Photo by Emmanuel Ikwuegbu on Unsplash

My name is Fatihah Ayinde and I am in an abusive relationship with Nigeria.
Whew! It feels good to get that out of the way first.
Good morning your excellencies, As-salam alaikum distinguished ladies and gentlemen, faculty, guests of honor, friends and family.
Thank you for honoring our invitation to be here to celebrate this day with the unconventional Pioneer Class.
And yes! Congratulations to us Pioneer Class!
I consider it a privilege to deliver this speech I have titled “In Power is a repository of action and doing” on behalf of the Pioneer Class.

Power intoxicates, with all of this knowledge, we have been empowered and armed with the requisite knowledge to approach politics. We the Pioneer Class cannot be amongst those who isolate collective public goods such as police protection for the exclusive and wealthy minority.
For the benefit of our guests, I would love to take us back on how the SPPG journey began. In January of 2021 when we submitted our application for the call for the SPPG Pioneer Cohort, we were unsuspecting of the tendency of this experience to expand our capacity, character and competence extensively.
With value based learnings at the heart of our unconventional education, it would come to be that we became a part of a critical mass with the capacity for disruptive thinking and transformative leadership. Every evening of every weekday excluding Mondays, more than ever, we looked forward to understanding and dissecting the African leadership dilemma with an opportunity to role play as world-class leaders and proffer solutions. In between those long weeks were the days of the faculty asking, “Can you see my screen” and the pioneer class on standby to respond eagerly with whatever the case may be. Our Saturdays which were usually for socializing were not spared, it was difficult to adjust at first but learning of the day-to-day sacrifices of our Founder, Dr Oby Ezekwesili, Digital VC, Madam Alero Ayida-Otobo and Dean, Dr Amina Salihu made the adjustment effortless.
We gained new perspectives on politics and how policies affect people. The SPPG maxim taught us that governance, whether good or bad, is a product that, like all else, is subject to a process and factors.

We learned that just as crude oil is deposited in the creeks, governance is locked up in every person. Oil must be extracted, refined, standardized and marketed within and without. Governance too. Unfortunately, as can be said of oil and many natural endowments in Nigeria, so is our governance. The lack of governance refinery, standardized procedures in form of a people-inspired constitution and laws (that reserve no immunities for public servants or the judiciary.

Many of us are meeting physically for the first time and in class, we had debates about whether to form a third force or join existing parties but we were never able to come to an agreement. In all of that, what came to the fore was the intergenerational dynamic that the SPPG introduced into our learnings. And some of our colleagues, Ayobami Olunloyo, Micheal Igwe lost loved ones on this journey, we were able to empathize with them because we understand that to be great leaders is to be emotionally intelligent. And I was most touched when Kenneth Uttih at a time when we had barely been weeks into our learning and could no way have known me enough for me to be deserving of an unforgettable magnitude of kindness.

We learnt that people-centered policies are the most important, not all innovation has to be monumental. So for example, we know that the e-naira is an innovation, but what problem is it solving? Communities with no power supply, what we should not do is go ahead to build for them boreholes.

We learnt that we can have a Nigeria where we value human lives, where there is no loss of a single life during protests or elections. A Nigeria that is inclusive, that creates spaces in our hospitals, universities, banks for citizens who are physically disabled. I know most of us here would have walked into a bank just in time to meet the last part of an infomercial, have we ever stopped to ask how those who are blind, deaf or generally living with disabilities get informed, it is now our job as the Pioneer Class of the SPPG to care as we are now part of the system with the agency to change the status quo.

We learnt from one of our faculty, Kah Walla that mobilizing from the grassroots is inevitable and participating is necessary. And we also know for a fact that activating new voters is the way to win elections, we have a surplus of voters, untapped, unlocked voters who are not swayed by N5,000 or a politician eating roadside food. Paolo Freire, who I got introduced to in a class taught by one of our faculty, Dr Pat Utomi, said “Liberating education consists in acts of cognition, not transferals of information.”

We are motivated to play our part. To raise our voices against gender discrimination and other societal ills — including transforming our university campuses from the rots they have become into research and development institutions that advance economic growth.

We are prepared to let the best ideas lead; to change systems, not only people. To challenge norms and keep learning, to ask questions, because we do not have all the answers, we cannot have all the answers. We are encouraged to embrace open-minded debates as the way of constantly refining our ideas. And we’re not misguided to think the path to progress is smooth or that we will not encounter pressure both from within our individual lives and those related to our dedication to nation building. After all, great products are refined in fire and under much pressure (if you pass through SPPG, you could as well pass through fire).

Photo by Tunde Onakoya on Twitter

To bring this together to an audacious end, we must move away from the discussion of corporate social responsibility as it is and move into the phase where what is prioritized in profit and non-profit organizations is corporate SUSTAINABILITY and social responsibility toward ensuring a needed safe environment for us. We have Tunde Onakoya, the founder of Chess in Slums and his team to show us how powerful it is to do great things from a small place. And for we living in Lagos or Abuja, it is easy to be far removed from the realities of the other states but we must come together to use our collective voices to speaking against the soot crisis in Port Harcourt.

Not everyone has to start an NGO, we can collaborate, donate our time, and shift from the days of creating in isolation and start collaborating. I see SPPG as that start-up refinery. I see it taking on a rather unfair task of challenging a 6 decade-old industry of bad governance. I must end now by showing my gratitude to my group 10 leader and members, Ifeoma Philippa Peterkins-Itoe, Zigwai Tagwai, Afeez Olaide Olawuwo, Igwe Chinyere Judith, Adeniji Michael Oladayo, Akindele Emmanuel, Oluwatosin Akomolafe, Mbonu Patrick Chinedu, Tomomewo Semilore Favour, Peter Arome Momoh, Uko Akpan Etuk, Taiwo Akinseye, Sylvia Akpotue, Oyeyemi Olasubomi Immanuel & Kingsley Bamah.

So, I’ll leave us with two quotes, the first by Ibukun Awosika from her speech titled Courage of conviction, “More than what some people think is what you think, how you can dare to think and determine what is right and how you have the courage and the audacity to stand up and fight for what is right.”

And the second, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever ha” — Margaret Mead.

In closing I must thank Dr Oby Ezekwesili for taking a leap of faith and investing in the human capital of the continent, our scintillating Dean, Dr Amina Salihu for the encouragement and acknowledgement of our individuality and power and of course, our Royal Global Digital VC, Alero Ayida-Otobo, we love you, because what else can you tell a mother, no matter how much you show gratitude, it will never be enough. Thank you to the entire faculty and IT team — Century, Kemi & Emmanuel. Thank you SPPG, fellow colleagues and everyone for making the SPPG experience a remarkable one.

Once again, congratulations to the Pioneer class. God bless!




Public Relations Enthusiast | Copywriter | Content Writer | Gender Consultant

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Fatihah Ayinde

Fatihah Ayinde

Public Relations Enthusiast | Copywriter | Content Writer | Gender Consultant

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