By Cecilia Ologunagba
New York, Jan. 25, 2023
Amb. Lot Egopija, Consul-General of Nigeria in New York on Tuesday, joined other members of the Amb. (Dr.) Motumisi Tawana-led African Consuls General Group (ACGG) in New York, United States of America (US) to pay tribute to legendary African American Church leader and civil rights activist, Rev. Dr Martin Luther King Jnr.
Egopija paid tribute to the hero, whose vision, courage and resilience changed the U.S. and the world at a hybrid Memorial Lecture in Newark, New Jersey, U.S.
The Lecture was hosted by the Africana Institute of Essex County College (ECC), Newark in collaboration with the ACGG in New York.
The Envoy said 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 decolonisation struggle,’’ he said.
Egopija also said that 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 the country’s foreign policy objectives.
He said decades after King’s assassination in Memphis, Tennessee, the world was still struggling to fill the vacuum created by his untimely exit.
The Nigerian envoy said 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,’’ he said.
In his remarks, Amb. Motumisi Tawana, Chair, ACGG, urged Africans to emulate the virtues of the hero, who was committed to social justice.
Tawana, the Consul General of South Africa in New York said King was a visionary, courageous and inspirational leader, saying that he has taught the world the importance of peace.
“He has taught us the importance of non-violence, the importance of working together to ensure that we have a better world and better life,’’ he said.
The envoy, however, on behalf of the ACGG, thanked the Africana Institute of Essex County College for organising the event to honour the values of Dr. King, noting that the Group would strengthen its collaboration with the Institute.
On his part, Alternate Chair, ACGG, Amb. Hadji Ndao, tasked the representatives of the other countries on ways to continue to honour the legacies of the great icon.
“It is time for us to look at our areas of similarities; it is time to reflect on how best to honour the legacies of King and other independence fighters in Africa.
“We can do that by involving in cultural exchange programmes , economic collaboration and education exchange programmes,’’ Ndao, who is the Consul General of Senegal in New York, said.
Similarly, Consul General of Algeria in New York paid tribute to the legend, describing him as a courageous leader, who fought for the rights of the common and marginalised people.
“The standard has been set by him for us to treat everybody equally irrespective of ethnicity, colour, religion and race,’’ he said.
Also speaking, the Consul General of Morocco in New York, Amb. Jamoussi Abdelkader said King had been a bridge between the U.S., Morocco and Africa.
Abdelkader said King was an outstanding leader that the Government of Morocco had been emulating, calling on other countries to emulate his legacies by instituting projects in his honour.
“We have planted one million trees in his honour and we are calling on individuals and countries to do so,’’ he said.
Deputy Consul General of Liberia in New York, Kim Kofa, who also spoke at the event, stressed the importance of cultural, educational and other such exchanges between African nations and with African American institutions as a way of advancing the gains of the struggle of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Earlier, Dr Akil Khalfani, Director of the Africana Institute at ECC, urged all people of African descent, especially the youth to emulate the virtues of the hero and work towards changing the world.
NAN reports that the popular Martin Luther King Jr Speech, ‘I have a dream’’ was recited by an 11-year-old Nigerian boy, Ikenna Obikulu, who is in 6th Grade.
The Newark City Council and the Mayor, Ras Baraka, made presentations to all the Consuls General at the event while the Choir Director of ECC, Gwen Moten led the Choir in music presentation.
Many dignitaries graced the event, including Dr. Augustine Boakye, the President of Essex County College, who led several senior officers of the renowned institution of higher learning to attend the Memorial program. There were also students from ECC as well as neighbouring high schools in attendance.