Remarks by the Class Speaker, Ashley Nchewi Gekpe, at the 10th Commencement Ceremony of AUN, May 19, 2018.
The founder, His Excellency Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, Members of the Board of Trustees, The President, Dr. Dawn Dekle, Deans, Faculty and Staff, our beloved parents, family and friends, and the incredible graduating Class of 2018. Good morning.
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen,
Sanu da zuwa
The Zulu of South Africa say Wamukelekile
The KinyaRwandans say Murakaza Neza
In the Legbama dialect of the Levache clan where I come from, we say, Afooh ooo!
I welcome you all to the celebration of great, inquisitive, spontaneous, and daring minds brought to life within the walls of American University of Nigeria.
Unlike many of my peers, my experience was different upon my arrival in Yola. I knew I wanted to be a graduate. I just didn’t know what I wanted to study. I knew I wanted to make a difference, but I didn’t know what I wanted to make a difference doing. Well, I knew for sure that I had classes the following week and as soon as I entered my African Civilization class, I knew “there was fire on the mountain” and all I wanted to do was “RUN, RUN, RUN!”
It’s been amazing how much change I am certain that each and every one of us graduating today has experienced. No! I am not just referring to how grateful we all are to puberty. We can all agree that not only have we been exposed to world-class professors from across the globe [and] provided with world-class facilities such as our e-library, we have also been encouraged to offer courses that develop our minds and prepare us for the different markets available in the country and afar alike. AUN stands as a development institution with the purpose of developing strong, [assertive], and influential African leaders.
Whether it was through teaching pupils of primary schools or painting hospitals we all wanted to improve the current state of our country. AUN has given us all minds that want to serve. With the presence of departments such as Residence Life or organizations such as the Campus Activities Board, it was almost impossible to be inactive. In fact, we became hungry to have our ideas heard out. The Emerging Leaders Academy headed by Dean Bullock was the cherry on top for most of us. The Academy kept our minds motivated and our bellies saturated. It was a leadership training that we particularly enjoyed because we all had a place.
Won’t we all miss Professor Agatha Ukata’s in-class poem renditions? The intense dramatic performance and sincere excitement in her lectures as she spoke? I had my first literature lecture with her and I fondly remember her warning the class after a test: “Don’t be like Nchewi who makes her own questions and gives her own answers.” If only she knew that I thought I had aced that test.
Do you remember when we got stuck on one line in a paper all in the name of paraphrasing for [Prof Patrick] Fay’s class? Or how we took Professor Alzouma’s trips through the origins of Africa? It definitely felt like I was there sharing this beautiful experience because I was TWICE! On the upside, I got to meet the legendary Lucy TWICE! The struggle was all levels of reality.
Although Math 98, 99, and 100 set us on different paths from the start, we all made it to the finish line. Through it all, we survived! As a team, we SURVIVED! Borrowing the words of a great life philosopher and flow master 2Pac, “Even though you’re fed up, you’ve got to keep your head up.”
We can all appreciate Mr. Okechukwu Peter Elvis Ohamadike a.k.a. Mr. E. for assigning himself as our personal alarm clock every Monday with those motivational SMS messages that we may or may not have read. The talented Salamatu Gwadah who we couldn’t spot without a camera on the streets of AUN. Ritnen Gomwalk with the vocals to scream us back into reality. “We can hear you, Ritnen, we can hear you!” Or the ginger machines Kazayet Zachariah and Fumbi Cole. We still don’t know how you did it. If you feel untouchable on the football pitch, you clearly haven’t met Hassan ‘Casper’ Abba. He’ll let you know who is boss. If we were ever lost in the library searching for a book, all we had to do was call Chukwuma Onwujiuba and Utseriselaju Okorodudu they already had the online version.
Dear Class, please don’t forget that even as graduates, it is still okay to say, “I am not sure,” or “May I think about it and get back to you?” For instance, if your parents ask, “When are you going to start paying the bills around here,” it may be safe to reply, “I am not sure,” or “May I think about it and get back to you?” After this speech, I will let you know whether or not it works.
To the one who sees all things and protects us all, to the Almighty God, we say, thank you. To the founder, His Excellency Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, we thank you for creating an institution as great [as] this one where our dreams became realities and possibilities in years. To the people who have made this day possible, to the people who knew the essence of an education way before we could talk or walk, to the people whose hard work, courage, and persistence have brought us here to this very moment. To our parents, we say THANK YOU! Thank you for being the ones we could reach out to for support at any hour of the day. Thank you for knowing our unsaid struggles and pain. To our mothers, thank you for feeding us even when you knew we couldn’t accommodate any more. To all our African parents, thank you for being the inspiration behind most of our memes. To the Residence Life team headed by Mr. [Abdullahi] Bello, I am eternally grateful for the real-life coaching I received when I worked for the department.
Well, class, this might seem like the end for most of us being in the same room but I do hope to see you all at the top of the positive world breaking news. I hope to see you all in power, governing our dear Nigeria to the top where she belongs. I hope today brings you some clarity as to what your next step will look like. Most of all, I hope you remember that it is only through integrity success counts. Thank you and congratulations, Class of 2018."