Fifty-two years after he served as Federal Commissioner for Works, Elder Statesman, Alhaji Femi Okunnu, was Thursday commended by the current Minister of Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, SAN, for kick-starting the great journey of building the nation, by inaugurating the first Architects Registration Council of Nigeria (ARCON) in 1969.
Fashola, who spoke Thursday while performing the groundbreaking and foundation laying ceremony of the proposed ARCON House in Abuja, saluted the former Federal Commissioner for Works, who happens to be his Uncle, for his foresight, describing as ironic the fact that he is today continuing the journey of nation-building as a distant successor of his Uncle.
“It is indeed very ironic that I happen to be here today to now continue the journey he started. Really, it is interesting how these things happen and ironically none of us is an architect, but very happily we are both lawyers”, the Minister said expressing joy that the challenge is that of building and not of disagreement.
In a short but impactful speech he gave at the ceremony, Fashola called for synergy and cooperation among all Nigerians, especially professionals and other stakeholders, to join hands to rebuild the nation, saying in spite of the challenges and disagreements among the various stakeholders and interest groups, Nigerians could work together to build a nation of peace and harmony.
He told the quality audience consisting of past presidents of ARCON, members of Council and other icons in the Built Industry, “This is time for rebuilding our nation, this is time for rebuilding brotherhood, this is time for building our future”, adding that in a symbolic way, ARCON, by the day’s event, “is building its own future”.
Noting with delight that despite being enmeshed in challenges of disagreement a few years ago, ARCON had decided to set aside those challenges and build for itself a befitting House, Fashola declared, “Therefore, in spite of disagreements, we can still build if we choose to listen, if we choose to work together and if we choose to keep ego aside”.
The Minister commended the current ARCON leadership noting that three years ago, when it was inaugurated, the Architecture profession had very many challenges which he described as largely man-made. “But” he added, “I am happy that Engr. Ajayi (President of ARCON) and his team have taken upon themselves to say that if these problems are man-made, it will only take men of goodwill to resolve it and this is a very good example of the microcosm of what ARCON has done as a blessing to all of us”.
Commending ARCON for the decision to build and establish its presence in the Federal Capital Territory as a symbol of the unity of its professionals, Fashola declared, “To all the seen and unseen hands who have helped to restore engagement, who have helped to restore that family, I send my great word of thanks”, adding, “This is a much better place for the Architecture Family than where it was three years ago”.
“I am joyous because you have helped to give invaluable quality to the many generations of those who are aspiring to join the profession. This is a very great challenge worth having; a challenge of building not a challenge of disagreement”, the Minister said.
Fashola, who expressed pleasure in the honour accorded him to perform the ceremony, however called on all the stakeholders to endeavour to contribute their quotas to see to the completion of the House in record time, adding, “The work has just begun, so all of those hands, president and past presidents and all other interest groups must brace up to this challenge, so together we can hand-over a very befitting and very momentous turn to the next generation”.
In his goodwill message earlier, the Governor of Taraba State, Arch. Darius Dickson Isiaku, congratulated ARCON for finally deciding to build for itself, describing as a paradox the fact that the Council has for decades built edifices for others without having a roof over its own head.
Commending the efforts of the Minister of Works and Housing and his FCT counterpart to bring the ARCON decision to reality, the Governor, who was represented at the occasion by one of the State officials, Arc. Dauda, also commended the efforts of the Council to make the project possible at this time.
In his own goodwill, the Minister of Industries, Trade and Investment, Otunba Adeniyi Adebayo, who was also represented at the occasion, congratulated ARCON on its efforts to establish its presence in Abuja noting that by its mandate his Ministry considers ARCON a veritable stakeholder in the development of the nation.
Others who gave goodwill messages included a past President of ARCON and former Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Arc. Obong Victor Attah, who thanked Fashola for brokering lasting peace within the profession urging him to ensure that Nigeria is being built by Nigerian Architects and where a foreigner is concerned, such foreigner should be registered in Nigeria.
Earlier in his welcome address, ARCON President, Arch (Sir) Gabriel Oladipupo Ajayi listed the cardinal objectives of ARCON to include re-engineering the Council, harmonizing positions with all interest groups with the help of the Minister of Works and Housing, who, according to him, “calls us together all the time” and building a befitting home for Architects as well as maintaining a visible presence in Lagos.
Expressing gratitude to the Minister for his peace efforts that have brought the profession and interest groups together, the ARCON President declared, “On his part, he has been a backbone of this Council”, adding that as a result the Council has delivered on all fronts.