Barr. Kingsley Essien: BIFOBA President
The Special Guest of Honour, Her Excellency, Mrs. Idiat Oluranti Adebule,
Deputy Governor/Hon. Commissioner for Education, Lagos State,
The Chairman/Father of the Day, His Grace, Most Reverend Luke O. Odubanjo,
The Archbishop of Lagos, Methodist Church, Nigeria,
The Guest of Honour, Mrs. O.O. Onadipe,
The Tutor General/Permanent Secretary, Education District VI,
Distinguished Members of the Guild of Awardees,
Distinguished Past Presidents of BIFOBA
Distinguished Global President Emeritus,
Chapter Presidents, (NA and UK),
Fellow Old Boys Globally and Dear Spouses,
The principal of the Senior School and her Old Boy Spouse – Mrs. Oluwakemi O. Oke/Professor Wale Oke
The principal of the Junior School and Spouse – Mrs. Adenike Oresanwo/Mr. Oresanwo
Vice Principals of Senior and Junior Schools,
Officers of the Parents Forum for Senior and Junior Schools,
Gentlemen of the Press,
My Lords Temporal and Spiritual,
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen. I welcome you all very warmly and with a gladsome mind to this Event. Thank you for coming to our ceremony.
1.00. I feel highly excited and thankful to God Almighty who has made it possible for me to address you today. I also thank members of my Executive Council, Chairman and Members of the Home Coming Committee 2018 and my Fellow Old Boys Globally for the privilege given to me to serve.
2.00. My journey as the Global President of Bifoba commenced on the 30th of April 2016. It is a two-legged journey of two years each. The first two years ends today. Indeed I had a choice of bowing out today. However, my fellow old boys decided that I should continue with the journey and serve for another two years. They re-elected me as the Global President of Bifoba for the period 2018 to April 25, 2020. I consider this as an honour and a rare privilege considering the fact that this Association is blessed with very highly competent members who may even handle the position better. I, therefore, thank you very sincerely for the confidence you have reposed in me. I pray that God in his infinite mercy will grant me the strength and wisdom to continue to serve and to raise Bifoba even higher than where it is today.
3.00. I have decided to adopt my theme for the past two years – “Strengthen the Pride” as the Association’s theme for the next two years. You will recall that I chose that theme because I believed at that time that all the Old Boys of Birch Freeman High School, Surulere should raise their heads high wherever they are and with pride. I am pleased and thankful to God that my fellow old boys have not let me down. In Nigeria, America and the United Kingdom or wherever we have found ourselves, we have stood out and proved to all and sundry that we were trained for duty and for God. I want us to do more. I want us to remain absolutely and irrevocably committed to the Aims and Objectives of our Association. You must be proud of your Association to be absolutely and irrevocably committed to her. That is why I have decided to continue with this theme. Great Fellow Old Boys, let us continue to be proud of our Association and our Great Alma Mater. Let us continue to strengthen the pride. Let us cultivate the habit of putting back something to improve our Alma Mater.
4.00. The journey of the last two years has not been easy. However, I have always known that nothing good comes easy. Despite the very harsh economic environment that we operated in, I am confident to say that we have recorded some achievements. Some of them are listed below.
4.01. SUSTAINING MEMBERS INTEREST IN THE ASSOCIATION
As to be expected, due to the very harsh economic climate that we operated, sustaining of members interest have not been easy. Some of our members, who otherwise would have been more committed to our cause, have shied away for fear of the commitments associated with being an active member of the Association. Many of those who continued to show keen interest have not been able to meet up with their commitments to the Association as they would have loved to. This has put a strain on the proper running of our Association. Let me thank all the members who are doing everything possible to sustain the Association. May God continue to bless you. During this second leg of my journey, we will continue to introduce innovations that will sustain the interest of members and encourage attendance at meetings.
4.02. BUILDING OF STRONGER SETS
Last year, we started to experiment with set based homecoming. This year, we have fine-tuned the policy and added “Houses” based. That is why you are seeing the array of colours ranging from Green for Solarin, Yellow for Soremekun, White for Dada and Maroon for Momah. All these are part of the innovations we have introduced to draw members out of their shells and remind them of the healthy competition that used to exist amongst the houses and the spirit of camaraderie that we are encouraging amongst the sets. We believe that as individuals we serve, but together we can serve even better. We are yet to witness which of the Houses will win my trophy. The joker is that by these acts, we are building stronger sets.
4.03. SUSTAINING THE CONTINUOUS CONSTRUCTION OF OUR AUDITORIUM
Despite the economic challenges, we have continued to forge ahead with the construction of our Auditorium. I wish to use this opportunity to thank the following sets specifically for their contributions towards the continued construction of our Auditorium in the last one year. – I say in the last one year, because other sets have made their contributions in previous years. They are:
- The 1978 Set. They renovated the canopy, screened and painted the Auditorium. They also donated 200 chairs and twenty tables to the Association amongst other donations.
- The 1983 Set. They completed the Round House situate at the back gate side of the school.
- The UK Chapter. They completed the second roundhouse situate towards the main gate of the school.
- The 1992 Set. This set has taken on the construction of our mini-stadium. They have already spent so much money to refill the swamp. They had to wait for the refilling to settle and then refill again up to the technically required and acceptable level, then pour manure on the entire surface of the turf before grassing. It is a project that is spanning more than two years. I thank the moving spirits of this set for their wonderful work and pray God to spare our lives to play football on this pitch upon completion. I respectfully call upon the Government to please partner with us on this project. I pray that our request will be granted.
5. Other sets and individuals have in their different ways contributed one way or the other towards the goals and aspirations of our Association. One of such individuals which I must single out for appreciation is Engr. Olufemi Ojo the Managing Director of Extended Global System Limited, our contractor, who has continued to be patient with us in terms of the payment of his professional fees. I assure you that you have not been forgotten. Some of our members donated awards both in cash and materials during our Founders Day which held on the 6th of February 2018, others donated chairs while others are still queuing up to take up one project or the other. To all of you under this category, I say, thank you.
6. FOUNDERS DAY: This year’s Founders Day was a huge success. We have continued to improve on the celebration year by year. I, however, encourage members to show more interest in endowing awards not only for the students but also for the teachers. This will encourage the teachers to put in more efforts in their work. I also urge members to keep the date in their diaries free – 6th of February. I will like to see more old boys attend the event. The Report and Financial Statement of the event were made available a week after the event.
7. AWARDS AND ADMITTANCE INTO THE GUILD OF AWARDEES
In keeping with our tradition, some of our deserving old boys would be conferred with Awards of Excellence based on the usual two categories below:
- Exceptional Commitment to the ideals of Bifoba and
- Various exceptional achievements in the member’s field of endeavour which has impacted positively on our Alma Mater.
This year, we have zeroed down on three members. They are:
- Olajide Akanbi Idowu, 1966 Set, Solarin House
- Emmanuel Omotayo Pratt, 1970 Set, Solarin House
- Obafemi Kazeem, 1978 Set, Soremekun House.
The three of them are being honored for their exceptional commitment to the ideals of BIFOBA. Congratulations, Gentlemen.
8. PROMISES KEPT
- INSURANCE: In keeping with the promise I made during my inauguration, I am happy to inform that now, we have a life and accident Insurance Policy in place. Currently, we have thirty-four members on board. I call on more members to please reconsider their stand and join the scheme. It will be beneficial to everybody.
- CELEBRATION OF BIRTHDAYS. For one year now, we have consistently celebrated members birthdays during our general meetings. We intend to improve on the celebration by having a custom-made card and getting members to send birthday wishes to the celebrants on our numerous platforms.
- PIONEER STAFF: Your Association now has a staff. This is a sign of the things to come. With the completion of the Administrative Round House, we intend to have administrative staff who would be able to liaise with our old boys worldwide. Our intention is to have the data of all our old boys who are resolved to be with us in our data Bank.
- ACCOUNTS: In keeping with my promise financial report for the period of my stewardship has been produced and is captured in the Brochure. Members who attend our General Meetings will testify to the fact that, financial reports are produced monthly. We will continue to do this and even improve our accounting policy. Receipts would be given to every member who pays his annual dues and for every payment. We will also strive to file our Accounts and Reports with the Corporate Affairs Commission as required under the extant Laws.
9. THANKSGIVING SETS
This year, the sets that have decided to give thanks to God in the midst of the people are five. They are 1978 who are celebrating their 40th year of leaving school, 1983, who are celebrating their 35th year of leaving school, 1988 who are celebrating their 30th year of leaving school, 1993 who are celebrating their 25th years of leaving school and the UK Chapter who are celebrating their existence as a formidable chapter and their ability to give back to their Alma Mater. I thank God for all the celebrating sets. I urge every member to join them in thanking God for what God has done for them. Congratulations.
10. MORE TO BE DONE
Earlier, I appreciated ourselves for the efforts we have put into the completion of our Auditorium. I must caution though, that we still have a lot to be done. It is certainly not yet Uhuru. We need to complete the payment of our main contractor. We also need a transformer to power the school separately from that of the public. We have only dealt with the front of the Auditorium. The back of the Auditorium now calls for our urgent attention. Other Items to be seriously addressed are:
1. Youth Corpers Lodge ------ N10,000,000.0
2. 60 KVA Caterpillar Generating Set ------ N 4,800, 000.00, Plus Cost of Installation = (500,000)
3. Roof Insulation -------- N10,500,000.00
4. The ceiling of Auditorium-----N8,190,000.00
5. Ceiling fitted Air Conditioners ------- N12,000,000.00
(10)(1) Your Excellency, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, the population of our students is growing. At the last count, our junior school had a population of 1,042 students while the senior school had 651. While the population of students is growing geometrically, the number of teaching staff (teachers) remain static. In all of the 14 subjects offered by the junior school, only 2 (English and Maths) have two teachers each. The rest have only one teacher each. Agric Science, CRK, and CCA have no teachers at all. One teacher teaches 1,042 students. The situation is not any better in the senior school. I really pity these teachers. They are overworked.
But there is a solution to it. The principals can apply for and obtain the services of Youth Corpers. The only impediment is where to Lodge the Corpers. This is where the Corpers Lodge comes in. This is one of the ways we intend to partner with the Lagos State Government to raise the standard of Education in our Alma Mater. If we have Corpers, they would assist in the shortfall of the teachers.
11. AUDIENCE WITH HER EXCELLENCY
I thank Her Excellency for finding time to be here with us. Indeed, Her Excellency is a woman of honour. Let me disclose to you that Her Excellency called me to apologize when she could not attend our homecoming of 2017 due to no fault of hers.
Her staff had inadvertently mixed up our letters of invitation with other mails and failed to draw Her Excellency’s attention to the letters. Her Excellency only saw our letters after our event.
She called me, the same day she saw our letters and apologized. I nearly fainted. She also gave me the green light to reach her directly if we ever had any event we would love her to attend.
I sent our letter of invitation for this year’s Home Coming and sent a text to her. Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, can you believe that Her Excellency personally called me to acknowledge receipt of our letter.
Your Excellency, I am overwhelmed. Thank you for your humility. You encourage me to continue to remain humble as a leader. God bless you.
I seize this opportunity to inform Your Excellency that we would love to come over to your office to pay you a courtesy visit. We will be seeking ways to partner with the Government in other to assist in the maintenance of the infrastructures and academic standard of our Alma Mater.
I pray that you will grant us audience when we make the request.
You are welcome to our Home Coming.
Please relax and enjoy the day with us. You Are Safe in our hands.
12. OUR CHAIRMAN/FATHER OF THE DAY
I must also say a word or two about our Chairman and Father of the Day, His Grace, Most Reverend Luke O. Odubanjo, the Archbishop of Lagos, Methodist Church, Nigeria. His Grace, personally called me upon receipt of my letter informing him of this event and praying that he chairs the event and be the Father of the Day. I mean, I was flabbergasted. After the discussion that we had, I kept looking at my phone. I could not believe that the Archbishop of Lagos for Methodist Church, with arrays of lieutenants, could be the one calling and talking to me about an event. A lesson in humility. Indeed, I was humbled and I remain humbled. Thank you, Your Grace. May the Lord continue to bless you.
I wish to sincerely appreciate some members of my Exco who decided to step aside after many years of meritorious service to the Association. I am confident that they have learnt one or two things that will assist them as they go through life and that they would along the line, given the benefit of their experience, return to serve and rise to the pinnacle of this Association. Thank you.
In conclusion, I wish to thank the Principals and staff of our Alma Mater both academic and non – academic for the support they have been giving to me and indeed the Association.
I also want to thank the Parents Forum. I, however, urge the Parents Forum to do more in the interest of their children. To all my fellow old boys, I thank you for the confidence you reposed in me and for asking me to serve you for another two years. I cannot do it alone. I plead with you to team up with me and together we shall take our Association and Alma Mater to greater heights.
Thank you very much for your attention.
Barrister Kingsley Essien, MGA