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Maada Bio honoured at John Utaka Foundation launching for children and youths

Maada Bio honoured at John Utaka Foundation launching for children and youths

Despite his busy schedules this week to meet with western diplomats, UK government officials, and to prepare for his maiden international speech at the Chatham House on Thursday 10th May, Rtd. Brigadier Julius Maada Bio took time off to grace the formal launching ceremony of the John Utaka foundation at the banquet hall of the Hilton Hotel in Paddington (London).

The ceremony which took place earlier this week featured a host of dignitaries such as professional footballers, actors and actresses and gurus from the UK entertainment industries. John Utaka is a well-known Nigerian footballer and former player of Portsmouth (England) but now plays for Montpellier in France. As a man who found it difficult whilst growing up, he created this foundation to help in educating and empowering children and youths within marginalised communities – a worthy cause which Maada Bio felt very humble to have been invited as a special guest of honour.

In the formal launching ceremony, John Utaka amongst other things said that the foundation represents his belief in helping and empowering young people of today for a better tomorrow by providing grants to help disadvantaged youths to play their proper roles in their communities. He said he had been inspired by his childhood experience when he started playing football and he gave the audience a touching story about those earlier years in his life which motivated him to launch the foundation.

As you could imagine, the special guest of honour for the night amidst the pomp and pageantry was the Rtd. Brigadier Julius Maada Bio. Earlier on our way to the event, he had explained to me the reason why he felt so duty-bound to attend the launching ceremony despite his busy schedule. He told me “The issues of children and young people are very close to my heart and those issues will take a centre stage in my next government”. He went on “One of the reasons I wake up every morning and feel more motivated to win the November elections is because I want our children and young people to live in a country where they can achieve their fullest potential through education and skills training”. As he spoke to me, I could feel his passion that he cares very much about children whether it is about those who die every day before reaching the age of one due to high infant mortality rate; those who hawk the streets to provide for their families to survive or the hundreds of children who live in the streets. He spoke about the plights of children like a real father. Whilst still on our way to the Hilton hotel, he then told me about his worries for young people. He accepted that for far too long politicians have betrayed the trust of young people but as a young man himself he said his next government will prioritise youth issues especially in the area of job opportunities.

Therefore, when he took the podium as special guest of honour for the ceremony, he told the audience that in Africa there is a lot of hardship and suffering and children and young people are the most vulnerable. He praised John Utaka for initiating such a foundation as it is a cause both worthy of celebrating and emulating. He went on “I am here not only to support this foundation but also to associate myself with the suffering of children and young people in every marginalised society”. Hence, he promised the foundation that after his elections on 17th November he will give greater support to the foundation and all other causes that support children and young people.

As he concluded his speech to the standing ovation of the audience, one Femi Babatunde said to me “The guy will make a very good president for your country as he seems so passionate about children and young people”. The launching ceremony ended with guest performances from both Nigerian and Sierra Leonean artists as celebrities scrambled to take pictures with the Presidential candidate. Also, in attendance were professional footballers like Danny Shittu who plays for Queens Park Rangers, Benjani who plays for Portsmouth, Mark wright of BBC Sports, Bob-Manuel Udokwu, a famous Nigerian artist and many others.

By: Yusuf Keketoma Sandi BA (Hons), LLB (Hons)

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    11th May 2012

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