Remark by Ambassador Lot Egopija, Consul General of Nigeria in New York, USA, at the Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial program at Essex County College, Newark, New Jersey, USA on Tuesday, January 24, 2023.
I consider it a great honour to be invited to this auspicious occasion, to mark the Annual Memorial Programme in honour of Dr. Martin Luther King Jnr, a civil rights hero, whose vision, courage and resilience undoubtedly engendered positive change not only in the United States of America but also in the world at large.
Dr. King was a charismatic leader whose fight for social justice, freedom and equality, led to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. To many in America, he was a role model and an idol, whose ideology was built on love and use of non-violence as a means to an end. To Africans, he was a beacon of hope, whose quest for equality inspired the liberation and decolonization struggle.
It could be said that Dr. King inadvertently laid the ideological foundation for Nigeria’s material and financial contribution to the fight against apartheid in Southern Africa, which was a major part of our foreign policy objectives. Permit me to quote Chapter II Section 19 of the 1979 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, which states “The State shall promote African Unity as well as total political, economic, social and cultural liberation of Africa and all other forms of international cooperation conducive to the consolidation of universal peace and mutual respect and friendship amongst all peoples and States, and shall combat racial discrimination in all its manifestations.” While this was an ambitious objective, considering that Nigeria had only gained its independence in 1960, in reality Dr. King’s dream had become our dream and his struggle our struggle.
Ladies and Gentlemen
Decades after Dr. King’s assassination in Memphis, Tennessee, we still struggle to fill the vacuum created by his untimely exit. While we cannot by any means explicitly or implicitly claim to have achieved his dream, we must acknowledge that the world has taken several steps in the right direction. We must always come together as one race – the human race – to condemn inequality, injustice and hate speech wherever it rears its ugly head around the world. We must promote non-violence, peace, unity, love, equal rights and accessibility to education. We must continue to place more emphasis on the things that unite us while striving to better understand the issues that divide us. We do not need to be constantly reminded of the derivative consequences of letting hate and violence take control of our minds and guide our actions. For we all in this hall know what happens when we let hate triumph over love.
In conclusion, I must thank the Africana Institute of Essex County College, particularly Akil Kokayi Khalfani Ph.D and other key actors/players for putting together this annual program and honouring the values of Dr. King Jnr whose legacies are firmly written in the indelible sands of history. It is therefore my sincere wish that as we reflect on his enormous contributions, we will continue to uphold and build on his principles, ensuring that justice in its true form is not just a dream but a reality for all.
I thank you all for your kind attention.