On May 19, the American University of Nigeria rolled out the drums to celebrate the 10th commencement ceremony of the university and presidential inauguration. Ugo Aliogo who attended the event, reports
He walked to the podium amidst encomiums from the jubilant guests whose faces were glowing in happiness. His face was beaming with smiles and his carriage was that of a prince on his coronation. There was something comforting about his demeanour and the way he spoke; the softness of his voice and the uncommon grace with which he inspired the guests. He seemed not to possess any weakness. He was in full control of himself, never allowing the emotions of the occasion to take over him.
Despite being the valedictorian for the 10th Commencement Ceremony of American University of Nigeria (AUN), in the class of 2018, Benedict Egwuchukwu is an epitome of humility. He is a man who personifies success, sacrifice and selflessness. Egwuchukwu is an Accounting major with a Cumulative Grade Point of Average (CGPA) of 3.9. His craving for hard work and excellence has a strong parental influence. During his school days in AUN, he provided the sparks and the guiding light for his course mates. The breath of his intelligence and faith in God were the touchstones which helped sharpen the rough edges in some of the activities he embarked upon in the university. He is a symbol of success for his family, course mates and the university.
He began his speech trying to weave his thoughts around school life experiences, the vitality of the relationships he had built in the course of study and the future ahead. The aura of confidence with which he spoke showed a man cut out for the future. Egwuchukwu seem baked in a type of incandescent light.
He went through memory lane to remind those he left behind that to attain success in their academics, there be enormous investment in hard work and perseverance in the face of difficulties.
He began his academic journey in August 2014, an experience he recalled vividly like the back of his hand.
Egwuchukwu explained that schooling in the citadel of learning had different experiences for them; some had the joy of an education system they believed would foster their dreams and bring them to reality, another had the sorrow of returning to school much tougher, while others had the joy of leaving high school, “regardless of our purpose, we found ourselves in the same environment bound by the same rules and regulations.”
He enjoined those he left behind that regardless of whatever prior information they have had about the school the journey was not easy for the Class of 2018, stating that they had countless sleepless nights trying to submit their assignments, reading up for the next day, waking up very early to prepare for their 8a.m. classes in order to ensure that they are not locked out.
An excited Egwchukwu said: “The beginning of my AUN experience was marked with the struggle to earn good grades as well as a spot in the Dean or President’s list, hence, a given nickname by my colleagues, known as ‘bookworm’. Although, if they knew what lay behind the scenes, their perspective would have been different. However, that did not deter me but towards the end of my second year, I concluded that I would not only go through the university, but let the university go through me, by engaging in students’ activities.
“Basically, my first two years were solely on my academics, everything I did was mainly for my academics, ignoring all forms of distractions. I studied very hard, I made sure I didn’t go over again on what I learnt during studies and it helped a lot during my preparations for examinations. I did countless revisions throughout the semester and involved myself on other students’ activities and this helped me in my expressive language, social interaction, leadership skills, emotional intelligence and analytics. I am very grateful I am a graduate of this institution.
“The academic training received from this institution is wonderful. The instructors are very cooperative and always ready to listen to you. The school also offers you more opportunities to do more than academics, and it’s helpful because today, people are not just looking for those that are smart alone, but those that can interact and offer communication skills and express their ideas. This institution is extraordinary and they have the necessary tools to empower and create future Nigerian leaders.
“I never dreamt or believed of being the student of the institution. I just do my normal study criteria and academic activities with other students and I was surprised when I received the email that I am one of the candidates that was nominated for Best Students’ Award which was a month ago.
“My social life expanded beyond my imagination, I got to meet a lot of people, speakers from my academic programmes, top musicians people I never dream of coming across and other connection my friends and colleagues introduced me to. The Managing Director of Afriinvest Oke Chidioke, at the dinner and award night.
“My father used to tell me to always move forward and never think of going backwards and I always made sure I accomplished everything my age requires me to accomplish so that in future we don’t need to do what we ought to do in our youthful age. My parents have been a great influence in my academics and they always monitor my social life as well.
“As a student, the first thing to know is yourself, knowing yourself will enable you to know what you can do and what you can’t do, and things that cause distractions in your life. The next is discipline, learn to discipline yourself. Lack of discipline might hinder someone’s growth in life. You have to leave the boundaries that are blocking you away from your goals.
“You also need to seek help because most people today always intend staying within themselves which I believe is lack of courage or shyness and no one is an island of knowledge and people are learning everyday and it is very important to ask for other people’s help whenever we have challenges.”
When the fourth inaugurated President of AUN, Dr. Dawn Dekle, came unto the podium, there was a resounding applause from the crowd to welcome a woman who they believed would be able to translate her ideas and principles in the successful governance of the university. Prior to being appointed the President of AUN in July 2017, she had served as the President of Orkhon University in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, which was the first university to open after Mongolia transitioned from communism in 1992. Dekle has built a solid track record as an academic, international educator and administrator.
Dekle has a very quiet and unassuming personality. She is amiable and humble. One of her efforts has been centred on achieving community sustainability. The focus of the initiative is to promote huge recycling campaign on campus known as ‘efficiency campaign’. The campaign provides the students the opportunity to find out which residency hall uses the less electricity, less air conditioner and water in a very resourceful way, then that hall wins a price.
She stated that they would not only pursue sustainability, but sustainable communities, adding that she envisions the university becoming a larger part of the active Northeastern Nigeria corridor.
She explained that her vision for the university is based on the belief that accessibility to the benefits of education supports a dynamic and prosperous society. “Today, I invite you to consider what will be your contribution to this colourful tapestry. Each of you has an important role to play in this colourful tapestry, this AUN alliance. Together, we will transform this vision into a plan.”
Dekle charged the graduating students to see their graduation as their golden ticket to change the world, stating that being a person of value is more important than a person of achievement, therefore she advised the students to be exemplary role models who would positively impact others.
The AUN President told the students that they are the generation that can close the gap between dreaming and doing, stating that their civilisations courses at the university have taught them that there are moments in history where civilisations redefine themselves.
According to her, “Graduates, we are here today to celebrate your achievements with your teachers, families, and friends, and to welcome you into our Alumni College. Today is the beginning of your moment. Graduation is the beginning, not the end. Graduation is your golden ticket to change the world. I want you to make your dreams at least one size too big and grow into them.
“Today you are turning the page by graduating, but turning the page is not the same thing as writing the next chapter, which is what you must do. Your future is in good hands -your own. There will be times when your heart talks to you. These will be your moments of truth and when your heart speaks, you must take good notes. Being a person of value is more important than being a person of achievement; please remember that while many people can figure costs, far fewer people can measure values. I urge you, don’t simply become something, but be someone, and that someone should be your character and deepest values played out in your daily actions. We have an unprecedented opportunity to make a difference and as President of AUN, I charge you to take up this challenge. This is your turn to write the next chapter, to add your voice to the narrative, in solving the pressing matters of this time.”
The university graduated 21 students in the Master of Science category, one in the Post Graduate Diploma and 136 in the Undergraduate category. The valedictorian and best graduating student of the Class of 2018 was Mr. Benedict Egwuchukwu, an Accounting major with a Cumulative Grade Points (CGPA) of 3.9, while the Speaker of class of 2018, Ms. Ashley Gekpe, was a Petroleum Chemistry major.
The AUN’s Founder, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, who shared his thoughts on the grand legacy, stated that the university is his most fulfilling investment, “not just because it provides jobs like my other endeavours, but more importantly because its graduates are change agents needed for transforming the country to the benefit of all.”
The AUN founder noted his investment in AUN has generated dividends in terms of raising men and women who are problem solvers, adding that education is the master key that would unlock the vast potentials in Nigeria and set Africa’s largest economy and most populous country on the path to full socio-economic development.
He said to unlock the vast potential in the economy; there must be the right mix of adequate funding of the education sector and a curriculum that promotes entrepreneurship among undergraduates, as is the practice at the university.
The former Vice-President noted that with the diminishing role of crude oil as the mainstay of the national economy, it has become expedient for Nigeria to focus on the development of its most important resources, human capital, which he said was far much more sustainable than oil or any other resource.
According to him, “It is becoming evident by the day that the future of Nigeria lies not in the bowels of the earth, but in what is in the head of our people, that is the human capital.”
He noted that there is a nexus between education, development, and security, as an enlightened, multi-ethnic society would be more tolerant leading to social cohesion and harmony.
“An educated citizenry will be less prone to being willing tools in the hands of divisive elements who exploit existing fault lines. Consequently, we will have fewer crises that are inimical to national unity and stability,” he said.
In his remarks, the Managing Director of Flutterwave, Iyinoluwa Aboyeji, charged the AUN Class of 2018 to prepare themselves to play critical roles in the continued survival of the continent.
Aboyeji, who was also the Commencement Speaker at the 2018 commence service, said, “as some of the best-educated young people in this country, you are now not only responsible for yourself, but also for the fate of our human species.”
Aboyeji charged the graduating students that the training they have received from the university would help them in playing critical roles in the economy and also prepare them for the challenge of nation building.
He called for more innovation, creativity, selflessness and hard work, leveraging of the best technology, thinking, training and talent to build the future, adding that individual answers to the following questions would help each graduand arrive at meaningful projects.
According to him, “Take out time to figure out what truly matters to you and passionately working for it, is your first step to taking responsibility for our future. We have to build for the future intentionally. We cannot build things so that we can make money or please people. We have to think long and hard about the future and dedicate ourselves to building institutions that will stand the test of time. The future is our responsibility. The fate of humanity hangs in the balance. It lies in our hands.”