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Place of ethics and values in national rebirth (1)  




First part of a keynote address presented at the reunion meeting of alumni of Aquinas College, Akure, Ondo State, Nigeria at Crown Plaza Hotel, Atlanta, Georgia, United States.

I must begin this evening by stating clearly that there is perhaps no greater honour for a man like me than an occasion as this in which one is invited by one’s peers to give an address. I am truly humbled by your gesture, and I hope that I would justify the confidence reposed in me while validating also, the honour you all have bestowed on me this evening.  
Atlanta is a beautiful city, a city impacted with so much history in terms of national consciousness and national rebirth that it has become for many of us who feel a burden to uplift our society and to encourage our fellow brethren, a place of pilgrimage of sorts. The immortal spirit of Reverend Martin Luther King Jnr. hovers above this great city, and so the aura of freedom and growth is present in this hall.
It is also pertinent to note that the spirit and sacrifice of Reverend Martin Luther King was perhaps spurred and fired by the remarkable courage of that lady, Rosa Parks, who, on one evening when returning from work, looked racism and bigotry in the face, and said a loud “No”. Her action on that day teaches us that women can be, and indeed, are no less courageous than men, and deserve the credit for emancipation as much as men do.
It is in honour of the sacrifice of these men and women that we all should continue to lift up the torch of emancipation, and work tirelessly towards a just and egalitarian society.
I was invited to give a keynote address, to give a leading speech but I crave the indulgence of all present, as I take the liberty of telling you a story as a starter- a story about how a father’s love and its attendant desire to give the best to his offspring led my feet in the path of destiny to a place where I was instilled with the noblest of personal values. 
I am confident you all know the value of which I speak; it is the best of values without which all others remain incomplete, and in the presence of which, the entire spectrum of values find their highest radiance.
To anchor my message this evening, allow me to re-introduce myself; I am Olukayode Ajulo, son of a bookseller. Indeed, I was blessed to be a scion of a man who valued good education as the highest legacy that one could bestow onto his progeny. 
This however was only natural for he was a man at home with books; my late father was a bookseller who, with others, ran the nationally acclaimed CSS Bookshops which is till date one of the investments of the Anglican Communion. My father as a salesman traversed the length and breadth of the nation selling books to all educational institutions of repute at the time. As his son, I was conversant with towns and cities like Lagos, Ibadan, Ilesa, Warri, Ilorin, Ibadan, Ado Ekiti, Owo, Akure, etc from a very early age.
It was no surprise that, being well acquainted with good and not so good schools of that era, he vowed to ensure that all his children would attend and graduate from these very best of the schools, the Ivy League Schools. And so it happened that all of my siblings attended the very best. 
My own case could be no less, and when it was time for me to enter into secondary school, my father had opted for Ilesha Grammar School, in Ilesha because of Justice Kayode Esho and Chief Lawrence Omole. In fact, I had written and passed the entrance exam with flying colours, and was revving to resume school when an auspicious meeting took place between my father and an avatar of that noblest of values of which I spoke earlier.
The ancient Greeks were firm believers in signs and omens, and a favourite saying of the philosophers of that era is: “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear”.
I am not a believer in coincidence; I am more inclined to believe that our lives’ steps are ordered by the Infinite Intelligence that we all call God, and so in my own case, my date with destiny took place one afternoon according to my father when a customer in the person of Pa Enoch O. Dare walked into my father’s shop in Akure to buy books, and his first encounter with my father changed the course of my life. 
The student- my humble self- was ready and so, the teacher appeared. Their discussions on that propitious afternoon resulted in my father resolving that I would be enrolled in the very school where Pa Dare worked as a Principal. Soon after, my father personally supervised my preparations for the entrance exam to that highly esteemed institution and in the course of time, I passed and resumed in Aquinas College, in Akure, Ondo State as a student.
For my father, the sacrifices were huge and my studentship in Aquinas did not come on a platter of gold as I can recall even now, several occasions when he came to the school to visit, monitoring my progress as a student there. Such was the love of my father. Indeed, my father’s love for his children and his determination to bequeath the very best legacy to them, his insight into the unrivalled truth that a sound education is key to a good life, combined with his uncanny ability to discern nobility in all whom he encountered in his sojourns as a master salesman; all of these factors interplayed on that fateful afternoon resulting in his resolution that as his son, I had to come under the tutelage of Pa E. O. Dare, who, at the time, was the President of Ondo State Chapter of ANCOPS. I resumed as a student in Aquinas College, Akure and the rest, as they say, is now history. 
Each time I look back at that era, my heart bursts with gratitude to the Providential Intelligence that guided my father into making that historic decision that fateful afternoon. As a firm believer in the Hand of Providence and how it directs the course of human lives, I now know without an iota of doubt that God was working behind the scene that afternoon.
Tonight, as I address this august gathering of young scholars turned eminent men, here in this great city of Atlanta, my joy knows no bounds. To stand before the very same man- the school Principal who took me- a young, ruddy, and carefree kid, under his tutelage, to pay my tribute.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I crave your indulgence as we rise to honour our father, our rabbi, our mentor, our avatar, our Northern Star, our compass, our Principal- Pa E. O. Dare, with a thunderous ovation that would tell the city of Atlanta that we have come to give honour to a moulder of Kings.
As we take this time to reflect on the impact of this great man, this icon of educational instruction, this hero, the unerringly accurate words of that Lebanese-American painter, writer, poet and philosopher Kahlil Gibran comes to mind; he it was who said: 
“The true wealth of a nation lies neither in its gold nor silver, but in its learning, its wisdom and in the uprightness of its youth.”
These words underscore the poignant role played by our dear father and a Rabbi and other unsung heroes in the building of our lives- by the grace of the Almighty, I am what I am today by those we passed through their hands. 
The words of Apostle Paul also come to mind: “Paul planted, Apollo watered….”  Our parents planted the seed of the value of which I spoke earlier, and our father here and other mentors watered. Like Paul said, it is futile to argue over whose role was more important, and so I have not erred when I say that our teachers, in the mould of Pa E. O. Dare, and others,  made us who, and what we are today.
I am sure many seated here are curious about the nature of the value that I have made several ambiguous references to here today. The value I have been speaking of is no other value than the very first Latin word we were first made to learn at Aquinas College Akure: INTEGRITAS. 
Integrity is defined by Webster’s Dictionary as “the quality of being of sound moral principle; uprightness, honesty, and sincerity. My research further revealed that it means “morality, morals, decency, principles, values, code of right and wrong, categorical imperative
Without much ado, Integrity is the Queen of all values- the nexus, the locus, the centre around which all other admirable values revolve, like the Solar System where nine planets revolve around the sun. Without a doubt, you would all agree with me that, it is Integrity that makes the man. I make bold to say that Aquinas College, Akure nurtured and fostered the seed of Integrity in me, and in us all. 
I have often wondered what the missionary founders of Aquinas College had in mind when they undertook, several decades ago, the establishment of a citadel of learning and moral instruction, which would have Integrity as its chief corner stone, in Nigeria. 
How prophetic of them! To me, it appears that the founders were acting on divine instructions via visions or dreams, or perhaps they looked into a crystal ball, and foresaw the latter hours of Nigeria; perhaps they, like other dreamers, prophets, and seers, had looked into the distant future and perceived how corruption, as a societal epidemic, would ravage Nigeria with a virulence even far more ferocious than all the health emergencies we have seen so far- Cholera, Smallpox, HIV, and even more recently, Ebola. Is there anyone here who disagrees with my proposition that Corruption is a more virulent threat than HIV or Ebola to the survival of our nation?
•Ajulo is an Abuja-based lawyer and politician

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