The GCU Experience
At the Government College Ughelli Old Boys Association, Sapele Branch, luncheon.
Government College, Ughelli, like some others was established to raise future leaders just like Eton College in the UK.
The topic was on “Habits, Routines, Attitudes, Personality and Character . . . The GCU experience”.
Attitudes are repeated actions that become unconsciously done after a while. With repetition and regularity, the parts of the brain that rationalize decisions don’t necessarily need to think before carrying out the actions. The actions originate from a primitive part of the brain called the basal ganglia.
Routines are a series of habitual actions routed towards an objective on a regular basis. Habit is like the repeated movement of pedaling a bicycle, while routine is the route and the motion of the bicycle and all other actions along the route to a destination. Attitude is your reaction to events and people—your view of life and your disposition. Attitudes are taught, imbibed, and cultivated. They can also be from admiration, influence, and experience.
Character is a set of attributes you become identified with over time. It is a combination of all the above and more.
Who we are, as mariners, is a combination of several habits, routines, attitudes, and character that formed us.
The first thing that shapes us at Government College, Ughelli, is the rigorous interview process for 3 days. I was interviewed by 7 p.m. by a panel at the age of 13 years. By the time you are admitted into GCU, you have already started to feel that you are better than all those from your elementary school who did not pass. We were only two from my elementary school that were able to go through. I was the only one from the area where we lived. In fact, after you’ve been interviewed and gone through, other students revere you.
The next experience is that you are disrobed of your usual clothes and you are issued black shorts and your house-colour vest.
You virtually lose your first name only your surnames are called. If you are from the same family, you are given numbers 1 to, maybe, 4 just like the Agodo family. The eldest one was called Agodo I and the youngest was Agodo IV.
This introduces you to respect for seniority and elders even if you are siblings. You can’t mess up near your elder brother. So, it cultivated an attitude of respect towards our seniors.
All the activities are timed, and you must move on to the next activity when the time comes. Lateness is heavily sanctioned including missing your meals after the second bell. You must have an activity you do every morning even if your father was the principal or head of service or a millionaire. You either start buy washing toilets or gathering refuse behind a senior who rakes the garden.
It virtually humbles you and teaches you the dignity of labour.
We painted our hostel ourselves. We planted flowers too and there was a trophy for the neatest house in the hostels.
Leadership and excellence in service doesn’t come new to us.
All these routines built an attitude in us, you don’t intimidate a true mariner. He is ever very confident.
The rigorous and regimented tough routines also toughen you such that you don’t crack under pressure.
The initiation ceremony called ‘briming’; it removes any element of your rustic and outlandish ideas and you become a true government collegian. I remember drinking the salty water and my ‘tail’ was ‘cut off’ as a ‘dirty stinking fag with a long green tail’.
You dare not cross lawns or drag your feet while walking.
Another great tradition, then, was that who served the meal was the last person to take his own. You passed the aluminum plates and bowls out according to seniority. This has cultivated an attitude in me that causes me not to rush or push for things.
Because there was no class distinction, nobody was interested in your background; we all got into GCU on meritorious academic performance, so a deep brotherhood has been formed just like the American Marines.
One for all and all for one.
God bless all mariners, God bless GCU and may the ship keep sailing.
I will be in Abuja, next Saturday to give a speech at Government College Ughelli Old Boys Association Annual Dinner Party.