Opportunity and Dreams: The Key to all Successes

Senator Ben Murray-Bruce’s keynote address at the 13 Founder’s Day held on November 24, 2018

Dear young Nigerians,                                      

I want to assure you that in spite of the world-class education that you have received in this ivory tower, your best days are ahead of you.

I want you to understand that because of the knowledge you have gained here and the other schools that got you to this point, the rest of your lives will be the best of your lives.                                                               

This is not just a feel-good rhetoric; this is [also] a fact and I will spend a few minutes to walk you through, as we plan your route to success.

When I launched Silverbird 38 years ago, I did not even have an office. I had to convince my dad to give me a corner space at his Domino supermarket and then I talked him into giving me ₦20,000 as a startup.

But my greatest asset was my dream of succeeding at whatever I put my hands to.

Let us take a look at the word ‘dream’.            

I think the proper word for the dreams you have when you sleep should be visions.

They are not really dreams. Your real dreams are the conscious imaginations you have when you are awake.

This type of dream helps you to bring the future into the present so [that] you can mentally plan in three dimensions.

Dreams are always focused on the future, and your background should not necessarily determine your dreams. Your history should not limit your potentials.                                        

Because you may have been an orphan selling firewood on the streets, just like His Excellency Atiku Abubakar did, should not make your dreams smaller than the dreams of the heir to the British throne.

The future is brighter with dreams. Dreams are like floodlights. The future is unknown and dark. Many things are hidden in the future. Dreams are the lights that shine into the future so that those things hidden can become clear.

Don’t allow people who are focused on the past to tell you that your dreams cannot be achieved. Don’t allow the so-called experts define your prospects or kill your dreams.

The world learned a lesson from the 2016 US Presidential election. Every political analyst predicted that Hillary Clinton would win. No one gave Donald Trump a chance, but the future belongs to dreamers, not experts, and that is why Trump’s dreams triumphed over the projections made by the experts.

Learn from that, my dear young people.
Do not to be tied to your history; go instead with your potential.                                 

Listen to this. You could call it semantics:

‘O’ stands for opportunity. The word yesterday has no ‘O’ because there is no opportunity in yesterday. The word today has one ‘O’ because there is one opportunity in today.

But tomorrow had three Os. Why? Because tomorrow is full of opportunities.

The word now has one O, but the word soon has two O’s. Why? Because the future is full of opportunities.

Take hold of tomorrow. Take hold of the opportunity. Forget about silly proverbs that say “opportunity knocks….” If opportunity does not knock, then perhaps you do not have a door.

There were no world-class universities in Yola. There were no private universities in Adamawa. No one ever thought that a university such as the American University of Nigeria, Yola, would be established here. If you had asked most people, they would have thought that an institution like this would be built in Lagos or Ibadan or somewhere in the Southwest.

But that was yesterday’s thinking and there is no opportunity in yesterday. Atiku Abubakar was focused on today and tomorrow and that future focus has resulted in this magnificent place of learning.

I had a similar experience as the Director-General of the Nigerian Television Authority.

When I was appointed in 1999 by President Olusegun Obasanjo, NTA was on air for only 18 hours daily. When I told them that we would begin 24-hour broadcasting they said it was not possible with the equipment they had.

However, two weeks after my appointment, with the same staff and equipment, NTA started 24-hour broadcasting.

What changed? The staff remained the same. So was the equipment and so was the physical address. The only thing that changed was the dream.

You see, dreams do not just bring you up to date. They bring you up to tomorrow.

How many of you have heard of Sir Roger Bannister? If you do, kindly raise your hand.

I want you all to picture what dreams are with the story of Sir Roger Bannister.

Before 1954, the experts and sports pundits said it was physically impossible for a man to run a mile in under four minutes. The whole world believed the experts, and so no one even attempted to prove them wrong.

But one man had a dream and his dream was more real to him than the opinions of the experts. So he chose to believe in his dreams rather than the opinion of others. He believed he could run a mile in under four minutes.

He told some of his friends and they laughed at him. So he stopped telling people about his dreams. Instead, he started training secretly sometimes under the cover of darkness.

After training for years, he waited for the opportunity and that opportunity came on the 6th of May, 1954, during an athletic competition between his university, Oxford University, and the British Athletic Association.

So after over a year of diligent preparation, Roger Bannister ran a mile in under four minutes and forever proved the experts wrong.

But that is not the moral of this true story. The amazing thing about Sir Roger Bannister’s epic story is that despite no one ever ran a mile in under four minutes until  May 6, 1954, from then till today over 1,000 people have run a mile in less than four minutes.
And this is because Sir Roger Bannister used the power of dreams and opportunities to conquer the past and usher in a whole new world of possibilities.

Listen to me very carefully. If Bannister could do it, if Waziri Atiku Abubakar could do it, if [Ben Murray-Bruce] could do it, then you Mohammed, you Tunde, you Ngozi, and you Musa can do it.

I was inspired by Sir Roger Bannister to produce the first Black African Miss World. Like Bannister, many people told me it was an impossible dream because it had never happened before. But I knew the power of dreams. I knew the power of opportunity.

And that is how I felt when I succeeded in producing the first Black African Miss World in 2001 with Agbani Darego. I felt invincible. And it was not just me. That victory was symbolic. It made 70 million Nigerian women feel that they are beautiful and powerful. And it all began with a dream which met opportunity.

Listen to me, be prepared for your opportunity, start dreaming today.

Today and tomorrow are full of opportunities, and dreams are the only means by which you can get those opportunities.

Ladies and gentlemen, young men and women, thank you for your time and please go from here to fulfill the amazing destinies that your stay here at the American University of Nigeria, here in Yola has prepared you for.