LJC Valedictorian Class of 2020
A VALECTIDTORY SPEECH PRESENTED BY OGECHUKWU ATA ON BEHALF OF THE CLASS OF 2020 ON THE OCCASION OF THEIR GRADUATION CEREMONY HELD ON SEPTEMBER 12, 2020 IN THE CHAPEL OF THE GOOD SAMARITAN
LOYOLA JESUIT COLLEGE ABUJA
The President, Principal, Vice-principals, Special guests, Distinguished Staff, Parents of the Pride, Virtual attendees, fellow graduands, Ladies and gentlemen. This afternoon, the college unveils a set of young men and women poised to take charge. It is my esteemed pleasure, on behalf of the class of 2020, to deliver this valedictory speech.
Our class bears a unique story. The first and last of our six years were marked by unprecedented occurrences: the Ebola virus and the Corona virus. These viruses acted as tumors in our society. They battled, unsuccessfully, against the dreams, aspirations, desires and already-made plans of our class. To honor our hard-won fight, we present to you, “The Virus”.
C: Story story!
C: Once upon a time!
R: Time time!
Man at inception came to recognize that he nurtured ambitions. He nurtured interests, passions and desires. Most significantly, these ambitions came in uncontrollable varieties. Man understood that a jack of all trades mastered none; therefore, he made attempts to channel his energy into singular fields. Unfortunately, all his attempts were to no avail. Why? The variety of budding ambitions made choice-making near impossible. This inability to select from alternatives, he called “The Virus”. To solve this problem of indecision, he created institutions called “schools”. These “schools” would administer vaccines for the virus ultimately aimed at helping him harness his potential. It was for this very reason that yet another set of children braved through those gates six years ago.
Our class bore three peculiar strains of the virus. The first of us hadn’t engaged with the society enough to develop interests and ambitions. The second strain had engaged in activities such as ballet, singing and science, but just couldn’t identify a clear-cut area of interest. And the last of us had already-groomed interests but just needed guidance to actualize our ambitions. Our vaccine came in the form of Jesuit education.
The doctors of this school administer vaccines collectively but make sure to pay attention to individual needs. Our collective treatment came as we shared a living space, a learning space and a religious space. These three facets: habitation, education and religion, were the foundations on which this community of friends was built.
Fellow graduands, I’m sure we’ve all imagined how we’d decorate our little dormitory corners in the university. “All black, all gold, all white, all pink,” Emeka says: “a picture of Rihanna on the wall, Ronaldo on the left, Naruto on the right.” When I imagine this, I can’t help but recall my living space here: that blue bed-sheet that I probably washed only twice a term and the narrow bed that I often rolled and rolled on till I fell to the ground. I fell so many nights until I learned to live within that space. Each time I fell, I actually perceived it to be a subtle reminder that to live and let live in this environment I would have to give up some comfort, I would have to make allowance for myself, for others and for the college. With time, I developed a deep sense of responsibility. So when I wore an ironed shirt, God knows, my conscience couldn’t let me fold my arms and watch others appear terribly unkempt. This sense of responsibility for the other made headway for the contributions we would make in the college community. We recall Kingsley’s tireless efforts directed at struggling junior students. His selfless service made life a beauty for us all. There was nothing more amusing than girls hiding in corners of the classroom to scream “Happy Birthday!” to handsome boys like Korede Adeniyi. Or watching Tolu Aduloju teach choir members during her free time as they most often just marveled at her angelic voice. In this common living space, we undoubtedly left marks through our presence and participation. In case you were not aware, hundreds of junior students can’t wait to put in their best efforts so that they can be called up at every award ceremony like the famous Ojuba Mezisashe. Through small acts like consoling one another when we experienced loss, hardship or pain, we spread the inestimable virtue of love in the school community. The conducive living space we created gave room for a core purpose of attending this school: knowledge acquisition.
Knowledge is a tool to create a life of endless possibilities. In a bid to acquire this tool, the quadrangle, our learning space, became an oasis. For most of us, the first Mass of the Holy spirit kick-started a long journey. As members of the community glided gracefully down the aisles, thundering applauds and the cry “woohoo” created an irresistible atmosphere of achievement which stirred up our desire for academic excellence. We all wished to glide down also. To achieve, first we had to learn. Learning here meant understanding academic concepts, understanding those who taught the concepts and understanding the school’s academic patterns. A typical example is our experience with Physical and Health Education, the subject we thought would be a walk-over. We were certain that all we needed to do was read the scanty printed notes, lazily jog around the pitch and fake some ten push-ups. Little did we know that the veteran Paul Uke had other plans. He insisted that not wearing sparkling white knee-length socks would only stamp (gbam) a nice 40 on our score sheet. Once we saw the significance in an “insignificant” pair of socks, our PHE scores soared. Similarly, we assimilated those 3 bases of learning and began our conquest for achievement. We took on the series of Continuous Assessments that the school threw at us. Test after test, confusion became clarity and hardship, success. Healthy competition motivated us to work hard and soon we won our own academic awards. The name Loyola Jesuit College still rings with a bang at the Interswitch Spak competition where Somto, Andre, Kamsi and Eto spat organic chemistry. Williams and Chukelu did their own bit at the Cowbellpedia. The pursuit for academic excellence pushed a member of our class, Ojuba Mezisashe, to attain a perfect score of 36 in the ACT. In the JAMB UTME, 80% of our class scored loftily above 300 out of 400. In this learning space, we made out to address some defects in the larger society. Proactive feminism championed by Tolu Aduloju and Chidera Duru opened our minds to the neglect of the female element. Anike and Erinayo spoke at a Black History symposium while Chekwube and Chikodi led the school community in a spectacular observance of the International Day of Peace. As prescribed by our doctors, we truly cared for the whole person.
With time, the essence of a personal relationship with God became more pronounced. Our hunger for an uplifting religious experience raged seeking, satisfaction. We started off small by clapping our hands and biting our tongues as the choir sang hymns. Being the least experienced, we marveled as older members of the community animated the mass. I’m sure we can relate to this story of Osas Obano. Osas, the Cross-bearer, would walk towards the sacristy holding the cross skyscraping high. As if he had rehearsed it, he would wait till that last moment we thought “Ah the cross is going to hit the arc”. But no! It wouldn’t. In one swift move, he’d let the cross down, catch it and grace into the Sacristy. Ah, it was so cool. We grew to identify ourselves. We created a niche. Angelica found solace in meticulously preparing the altar for mass and Naomi effortlessly delivered the readings. The towering voices of Oge Ata and Emeka Elumelu drew us an extra step closer to the presence of God. Each Sunday evening bore fresh excitement for a fulfilling religious group experience. We definitely cannot leave out the Kairos retreat and Service project. In serenity, we went through Kairos. It was a time to escape the distractions of the world, look deeper into ourselves and most importantly, hear God’s voice in our hearts. A particularly heartwarming memory was when we listened to the letters our parents had written with love to us. We saw that though we were far from them, we were still the sunshine of their lives. This reminded us of God’s unfailing, unwavering and ceaseless love for us. Similarly, we shared His love during the service project. In three weeks, we truly lived out the motto of our school. We saw God in the autistic, the underprivileged, the orphaned, the blind, the elderly and the needy. Our efforts were geared at letting them know that though they were orphans on earth, they had a heavenly father. Though they were blind, they had a God who would lead their way and if they were hungry, they had us as God’s representatives to feed them. The service project experience brought Vivian so close to adopting a little baby named Daniel. In a rapidly changing world, we felt God best during the Corona virus lockdown. I don’t want to say we were isolated for four months; I prefer to think we were in the company of God. The beauty of the lockdown was in a core Jesuit Element: reflection. Free from the noise of the world, we reignited our relationship with God. He had us right in His arms and we went so deep in fellowship with Him. This reflected in our past lockdown lifestyle. We held several prayer sessions for our WASSCE papers and engaged each other in insightful conversations about the second coming of Christ. Our religious orientation today is definitely representative of a Jesuit Grad at Grad.
In retrospect, what do we leave behind? What do we say to those after us? Break the wall. There once existed stereotypes for males and females. Senior boys walked together in a “fresh” wall. Girls spoke and walked in strange ways to achieve some feminine perfection. We broke the wall and embraced those strains that made us unique. And that is what we urge you to do; embrace your unique traits. Don’t be afraid to be different. Stand out in the crowd. As Fr. Alex said last Sunday, follow what you know is right, be filled with passion and purpose. There is strength in the minority. Seek your true desires and as you do so, don’t you dare settle for anything less than the best. We are poised to take charge. Most importantly, be vessels of unwavering service. Let’s help others find their feet, let’s beat the virus. God will inspire us, service should drive us and favor would definitely find us.
We thank those who brought us this far: the school management, our dear teachers, student-life staff, the kitchen department, the maintenance and sanitation department, supporting staff, our dedicated parents, friends and well-wishers. We extend our heart-felt gratitude for the gifts you’ve bestowed on us. Solemnly, let’s remember those who couldn’t live to see this day. We remember Mrs. Mnenna Okhidehme, Miss Stella. Mego, Mrs. Omotayo Smith and Pa David Iriowen. May their souls and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God rest in peace. Amen.
At this juncture, I can’t fail to urge us all to continue observing the Covid-19 preventive directives to ensure our victory against this virus. Thank you for walking through the road with us. Thank you for ending with us and thank you for your rapt attention. Class of 2020, out. Have a blissful day.
Representative of the Graduation Class of 2020
ATA Ogechukwu Marilyn