Mr. Chairman, President of Ashesi University – Dr. Patrick Awuah, Nananom, governing council and faculty members, distinguished guests and class of 2017,
Thanks for choosing me for this occasion.
And again Dr. Awuah, I can’t hide my feelings! What you have done with Ashesi, how far it’s come and what it stands for is beautiful & worth preserving. God bless you!
Class of 2017, today is your day. I’m convinced that by now, you have already been equipped with all you need to know to face the next stage of your journey. So today, I’ve chosen to share with you a bit about my reality and some lessons I’ve picked along my journey.
I like to be called Mike, and I used to be a star until about a year ago. You’d soon figure out why. And hey, I do not have a university degree. About 21 years ago I gained admission into the UPSA to read Accountancy. Within two months of my admission I decided to switch courses as I didn’t see myself capable of sailing through with the course originally offered me. That decision cost me my status as a regular student but it turned out useful in the end. And while I do not regret it, I still look forward to earning a degree someday so I get to wear this Acapee at least for the records. A lot of people know me for BEIGE. But prior to BEIGE and for about 10years, I had been involved in several counts of entrepreneurial ventures most of which were minor in size or had failed. So when I started BEIGE in 2008, I had already gathered in my resume a chunk of experiences that could guide me survive. Yet the nature of business at BEIGE required my dealing with more staff and that came with challenges of an entirely different nature and for which I had no prior experience.
The most daunting of them was PEOPLE. Yes, the people factor. And, as I engaged with my superior colleagues for advice it turned out that they also had same issues, thus, it was okay for it to be considered a national challenge. The people challenge permeates our culture so badly that it’s gradually eroding the quality of our human resource and at one point in a forum I had to express my desperation by saying “Jobs dey but boys no dey”.
By this I meant that there exists opportunities around us but there aren’t enough persons available to take advantage of these opportunities. If over 40% of Ghana’s population is youth and about 300,000 of them do turn-out annually from universities, then Ghana has not at all run out of manpower. Rather what corporate Ghana faces is a disturbing lack of talents who can demonstrate PROFICIENCY, TENACITY and INTEGRITY all at a go. With proficiency I mean SOUND TECHNICAL SKILL, with tenacity I’m referring to drive and the willingness to endure the ills of any endeavour. And with Integrity, you know what I mean.
Employers have found ways of coping with the first two challenges through a mix of talent development, staff motivation and performance measurement initiatives. But the last one is the KILLER. We’ve just not found the SOLUTION. Here’s my own analysis of the integrity problem. Out of every 10 persons you hire, 2 will DELIBERATELY steal from you, 5 do not mind Stealing when you lose your guard. And 9 would not TELL when they notice or hear about anyone stealing from you. So really, whether you actually did, or you benefited from the act either wilfully or accidentally, or you even saw but did not blow the whistle, All die be die, eno be so!
So you can imagine how pleased I felt when I heard about Ashesi’s honour code.
On behalf of all of you I offer gratitude to your parents, guardians as well as Ashesi itself, for those of you on scholarships. Because, by choosing to put you here, today you all have been placed in a position of advantage amongst your peers due to the uniqueness of the grooming you’ve had. And if you’re in doubt listen to the story of Ms Anne Marie Blackmore, a member of the 2012 class of Ashesi. Anne joined BEIGE in 2012. Initially it took me a while to figure her out as she always found herself in one trouble or the other with supervisors. So I chose to literally adopt her as my protégé and in so doing offered her the opportunity to work for our foundation. And boom! she exploded like a time bomb. With over-flowing drive and unconditional dedication, Anne today, not only initiates but is pushing the boundaries for the work of The BEIGE Foundation. Thanks to the quality of her foundations, Ashesi.
Enough said about that. Let’s come to the real world.
This World out there is a Jungle
The world out there is like a jungle. It could be fun if you have all your cards right but for most of us, it remains a tough place and I cannot guarantee you any less.
You are going to be faced with daily encounters that would test the very foundations of the grooming Ashesi has given you. Yes your honour code would be put to test.
Within the confines of this compound, bonded by the friendship of your colleagues and under the watchful eyes of Prof Esi Ansah and co, you had no choice than to conform to the honour code. But in the real world most of you would be alone and also prey to the widely practiced norms of our society most of which shamelessly violate your honour code with audacity. I promise you, your faith and resilience would be tested to the very core and I wish you well.
There are no Guarantees, You Must Earn Your Keep
That you have come from Ashesi is no guarantee that you will make it. Not every alumnus of this school has been successful, thereafter. In fact, some have done very badly and the same could befall you if you take things for granted. You should know that Dr. Awuah’s reputation as one of the most outstanding Ghanaian entrepreneurs did not just happen overnight. He, like many in his league, once was an apprentice, devoted time to his goals, failed on many counts yet persevered. There are no shortcuts in this life and if you desire true success then be prepared to earn your keep.
Life & the Game of Football
I’ve also come to realise that life is like the game of football. Your life would pass you by as does the 90minutes over which the game of football is played. As the game of football is played over 90minutes, so is life lived over an accepted span of 70years. Unlike in football where your opponent can be seen, in life I believe that your opponent is life itself. If half-time in football is in the 45minute then for life it should be at 35. Statistics has it that in football, most goals are scored between the 40-45minutes and generally more goals are scored in the second half than the first.
This is obvious because coaches would have understood the pattern of play of their opponents and at recess, figured out how to approach the second half. Remember that the chances are 50:50 for either team and I believe the same holds for us in the second half of the game of life. So my dear graduates, if the chances are going to be 50:50 for either team in the second half, would it not be better to take the lead before halftime. Because then at least you have an edge so all you need to do is consolidate or protect your lead. This is because in the second half, life would have also studied your pattern and she’s going to pay you back for how you utilized your first half.
And if you disagree with me, listen carefully to this; in the second half of any football game, most players have already built up exhaustion and become more prone to injury. Any major tackle and you could be hurt beyond recovery hence the need to be substituted.
Talk about frequent joint aches, life threatening health conditions, low energy levels, hypertension and all, they don’t usually hit you in your first half but in the second. Thus, if you’ve not achieved anything for your life prior to that then its game over for you. Life is definitely going to pay you back for all the choices you made in your first half. There’s karma mennn, karma for all the weed you’ve have smoked, all the dudes and chics, the chill and all that vice. And there’s also karma for the midnight toil. It’s Garbage in, Garbage out! Yours truly is in his second half and charley, the slightest knock I receive takes so long to heal. I do love bones..dompe…but not long ago an encounter with a very tempting one cost me a visit to Dr. Glover, my dentist.
And he politely said…Mr Nyinaku..You need to go slow on dem bones. Times are not like before. That’s a yellow card for me there! And my dear friends, it wouldn’t get any better as the game wears on. Oh! Yes I believe in miracles, and it’s possible for you to make it even if late in the second half and all. That’s true but the probabilities are lesser. Our own president His Excellency Nana Akuffo Addo became President at 72, and come to think of it, that must be injury time right. Wow! That’s like scoring a penalty in injury time. I suggest we all take in a deep breath, look within ourselves and determine where we are in this game of life. Are we in our first half, second half or its injury time. Are we in control of the game AND more importantly, what’s the score. Are we in the lead? Is it a draw or we are trailing?
Folks, your life is going to pass you by like that if you don’t make use of time. If you check out the history of most of the people I believe you admire, you’d find out that at half time, they were either already prepared or had even started charting their journey to significance. A cursory glance at you all tells me you all are likely to be in your first half…should I say looks are deceptive. In any case, this is the time for you to be hungry for skill. With energy on your side I’d urge you to take control of the game now so you can have an edge over life by halftime. Like I said in the beginning I used to be a star during my first half and I was hailed all over as the new kid on the block. Now they do not care about me anymore cos after all, at this level, I’m expected to be in charge anyway so why the fuss.
It’s only in Africa that 40 is still classified as youth but Charlie they dey lie. We grow. And in this new world, you are only considered phenomenal when you excel in your strides while under 40. Most of us here have been where you are before yet we all sincerely wish to have had another chance to do it better. So hear me out and don’t waste your youth. Before I retire, flashback three decades ago and who would have thought that sitting in a corner down Alaska, over 11,000 kilometers away, one could view live and with pin-point accuracy, a graduation ceremony happening at Berekuso. Yet even then, the gap between us and the developed world was estimated to be over 50years in time. If today, it’s possible for a group of young men to sit in California and through technology control one of the biggest fleet of taxis operating around the world then I can only pray for a special favour upon your generation.
Because the ways things are going, in your time you would not be competing against flesh and blood but rather principalities and powers. Amen!
So brace yourselves and start dreaming now ‘cos you’ve got no time! Dream wild because dreams can come true! And dreams are not a preserve of the rich or poor only. Nor are dreams for people of a particular colour, race or background. If there’s any people that should be dreaming now – in today’s world, it better be Africans. And while you do, may I or Dr. Awuah not be your standard! But rather may your dream dreams and possibilities that would confound our generations.
Congratulations once again, class of 2017. You have earned the right to have your names etched on the walls of Ashesi. You were here some! On behalf of all your loved ones, I say “CHEERS” to your entry into the real world. And I do hope that in your time it would be cool to say, jobs dey and Ashesi boys too dey. Go out there and DO WHAT YOU’VE GOT TO DO.