Building Formidable Institutions

My Fellow Stars,

As always, I am excited to write to you. While this year’s letter is familiar, this highly esteemed Class is very unique — a reminder of the special grace of God we share. Throughout the history of our alma mater, Babcock University, Class Presidents have delivered speeches during convocation ceremonies to members of the class, to the nation, and the world: To celebrate excellence; to charge class members; to talk about the good life at Babcock and the one ahead.

Beyond Babcock, I write to you to share thoughts, feelings, and ideas with you, great people. I am grateful to God, my friends, and my family for their constant support and encouragement. I hope that you will continue to inspire me in the future by sharing your thoughts and experiences with me. I hope that you will continue to encourage others and shine bright on the path of light, ahead.

As I write in 2021 — just four years after our graduation; four years since we left “God’s own University” — we have continued to face the challenges and rigors of life with resilience and doggedness in the “Universe City”.

Now, after four years, I am proud of you all. Orion Class 2017 is transcending greatness: Turning adversity into opportunity; Pandemic into clarity; Setback into a step forward.

Looking back on 2020, I am bowled over by how much we have accomplished. It’s been a year of growth, change, and transformation. I am humbled by the tremendous amount of love and support that has been in our community. In the times of uncertainty amidst the pandemic, I was overwhelmed by the adherence to the values and principles we imbibed as Babcock University students. The power of generosity and optimism helped us to not only become resilient but also stay connected in unimaginable ways.

More importantly, I see you. I see you doing great things in the world. I see you making a difference in people’s lives and changing their minds about things that are important to them. Likewise, I see you being an inspiration for others. I see you being the best teacher and mentor, a good partner and friend. I see you getting married and getting degrees and having children. Not only that, but I see you working hard to build your own life and becoming the person that God wants you to be. I see you surviving and thriving, and I acknowledge that you are not just another name on the list of heroes. YOU ARE MY HERO!

Life can knock us down but as a class, we never stay down. As stars, we always shine and today, that’s what we’re doing: Orion is shining anew. Choosing hope over fear. Truth over lies. Light over darkness.

In my last letter to you, my fellow stars, I highlighted the need to build bridges to create a better world. I also mentioned how we can all work together as a community to make sure that no one is left behind and that everyone has a chance at success. For we are stronger when we help each other gain access to opportunities and overcome the challenges of life. The next step in creating this better world is to build formidable institutions.

My dear Friends, do you give platitudes like, “I want to do better, but I don’t know how to?’’ This is your self-doubt speaking. The real promise comes from the source much deeper than doubt: the essence. At the core of your being, there are essential qualities that help to define who you are as well as what you will give to others. The only true feeling for our era is that we go beyond ourselves and our present wants, to push for greater things that will outlive time — with the enlarged heart — so that humanity can survive. We need to be more than just mere human beings, we need to be institutions of values and culture. It’s not about us; rather it’s about the people who live within us — those are the ones who have been given a voice and power by us. We need to build Formidable Institutions for these people.

We need to build strong institutions that will protect our communities from the dangers of climate change, poverty, terrorism, disease, and other threats. You don’t have to start an organization or a movement to make sure that your community has access to the resources they need to survive. You can take action today by being a part of an already existing organization: you can get involved in your local government, you can join a local youth group, you can volunteer at your church or mosque.

Building formidable institutions is not just about organizing. It’s also about having a deep understanding of how our society works and using that knowledge to create positive change. It is about building better people, better initiatives, and better resources. So start where you are today! Because together we can build formidable institutions. Together we can build a better Society.

In addition, I admonish you to start with the foundation of what you know. If there is one thing that has been proven to be the most effective way to build strong institutions, it is this: When you have a solid foundation of what you know, then everything else falls into place. So trust your gut and intuition when you need it. There’s still more work to do to leave enduring legacies on the sands of time. We can’t let our guard down now. In 2021, I can say — because of you, the Orion Class — our progress in these past four years (against one of the most unpredictable times in history) is one of the greatest admirable achievements our class has ever seen.

Finally, the institutions we build today will be the biggest legacies on record. We will see more institutional change in the next 10 years — than we saw in the last four years. This is personal to so many of us. I can think of no more worthy investment. Ideas are welcomed. But, the rest of the world is waiting for us. Doing nothing is not an option. Don’t let fear or doubt stop you from doing something new, especially something that will make the world a better place. And remember, you are not alone in this.

In Service and Humility,

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Ifeoluwa Ariyo-Agbaje

Ifeoluwa is one of Africas’ and Nigerias’ iconic model to watch in leadership. He presently serves as the Head of Communications, BIMUN Nigeria.