If the journey of a thousand miles, as it is said, begins with one step, so it ends with just another but filling one! That’s how it feels now, as our journey of education, which began uncertainly, tentatively 50 years ago, ends as it is, with the triumphant celebration of the milestone of our Golden Jubilee, this 2006 which we’ve begun.
With such palpable and euphoric feeling of achievement, I send you all pioneer students of Esan (nay Ishan) Grammar School, Uromi, their parents, past and present students, our founding fathers, the past and present teachers, all active members of our indefatigable Old Boys Association, as well as our well-wishers over the years-this hearty message of congratulation on this historic day.
But first, it is appropriate that we remember to pay homage to those past students who cannot celebrate with us today, for having died seemingly in harness. I pray that God Almighty will continue to keep them in his bosom as he also guides and protects us all and our families in Jesus’ name. Amen!
Importantly, this also is the occasion to acknowledge those who agitated successfully for the establishment of our great alma mater in 1956: our founding fathers, spearheaded by that foremost Nigerian nationalist and Esan son, Chief (Dr.) Anthony EROMOSELE ENAHORO, CFR. JP – the then Minister of Home Affairs in the Old Western Region of Nigeria – who timely secured the government approval of our school’s continuous existence; Prince Albert Okojie, MON, JP, the one-time chairman of Ishan Education Board; the ebullient but Late B.I.G. Ewah of the Royal Family of Uromi; the pioneering members of the fledging Uromi-Uzea District Council, seemingly created for the early livelihood of our school; the founding principal, the late Reverent Father James Byrne of Ireland; the first staff and African Senior Tutor, Late Mr. A.U. Okoikhere and the first Chairman of the School’s Board of Governors, Late Chief Elenbesumu of Irrua. Ours has indeed been the common story of the proverbial acorn that has grown into an oak!
We cannot also forget the host community of UBIERUMU who innocent attitude and guileless accommodation fostered the enabling environment for the pioneering student population to grow and explode, as it were, in the pursuit of their academy, which early on, began a treasured culture of outstanding scholarship among successive generations of students of our alma mater. In the midst of that happy circumstance, there were those in our outer society, during the intervening years, who collaborated with the emergent Old Boys Association to sustain the material and comfortable well-being of the school whenever the occasions arose. Consistent and exemplary in this regard has been a political colossus of contemporary Nigeria, Chief (Dr.) Anthony Anenih, CFR, JP, the Iyasele of Esanland.
But them, 50 years on, our school, paradoxically, has progressively become a skeleton of the great learning citadel that it was, because of patent government negligence or indifference to it, as to other schools over the years – a situation that continues to dwarf the unrelenting efforts of our Old Boys Association to alleviate the deterioration. It is on record, nevertheless, that our indefatigable Association has continue to carry out, piecemeal in the face of the odds, stop-gap rescue operations to maintain a semblance of our alma mater’s originality. One such proof is the Association’s building of a library complex that was commissioned during the Silver Jubilee Celebration of 1981 by the then Bendel State Governor. Even today, as you came into our premises, you saw and passed through our recently-constructed new Gate Arcade as a monument to our Golden Jubilee.
But our mission today, on this happy occasion of our Golden Jubilee Celebration, is to launch a N100 million seed-fund for the continuous rehabilitation and maintenance of the school. There can be no doubts that in the prevailing dire circumstances, it is only our Alumni Association that can be the vanguard of the crusade to revive our alma mater. You have all seen for yourselves, the physical condition of the school.
Therefore, with a deep sense of responsibility, we call on all old students, here present and in diaspora, as well as our guests and other good friends, here gathered, to donate generously, sacrificially, for the good cause and legacy of continuing the scholarship that Esan Grammar School epitomizes for posterity. Your acts of nobility thereby, hereby, will be told of you endlessly for as long as our alma mater endures!
Esan Grammar School may be relatively young at 50 years but she has certainly made very remarkable progress in that period. It is to the glory of Almighty God that from humble beginnings, her products have become certified brands in most spheres of human endeavours, and they occupy or have occupied the commanding heights of most sectors of the Nigerian economy – in government, academia, medicine, the organized private sector, traditional institutions and the military! Note the following to confirm our claims.
We lead in the law-making of our immediate environment with the current Speaker of the Edo State House of Assembly, the Right Honourable Friday Itulah, an Old Boy, we provide the helmsman in the economic livelihood of Nigeria in the person of our Old Boy, Engr. Basil Omiyi who, as aforementioned, is the Shell Boss in the country. Pari Passu with him in the economic well-being of our country is another of our Old Boys, Chief (Dr.) Wellington Okirika, JP, who is wielding his redoubtable clout in the restive Niger Delta to maintain relative peace among his people to preserve Nigeria’s Oil and Gas Industry and production. There is Air Vice Marshall Anthony Ehigie Okpere, the first Bendelite Air Officer – a former Minister of Aviation and one-time member of the Armed Forces Rulling Council of Nigeria. We do not forget our Old Boy, so-called double Chief, Emmanuel Sideso, who was a pioneer Director of Production in the nation’s Mint. Or should we not boast of Adego Eferakeya who has been a rare academic breed as a Professor of Pharmacy with a concurrent and separate degree in human medicine? What of the great Old Boy Accountant, Philip Omoregie, who was progressively the Bursar of Auchi Polytechnic, then of the University of Jos and finally of the premier University of Ibadan? After which, he became the Registrar of ICAN, which he restructured and revamped into global eminence before retiring recently from public service! We have on record that the Edo State Government had on its Executive Council, progressively, products of Esan Grammar School as Commissioners for the Health portfolio – such Ol Boys as Drs. Ben. Okepre, Israel Aguele and Mike Ehiizokhale.
We also had until recently a Commisioner of the INEC, Sir Sylvester Egbase. We can go on ad infinitum, what with the literary exploits of Old Boy, Deacon Andrew Masade, in the annals of the fourth Estate of the Realm, who pioneered the resurgent early scholarship our alma mater has been known for. But we know that those of our excellent Old Boys which have become and are still Professors, Permanent Secretaries, Managing Directors, Captains and achievers in their chosen professions that we have not mentioned here, will not be vexed by their unavoidable omission from this temporary and circumstantial Hall of Fame! Indeed, their acquiescent disposition in this regards is reminiscent of the quality of their school nurturing and the great values of their educational curriculum in the wake of the school motto: BONITAS (GOODNESS), SCIENTIA (KNOWLEDGE), PIETAS (DUTY OR SENSE OF DUTY).
That is the legacy we commend to all those here who have made this occasion of our Golden Jubilee Celebration memorable. Learn to live your motto as we have done, and your careers will be successful equally!
Ladies and Gentlemen, everything, indeed, has an end. So is this speech. Once again, we congratulate all of you who have honoured us with your presence and contributions. God bless you all.
Long live Esan Grammar School, Uromi!
Long live Esan Grammar School, Old Boys Association, nationwide!
Long live the Educational Development of Nigeria!
F.D. OKOH, mnim