Report by Zaid Shopeju.
The Health of Mother Earth (HOMEF), University of Port Harcourt (UNIPORT) and the Right Livelihood Award Foundation signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to co-host the Right Livelihood College (RLU) at the Faculty of Social Science on Monday 25th November, 2013. The Vice-Chancellor, Prof Joseph Ajienka ably represented by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor Prof Ethelbert Chinaka Nduka expressed his delight at the honour of being the first Nigerian university to host such a laudable initiative which will immensely benefit the students and young researchers in the university and increase the quality of education, while opening them to more international learning opportunities.
The event which was also the second edition of HOMEF’s Sustainable Academy (HOME School #02) had Comrade Noble Wadzah of Oilwatch Ghana as the lead Instigator for the session. The Right Livelihood College is an international capacity building initiative of the Right Livelihood Award Foundation to generate knowledge and communication values for a peaceful and sustainable world. The college aims to harness and promote ideas and knowledge of laureates through research and the University of Port Harcourt is the fifth of the campuses in the world.
The former Dean of Faculty of Social Sciences and chairman of the occasion, Prof Willy Okowa welcomed the guests, staff and the participating students to the event and implored them to take full advantage of the resources available. In his opening remark, Prof Alapiki, Dean of the faculty highlighted ways the young scholars can access the learning platform provided by the Right Livelihood College.
The 2010 Right Livelihood Laureate and Director of HOMEF, Nnimmo Bassey stated that “living in the Niger Delta can be equated to living in a laboratory of contestations and experimentations birthed by failed promises, dashed hopes, brutalised lives and a thoroughly polluted environment”. He continued, “We pay keen attention to the line of our national anthem that warns that “the labor of our heroes past shall never be in vain. It is this stubborn struggle for dignity and justice that has empowered the oppressed to stand on the ruins of our homesteads and shattered lives and proclaim we shall overcome, we shall rebuild, we shall not be buried in the dust.” He expressed his hope that “through this partnership with UNIPORT, doors of scholarship, exchanges and deep examination of our environment in all ramifications will be opened.”
Monika Griefahn, Co-Chair of the Right Livelihood Award Foundation and a former Minister of Environment in the German State of Lower Saxony said that “the Right Livelihood College was inaugurated in 2009 to further the foundation’s work through capacity building and increasing accessibility of past Right Livelihood Laureates accessible to people”. She also says “the foundation tries to recognise the work of people who are working to promote peaceful and sustainable world and hope that by recognising the exceptional work, they can help put their cause on global discourse and protect them from persecution.” She cited some of the work of the past laureates such as Wangari Maathai of Kenya who won the award in 1984, and later won the Nobel Peace Prize 20years later. According to her, this shows the foresightedness of the foundation in it selection of winners.
The Instigator for the HOME School #02, Comrade Noble Wadzah of Oilwatch Ghana in his paper titled ‘African Awakening and Implication for the Environment’ says “civil society cannot stand alone in the struggle against the polluters, multinational corporations and insensitive governments but the academic should be involved.” He says “The Arab spring only tells one side of the story; the political story and how the people responded to issues they were not comfortable with. But we have another dimension to the story; the environmental struggle for justice that we are confronted with. As Africans we are all connected to one rural area or another.” “We therefore need to challenge institutions, develop new thinking that takes into account our shared values of communal well being.”
In his closing remark Dr. Eme Ekekwe admonished that “what we have done here today is a wakeup call on two levels; academic and personal. The Dean has spoken about the academic part; there are scholarships and our graduate students are in a position to take advantage of those opportunities.” He continued, “just like the way Nnimmo Bassey put it, we are to supply the intellectual needs for the practical struggle that is taking place out there. Sometimes in this country, it is not the academics and intellectuals who should be leading; it is the artisans, farmers, fishermen. It is those people whose fishing waters are being polluted, those people whose lands are been grabbed and appropriated not only by the multinationals but by our own people.”
HOMEF’s work tracks ecological and political education aimed at examining the roots of exploration of resources, labour, peoples and entire regions. It hopes this will contribute to the rebuilding of our national resources and the restoration of dignity and harmonious living with full respect of natural cycles of Mother Earth.