Valedictory Speech: Creating Yourself

Remarks by Valedictorian Benedict Egwuchukwu, at the 10th Commencement Ceremony of AUN, May 19,2018.
Good morning, dignitaries, ladies, and gentlemen. I am delighted to welcome you to AUN, the citadel of excellence, where dreams of Africa’s youths are nurtured into the hope of Africa and the world…the training hub for the future leaders of our beautiful continent and the world.
I am grateful and thankful to the Almighty God for this opportunity to stand and speak to you all as the valedictorian on this special occasion. Let me quickly say, a few weeks before this day, I received an email enlisting me as one of the potential candidates for the valedictorian.
To be honest, it was quite frightening not because of the accolades or honor or the short period of fame, but rather this very moment, standing before you today to deliver this valedictory speech. However, as I sat down to write this speech, memories of the journey we all shared, and I mean my grandaunts and I (maybe not all of them, but you get the gist), were displayed like a movie, and with that, I found the courage to stand before you this morning.
Our journey began in August 2014, we remember it vividly like it was yesterday when we stood here for our matriculation. Some of us with the joy of an education they believed will foster their dreams and bring them to reality, another with sorrow of returning to school – only this time, much tougher – while others with the joy of leaving high school and parents to finally explore that which they were restricted from doing. Regardless of our purpose, we found ourselves in the same environment bound by the same rules and regulations.
We would inform you regardless of what anyone tells you, and I believe I speak for the Class of 2018, that the journey was not easy. Where do we begin, is it the countless sleepless nights we faced when trying to submit assignments that were due at 11:59 pm, and reading up for the next-day class, to waking up very early to prepare for our 8 am classes so our professors do not lock us out. Later, walk under the Yola scorching sun only to stumble on the meal the cafeteria had to offer that day which we may all know the coffee shop was our saving grace. Or, is it the various curricular activities that held many of us down from accomplishing our different objectives and goals in our daily routine (for example, Kazayet, Funmbi, Demilade, and others…you know yourselves)? Or it is our toil and hustle with the Academic Advising Office or the struggle we encountered while in groups for presentations? Or if you can remember, the struggle to pass Mathematics with Dr. [Marcel] Fokam, or Physics with Dr. [Abraham] Biyasa or ICP 101 with Dr. Bill Hansen or CIV 101 with Dr. Gado [Alzouma]or BIO 120 with Dr. [Hayatu] Raji, you name it. The struggle was indeed real.
I, for one, am a living testimony. I want to use this opportunity to extend my gratitude to the founder, His Excellency Atiku Abubakar, for this life-changing vision, AUN. The AUN community is indeed extraordinary, coupled with the necessary tools to create and empower the future youths of Nigeria and Africa. I came into this school introverted and, trust me, I wanted nothing more than to keep it that way while having a few friends. But how short-lived my expectation was because on arrival, the aura around a wonderful student whose name I am sure echoes at the four corners of this school, walked up to me to make conversation against my will. Her name, Blessing Douglas. God bless her because I understood from our light conversation that day, the environment I stepped into gives you the opportunity to evolve as a person. What do I mean by this, AUN is holistic in nature because beyond a person’s academic picture, lies the traits and characteristics that build up the individual.
Few days into the semester, my friends and I came across an alumnus who even today makes a continuous impact wherever he goes. He spoke to us concerning the importance of having a good start and setting goals to be reviewed on this very day. For some strange reason, the way he spoke to us that day made it seem like he knew something spectacular would come out of our group and, trust me, those friends of mine have their names written in the school premise. Ask around. It did not stop there, from his busy schedule, he found time to check up on us and how we fared. In the end, he reminded us of our beginning and congratulated us for a job well done. I deeply appreciate your effort and commitment towards our success, Mr. Peter Paya.
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 “bookworm” by my colleagues. Although, if they knew what laid 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 student activities. From that point, my engagement involved joining the football association where my colleagues and I officiated the league; joining the Student Government Association as the Assistant Director of Finance. Also, I served as a mentor in a boot camp organized by Dr. Ferdinand Che, tailored to train the next set of youth entrepreneurs in the community. I am also a proud graduate of the Emerging Leaders Academy organized by our very own father, the Vice President of Student Life, Dean Byron Bullock, whose goal is to nurture the next set of future leaders. I am a part of the prestigious Honor Society that stands for integrity, academic excellence, leadership, and service. Additionally, I became the vice president of the Non-Denominational Christian Fellowship which was an honor to serve in the house of God and His people.
I could go on about the other things I found myself doing within the AUN community but through it all, what mattered the most is the wonderful people that made this journey blissful and lessons learned. Special appreciation goes to my dearest friends Chukwuma [Onwujiuba], Kazayet [Zachariah], Laju [Utseoritselaju Okorodudu], Destiny [Enabulele], Rachel [Hamakim], and bother Johnpaul Offor for the frustrating and funny moments, little quirks, and twists, their continuous support, love, and advice, till the very end. To the faculty [and] staff and alumni [who] affected my life positively, beginning with [Prof] Samuel Akanno for his relentless support, encouragement and fatherly figure, which paved a way for me to be here today; Dr. Ferdinand Che who drilled the essence of passion and determination towards achieving my dreams; Dr. Abiodun Isaka who stressed the importance of hard work and understanding during the course of any engagement; Dr. Agatha Ukata whose support and love encouraged and created a suitable environment to work in; Dr. James Adewale for his unwavering support and advice from the very beginning; Mr. Usoh [Usoh], Pastor Raymond [Obindu], Dr. Presly [Obukoadata], Mr. Odirichi [Nwafor], and my fellow NDCF members for the spiritual upbringing, advice, and love towards me. I am deeply honored and grateful.
People tend to shy away from challenges, but my advice is to face them head on because the lessons are incomparable. Discipline, integrity, patience, tenacity, to name a few, are the various traits I have acquired amid my challenges. To summarize this, a quote by George Bernard Shaw says, “Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” Our journey has brought us to a point where we have a conviction on who we are, what we want, where we want to go to, how we ought to go there and why we were brought into this world. Put simply, we have an understanding of our identity, and this is what I want us to take home this day. Remember all the failures, endless weeping nights, sorrow, hardship, joy, happiness, success, and determination. All these have built us up for a future that awaits us. All these moments we experienced individually and collectively have brought the dawn of a new creation, “us”. And the world is earnestly waiting for our arrival.
Finally, I would like to thank everyone seated here this morning: the founder, senior management, [the] faculty and staff, AUN alumni, students, friends and acquaintances, and our loving parents for the trust, love, finances, and time that they invested in us and for honoring us with your presence as we step into the world. And to my wonderful parents and brothers, for believing in me and whose support without which I would not be here. I love you all.  
My fellow graduates, I have one [more] thing to say. A wise man once said, “In this life, you can never go back, only forward. Hence, the quote, ‘Backward never, forward ever’.” That wise man is my dad. I say this to you because our experiences at AUN have given birth to a new creation. Therefore, the old self exists no more; only the new. So, make preparations grab your belongings, and go into the world and do exploits.
Congratulations, Class of 2018. We are indeed proud graduates!

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