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July 20, 2018

Lessons from abroad

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Lesson 1.

Graduation Ceremonies: What Nigeria Should Learn From The U.S.

 

“Time is free, but it’s priceless

You can’t own it, but you can use it

You can’t keep it, but you can spend it

Once you’ve lost it, you can never get it back”

–          Harvey Mackay

Given the avoidable waste of resources that characterise university graduation ceremonies in Nigeria, why must we spend a whole day at university graduation ceremonies in Nigeria?  If you look askance at the so-called “African Time,” and if you subscribe to the Western Civilization notion and belief that ‘time is money’, then you are likely to agree with the relevance of the question.  The question hinges on my recent experience in the U.S.

On Sunday, May 13, 2018, I was highly impressed by what I saw and experienced when I attended the graduation ceremony conducted by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the first public university of the United States of America, founded in 1789.

Even though as many as 6,119 students graduated, the  entire elaborate ceremony was conducted in record time, indeed within two(2) hours. Similar ceremonies in Nigeria tend to last interminably. Why? Could this be explained by (i) lack of any planning at all; (ii) lack of attention to details;  (iii)  speaking beyond time given; (iv) bigmanism – a politician invited to speak could arrive some hours after the time he was expected to speak and the audience would be made to wait for him to arrive whenever it pleases him and to speak indefinitely; (v) lack of rehearsal before the event, or (vi) neglect of graduation over the years. There are universities in Nigeria that have not held any graduation for as long as five years running; and when they hold it, they do so to accommodate all students that graduated over  the period  of  five years in one day. Such a crowded event is bound to be a confused one. Upon inquiry, I was told that the precision that characterised the graduation ceremony that I witnessed at the University of North Carolina was the outcome of  well articulated planning over a long period of time.  Every speech made at the graduation ceremony (and there were many of them), was properly timed to take place methodically. I learnt, to my amazement, that as much as one year is taken to plan each graduation ceremony, and nothing is given to chance. Accordingly, the graduation ceremony for 2019 has been fixed for Sunday, May 12, 2019. So, between the end of this year’s graduation and that of next year, there is enough time to do all planning necessary to make it a success. Indeed, the tradition of this university is to hold graduation on the second Sunday of May every year.  This tradition makes the university work in such a way that every enrolled student knows from the day he enters the university when he is  due  to graduate, because everything is done to ensure that the university system is not disrupted by any thing that is untoward. One master stroke of planning that one cannot fail to admire is that certificates were given out to graduating students on the eve of the graduating ceremony. This was done to decongest the graduation ceremony. What masterpiece of planning strategy! In Nigeria, certificates are not known to be distributed to graduating students. On the contrary, certificates are given to Nigerian graduates years after their graduation.

We can achieve the same success recorded in the University of North Carolina in Nigeria if we settle down to plan well, by allowing competent persons to handle our planning, and by copying good examples from the advanced countries of the world. From my experience, the major problem of Nigeria is that we polish pebbles and darken diamonds, apparently  because we refuse to promote merit.  Let us employ the right persons for the right job and all the things that have eluded us will be achieved by us and Nigeria will then take its rightful position among the comity of nations.

The coming election in 2019 is an opportunity to do this. Accordingly, we must look out, identify and vote for competent persons, particularly people with proven good  corporate experience. We need to vote for the best among our best. We know them. What we lack is not the ability to search for and locate the best among our best; what we lack is  taking the pains to scout for and identify our bad materials and avoid them.  After all,  in our communities we know all the bad  materials turned politicians who have deliberately created poverty in our society  to induce and compel  the ordinary person  to sell his vote to them.  What they use to buy these votes is  money belonging to the people, which they have looted from our commonwealth. So, the money they offer to you to buy your vote belongs to you. Take the money from them and vote for the best among our best. In this connection, do not vote for anyone because of his party; vote for the individual because of his character and ability to perform.

If this article stimulates thought that would lead to the establishment of rational graduation ceremonies in Nigerian universities, then my aim of writing it would be realised.

 

Emmanuel A. C. Orji, Senior Citizen, wrote from Austell GA, USA

May 20, 2018 Email: orjiman@gmail.com Phone:00917707397160

 


 

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