from it is the ability to overcome it by refusing to surrender to it".

"It comes from developing an ability to question things, to challenge the existing order and create a new order. It has been done before. It requires us to know our choices and beliefs and dispense with culture that is not dynamic", the Minister said, adding that twins survive in today's Nigeria because the people decided to stop killing them and turned their backs against a "Philistinic practice that was masquerading as a culture".

He declared, "If you surrender to fear, people less educated, less intelligent and less qualified than you will take over your minds, your homes and your decision making powers", adding that many of such people represented confidence tricksters who would prosper at other peoples' expense by preying on their fear.

Advocating a bold and fearless approach to the challenges of life, Fashola told the graduating students that although their education they had received so far might not be perfect; there was room to improve on it, adding that what they had learnt in the controlled environment of university classrooms would be subject to the test of real life situations.

The Minister said further improvement in their education would henceforth depend on how they used their minds advising that they should subject whatever they hear or read to intense verification before believing or acting on them instead of believing such statements simply because they were made by highly placed and supposedly intelligent people.

He noted that almost everything that was once thought impossible, improbable or unlikely had happened citing as examples the airplanes in which men and women now fly thousands of kilometres in the sky; eating, sleeping and even now showering on the Airbus A380, which, he told the students, "is an engineering feat delivered by engineers of Airbus and Boeing who started out life like you; as young graduates like you".

"There are now driverless cars, and men have landed on the moon and have communicated back to Earth on missions driven by freedom from fear, sheer dedication, hard work and an indomitable spirit that refused to surrender to divination, but persevered against the odds of failure before success was achieved", he said.

Urging the graduating students to dispel fear and reach for the skies, Fashola who also enjoined them to choose by conviction and not by fear, trust in their abilities and God given talent, take responsibility and work hard and pray, added that these were the hallmarks of those who have conquered fear pointing out that such people had undertaken and accomplished great works of science, research and engineering "driven by freedom from fear, not by prayer, or sacrifice of fetish to some inanimate deity".

Congratulating the students on the successful completion of their studies, the Minister, who described UNIBEN as a great institution noted that the evidence of this abound in the human capital supply she has produced for Nigeria in fulfilment of the objectives of founding fathers adding, "In all spheres of Nigeria's developmental endeavour, there is a representative of great UNIBEN, not only in a participatory role, but also in a leadership role that is setting worthy and commendable examples".

He wished them success in their journey of life to enable them fulfil their true promise, devoid of fear so that they could make good choices in their contribution to national development, adding, "The boys and girls of yesterday have become the men and women who define the developmental character of our nation and they are waiting for you all to join them to play your role".

In his closing remarks, the Sarkin Kano, and former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), His Highness Muhammad 11 Sanusi, commended Fashola for his contribution to leadership in Africa saying he represented the kind of leadership the world had said Africa could not produce.

Describing the Minister as "someone with a vision, someone with intelligence, someone with the love of his people and someone who actually understands what is on ground", the Royal Father declared, "He was Governor of Lagos State; if you ask him how many kilometres of roads he built he will tell you, how many megawatts of electricity he added to the National Grid he will tell you; how many hospitals and how many schools", adding that leadership was about accountability.

Sanusi also recalled another incident when the Minister demonstrated this trait recounting that while he was Governor of Lagos State, Fashola organized a Security Trust Fund in which the Private Sector contributed money for security to improve security in the State.

"He did something I have never seen done in Nigeria. Twelve months after we contributed money, he invited us to a Dinner. We did not know what it was about. He brought the AIG of Police, he brought the Police Commissioner. He stood up before us and did a presentation like this; showed us exactly what was done with our money, showed us statistics of how security in Lagos was improving", the former CBN boss said.

He added, "After that presentation, we all put our hands in our pockets and brought out more money. You see we don't mind giving money to the Government, we just want accountability. I think with people like Mr. Fashola, this University is proud because this is the institution that made him what he is".

Remarking on the lecture, Sanusi, who agreed that there were now many tricksters among the faiths and even those with no faith who capitalize on the fears of the people to exploit them, added that God was being used as an excuse for the failure of the nation.

The Royal Father also re-echoed the Minister's earlier view about getting the nation out of the current recession saying prayers should go along with productive work as a necessary step and doing the right things through putting the right economic policies in place.

He encouraged the out-going students to work hard while they also pray for God's miracle pointing out that although the lecturer emphasized hard work, he also believed in God but believed that only those who work hard should expect God to bless the work of their hands.