I am thrilled to see the joy, excitement, enthusiasm and the feelings of accomplishment on the graduating students. They bring back fond memories of my own graduation several years ago from the University of Ibadan. So it is my joy and delight to be here today.
Let me also commend the Founder, Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of the Governing Council, Dr Chuks Ochonogor for his clear vision, sincerity of purpose and unwavering commitment to building a first class university. As the first private university in Delta State, Novena has continued to live up to its forerunner status with increased enrolment, expanding academic curricula, infrastructural upgrade and enhanced learning climate.
Given the capital-intensive nature and peculiar challenges of establishing and running a university in this clime, it takes more than pecuniary interests to maintain the standard that I see here. Please join me to appreciate Dr. Ochonogor for his courage and rugged determination to deliver quality education that we can all be proud of.
My sincere appreciation also goes to His Royal Majesty, King Alfred Diette-Spiff, the Amayanabo of Twon Brass, the Chancellor of the University, and Ambassador (Dr) Hassan Adamu, Wakili Adamawa, the Chairman, Board of Trustees. Delta State owes these two patriots a ton of gratitude for their interest in our State, and their willingness to sacrifice their time, energy and resources to contribute to the growth of our education sector. Thank you for being there for us.
The emergence and growth of private universities in the country has been one of the biggest gains of our democracy. These institutions have come to the rescue of several thousands of youths who, otherwise, would have been denied university education because of the very limited spaces in our public universities. Without the private universities, many of these youths would have been roaming the streets with all the implications that such a scenario portends for our socio- economic well-being. So, we have the private universities to thank for opening up the academic space for our ever increasing secondary school leavers
The coming of the private universities has also introduced healthy competition in our tertiary education sector. With several universities competing for attention, this has resulted in the provision of quality infrastructure, improved curricula and competitive fees. With more options before parents, every higher institution is compelled to offer and deliver quality education to merit consideration and patronage from aspiring students. Even the public universities have had to sit up.
But with competition also comes the temptation to cut corners and lower the bar in academics in a bid to project the image of a successful university. Hence, the National Universities Commission (NUC) must strengthen its regulatory framework to ensure that both public and private universities adhere strictly to the rules and regulations governing the awards of degrees and certificates. This is the only way to ensure that standards are not breached, and that our university degrees will be accorded due recognition by foreign institutions.
Indeed, the challenge before our educational system today is how to ensure that graduates from our universities can easily adapt to the dynamics of a rapidly changing world and excel globally. It is, therefore, exigent that we design a broad-based national educational policy anchored on a modern academic curriculum that emphasises innovation, skills acquisition and technological competence.
The university graduate of today must possess excellent communication skills and knowledge of global socio-cultural issues matched by the ability to apply critical thinking and quantitative reasoning to tackle complex problems. Above all, he or she must have an entrepreneurial mind-set and the courage to start a business of his or her own.
To the graduates of today I leave you with eight life principles that are critical to your success in your chosen careers.
The first thing you must possess is vision. By that I mean have a goal for your life. You must be deliberate in life and take charge of your future. It is common these days to come across graduates who have no idea what they want. As a result, they settle for whatever life throws at them. You can’t make any progress in life if you don’t know where you are going. A goal is not always meant to be achieved; it gives you something to aim at.
The good thing about goal-setting is that it infuses you with energy to pursue after it and helps you measure your progress. And while we are at it, don’t set a goal that is all about making money. Set a goal that is connected with solving problems, serving others and making positive contributions to the society. Those who have built the greatest organisations in this world, and have become wealthy in the process, are those who were passionate about meeting other people’s needs and solving life’s problems.
That brings me to my second point, which is passion. The road to success is strewn with challenges, obstacles, trials and temptations. Passion is what keeps you going in the face of adversity. As long as you are passionate about your dreams and goals in life, you will come out victorious no matter the challenges life throws at you.
Number three; you must be a disciplined person. To be disciplined means to have self-mastery. It means to have control over your emotions, appetites, and desires. Your gift, ideas, and professionalism can take you to the top but without good character you are likely to come crashing down sooner or later.
Number four; be innovative. In today’s world it is either you innovate or you become a dinosaur. Dare to do things differently. Do not be afraid to try out new ideas. The future belongs to those who are crazy enough to do what others are afraid to try. You will always have the naysayers around but if the Wright Brothers had listened to them the aeroplane would never have been invented. I dare you to dream big and be willing to march on uncharted territory.
Number five; you must grasp the art of leadership and teamwork. A good leader is not only well organised, but is also able to rally members of the organisation around a common vision. A good leader creates a non-threatening environment where subordinates are free to express their opinions and make their contributions. You must cultivate good interpersonal skills complemented with confidence and humility. Always remember; no organisation rises beyond the capacity of the leader.
Number six; you must be a lifelong learner. Graduation does not mean the end of learning. It simply means you are now responsible for your own learning. Further education could be formal or informal. But what you must never do is to become complacent. The day you stop growing, you start groaning. Researchers now tell us that every field of human endeavour doubles its information load every fourteen to eighteen months as against four years, which was the norm in the past. The implication is that you must continue to learn and be quick to adapt to change.
Number seven; help others. As you succeed in life, make it your obligation to help others to succeed. We live in a culture that encourages greed and pride is considered a virtue. You must realise that there is nothing like a self-made man. Whatever you will become in life is as a result of the inputs of many people in your life – parents, siblings, relations, teachers, friends, colleagues, bosses etc.
Finally, you must have faith in God. All your planning, hard work, and creativity will come to nought if you ignore or neglect God. You must walk in obedience to His commandments so that He will crown your efforts with success. Psalm 37:5 says:
“Commit your way to the Lord, Trust also in Him,
And He shall bring it to pass.
In Jeremiah 9:23-24 the Lord says:
“Let not the wise boast of their wisdom or the strong boast of their strength or the rich boast of their riches,
24 but let the one who boasts boast about this:
that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness,
justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,”
- Speech at the Combined Convocation Ceremony and 10th Anniversary of Novena University at the Convocation Arena.