Do you remember your alma mater? I remember mine with nostalgia always. Government College Umuahia, Abia State, Nigeria. That was where I was molded in character and learning for secondary school studies more than three decades ago.

I was in Cozens House all through my five years at Government College. Our house motto was: “I Can and I Will.” Short statement that tells a good story, yet profound in meaning. But at 11, 12 years and early teens, we hardly understood the depth of its meaning.

Every new student was made to memorise and say our house motto. The house prefects ensured that. They could accost you anywhere and ask you to state the house motto. You must obey or risk being punished. And woe betides you, if you failed that simple test. Getting it right showed you what we called in those days as the house spirit. “I Can and I Will.”

I remember vividly we were never asked the meaning of our house motto. But I cannot remember if our prefects ever explained it to us, or told us any story to justify it. Even if they did, our minds were too young to comprehend the meaning of, “I Can and I Will.”

We resented the school discipline then. All we were interested in then was to make good grades in our West African School Certificate and University of London, (GCE) examinations; gain admission into a university, graduate, become a professional, work and begin to amass wealth. Tall dreams. Most of them are still unfulfilled till today.

The professional rave of the moment then was to study Medicine, Engineering or Law. Those were what I call, the core competence courses then, in higher institutions of learning in Nigeria, and every parent heckled his sons/daughters to become a medical doctor or an engineer. It was a source of pride. That meant you must be good in Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry and Biology. If you were not numerate, you settled for Law, still very honourable. “I Can and I Will.”

Parents then restricted the choice of their children’s’ profession to these three courses irrespective of their talents and personal endowments. We sweated with the required science subjects, passed them, and sat for individual university entrance examinations. But some of us just could not gain admission to study medicine. It was too competitive. If you had A’s and a Grade 1, there were many candidates with super A’s and Distinctions. That was when it dawned on some of us that, though we were willing to study Medicine; we could not enroll.

What happened thereafter? Many of us fell by the wayside as Medicine and Engineering eluded us. We settled for biological sciences such as Biochemistry and Microbiology, graduated and plunged into the corporate world to “make it.” Life pushed us around, and some of us ended up in vocations and professions we never studied in school, but we had aptitude and passion for them. “I Can and I Will.”

Yours truly ended up as a business writer, editor and storyteller. Plenty of words written and spoken for more than 25 years now, but no money to show for it. Am I fulfilled? Well, to some extent, yes. But I still have to make plenty of money to justify that, “I Can and I Will.” What I discovered that I needed to do over these years, as life pushed me around was to make sure that, “I Can and I Will,” in all I set my heart and hands to do. And my strategy has been simple: Gravitate to my areas of core competence in terms of personal endowment, talent, inner strength and skills which are, writing, editing, speaking, storytelling, and media consulting.. These are jobs I can sincerely tell you I can do with ease and passion. Years ago, when I was an adolescent seeking university education, I was willing, but I could not do what I desired to do. Today, I can truly say of myself that, “I Can and I Will.” What happened? A lot of water has gone under the bridge. And life has taught me that if you concentrate on your personal core competencies, on what you have passion for, you will be fulfilled, tell a good story about yourself, your abilities, and you can safely say, and prove that, “I Can and I Will.”

Eric Okeke is a storyteller, editor, business writer, motivational speaker and author of the best selling book: I Want a Husband. He is one of Nigeria’s most experienced financial journalists. He has published several articles in local and foreign publications and in websites such as, and He is currently running Infomedia Company, a media consulting and information marketing company. Visit his blog at

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