Remarks by Mr. Oseloka H. Obaze, MD/CEO Selonnes Consult, During the Inauguration of the Academic Year. At St. John’s Vocational and Technical Institute, Neni, Anambra State31 October, 2018
I want to thank my friend and your principal, “Fr. Nwanna Jesus” for inviting me to join you as you mark the inauguration of the academic year. It’s a pleasure to be here. Today I will share with you some perspectives that I believe will add value to your studentship and help prepare you for life’s journey. These are nothing complex or complicated. However, they are facts we overlook very often.
The first thing I need to say is that as students, you must at all times be found worthy both in character and learning. Second, is that the future of your family, your community, your state and indeed Nigeria, will eventually rest in your hands. So you better start preparing for that leadership role. But there are challenges, and some are troubling.
Today, Nigeria has the highest population of youths of any black country in the world. At least 60% of our national population is below 30 years of age. Nigeria is a country with vast potentials, a future that could be unbelievably amazing; a future of infinite possibilities. With a mean age of 17.4, we are guaranteed a lengthy period of active labour force.
You all seated here comprise Nigeria’s human capital and its greatest resource. Make no mistake about that. To truly make the difference and live up to the billing, you must take some crucial steps. You are already taking a key step by being here today. Many youths like you, comprise Nigeria’s 13.5 million out of school children; the highest number of in the world. I’m glad and you should be goad that you are not one. Being in school already keeps you on the super highway to success.
But classroom education is not enough to stand you out and make you truly competitive, you must also have invested time in character building. Your character and guiding principles are more important criteria for a successful career than school grades. Character opens and closes doors of opportunities; it establishes and closes relationships. One of those essential attributes is integrity. It was Chinua Achebe that said “one of the truest tests of integrity is its blunt refusal to compromise.”
K you stand firm on the principles of integrity, you may have very few friends, but when the door opens for people who won’t compromise on set standards even your enemies will respect and recommend you. Integrity requires that you’re consistently identified with particular set of values; those values that sets you apart from the lot.
It is important that you mold your character early enough; you have a great opportunity to do so here; since anything you’re consistently identified with in this institution becomes your lifelong persona. This stage of your life is crucial; make it count in the best of ways possible. From here you will go to a university. There you will find that the same rules apply: before being awarded University degree, it will be stressed again that you “have been found worthy both in character and learning.” As Martin Luther King Jr. put it, “Intelligence plus character-that is the goal of true education”.
Here at St. Johns, you belong to a niche vocational institute that will dominate the future. Just in case you have forgotten, let me remind you that most of the high net worth individuals you can easily remember today didn’t finish their tertiary education. Some didn’t even attempt, but they pursued their vocational passion, and had the character required for success. Like you, they started young.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie didn’t succumb to the will of her parents to study medicine, today she is a global literary icon and the face of gender equality campaign globally. She had enough character to make her choices and stand by them. Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple was fired from his own company but didn’t relent. He went on to establish a new company NeXT which later merged with a struggling Apple and he returned as the CEO of Apple to tremendous success. He never gave up.
Honesty, trust, humility and respect are essential characters in today’s world. They get and keep you in a job. In today’s world, it is more important for our girls. You need to be women of strong will and character whose ultimate aim is to make great impact in your society. Work hard to build on your skills and expertise, with that, other things will come.
And for the girl-youth here, do remember that your financial independence will go a long way in helping you make the right decisions. Do not ever depend on a man for anything and do not waste your time trying to impress men. Only your happiness matters when you do the right things. “Bottom power” can only fetch you temporary gains, those that made it at the highest level defied odds and opened a hitherto closed path for women.
As a girl, your value should not be measured by how quickly you can get a husband, your goal should be how best to improve your society. Young girls and women, dream big. The key to self-realization and empowerment is to pursue your passion relentlessly, without losing focus. You are gifted and have the same ability and rights to make choices as any man. Never give up a dream because it is not expected of a lady.
What more inspiration do you need than the story of Thomas Edison whose teachers said, was “too stupid to learn anything”. He was also fired from his first two jobs for being “non-productive”. Today, Edison is celebrated for one of his most remarkable invention, the electric bulb, which came at the 1,000 attempt after 999 unsuccessful tries. What excuse can you possibly give? There is no limit to what you can achieve.
Nigeria needs more investment in science-technology-engineering-and-mathematics (STEM) education, which is core to your studies in this institution. You are an integral part of Nigeria’s future in technology, ICT and artificial intelligence that will rule this century and the next. The state must do more at rechanneling our funding and curriculum to meet our future national needs.
To our teachers here let me say this. Our schools have become centers of indoctrination, less so moralizing. So, when you teach or lecture, make sure to mainstream character molding into your work. More than skills, the character and morals to exist and live in harmony with people and the society are crucial. Teach your students morals, perseverance, honesty, commitment, integrity, trust and diligence. Teach goodness, discipline and knowledge. Academic success can secure a job for an exceptional student, but may not keep it. Character will secure one, keep and even multiply it. The values and choices you imbue in your students will make all the difference.
I thank you.
Mr. Obaze is the former Secretary to the State Government of Anambra State, Nigeria from 2012 to 2015 - MD & CEO, Oseloka H. Obaze. Mr. Obaze also served as a former United Nations official, from 1991-2012, and as a former member of the Nigerian Diplomatic Service, from 1982-1991.
Selonnes Consult Ltd. is a Strategic Policy, Good Governance and Management Consulting Firm, founded by Mr. Oseloka H. Obaze who served as Secretary to Anambra State Government from 2012-2015; a United Nations official from 1991-2012 and a Nigerian Foreign Service Officer from 1982-1991.