LJC Valedictorian Class of 2019
Very Reverend Father Chukwuyenum Afiawari S.J., the Chairman, LJC Board of Trustees.
His Eminence, Archbishop John Cardinal Onaiyekan.
Members of the Board of Trustees of the college.
Members of the Board of Governors.
The commencement Speaker, Dr. Isioma Okolo.
The President of the college.
The Principal of the college.
Other Members of the Management Staff of the college.
Members of the Board of Trustees of LJC Endowment Fund.
All invited principals.
Members of the staff of Loyola Jesuit College.
Alumni of the college.
Parents of the Graduating Class.
Other Parents of the Pride present.
Special Friends of the college.
The Pride of Loyola and the Class of 2019.
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen
A very good afternoon to you all.
It is a privilege, not a right, but a true privilege to stand here and address you all today. Once upon a time a foreman was asked “how do we construct a building that even when construction is concluded, it continues to build itself?”. He answered, ‘This is ambitious and has never been attempted by any contractor. There are five things this building will need to be if this operation is to succeed: intellectual competency, open to growth, committed to doing justice, loving, religious. This building would have to be a beacon of the Magis.”
I am sure a lot of you might be looking at me and thinking, “What a polished and well-groomed young man he is”. To be quite frank, I only cleaned up all the sweat today because I have been building.
A while back, this crew of 83 had engaged in the primary school project. We were brilliant but bored. We were looking for a new turf to see how much we measured up against our peers. We did not have to look far. Almost everyone was talking about Loyola Jesuit College. If you wanted to be an A-star student, you joined “the L-crew”. And so we attempted the qualification exam and we made it. Easy as LJC, not so my brothers and sisters not so?
Our elders say that it gets worse before it gets better. To say that our first couple of terms in the college were rough would be an understatement. It was not uncommon to open an exercise book and behold a score not even up to twice your age. One memory remains evergreen in my mind. I had received an unsavory score, to say the least, and this would definitely mar my scoresheet. I combed my hair, polished my sandals, went to my teacher and said “Good morning Ma” and she said, “Good morning young man; what can I do for you?” I looked at her and said, “Ma, I am deeply troubled. I did not do well on the last class exercise and I was wondering if you would give me a make-up test.” She looked at me and said, “Young man, look at my face… do I use make-up?” I, confused as to where this conversation could be leading said, “No ma, you do not” to which she replied, “Exactly! If I do not use make-up, how do you expect me to give a make-up test?”
And so the journey towards intellectual competence carried on. Many of us know Father Joe-Stanis to be a man of grand ideas but I do not think anyone knows this as much as the class of 2019 does. We are not really sure whether it was by chance or intentional but we found ourselves as the principal’s experimental set. LJC is renowned for its high performance in external examinations. Our dear principal wanted to take it higher. In our third year, the principal implemented the first of many “master plans” in the form of Saturday tests to prepare us for our Basic Education Certificate Examinations. Rest assured that it did not stop there. As the examination went on the “fortunate ones” amongst us were asked to answer the questions from scratch for the school’s private analysis. While some were having mad fun on the court, the “lucky few” were having mad fun in the junior library. All that eventually paid off with outstanding results.
In our final year, we once again found ourselves on the drawing board. Fr. Joe-Stanis was ready to try out another one of his master plans. Like any good architect he had begun with an outline, the previous year. With sugar, spice and nothing nice, the revised scheme of work was done. This was what students, in their innocence, referred to as the compressed scheme.
The contract promised freedom: no Class Exercises, no Continuous Assessment tests, no exams in our final year, so when the layout of the foundation began with harder Class Exercises and bulkier notes, we hardly muffled a complaint. Then the actual construction work began.
The first floor was tricky work: MOCK in first term. This was the first time such a method of building had been attempted. It was an unforeseen success thanks to the tireless efforts of our wonderful teachers, the construction workers. But our architect was not satisfied. “Another floor!”, he decided. The construction site (or students) was once again worked on. We were feeling a bit shaky so sturdier nails were used. Post MOCK test after post MOCK test, aimed at removing any vestige of fear left.
Finally, it was over. All had been done with. The architect, our wonderful principal, put away the drawing board and declared his building open for final testing: the WAEC. The results are not out yet but we are certain they will be phenomenal.
As our parents have silently communicated to us, it is nine A nothing. Class of 2019, True or false? Fr. Alex has also said that nine A without God is nothing. But don’t worry we are not making any excuses.
In LJC, our comfort zone is anywhere we find God, which is practically everywhere. It is in the hostel; the prayers we say before we fall asleep. In the dining hall, the grace at the beginning and end of meals. Meditation on Saturday, those rare moments it is truly silent and you can feel God’s presence. Before examinations and you are scared out of your wits, anybody seeks comfort in prayer. It is our participation in the liturgy. It is in the stories we share during our religious group meetings. It is in the little things.
In the heat of our WAEC exams during the extension, we were tasked with coordinating the Easter celebration. During that period, we were able to experience Christ’s passion on a much deeper level. LJC has groomed us spiritually and also taught us the importance of love and inclusion. We never forget to pray for one another, Muslim and Christian alike, and provide one another with the support needed on our spiritual journey. Truly I can say that the Den has laid the foundation for our spiritual lives.
Let me ask you a question. How many Jesuit phrases/words do you know? Anyone who has set foot in the college should know at least five: Eloquentia perfecta, excellence in speech; Ajere contra, to act against; Cura personalis, care for the whole person; to name a few. Some of us thought that this was too much Latin for a modern world but brick by brick, they became part of our DNA at the Den. Loyola is truly a paradox- firm in the way it trains its students yet flexible enough to allow us to become the best version of ourselves.
One of the first Loyola traditions that students become acquainted with is obedience. Obedience to rules, regulations, and authority. This is “the firmness” of Loyola; most of us can testify that obedience is non-negotiable. If you default, …well…you know?
Imagine it is a cold rainy morning and the rising bell goes off at the climax of your action-packed dream. To sleep or not to sleep, that is the question. You snuggle deeper into your blanket for a couple more minutes.
Just when the Tom Cruise version of you is about to collide with a trailer truck you jump awake. Your heart rate starts to slow; it was just a dream but the six o’clock bell is not. You try your best to be early but you do not reach the round-about on time. You are horribly late for morning prayer and at the end of the school day, there is a report slip with your name on it. Everyone thinks report will be like detention in all those American movies. You spend an hour after school doing nothing but popping gum and throwing balls at your supervisor when he is not looking, WRONG! Detention in LJC is spent productively, not idly. While other students are snoozing during siesta, you may find yourself cleaning up lunch in the dining hall, sweeping roads or even arranging books in the library. That one hour would leave you sweaty, sleepy and maybe sad but today we understand why our teachers did not refrain from doling out the detention slips and other stiffer sanctions. If Loyola Jesuit College failed to discipline us then the world would discipline us, and that would not come from a place of love and concern. LJC disciplined us to be men and women of integrity not people with shaky foundations but dependable men and women.
Let me say it now. It is not easy being a leader. Where to start from? Most of us can relate with the perils of running after errant hostel members to sign the billing sheet for tissue paper. Or perhaps individuals in this chapel have been faced with the dangers of the extra line. And if this is not familiar, maybe the race to picnic ground the morning before visiting day to set up booths strikes a familiar chord? Not to talk about your familiar duties in the classroom: sanitation perfect, class prefect, utility perfect and even board prefect. Name it, we have all been there. We have all stared down these leadership posts and fought through their hardships. Even there, our creativity shines through.
Despite all their various duties, all the leaders still found a way to connect with their followers, forming friendships. Hostel prefects made rosters to ensure the cleanliness of the dormitories; table heads did not touch the pot until the plates had been cleared of food and club leaders ensured the success of all exhibitions. “That’s what LJC does; it makes us structured: firm but flexible.”
And outside LJC…… 105 hours of service, but who was counting? We found new ways to do old jobs. It was a set schedule but we were able to throw in our creative streaks while connecting with the people we were sent to serve. We sang songs and organized charity drives. It was basically a fulfilling experience, all the while not losing sight of our call to service. While giving back to our community, we rediscovered new limits in ourselves.
When life started getting real, so did we. We learned to blend with each other, finding in one another little bits of ourselves or the people we wanted to be and this brought us closer as a set, as friends, as a family. We learned to trust each other, bonding over various things from a classy finesse on the pitch to the spicy late-night gist, to rolling the dice on a monopoly board, even to the lyrics of songs produced by our set mates. We had each other’s backs when we were under pressure, and the impact we have had on one another cannot be overstressed. We were warriors on the battlefield before we learned that throwing random objects at each other during study hall could not only lead to spending the rest of study hall at the gazebo but also a broken fan.
We all know that all Loyola stands for was not built in a day. In fact, people keep on building it every day. We cannot just depend on the hard work and achievements of those that came before us; we have to also play our part in building up the college. Six years down we are now mini versions of all Loyola stands for- intellectual competency, open to growth, committed to doing justice, loving, religious. We ourselves have also been built up.
At the end of this project, we thought we were done. Loyola looked great; we had done our best and then we looked up to the sky and the roof we thought we had erected was gone. The building is still not complete; there is still more to be done. This is the Magis effect. The pride of Loyola, you must continue to build well; strive for the Magis; never stop chasing it.
We would like to thank all those who have made this day possible.
Our teachers, thank you for being our guardian angels. You have worked tirelessly to impact us with knowledge, discipline, and hard work. Words cannot describe what you mean to us. To Mr. Fash, Pa Iriowen and Mrs. Maurice, thank you for your guidance these past few months”. We thank the non-teaching staff who also served in various ways to make our stay at the Den fruitful. Thank you to the kitchen, clinic and production staff for keeping us fed and healthy all these years. We thank the maintenance, security and automobile departments for making us feel safe and comfortable.
To the student life staff, we say a big thank you. We give a special shout out to the counsellors and librarians. We would have been a bit lost without your guidance this final year. We thank the school administrative staff for making the tough decisions to keep the Loyola dream alive. We thank the chaplaincy team for drawing us closer to God. We would like to thank the Gidan Mangoro community for the friendly atmosphere you provide for us. Thank you to the alumni of the college for laying the foundation we hope to build upon today.To our commencement speaker, Dr. Isioma Okolo,thank you so much for your words of wisdom.
To our parents, thank you for bringing us into the world and raising us to be young men and women. We owe you a debt we can never repay. You have been there from the “Why not try Loyola?”, to US, here today: our graduation. You taught us to strive, to seek, to find, and never to yield. We promise that we will make you proud. Thank you. The Pride! You have made six years quite the ride. Thank you for the laughs we shared and the tears you wiped off our faces. We did it; you can do it too! We thank God for making this journey that seemed impossible possible. We thank Him for helping us reach the finish line and for guiding us in running this race. We thank God for a successful journey till the end.
Last but not the least, we would like to thank each and every one of you here today for coming to support us and see us off as we go into the world and dare to change it for the better. We set out, men and women on a mission- a mission to make our mark on the world. If we will accomplish this mission or not, I am not certain. But what I do know is that we will never give up; we will never stop striving for the Magis, serving God and others all the way.
You know, we really have big dreams, and are we really going to catch them lying down? NO! We will diligently plot the course, smartly equip ourselves, efficiently make every opportunity count and effectively make our dreams a reality. We will continue to build as we serve God and others. Thank you and God bless you.
NWAIWU Kamsiyochi Chukwuemeka Ebenezer