RALPH OPARA MEMORIAL LECTURE SERIES
The Ralph Opara Memorial Lecture is a conception of the National Association of Seadogs (Pyrates’ Confraternity) and dedicated to honouring the memory of one of Nigeria’s most outstanding and endearing broadcasting icon – Late Ralph Chukwuemeka Opara (MON).
The National Association of Seadogs (Pyrates Confraternity) had instituted the Ralph Opara Memorial Lecture series in recognition of Ralph Opara’s lifetime of achievement and it aims to keep his faith alive and to continue to provide a medium to give vent to the views for which he stood steadfastly, throughout his life and to provide a platform where topical issues in our National Development can be explored for the collective good. The lecture series is aimed at continuously charting the course of humanity towards the attainment of an egalitarian and just society.
Late Ralph Chukwuemeka Opara was born on 29th April 1933, in Umueze Uzoagba, in Ikeduru Local Government Area of Imo State, Nigeria. He studied at the premier University College Ibadan (now University of Ibadan) and graduated with honours in English Language in 1958. As one of Nigeria’s most enduring figures, the late Ralph Opara’s contribution to the development of radio and TV broadcasting is significant. He worked in the electronic media in various capacities for about 36 years (1958-1995). He was director, Voice of Nigeria (1975-1978); director, Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN) Enugu zone (1979-1987). In 1987, Late Ralph Opara was appointed Executive Director, Directorate for Social Mobilization, MAMSER (now National Orientation Agency). He was also Chairman, Imo Newspapers Ltd (1985-1986), Commissioner, National Broadcasting Commission (1992-1994), Chairman, Imo Broadcasting Corporation (1994-1996).
Late Ralph Opara was a prolific writer and producer. He created the radio comedy series Shakey-Shakey and Alao among many others. A consummate actor and master of ceremony. He compered scores of national and international cultural events, conferences, symposia, State banquets and other ceremonies. In November 2000, Late Ralph Opara was honoured with the Nigerian prestigious National Merit Award – Member of the Order of the Niger (MON).
One of Ralph Opara’s most enduring contribution to the development of mankind and society at large, was a decision he took as a fledgling youth while at the University College Ibadan, to participate, in 1952, in the formation of the Pyrates Confraternity, with six other young men at the time. His vision was to constructively apply his youthful, journalistic mind, in tandem with his co-travellers to constructively challenge and curtail the negative tendencies of elitism, tribalism, colonialist mentality, etc. He is known within the organisation to have actively led the institutionalisation of the organisation in the 50s, and remained active within the Confraternity until he passed on in 2002.
PAST LECTURES SINCE 2004
Since its inception in 2004, the Ralph Opara Memorial Lecture series have held nine times in major cities in Nigeria with astute speakers and discussants contributing to topical national development issue in the past nine editions. The 2004 inaugural lecture titled “Re-engineering the Nigerian Democratic Experiment for Stability and Development” was delivered by an astute academician Prof Ukachukwu Awuzie (Former National President, Academic Staff Union of Universities, and later Vice Chancellor of Imo State University, Nigeria). The 2004 lecture was one of engaging and far-reaching interest, especially in the wake of the nascent democratic experiment from 1999 which was expected to provide Nigeria with an opportunity of nation building and a democratic society in which justice, human dignity, political, economic and social development is guaranteed and available to all Nigerians.
The 2005 edition, “Democracy and Governance – Rethinking the Nigerian Experience”, was graced by prominent political and public office holders. The 2005 lecture culminated in a position paper that shaped the political landscape of Imo State at the time.
In 2006 at the third lecture at the Nigeria Institute of International Affairs, Lagos, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, the anticorruption czar and pioneer Executive Chairman of the Nigerian anticorruption agency – Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) delivered a lecture on the theme, “2007: Integrity and the Challenges of Political Engagement”.
In 2008, Chuka Obele-Chuka, Esq., a fiery lawyer and human rights activists challenged the Nigerian political status quo of relegating the citizens role in governance to only election, in a lecture titled “Servant Leadership in a Sustainable Democracy”.
Over the past years, the Ralph Opara Memorial Lecture series have been graced by eminent personalities and past speakers who include, Dr Lucky Akaroese (Prof of Sociology), Dr Sam Amadi – former Executive Chairman of Nigeria’s National Electricity Regulation Commission (NERC), Dr Hussaini Abdu – former Country Director of ActionAid International in Nigeria speaking on “Democracy and the Rule of Law in Nigeria: The Journey so far” (2011), “Terrorism, Insecurity and Irredentist Movements: The Challenge for Nation Building in Nigeria” (2012), “Taking the Nigerian Child Off the Streets: The impact of corruption on achieving Universal Primary Education” (2013), respectively. In addition to the 2015 edition of the lecture series, a community cause project was also commissioned in honour of Ralph Opara.
The 2019 edition of the lecture which is 10th in the series, will hold on 31st May, 2019 at the Copthorne Hotel, Salford Quays, Manchester, M50 3SN, during 23rd Annual International Converge of the National Association of Seadogs and the 9th NAS Charity Red Ball which aimed to raise funds to support the work of Mustard Tree - a Homeless charity supporting people in poverty and facing homelessness across Greater Manchester.