|Prof. Grace Alele Williams|
There is a quote that says, ‘people with passion can change the world for the better.’ Well, I’ll also add that to impact positively, passion must be constructively driven. Passion is the energy we need to follow through with our dreams. I think if you don’t have passion for anything, you cannot amount to anything.
I know a woman of passion and I have admired her a great deal since my undergraduate days. An illustrious personality of many admirable qualities; an astute scholar, outstanding administrator and advocate of Girl Child Education; she is a woman worthy of emulation. Her name is Professor (Mrs) Grace Awani Alele Williams, the first Nigerian woman to have a doctorate degree, the first female Professor of Mathematics Education and the first female Vice-Chancellor in sub-Saharan African.
And she did excel in a position which, at that time, was dominated by men. As VC of Great University of Benin, she was a mother and mentor; her doors were thrown open to everyone including students.
My husband, who graduated from UNIBEN in 1991, was one of the students she took under her tutelage. He told me of how they could go to her home at any time to eat and how the university gave every student a bursary of five hundred naira monthly. Though, a no-nonsense person, she treated the students like her own children, listened to them and mentored them.
Her footprints on the sands of the Ivory Tower attest to her passion, prowess and selflessness. Her works still speak today, not only in UNIBEN, but in every institution she worked.
Why am I writing about her?
I attended an event where she was honoured recently in Warri, South-South Nigeria. You could tell from her unwritten speech, where her passion still lies. At almost 84 years, still beautiful and graceful, she stood for more than 10 minutes, not only lamenting the deteriorating state of the education sector, but also calling on government to implement recommendations made years ago, at different times, to salvage the system. What brought tears to my eyes was the passion with which she spoke.
|Commissioning of a Science Laboratory in honor of Prof. Alele Williams|
A passion still strong.
It was from deep inside; the anguish of a mother crying for the redemption of future generations; a mother who had worked so hard with others in her generation to build a virile nation. Oh, the pain of seeing small-minded bigots tear down the good works they have done.
How did it all go wrong? At what point did the rot start?
I observed that the quality of education at the time Mama Grace Alele Williams went to school was top-notch. All the elderly people who spoke at that event proved it. Well-thought out and well-structured speeches were well-delivered with poise, without scripts! They spoke without holding any paper written by ignorant speech writers.
Today, those we call leaders struggle to read speeches written for them. University graduates can’t speak a simple sentence correctly, not to talk of writing it. Many young people can’t define their purpose and vision. The passion they burn with tends to all sorts of perversion.
I think if we must move forward in developing ourselves and our nation, we need to learn from these great people who have gone ahead of us how to make Nigeria a nation our own children will flourish in.
There should be a passion that must remain strong in us no matter what stands in our way, no matter where we go and regardless of who we become. That was what Prof. Alele Williams radiated on that day and there is no reason why this can’t be your story and my story, only if we set our minds to it.
Mama Grace, I salute you ma.
|From Left: Grace Olumayowa Aideloje, Greatman D. Aideloje, Prof. Grace Awani Alele Williams, Mrs Lolo Aideloje at an event in honor of Prof. Alele Williams.|