Character for starters

Character for starters

(Dedicated to fresh students)

To some of us, the University of Ilorin often appears like a pearl with thousands of glittering diamonds or like the galaxy with its millions of twinkling stars. Each of the components of the awesome whole contributes to its beauty and luminosity.

One of the several parts of the wholesome University is its motto, “probitas doctrina”, known in English simply as “character and learning”. And, it is remarkable that character is appropriately placed before learning.

This prioritisation is profound because character is everything in life and an educated or learned person without character is just a sophisticated evil. Character is the totality of values one has and  as Clive S. Lewis aptly puts it, “education without values as useful as it is seems rather to make man a more clever devil.”

The reality of today’s world is that we have many men and women of learning among us who are bereft of character or values. The world is going amok and Nigeria is its microcosm as most people suffer from what I once called “character deficiency syndrome.” There is a need for paradigm shift with the inspiration provided by the University of Ilorin that character is first and foremost and every other thing, especially learning, comes after it.

Therefore, as a new year begins in the reckoning of many, it is important that character is put at the front burner of our operational philosophy. In other words, rather than getting influenced by the negativity that saturates the society, where politics and politicking have robbed many people of common sense and fake news is the new normal, one can choose to always exude what one has: good character – in speech and action. At least, “we can only give away to others what we have inside ourselves,” as Wayne Dyer once said.

While you have no control over how people behave to you to some extent, you have total control over how you react or respond to their behaviour. This capacity for self-control is the engine of character. It is thus within our reach to maintain peace, control ourselves, seek alternative ways and delete worry from our psyche. Character is everything; without character, there is nothing.

At the end of the World War II, Germany was divided into two separate countries, West and East, under the respective influence of the two superpowers, the USA and the defunct USSR, the capitalists and the communists. The Berlin Wall signified the division. While West Berlin was free and affluent, East Berlin was not open and prosperous. This was the situation for some decades until the Berlin Wall fell in 1989.

During the period of the partition, some people who lived in East Berlin side took a truckload of garbage and threw it over the fence to West Berlin. The West Berliners could have reacted the same way by throwing over their own garbage but they did not. Instead, they got a truckload of canned goods, bread, candies and milk and they neatly stacked it on the East Berlin side, with a note: “each gives what he has.”

The truth is that one can decide to be like a tree that gives fruits when stones are thrown at it. In other words, it is always good to be good and you can resolve to be good all the time regardless of the situation. The entire water of the ocean cannot sink a ship until the ship allows the water to get inside it. If negativity is not allowed in your mind, you will always be at peace with the university and the world.

Imbibing character has its own reward. At least, you will be sure that happiness and positivity will suffuse you as you release your own “endorphins”, “dynorphins” and “enkephalins” (internally produced addictive opiates, analgesics, motivators and painkillers) apart from an abundance of “oxytocin” (the social glue that bonds individuals together). When all these are mixed with physical activities, adrenalin is supplied and you are positively energised with the whole body and soul feeling lively. This reward counts a lot and it is wrong to assume that everything that counts can be counted.

Facebook recently reminded me of a poster I shared at the beginning of 2017 and the “12 Things to Remember in Life” therein are relevant as you journey through life, beginning from the University of Ilorin. This is because if you understand the nature of life, the transience of our existence and the fact that the hunter and the hunt are both open to the ravages of time, you would just stay happy and positive because everything ends sooner than it starts, like 2018.

The 12 things to remember are:

  1. The past cannot be changed.
  2. Opinions don’t define your reality.
  3. Everyone’s journey is different.
  4. Things get better with time.
  5. What goes round comes around.
  6. Judgements are a confession of character.
  7. Happiness is found within.
  8. Smiles are contagious.
  9. Kindness is free.
  10. Over-thinking will lead to sadness.
  11. You only fail if you quit.
  12. Positive thoughts create positive things.

As a new year rolls in and new students join the better by far academic community, a starting point for you is prioritising character as the basis of self-development and progress.  Then, in furtherance of your primary assignment in the University, you should attend all lectures, do your assignments /tests, obey the University rules and regulations, avoid bad company, engage in group discussions, study in advance, have your personal time table, mind your business and use your time judiciously. This is all it takes to succeed as you’ll find that it is it is very difficult to fail if you do the needful.

Congratulations on your admission and have a pleasant 2019!