As a teenager, I was in love with the fashion of my time: platform shoes, wide-leg high-waisted trousers, wide-collar shirts and, of course, an afro. I was tall and skinny, and I still don’t know how I managed with those shoes that gave me an extra 3-4 inches. Recently, I saw a picture I took back then and wondered if I looked at myself in the mirror before hitting the streets. I can only imagine what was going through the minds of my conservative parents back then. After many years of making necessary life adjustments, driven by maturity and vocation, I can look at myself in the mirror and reflect on all decisions - some tougher than others - but essential to becoming the man speaking to you today.
So now I ask, did you look in the mirror this morning? And did you like what you saw? And as you grapple with these questions, another comes to mind. What if we held up a mirror to Nigeria? Would we like what the reflection shows, or would we begin a laundry list of adjustments necessary for development? Some of you have been unwavering in pursuing a better Nigeria - sometimes at the expense of your well-being, income and, in some devastating circumstances, your safety. Thank you. Sadly, most of us are unwilling to accept what the mirror shows and to make meaningful adjustments, yet we expect a better country to emerge. How? In the words of George Santayana, a Spanish-American philosopher of the 20th century, ‘Nonsense is so good only because common sense is so limited’. This, unfortunately, is our today’s reality.
For Nigeria’s rebirth, we must embrace time-tested values of discipline, hard work, and honesty. We all have our roles to play. This university must peep into its mirror and drive only activities that elevate it as a citadel of learning. The graduating students must also act on the school’s motto, Unity, Learning and Service, just as our political, religious, and traditional leaders must be conscious of the place of history in their lives and lead with integrity. Then, the almighty followers must awaken to supporting only credible leaders.
The University has already signaled that things can be done rightly. I will never forget 2014 when I was asked to be a guest speaker at the 19th/20th convocation and sought confirmation from the Vice Chancellor, Professor Comfort Ekpo if she wanted me to speak on the assigned topic: Challenges and Opportunities for University Graduates in a Season of Economic and Moral Decay. I was worried for the authorities, but she responded emphatically yes. That was bold and audacious, and my position on those issues remains. Now, again, the university has surprised me. Given our often-transactional relationships and the quid pro quo lifestyle, selecting me for this award, having retired from work, not occupying, seeking any political office and, without lobbying, is a testimony for which I am grateful.
My colleagues and I appreciate the conferment and pledge to continue serving humanity uprightly.
Dr. Udom Inoyo