Tomorrow Belongs to Me!

“Tomorrow belongs to me!”
A presentation to graduating students of Federal University Ndufu-Alike Ikwo, NIGERIA
by Chris UWADOKA, Ag. Director,
CEDAMPAT [Centre for Development Assistance Management, Partnership & Training], FUNAI, Nigeria.

Ikwo, Nigeria. August 15, 2017

Great Soaring Eagles !
Great champions of 2017!
Great co-owners of the future!
Great hope of progress for mankind!
Greetings to the greatest, of the greatest of the greatest!

I want to talk ….

This set of graduating students is special for many reasons

You young ladies and gentlemen gathered here today are a special set of people for many reasons, one of which is that you are the second set of graduates of this wonderful University! The second reason is that you are the last set of students that will successfully conclude your studies here without witnessing (not to talk of enjoying) an inch of tarred road! You waded through the dust in dry seasons, and the mud in wet seasons. You made your way through the occasionally overgrown weed and you survived. Massive road and drainage construction projects are underway on campus at the moment as you are leaving and I trust that you recognize this sign of progress for the institution whose representative for life you have become.

In a lot of sense, you pioneered, you persevered and I trust that you will prosper. In a literal sense, you walked in terrains where very few undergraduates ever have the privilege of walking. You created new bush paths and new roads that never existed. Many of you are the first to launch some of the beds we have in the hostels – and you even launched some of the hostels and classroom blocks.  You drank from taps that came to life in your time. You enjoyed a low student-to-lecturer ratio, making it possible for each of you to be given close attention by lecturers, academic advisors and technologists. With your immediate predecessors, you developed your own campus culture from next to nothing, literally; and like Adam of the Bible, what you named your games is what they have been called till date (eg. ‘Ochudo park’ beside the female hostel). You also studied in classrooms that had insufficient seats and in the process, you taught yourselves to take notes, take your lectures and do your studies while seating on blocks. You have come pretty far. And there is no reason to believe you will not yet go very far. I believe you will go very far and I salute you.

To further understand how you have been shaped:

Let me take a little time to explain to you how you have been shaped and baked. The philosophical underpinnings of the upbringing you received are revealed in 4 tokens: (i) University motto; (ii) the logo, (iii) the anthem of the University and (iv) the totem.

(i). FUNAI Motto, your rule to live by

The Motto, EXCELLENCE AND INTEGRITY is self-explanatory. It begs no question, fears no controversy, introduces no equivocation. You are driven by excellence or you are not. You are on the side of integrity or you are not. FUNAI has made plain to you what your choices should and need to be at all decision points.

(ii). FUNAI Logo, your Badge of Honour

To expatiate, once more, the logo of your University which is a crest you carry in your certificate and a code you bear in your academic DNA, let me reproduce here the words of the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Chinedum Nwajiuba as he analysed the revamped FUNAI logo in 2016:

You may have noticed by now that the FUNAI Logo shows a soaring Eagle above a fountain that is shooting up from a base of salt. You may also have noticed that the salt is contained in the traditional three-striped clay pot autochthonous to southeast Nigeria, including Ebonyi State.

The message from the logo is that from our location in Ebonyi State – the Salt of the Nation –  where nature, in its kindness has endowed us with appreciable resources (including salt, which represents excellence and integrity), we go beyond the comfort of natural endowments  to unleash our kinetics with the ferocious force of a fountain, creating – in the process – the dynamics that propel us to excel and attain great heights. Then, having paid our dues, we soar like the Eagles and reign as kings of the limitless skies and owner of the horizons. Like the Eagle, a well-formed FUNAITE has acuity of vision, strength of character, unimaginable determination, attention to detail and capacity to deliver beyond his/her physical size. I urge you to imbibe these qualities and reflect them in all your interactions.

I trust you know by now that the FUNAI Anthem clearly spells out its belief that you are the light of humanity – you have been prepared to play on the global stage. As far as the University is concerned, you are world changers who are being unleashed upon a world that is in dire need of changers. The Anthem also makes it clear that FUNAI holds that SWEET FROM SWEAT ENDURES. The University does not subscribe to a culture of ‘something for nothing’ and has in no way encouraged you in that direction.  On the contrary, you have been trained in the concepts of hard work, smart work, deferred gratification, diligence, self-confidence, excellence, determination, discipline, focus and forthrightness. The anthem states that by setting our sights on enlightened horizon, we take our place among the stars. This speaks to goals and visions to which we shall get shortly in the course of this presentation.

(iv). FUNAI Totem, your anointing

As stated above, FUNAI’s totem is a SOARING EAGLE and, as the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Chinedum Nwajiuba has often stated, a well-formed FUNAITE is like the eagle in his/her acuity of vision, strength of character, unimaginable determination, attention to detail and capacity to deliver beyond his/her physical size.

In manifesting the characteristics of the Eagle, you necessarily need to move from the familiar to the fantastic. You have concluded and passed your exams and that is good. But is an accomplishment of yesterday. It is done and dusted, as they say. Where you are right now is a settled deal. Now is the time for where you are going, a vision beyond you.

Manifesting the characteristics of the Eagle

By the words of the Vice-Chancellor, FUNAITES soar like Eagles and reign as kings of the limitless skies and owner of the horizons. Talking about king of the horizon, it’s time to define your horizon. And we shall do that exercise here today.

FUNAI is imprinted in your academic and social DNA

I note that you have spent 3 – 4 years of your most impressionable years in this campus. Trust me, it is not something you will forget in a hurry. FUNAI is now imprinted in your academic and social DNA. A piece of this University is in you and that’s something you cannot run away from now. A dog cannot escape from the company of its tail, however fast or far it runs; neither can a man, from his buttocks. There is nothing to run away from and everything to run towards, anyway. It is success that beckons as you seek to understand and optimize who and what you have become. When you are produced from a place like Federal University Ndufu-Alike Ikwo in Ebonyi State, Nigeria in 2017, you have power that you can hardly believe. You cannot be limited by unavailability of public resources or by macroeconomic recession. You hear of them, but you are not deterred by them. As somebody once remarked, it is only the eye of the child that fears the painted devil. In this matter of being unlimited, you are obviously no longer a child. You have paid your dues in FUNAI and though you may have fears about what the outside world may bring, you have learnt to proceed despite the fear. You did it in FUNAI, you will do it out there.

Like David of the Bible, you have learnt that Goliath’s noise has nothing to do with his invincibility. The noise of national economic recession, global financial meltdown, heightened insecurity, xenophobia, tightened borders, religious intolerance, increasing unemployment statistics and the like, are sounds of Goliath’s challenge. They are real. But thank God they are vulnerable. As the Igbos say, it is only in communities that do not have cows that you can scare children with rams. FUNAI gave you a good opportunity to play with the proverbial cows.  You know from wading in mud and swimming in dust to get to your classes and back – you know from living in a town with no eatery befitting of a University town and often having to go to bed hungry because there is nowhere to buy food after a certain hour, you know from visiting the medical centre every now and then because of aggressive mosquitoes and yet having to pass your exams, you know from having electricity for a limited number of hour per day  –  that the inner strength of a tiny David gives more power to his sling and five stones than the bulky stature of a giant Goliath can ever give to his heavy armoury.  FUNAI has taught you that all things are possible to him that believes.

When you are produced from a place like Federal University Ndufu-Alike Ikwo in Ebonyi State, Nigeria in 2017, you have power that you can hardly believe. You cannot be limited. You have paid your dues in FUNAI and though you may have fears about what the outside world may bring, you have learnt to proceed despite the fear. You did it in FUNAI, you will do it out there. You’ve been prepared to take tomorrow.

You stand today as the University’s future emblem of success and its testimony to the fact that with good management, excellent faculty and hardworking students, an University can overlook its infrastructural challenges and play saviour to the rest of humanity.

Congrats … but behold, your 1st degree graduation is only the end of a beginning

As I congratulate you on completing your course of studies here, I want to remind you that you only just arrived at the end of a beginning. It is now time to begin again. The farthest village has another after it. As Korede Bello sang, “After the reggae, play the blues …”  There are yet many rivers to cross. And God will help you to succeed in all.

In contemplating the many rivers, oceans, hills, mountains and valleys you have to cross, never you make despondence or even fatality an option. Stay away from the que-sera-sera philosophy. Get involved in your future.

For somewhere, a glory awaits unseen

This is only 2017. As the years roll by and the aged leave the stage, there will be space for new Heads of Customs, Immigration, etc. new Chief Medical Directors, new artists of repute, new Presidents of nations and Governors of states, new federal ministers and State Commissioners, new party chieftains, new Nobel Peace Prize winners, new Secretary Generals of the United Nations and Heads of its arms, new Ambassadors, new military chiefs, new successful farmers, new business moguls, new heads of marketing, production, engineering, admin and finance in companies, new global companies, new Olympic champions, new exemplary husbands and wives, new reality show hosts and winners, new Bishops, new this and new that. Make no mistake about it, there will also be space for new prisoners, new beggars, new unemployed, and on and on. As you advance in years, you will discover that there is enough space for everybody. The sky is so large that two birds need not collide. The horizon is unimaginably large and variegated. But you need to begin by looking for your own space in this clutter of opportunities. You cannot be everything excellently. It is enough to be one thing in an outstanding manner. Somewhere a glory awaits unseen. It’s your to find, seize and keep.

Get yourself a vision bigger than you

As you wave your final undergraduate goodbye to this University, I encourage you to define your own horizon before you take off. Living your life like a candle in the wind, as Sir Elton John sang is no way to confront tomorrow. Also, the French song, que sera sera, soothing as it may sound to the ear, is not particularly given to progress beyond your circumstances as promoted by FUNAI. You need a vision and one bigger than you. I implore you today to ignore the sense of fatality in the que-sera-sera philosophy, raise your game beyond being a candle in the wind and equip yourself with a vision. The FUNAI philosophy under which you have had your tutelage requests that you set your eyes on enlightened horizon (see the second stanza of your University anthem). So, whose blame will it be if your dream is a tiny fraction of what the University has prepared you for? As they ask metaphorically in Igboland, “could the problem be that the clipper is not sharp, or that the barber is not skilled?”  Let me help you here with a simple exercise in vision capture:

Choose between the road and the cow

As you watch the horizon, you will observe a constant struggle between consumption and investment; between insisting on instant gratification and choosing to delay gratification for purposes of growing the future; between building and occupying; between insisting on instant gratification and choosing to delay gratification for purposes of growing the future.

The struggle is between the road and the cow.  But as the Igbos say, “Eliwe uzo, liwe ehi, onye iberibe apuru ehi”. Choose between money and capital. To this, Andrew Carnegie counsels: “Money is not something to spend. It is something with which you make more money. We must overthrow the consumer’s mentality and replace it with the investor’s”

Your simple exercise in vision-capture

Take a piece of paper/pen or ready your keyboard right now and describe yourself as you would be described twenty years from today if you have become stupendously successful by your own standards at that time. I beg you to state, in simple phrases, a vision that is beyond you. In my village we have a saying to the effect that he that thinks of catching mice will never catch lions.  In enlightened horizons, you make room for other gifted people to earn a living from your success, to get their own opportunities for growth from your success; let your vision be such that smart, tenacious and blessed  people will see room enough for themselves in your scheme of things in the time that is coming. Let it inspire a generation, in the very least. Draw a vision that demands a super team before you can accomplish it. Make room in your mind’s eye for other people to benefit from you and to grow in your growth. You are a FUNAITE and the world will depend on you. So, make accommodation for the progress of families, communities and possibly nations that will be depending on you for their safety, survival, wellbeing, pride and progress. Build your vision as if the future belongs to you for it indeed belongs to you. Or put another way, scribble it down as if you are very sure that that any future you express in writing right now belongs to you. Scribble it right now, as in ‘right now!’

You don’t need a vision you can afford

Your parents may be rich, average or poor, but that is not a problem here because you don’t need a vision you can afford. You don’t need a vision that you can pay for. Your academic result may not be wonderful, but  that has nothing to do with having a vision that is beyond you. You may have been told all your life that you are too short, too large, too ugly, too dumb  or too bush; that is in the past now because you are a FUNAITE, a Soaring Eagle.  In your world, you are free to paint an enlightened horizon that overcomes all these mundane descriptions and compel the tall, the beautiful, the super-intelligent  and the cosmopolitan to worship at your feet. Being a FUNAITE is about being unlimited, unfettered, unbound, unchained.

Your tomorrow has just begun

Now that you have put down your vision in writing, now that you have painted tomorrow in broadstrokes, there will be a temptation to put it away until you get a job, until you grow up some more, until you get married, and many other untils. I’m glad to inform you that you don’t need a title, you don’t need a pay cheque, you don’t need official government authorization, you don’t need a job or the endorsement of others, nor funding to begin to possess your own tomorrow. Don’t wait, don’t delay.  It is actually your acting on your vision of tomorrow that will bring the title, the paycheque the job, etc., not the other way around. Do not lock up this vision until it is forgotten, grows mould and dies. It may not be perfect, but it represents what you would say if God were to open the windows of heaven and ask you directly what tomorrow you want arranged by heaven for you. You must begin to act on that tomorrow today, right now. The truth is that TOMORROW has Just begun, whether you know it or not. Whether you have a good vision, a poor one or none at all, tomorrow will show its face. Time inexorably marches to its own drum as it brings new tomorrows to all the living. So, you need to begin right now to construct the tomorrow. I am enamoured to the words of Napoleon Hill to the effect that whatever the mind of man can conceive, it can achieve. I am also enamoured to the word of God to His people in the Scripture that wherever the soles of your feet shall tread, the Lord has given you for a possession.

Why not begin right away to walk in the enlightened horizon you painted in those simple words a moment ago. Wherever the soles of your feet shall tread, that you will have as a possession. So, walk in the top career you have in your head. Walk in your being an academic of repute. Walk in the solutions you will bring to mankind and the recognitions that will come with it. Walk in the mega businesses you have created in your head. Walk in the lovely family you look forward to having. Walk in the wonderful music and books you will produce. Walk in leadership in public service. Walk in the ministry. Walk in the military and paramilitary if that’s your vision. Walk in high technology, in artificial intelligence, in data mining if they mean a lot to you. Walk in leadership in politics. Walk on top of the food chain in the United Nations, the World Bank, the African Development Bank and other multilateral organisations. Walk at the top of the food chain in showbusiness. Walk in what you dare to see. Walk in the yet invisible. Walk in what only you can see for now. Try it on, nurture the vision.

Remember, who dares wins

Nothing beats vision execution. In the final analysis, it is who dares that wins. I urge you to get up and run towards your Goliath; but remember to first pick up your five stones. Remember to rehearse with the bear and the lion as opportunities arise along the way. Just begin and the future will eventually be within your grasp. If you want to take over the world, first take over your neighbourhood, take over your state, take over the nation  and the world will fall into your hands. Your progress may not look very certain at the beginning, but keep on keeping on. If you find nothing else to do, then read all you can about who you are becoming. Hang on to the vision and hang on to your promise of progress. Be found doing something always in the general direction of your good vision.

Small is big enough

If you want to be able to count to 1 billion, ensure you first spend time learning to count from 1 to 10. Everything after 10 is duplication of the 1-10. Your output may not be wonderful at the beginning, but as Zig Ziglar often remarked, “Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly until you can learn to do it well”. Learn to write CVs that attract attention. Learn to impress job interviewers. Learn to begin and run a successful business. Learn to think. Learn to solve problems.  Volunteer at every opportunity. And, with practice, your day will surely come.

The mess is part of the process that leads to progress

You may fail along the way, but never quit. It’s all part of the  growth process. The valley is part of the mountain. When you quit, you begin at the end of another queue. Pain is temporary but quitting is forever.

You are a product of FUNAI

You are a product of FUNAI. You are a Soaring Eagle. Be rest assured that you are already prepared for tomorrow. Tomorrow belongs to you. As the Igbos say, “He for whom it is ordained that neither man nor spirit can kill, let him not be the one to kill himself”. Tomorrow is yours to gain or to lose. Don’t waste it to fear, ignorance and idleness. Tomorrow belongs to you.

Let’s sing it: Tomorrow belongs … tomorrow belongs … tomorrow belongs to me!
Thank you.

Ag. Director,
CEDAMPAT [Centre for Development Assistance Management, Partnership & Training],
FUNAI, Nigeria.

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