Building an enduring Legacy 60th Birthday lecture for Mr. Segun Awoyomi | Fola Daniel Adelesi

Dear listeners, (students from all the various schools represented, staff of Classique schools, friends and family of Mr. Segun Awoyomi), I will simply be telling you a story today and I will lace it with insights. That’s principally what will form my lecture.

Let’s begin from the early days in 2002 when I first met Mr. Awoyomi. I was a student of Mayflower school and I was mentally vibrant. When you see me, I was totally unassuming and you could not even imagine that the person talking was the same person you were seeing physically. When people looked at me, they didn’t think much of me until I opened my mouth to talk. They certainly didn’t believe that the person talking was the same person they were seeing. Let’s just say in Nigerian local parlance that this person, about 20 years ago in this same academic environment was the person you could call ‘small body, big engine.’

One of those many projects that I had imagined, and was in the middle of execution when I would come down to town and visit Classiue Royal Computers which was just on Tai Solarin way, was something that had to do with a year book. I saw and admired Mr. Awoyomi from a distance on a couple of occasions until he also began to see the things I brought to the center. I am not exactly sure what fascinated him but he saw a young man with dreams. He saw a young man that was full of ideas and could easily articulate all the ideas that he had. That young man didn’t only articulate the ideas, he would stop at nothing to make them a reality.

After a while, we became friends. When I came around we would discuss some ideas from education to politics and the lives of young people generally, though I was very young. Mr. Awoyomi was also young at the time but he’s now a senior Citizen. Although when I get a chance to meet with him after the event I will ask him how he manages to cheat nature and stay way younger than his age.

Perhaps, he has forgotten. one of the many ideas that we discussed and eventually executed was the year book project for Mayflower School a few years after I had graduated. I went back to him with an idea and he went to the school to pitch the idea. I remember driving down to Sagamu with him a couple of times to meet the Graphics Designer and maybe the eventual printer of the book. As I remember the story right now, I also remember he told me something about that printer. He asked me to look around and observe that as we were coming, the printer had no signage around his business premises or on the streets leading to his business premises yet, he had many people trouping into his office to get one thing or the other done. The gentleman had his hands full in one small room in Sagamu without a single advert outside. Don’t forget that this time was a few years ahead of social media. There was nothing like that at the time so he was simply found out by word of mouth consequent upon the excellence his work showed.

In all of these, I remember Mr. Awoyomi attempting a voyage into the uncertain shores of politics. He tried a couple of times and was certainly frustrated by the system and the people you would have thought wanted a better country. They clearly didn’t want a better country. At least that’s not what their attitude says. They wanted whatever puts money in their pocket or food on their table. I don’t know if he has given up those political ambitions but you can still tell today that not much has changed in the political space. In fact, I think it’s worse today. Back then, those who were crooks still had the integrity to play out as crooks and people knew them for who they were but today, the least expected people are crooks and even the best of microscopes can’t fish them out.

What you’ve heard so far was my brief stint with the distinguished gentleman that we are gathered here to celebrate today. Between that period and now. It’s been almost twenty years and like we say around here, so many waters have passed under the bridge.

Picking up this story from the time I went away to face life, I can tell you today that life isn’t what I thought it was going to be. I sincerely expected it to be easy. I thought life would be kind to me just because I was kind to other people. I thought life would be nice just because I had dreams to change the world and would make it easy for me to change the world. I had many sincere ideas and innovations that could have changed many things. I still have those ideas and innovations. I still want to change the world and still making my efforts in my little corner, now aided by the internet and social media, but it has definitely been a different ball game compared to what I thought.

In about fifteen years, I have written at least thirteen books and still working on many more books. I have spoken at many gatherings to young and old people and several career professionals at different levels. I have travelled to many places to deliver speeches and my books have been to many countries that I have never been to and some of them, I may never visit.

Today, I can boldly say that education is the enduring legacy that we all need and should hold unto. Today, without any iota of doubt, one of the things that brought me to where I am today is education and that education can regenerate any opportunity that man can take away. That education can produce opportunities by itself, produce and open doors in the least expected places.

Today when I look back at what my father left behind after his death, I am grateful for what he did and the things he tried to do but I am most grateful for the quality of education that I got while he was alive. I am most grateful that he didn’t allow me to do otherwise when I wanted to pull out from the great education he gave to me.

When I was a student in Junior Secondary School 1 (JS1) at Mayflower School, I didn’t like the school. Before my admission to the school, I looked forward to going there. Beans was my favourite food so it excited me that I would not get a chance to eat that beans on a daily basis. Nobody warned me that I was clamouring for beans laden with insects, stones and sometimes with little or too much oil. I wanted a bit of freedom at my tender age and looked forward to being able to control my own provisions. I wanted all the me time to play around and do what I wanted with minimal supervision from my parents or adults in the family.

I honestly didn’t last three days in Mayflower before I started crying and asking my father to come get me. He came over to the school the next weekend and simply mocked me. He didn’t even make any effort to withdraw me from the school so I knew my fate was sealed.

There’s no going back. I have been sentenced to 6 years in prison with no option of bail. If you just laughed at being sentenced to 6 years in prison and thought I was exaggerating, how do you explain being given numbers and you have to boldly write the numbers on your uniforms and everything you own?

For the students, we were told it’s called student number. Every one of us got one and we wore it as a badge of honour bodly printed on all our uniforms, textbooks, lockers and any other thing you could imagine a student in the boarding house owned.

How did my father end that conversation about me leaving Mayflower School? He simply told me to look at those girls that were coming from the other side of the car park. He asked me to wipe my tears because those girls were looking at me and he reminded me that when I get to SS3 and decided to toast any of those girls, they wouldn’t agree to go out with me because they would remember I was crying at the car park with my father.

I was stunned. What has leaving Mayflower school got to do with girls agreeing to being toasted or not? Why would my father even joke about girls not agreeing to my advances when I become a senior just because I cried in junior class? My appeal, tears and face making strategies failed. I was to remain.

Long story cut short, my father didn’t take me out of that school. He allowed me endure the wickedness of some frustrated seniors. I had to wake up in the morning, run out of my dormitory bare chested in my tiny frame to go and do what they called exercises. To make the matters worse, there were some so called house masters, that from the benefit of hindsight, I would call assistant masquerades today who were always chasing us with canes.

Even when I was asked to repeat SS1, my father didn’t change my school. He left me there and from that point, everything changed. I became bold. I became more idealistic. After repeating a class and being put in a class of repeaters, I was somehow made the class captain and I decided to give an acceptance speech to a class of repeaters.

As funny as that sounds, it was the beginning of turn around for me in that school. Some other students from other classes were by the windows of the class. They listened with rapt attention and were stunned by the speech I have. They started talking about the speech and that gave me the impetus to contest in the first school elections I participated in to become a Lost property Officer. I eventually contested to become Senior Prefect and despite all odds, I won.

I wasn’t the regular Senior Prefect the school was used to. I wasn’t in the Science classes. I was a Commercial Student and the commercial or art classes had never produced the Senior Prfect. More importantly to some, I had also repeated a class and it was unheard of that someone came back after repeated one previous class to become the Senior Prefect. All of that didn’t matter. I still won and became the Senior Prefect.

I started daring after repeating a class and each time I remember my father today, I don’t remember him for the houses and plots of land that he left behind. I don’t remember him for any money in the bank or any other thing that people say about him as much as I remember the education that I got from him. I am most grateful that he didn’t backdown when I wanted him to.

Today when I speak to thousands of people, they think it’s because I studied Mass Communication. When I am on television people say I speak eloquently and they think it’s because of my university and some other trainings outside the higher institution. The real truth is that most of it came from a school not too far away from here. It was from Mayflower School that I began to address a crowd of over four thousand people. That legacy was formed in the jungle of Ikenne and that education is the most valuable asset I have with me today.

Dear young ones, I implore you to take your education seriously. Your parents or guardians may be wealthy today and you may be looking forward to an inheritance. There are other people looking forward to the same inheritance. In fact, life may happen and the inheritance you’re looking forward to may be gone while your parents are still alive. The only thing they would have given to you that no one can take away is your education.

Let me begin to wrap up by saying that education isn’t just literacy. It is unfortunate that today’s society has begun to confuse education with literacy. There’s more to education than being able to read and write. It is the ability to use your mind, solve problems and be able to think through nearly any situation that you find yourself in.

Education is what you do with yourself when we take everything away from you. Education is what you do with yourself when there’s no other person around to continue to spoon-feed you and hand you everything you ask for in life. When you turn to the right and turn to the left with no one there so support you, the next action you take is the proof of your education.

This education liberates and takes you above the levels of several other people. Please, take seriously and I hope that even if you don’t understand the value of what I’ve shared today, it wouldn’t be too late before you get my point. Thank you for listening and thank you for your time.

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