By Prof Yemi Osinbajo SAN
First, let me commend the vision and dedication of the founder of Edgewood College, for conceiving of and delivering this unique centre of education which combines a strong commitment to developing God fearing and selfless leaders with a dedication to offering the best in the sixth form education blending both local and the UK curricula.
To the staff of the College, it is to your knowledge, and expertise and your experience that our most important national resources, these young people are committed year in, year out. And you must be doing many things right to have received the Outstanding Cambridge Learner Awards, top in 2017 and the awardee of the high achievement in Cambridge A level Law in 2018. Congratulations and very well done.
For parents and guardians of the members of the graduating class, we all join you in rejoicing today and in thanking God for this great gifts of success and accomplishments.
And to the graduating class of 2020, my very special and warm congratulations. I have a short message for you, it is tilted “The Class of Game Changers”.
Every generation is gifted by God with a unique set of circumstances that give them an opportunity to distinguish themselves, to make history, to do something never done before, to positively alter the trajectory of the story of mankind. That opportunity usually comes disguised as a challenge, a drawback, even a tragedy; it hardly ever looks like the next great leap of mankind that it really is.
The generation that should take advantage may sometimes even miss the opportunity, because as human beings our inclination is to look back rather than ahead. We seek comfort in the familiar things, the known course of events, we want progress but we still want things to be the way they were.
But worse, we miss the moment because the opportunities no longer knocks, it sounds more like a whisper, barely audible because there is so much noise all around us, which is why I have named your class, the class of 2020, the class of game-changers.
You are the first set of students of this college to graduate in the midst of a global pandemic. You are also the first in the history of this school and in many parts of the world to have a virtual graduation. One thing I can say is that you are certainly the first school in Nigeria to have a serving Vice President keynote your graduation and certainly the first to have that done virtually.
So, no matter how you look at it, you are unique. The game changed in your generation, you are certainly a class of game changers. The point with any opportunity is that it must be seized if you are to benefit from it, which is why you must never take your place in history for granted. There is always a divine reason for it.
So, what should you do as a game changer? I think one of the critical things to recognize is that you cannot stand on the queue anymore.
Historically, circumstances have moved you ahead. No one has been here before. None of your parents or mine can tell you, how life would be in or after a global pandemic. We know some but not nearly all of the challenges and all of the opportunities that will come with it. And if you tell me that you would have to wait until you get into University and even graduate before you start to answer those questions then you are missing the opportunity that history is offering you. Age, your very young age is a profound advantage in a time of uncertainty and opportunity. There is no qualifying age to be a problem solver, an entrepreneur, a great poet, an inventor, or an author. Age doesn’t matter.
You must from now begin to examine the solutions to the problems that we face and will face now and in the coming years. Meeting virtually such as we are doing now was made possible by the inventors of Zoom a virtual meeting application, many more such applications, even better ones are waiting to be developed. You don’t have to be a technology geek to be an innovator, you can identify the problem, write up the solution and someone else develops the app. Some of the greatest and most useful inventions were made by young men and women before they even left high school.
At 15, Bill Gates had gone into partnership with his friend Allen, to develop Traf-O-Data, a computer program that monitored traffic patterns in Seattle, Washington State in the US. George Westinghouse invented the Rotary Steam engine at 19, the television was first conceived by Philo Fansworth, he was 14.
Timilehin Daomi, before he was 16 living in Ikorodu, there in Lagos State, had made prototypes of a vacuum cleaner, a pumping machine, a digital microscope and last year or about two years ago, a prototype of hydraulic-powered collapsible 4th Mainland Bridge for Lagos State.
Aghogho Ajiyen, a young man in Oghara, in Delta State and Ayoola Olaolu in Ikorodu, have been making prototypes of airplanes, drones and flying cars. Emeka Nelson in Anambra State developed a water-powered generator.
Sooner or later, these innovators will define enterprise, our economy, digital technology, in our country and perhaps around the world.
But those gifted in the arts and humanities must also take advantage of these times. Pablo Picasso, the legendary artist, had painted the La premiere communion’ when he was 15.
Amanda Gorman is the first youth poet laureate in the US. She took the hopelessness of the pandemic and the black-lives-matter protest to write a poetic masterpiece titled ‘Fury and Faith’. She wrote these words that must now be etched in our hearts as we face these uncertain times, and I quote the words that she wrote in that poem: “…whether we prevail in these times is not determined by all the challenges present but by the change that is possible…”
Arinze Ifeakandu was shortlisted for The Caine Prize for his book ‘God’s Children Are Little Broken Things’. At 22, he is the Caine Prize’s second youngest ever person to be shortlisted. And the list of these young achievers goes on.
The sum and substance of what I am saying is that, you leave high school at a phenomenal moment in global history, nothing will ever be the same again. Believe it or not you have spent the last one or two years here at Edgewood College, being prepared for this moment and for this season.
You have all that it takes to create a new narrative in the arts, in entertainment, in science, in innovation, in medicine, in business or the digital economy. Yes, you are still headed for University but whoever told you that you can’t distinguish yourself even as an undergraduate?
One last word that I must leave with you is that, never be foolish enough to imagine that anything happens without the Almighty God, all good and perfect gifts come from Him. Some of the smartest people that you will come across in the best universities in the world, will tell you that there is no God. Remember the words of scripture, “the fool says in his heart that there is no God.”
Some will say but life itself is about luck, chance, they might even refer you to the scripture that says, in Ecclesiastes 9:11, “the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to men of understanding, nor favor to men of skill; But time and chance happen to them all.” But the question that you must always ask is, who controls time and chance? They are controlled by the Almighty God.
So, I pray for you, that you will excel in all you, do, that you will be a source of pride and joy to your families and this nation, and that God will help you always in Jesus name. All will be well with you in Jesus mighty name.
Congratulations again, and God Bless you.
Prof Yemi Osinbajo SAN, Vice President, Federal Republic of Nigeria gave this keynote address at the virtual valedictory service for graduating students of Edgewood College, Lekki, Lagos on Saturday July 25, 2020.