The Future is Ours – An Article Written on 17/02/2006 by Ambode

The article below was written by the All Progressives Congress (APC) governorship candidate in Lagos, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode in 2006 for the FEGOCOWOSA Magazine (an annual publication of Federal Government College Warri Old Students Association).

It was published again today February 17th in ThisDay and the Sun newspapers. This article written exactly 9 years ago still reflects present realities of love, peace, and unity. It also shows that Ambode’s knack for the values of Leadership dates back to his days in secondary school. It is therefore not strange that he is in the race to become the next Executive Governor of Lagos State.

By Akinwunmi Ambode

To the memories of our founding fathers and the visionary leadership of Alhaji Tafawa Balewa, 17th February 1966 remains a landmark date for all of us. It was the historic year in which our great school (Federal Government College Warri) commenced admission of young pupils, with a vision to nurture leaders that will make Nigeria great in future. Today, (February 17, 2006), forty years after, the dream, like an oak tree, is coming to fruition.

I was just eleven years old when I joined others like me to venture into the future by becoming students of FGCW. For the next seven years, my future was truly moulded by the ideals of unity school. Obviously, I’m proud to be a true Fegocolian – a true Nigerian!

The main objective of setting up unity schools, which is to raise young Nigerians who will uphold the unity of the country above all other considerations is being realised through each and everyone who passed through them. Let us get it right, we (unity school products) are totally a different breed from others. We are totally detribalised, tolerant in outlook, trained to accommodate others and their visions, irrespective of political, social, religious and ethnic dispositions. We are just what the future needs in Nigeria.

Since 1966, a lot of water has passed under the country’s bridge. There has been the good, the bad, the ugly and indeed, the beautiful.

Just at the wake of this beautiful dream of unity schools in 1966, the country went through its most trying period with the outbreak of the Nigerian-Biafra civil war. The unfortunate incident, which claimed millions of lives, was an acid test, not only for our beloved country, but for the concept of unity schools, which was barely at its teething period. But thanks to God, Nigeria came out of the war, stronger and so also, the unity school concept.

General Yakubu Gowon, whose post-war slogan was ‘No Victor, No Vanquish’, truly threw his weight behind the vision of our forefathers. Under his administration, the country went head on, few months after the war, to aggressively resume the task of actualising the dream of uniting Nigeria through the concept of unity schools. Brilliant young victims of the war were immediately sought and recruited into federal government colleges, fully kitted and generally equipped to resume their education alongside their mates.

This bold and very magnanimous step, indeed set the actualisation of the unity school dream back in focus.My dear alma mater, more than any other, benefitted immensely from this exercise. Before and immediately after the war, the only three unity schools were located in Warri, Sokoto and Okposi. FGC Okposi, which later moved to Enugu, had earlier been shut down as a result of the devastating effect of the war. That meant that only FGCs Warri and Sokoto were in existence. It was only natural therefore, that FGC Warri should play host (which it did) to our fellow returnees from the war-torn Eastern region. It was very natural that most of them were moved to Warri, a much more neutral location, compared to Sokoto of 1970.

This singular move also made FGC Warri the richest in terms of the opportunity to share values and to interact with Nigerians from all parts of the country. It was also the neutral ground even for people from the North and West of the country.

The young entrants from the East were indeed the very fortunate survivors of the devastation that coloured the war.

I must indeed use this great occasion to congratulate my senior colleagues, the likes of Engr. Cletus Duru, Sir Jasper Nwachukwu, Chief Chyna Iwuanyanwu and the rest, who not only survived the pogrom, but who are today, living testimonies of the dream of Alhaji Tafawa Balewa and other patriots. These are men, who are today, not just successful achievers in their chosen professions, but who are as tribally-blind, as most products of federal government colleges, especially products of Federal Government College, Warri!

Gen. Gowon, must be commended for not just ensuring the reintegration of the young men, back into the Nigerian polity, but for taking the unity school dream further by mandating, during his administration, that each state, established at least, a unity school.

Today, (Feb. 17 2006), as we celebrate 40 years of pure academic excellence, of a vision, which still has the potential of returning the country to the track of prosperity, we are actually celebrating, more than anything else, the coming of age of the products of unity schools. There is no doubt that the future of Nigeria is indeed ours. At this time, more than any other time in our history, there is that conscious awakening , that urge to share what we all have – love of our nation, the patriotic spirit and of course, that untainted love of our fellow Nigerians , irrespective of where they come from. It is true that in any gathering we find ourselves, products of FGC Warri are never occupied with parochial thoughts on where anyone comes from. We are always happy to be in our midst as fellow Nigerians and we are unbiased in our assessment of issues, irrespective of who is concerned. There is no gainsaying that this is truly what Nigeria needs at the moment. Nigeria is in dire need of people who would appreciate its very abundant human resources, people who would appreciate the strength in its diversity, people to whom places of birth (a pure coincidence of which none of us actually had a choice) should be inconsequential in making national decisions, but at the same time, people, who as brothers and sisters, would naturally elect to aid weaker siblings to greater heights.

What the society lacks, which we, products of FGC Warri, and indeed, unity schools have in abundance, is love of one another. A brother will not be there and see his siblings wallow in abject poverty. This is not true love.

Nigerians at this moment, more than any other time, need leaders who love the country and whose utmost desire is to share this love among the children of Nigeria. To many who never had the opportunity of sharing our experience, the vision is an impossible mirage, but for us, products of FGC Warri, indeed, products of unity schools, it is a very natural thing. It is for these reasons I believe that indeed, the future of this country is truly in our hands. The future is truly ours!

Akinwunmi Ambode, who made second best result in the entire West Africa in the Higher School Certificate Examinations in 1981 as a student of the Federal Government College, Warri, is the immediate past President of the Federal Government College, Warri, Old Students Association and the gubernatorial candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Lagos State.