Ike Neliaku: An Oyster’s Shell and Its Growing Pearls.

By Bolaji O. Akinyemi.

“I am a beneficiary of education without which I had no chance to be anybody in life”

Those were the ear tingling words that got heads raised and all eyes fixed on the Speaker.

The occasion was the graduation of Class of 2023 of The Hillside School in Gwarinpa Estate Abuja. I was privileged to accompany him to the event; Dr Ike Neliaku was a load of a choice, 2nd Speaker for the graduation after the Special Guest of Honour Professor Okey Ikechukwu, had given the audience more than enough food for thought to take home.

The management of The Hillsides school knew what they wanted when they chose to bring two of the most valuable products of our public service to Speak on same event, same day. Value, no doubt, they got for their decision.

I will concern myself with Neliaku’s paper.

Ike Neliaku is a pearl that grew in the shell of his older sibling, a brother who wouldn’t allow life’s shell emptiness deprive Ike what he was deprived of.

This philosophy is defining Nigeria today. Education is one of our biggest industry. Some of the most expensive High Schools in the world are found in Nigeria, thriving on the resolve of parents to give the best of education available to their offsprings, not necessarily because they can afford it, but because it is prioritized.

Though, many investors in the sector are taking advantage of parents, pupils and students alike. However the no competition attitude of Obidi I. Ume, Chairman of the Board of The Hillside School, and Dr Ike Neliaku whose wife owns Heritage Academy is a proof of genuine interest to service the space of education in Nigeria and this sets them apart!

“My mother died when I was three months. My father died when I was 12 years. If not that I had people who understood the value of education and insisted in pushing me to and through school, I would have ended up as a reggae artist. And during our own time, musicians were not making money!”

School wasn’t his consideration. Village music that will service local community social functions was all he dreamt to provide. But he had brothers who insisted that he must go to school.
Deprived of direct parents that would have given him the quality of education he needed, his siblings stood in. That made a significant difference between him and one of his siblings who didn’t have that opportunity!

Irony of an oyster’s shell eaten by life but who will serve their next generation!

“So sometimes when I look at what God has done for me, and I look at this other person who didn’t go to school because he needed to help some of us to succeed, I never look down on him. Please, don’t you ever look down on anybody,” Neliaku pleaded.

He charged his audience; “what God gives you is an opportunity. How you use the opportunity is up to you”.

Proceeding to his second reason for honouring the invitation to speak; “I love young people. I was picked up when I was a young person and given the opportunity to show leadership.
At age 20 plus, I was already an aide to a federal minister, and he took me like a son. By the time he finished, some other person came and retained me.
And that was how I served six ministers of information consecutively, one after the other because they saw that I had something that was not existing in other people”.

He admonished parents in his audience, “always give that opportunity to your children and other people around you because you will never know who will be the saviour someday”.

Being an educationist is no doubt a challenging venture demanding the required sacrifice of raising other people’s children.

To be successful at delivering value on the tripod of qualitative education which must inform the mind; knowledge, train the heart; character and equip the hand; skills, we must understand what it means to take people from nothing and bring them to somebody!

Proceeding with his theme; Strength In Diversity:

An inspiration from God according to him for a country, that is best in the world, practically in all areas of human endeavours, from his years of traveling to over 40 countries, he stated emphatically, there is no country like Nigeria on Earth!

Our diversity is supposed to be our strength. But unfortunately, those who needs to ply it for self profiting, are screwing the narrative to make us believe erroneously that it is our weakness!

The theme is a message not only to the young generation, but also to those of us who are parents, who are working at various offices.

Dr Neliaku tasked his audience with a mission of change to Nigerians. “Nigeria is the way it is today because our leaders have used our diversity to create pictures that don’t exist!”

Instead of using our diversities to bring us together to build the country we have into a nation, he said.

I personally resolved to take advantage of everything our country has to offer; people, tribes, culture, religion as well as resources towards nation building!

In Neliaku’s view, “there is nothing wrong here in this world. We have long people; I deliberately said long, short people, decimal people. But at the end of the day, all of us are what? Human beings! in different shapes and sizes”.

Nigeria is blessed with beautiful topography spaced out in different locations, creating an ambience of wonderful environmental bewilderment!

Fear and petty jealousy has limited our potentials. We don’t want to give opportunity to somebody else because we think that when he takes the advantage, he may deprive us of that leaving us with Lilliputians for leaders!

Diminutives who cannot recognise where each person has strength and deploy it, are parading themselves as leaders!

Leadership must begin to take advantage of people’s strength for the best of society. This is a missing link in our nation. It shouldn’t be about individuals, rather the contents of their personalities!

Ike Neliaku is no doubt a pearl of human content, a thorough administrator, a servant leader whose humble approach to leadership is an inspiring soul tonic that intoxicates the most unwilling to get up and get along with him. My attestation is informed by the working experience I shared with this rare Nigerian on a template development project for the newly emerging Nigeria. Presently a member in council of the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations, NIPR and presidential candidate in its coming election.

We must give voice to content to promote Meritocracy in our Democracy!

Leadership requires courage, translating dreams into reality is never easy.
Otherwise, we wouldn’t be here left to the beautiful dreams of our First Republic Nigerian leaders!

Why was it difficult for them to translate their vision into reality? And because of that, Nigeria is the way it is today.

Taking the concept of social re-engineering very seriously, with the school as a case study, The Hillside School has graduated about 215 students from their secondary school, about 51% of whom are boys and 49% girls. What then is the possible effect and impact this number could make in our society in time to come?
215 students today will translate to about 215 families in the next couple of years. Because they will be married and they will have children. That number on the average as a family with four children, and parents, will be six in a unit.
Six multiplied by 215 will give you 1290. Implication is that The Hillside School have single-handedly raised 1,290 mavericks that can become potential transformers to provide solutions that Nigeria is looking for in different facets of human life!

There are two major things that are shaping our world today which must be given consideration. This Neliaku charged students, parents and everyone in the audience to take note of.

The world in 4, 5, 6 decades have witnessed a generation of exceptional children; extraordinary beings that do things in special ways. Now, in the days of a gentleman that we call Burigela, in his own days, in his 70s now, Burigela was a mind maestro.
He could use his mind to levitate on things and they would start moving. He was a special child. And he has lived with that. Now, today, there are many Burigelas that are coming into the earth and it is a gift of God.
If we don’t understand that this is a phenomenon of God, the tendency is that when such children begin to manifest, we think that they are gods. But it is not. So, we must take care because I have come across some of them and they have been nurtured into superstars across the world.
It is a phenomenon and I want us to take note of that. So that our oyster shell can nurture these pearls that divinity is dropping on us!

Dr. Bolaji O Akinyemi is an Apostle and Nation Builder, Convener Apostolic Round Table, ART. Also the BOT Chairman Project Victory Call Initiative, AKA, PVC-Naija.