Quo Vadis “Where Are You Going?”

Being Lecture Delivered by

Department of Biological Sciences
Achievers University, Owo.
Friday, 12th February, 2016

On the occasion of the 9th Matriculation Ceremony
Achievers University, Owo.

prof oduleyeProfessor Oduleye, S.O.


My sincere congratulations to all Matriculants of today. Once you take the Matriculation Oath and sign the Matriculation Register, you become a member of a special and elite community – The University. However, being part of this special elite community carries enormous responsibility. In this short talk, I wish to draw your attention to the following:

  1. Why you are special;
  2. The responsibilities that come with being special;
  3. Advise on how to overcome the challenge of your special status.

Within minutes of getting a phone call asking me to give this lecture and my humble acceptance, I got another asking for the topic of my lecture. I sought permission to be given a few days to reflect. The exercise of reflection took less than ten minutes and I called to confirm the topic “Quo Vadis”“Where are you going?” I owe this gathering, and especially our intending matriculants, the basis of this choice of topic.

The world in which we live is suffused with apposite (please note that I consciously/deliberately said apposite; and not opposites). Such apposite include, among others, right/wrong; night/day; good/bad etc. Apposites are not necessarily always diametrically opposed to one another; they may be contradictory, but they may also lie side by side, they may trail one another, they may be back to back etc. In essence, apposites are juxtaposed and far more difficult to resolve than opposites. In spite of this, human beings mandatorily make choices between apposites every day; every moment.

Paradoxically, the choices we make determine our fate immediately or in the future. At that point of making a choice, we are at a crossroads. Inexperienced as they are, the Matriculants are today being initiated into a community where they will be continually expected to make choices that will determine their fate, not only for the duration of their stay in the community, but also well into their future thereafter. It occurs to me that the question a Matriculant must always ask  himself/herself any moment he/she must make a choice is:

“Where am I Going?”; “Where will this choice lead me?” Consider a simple example. If you wake up hale and hearty one morning and you have an 8am lecture, the option is available to you to continue luxuriating in bed rather than promptly prepare to attend the lecture. You have a choice to make at that point; and this is the point at which I invite you to ask yourself: “Where am I going? or “Where will this choice lead me?”. Vice-Chancellor Sir, it is on this philosophical note that I thought I should reach out to the Matriculants.

Alumni of Universities world-wide recognize themselves and fraternize on the basis of their year of graduation – not by year of entry. By this tradition, the Matriculants of today are potential members of the Class of 2019. What this translates to, Vice-Chancellor Sir, is that not all the Matriculants seated here today may be found ‘worthy in learning and character’ to get a Degree of Achievers University, Owo. What you do, or fail to do, between now and 2019 will determine your membership of the Class of 2019. And herein lies the significance of making the right choices every moment.

Quo Vadis

Without necessarily attempting to be ecclesiastic, let me explain the origin of the statement “Quo Vadis”. Quo Vadis is a Latin phrase that translates into “Where are you going?” The modern usage of the phrase refers to a Christian tradition regarding Saint Peter.

Ancient Christian literature claims that Saint Peter was fleeing from Rome away from likely crucifixion by then Roman Emperor. Along the road that led out of the city, Saint Peter met the risen Jesus. And Peter asked Jesus: “Quo Vadis?”, to which Jesus replied, “Roman eo iterum crucifigi” (“I am going to Rome to be crucified again”). There and then, Saint Peter took the decision to turn back to Rome having gained the courage to continue his Ministry. He was eventually martyred by being crucified upside down.

My dear Matriculants, the point being made here is that during your four-year sojourn in Achievers University, you will be daily confronted with choices – almost always difficult ones – at that point you need to ask yourself: “Where am I going?”. Your choices are major determinants of your destiny. Because it is the major issue in this discourse, we will come back to it shortly; but in the meantime, let us discuss your membership of the community called The University.

You Are Special

Without delving into any archives of statistics, it is not difficult for me to prove to you that you are special. If you deeply reflect, only a fraction of your Primary School peers had the opportunity of secondary education. More recently in your life, you are aware of the anguish to which Nigerian patriots are subjected when WAEC and NECO publish the outcome of their examinations – characterized by mass failure. You are special because you are among the few with credit passes in the five subjects they require for further pursuit of the ambition of a University Degree. Your JAMB result even further stands you out as a special person. This qualifies you for two ‘medals’:

  1. A chance to break out from the shackles of parental dominance and guidance;
  2. The uncommon privilege of placement in a University.

The First Medal

Many of you are leaving home for the first time; and It is natural at your age to be excited by the much greater freedom than hitherto that you stand to enjoy. No one tells you what to do, no reprimand or rebuke for infarctions etc. You are simply free and at liberty to do what you like, when you like. This freedom comes with enormous responsibility – that of making the correct choices. As I hinted earlier, we will return to this matter of making correct choices shortly.

The Second Medal

The second medal you have earned is admission to a University – Achievers University, Owo. The University is a universal concept; the highest level of learning that has a long history. It has maintained its tradition over the long time of its evolution and spread across the world. In its Medieval conception, the University provides “free education to every boy who had the intelligence and the perseverance to follow a demanding culture of study“. Without necessarily attempting to boost your ego, even as a novice today, your admission to Achievers University makes you a descendant of a culture that insists on the recruitment of only the best students into The Academy. For this achievement, you are again a special person; and I again congratulate you.

As a student in The Academy, you are a novice under the watchful tutelage of a Professor. You will only become a full member of The Academy in 2019, if you are pronounced by the Professor to be “worthy in character and learning”. A fulfilment of this quality is the challenge the Matriculant must have to contend with – a great challenge and responsibility. The historic responsibility of The Academy, of which you are now a novice, arises not only from the fact that The Academy domesticates a much higher percentage of intellectual resources compared with overall society, but also because modern societies massively invest in it.

The University is therefore not only a centre for the pursuit of knowledge but an institution that society calls upon from time to time for a solution to emergent societal problems. The cumulative effect of these and other factors is that the University and its students are expected to, and indeed are – at least two steps ahead of society in every respect. ‘To whom a lot is given, a lot shall be expected’ is in this respect a most appropriate axiom. That is, the Professor and his Students must carry The University culture into society as an epitome of the best of humanity in that society. This is demanded of you, wherever you go, in and out of the campus. The option of dressing shabbily or provocatively or being associated with other irresponsible social behaviour that is pervasive in our society today is simply unavailable to a true member of The Academy.

 A Burdened Generation

The crisis in our society shows clearly that you are a burdened generation if you must, as a member of The Academy, depict the best in humanity always. A recent ‘lamentation’ by Professor Wole Soyinka titled “Where did we go wrong?” graphically depicts the burden on the generation to which you belong. Allow me to reproduce the lamentation in its entirety.

“Awolowo was 37 years, Akintola 36, Ahmadu Bello 36, Balewa 34, Okotie – Eboh 27, Enahoro 27 and they led the struggle for Nigeria Independence after the death of Macaulay. Only Zik was 42 at the time!

In 1966, the first military coup was led by K. Nzeogwu who was 29 years and countered by M. Mohammed 28, T. Danjuma 28, I. Babangida 25, J.Garba 23, Sani Abacha 23, and M. Yar’Adua 23, and brought into power Y. Gowon 32, Ojukwu 33, Obasanjo 29, and Buhari 24!

Most of the Military Governors who governed the States under the successive military regimes were under 30 years.

Also, the brief democratic dispensation which interjected the military interregnums also saw some Senators and members of the House of Representatives, in particular, populated by persons under 30!

Under 30’s were also not in short supply with appointments – we have examples of MT Mbu who became Nigeria’s Foreign Affairs Minister at 23 and Pat Utomi who became a Federal Adviser at 27 and so on and so forth!

NOW: Why is it that almost all in this age bracket are today still sleeping in three-seater chairs in their parents’ homes?

Why is it that this age bracket is today still collecting pocket money from their parents?

Why is it that this age bracket is today still writing JAMB?

Why is it that this age bracket today still ‘sag’ their trousers?

Why is it that this age bracket is today still searching for jobs and not yet married?

Why is it that this age bracket is today no longer qualified to even be leaders of youth wings of political parties?

Why is it that this age bracket is today so docile?

Why is it that this age bracket is today incapable of feeding itself?

Why is it that this age bracket is today barred from even aspiring to certain political offices?

Why is it that this age bracket is today incapacitated, unwilling, unable and incapable of asking questions?

This can never have been meant to scare you but to serve as a stimulus to set a goal for yourself. You must set a goal that enables you to face the future both within and outside The Academy. In pursuing your goal, you obviously need to make the right choices.

Making the Right Choice

Unambiguously defining where you are going is a prerequisite for making correct choices in life. In the classic novel Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, “Alice came to the fork in the road. “What road do I take?” she asked. “Where do you want to go?” responded the Cheshire cat. “I don’t know”, Alice answered. “Then”, said the cat, “It doesn’t matter””.  Your presence in this gathering this morning and your preparedness to swear to the Matriculation Oath and sign the Matriculation Register in the full glare of the Achievers University community is a testimony that you have set yourself a goal to acquire a University Degree. In the daily pursuit of this goal, you will have to make choices. Your daily life presents you with many choices; you must constantly be aware that the choices you make determine your future.

In every single thing you do, anything you say and how you say it, you are choosing a direction. Others perceive and relate to you on the basis of these. Your life, in other words, is a product of choices. And the choices lead you towards or away from your goal.

We need to emphasize the point about choices for a number of reasons:

  1. You are at a particular point in life in which you are almost entirely left to yourself in making choices;
  2. The social, economic and political crises in our country today have created chronic diversions that compromise the capacity of young people to make       correct choices.

Before giving you a list of tips for making wise choices, one rule of the thumb that derives from our culture is: ‘Remember whose son/daughter though art”. “Will my parents be proud of me if I do this?” “Will I be upholding the ideals of Achievers University to which I swore to an oath on Matriculation Day?”

Here is a checklist that may also help you:

*          Listen to your instinct;

*          Weigh the pros and cons;

*          Get outside input;

*          Don’t let fear decide;

*          Do what’s best for you;

*          Trust in yourself;

*          Don’t ever look back.

Choice is a divine gift of God to humanity. No matter your circumstances in life, making major decisions is never an easy proposition; it is indeed the most challenging thing about life. But it is also one of the most amazing things in life.

Are there people in this world that have no choices at all?

They have no options and no outlets for change. As terrifying as change and choices can be at times, it will be even more terrifying not to have the ability or opportunity to choose. Choice can be, and always will be intimidating, but if you think about it, it is a great privilege.

Distinguished students who will take the Matriculation Oath and sign the Matriculation Register today, you have set a goal for yourself as a student of Achievers University. Attainment of this goal depends upon the choices you make between now and 2019. At each point when you want to make a choice, always ask yourself: “Quo Vadis?” –  “Where are you going?”.

May God guide you.
Thank you.



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