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On behalf of the Government and the good people of Ogun State, let me welcome the academic community and other members of the entire intelligence community to the 2019 Toyin Falola Conference on Africa and The African Diaspora (Topac), being held here at Babcock University, Ilisan-Remo, Ogun State.

2. Let me also commend the management of Babcock University for sustaining the tradition of scholarship since its establishment. This University and others remain part of the reason our dear State is referred to as the education capital of Nigeria. The hosting of this Conference with the theme “Religion, the State and Global Politics is another symbolic demonstration of this Universitys commitment to its mandate of providing quality tertiary education and research and providing solutions to issues of concern to the university and its host community. I also wish to thank the Chairman and the Members of the planning committee for inviting me as the Special Guest, I want to commend you for your commitment and good planning which had made todays occasion possible. 

3. Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, there is no doubt that the theme of the Conference could not have been more apt considering recent developments in the polity and the attachment of religion. Religion, which should have been a unifying factor, that should bring us closer to our creator has suddenly become a dividing factor. Rather than seeing ourselves as one entity of humanity, we have continued to see ourselves as different, divisible units with varied worldviews. 

4. In the past, we have always assumed that religion and the State are two different entities. But recent events have continued to lay bare the fact that the connections between religion and the State are increasingly relevant. We have continued to see demonstrations that most of peoples’ actions and commitments are derivable from their religious beliefs. If we have to talk about security, peace, co-existence and even, socio-economic development, we cannot divorce religion.

5. In recent times, the global community has been confronted with acts of terrorism which have been tied to religion, whether rightly or wrongly. What is more confounding is the fact that these acts of terrorism are also supposedly sponsored by politicians against the State, and, or by Government against another Government. 

6. In Nigeria, we have had more than our own fair share of acts of violence which some quarters have tied to religion, and even the State. We have the Boko-Haram issue in the Northern part of the country, which has been linked to a religious terrorist movement, ISIS; there is also the rampaging security threats of Herdsmen-Farmers clash and Kidnap which some people have linked to a grand plan by a particular tribe to take over the rest of the country. I find these acts condemnable and no efforts should be spared to bring the perpetrators to book. If you ask me, these are common criminals and should be treated as such. 

7. It is also not out of place to state that all these developments within a nation also determines its global perception. In the past, we have had the Western and Eastern Blocs, based on political cum economic philosophy; and we have also had the Non-Aligned Movement. However, recent events have also shown that more nations are forming alliances, not just on geographical location, but also, on religious ideology. We have continued to see international organisations which have religion as its basic credential for membership. It is no surprise that membership of such organisations raise serious discourse amongst citizens of such nations.

8. In our contemporary geographical landscape, therefore, we cannot afford to ignore issues of religion, with particular reference to religious freedom and tolerance on one hand; and, on the other hand, violence and oppression. And, in the light of this, State policy makers, Scholars, and all Stakeholders will have to think out of the box and come up with improved and more practical approaches in dealing with our diverse religious ideologies so that religion will be a unifying factor that will provide impetus to socio-economic development of Nigeria. That is why I will state once again that this conference and its theme could not have been more apt because it provides us another veritable platform for cross-fertilization of ideas that will foster religious tolerance and peaceful co-existence for all-round development of our dear country.

9. In Ogun State, we appreciate the role of religion in socio-economic development. And, we have mapped out strategies in engaging religious leaders and all our people so that apart from seeing religion as a tool of spiritual fulfillment, they will also see it as a vehicle that drives economic viability of our dear State. We appreciate the importance of the cooperation and support of our people to the successful implementation of the Building our Future Together agenda. Our Administration is irrevocably committed to fairness, justice, equity and inclusiveness. 

10. Let me not pre-empt the Guest Speaker because I have no doubt in my mind that he will do appropriate justice to the topic. It is my belief that the discussions that will ensue will be quite engaging and at the end of the conference, all of us will feel the time spent has been worth the while.

11. Once again, I commend the management of Babcock University, Ilishan-Remo, Ogun State; and, the organisers of this conference for coming up with this important topic. 
12. As I wish all of us a rewarding and fruitful deliberations, it is with a sense of duty that I declare this Conference open to the glory of God and continued peaceful coexistence of humanity. 

13. I thank you all for listening and God bless.

Prince Dapo Abiodun MFR
Governor of Ogun State, Nigeria. 

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