By Femi Adeoti
Dateline: October 1, 2008, Ijan-Ekiti Road, Ado-Ekiti. That day the eagle landed in Ekiti State. It was the historic turning of the sod of the Afe Babalola University, Ado-Ekiti (ABUAD). Its founder and Chancellor, Aare Afe Babalola (SAN), did the deal.
But a farmer nearby, Gbemiga Olaniyi, was oblivious of this. All the same, he was curious. He saw the activities in the thick forest opposite his farm as “unusual.” Yet, he bothered not to find out. He continued working as if nothing important was going on.
The following year, 2009, ABUAD became a pleasant reality. It took off full blast. Still, the farmer did not pay attention. He was too involved to be “distracted.”
However, 11 years after, the farmer is singing a new song. Olaniyi now a community leader told Daily Sun: “We were curious then. We wondered who had the audacity to tamper with the thick forest opposite us. Our fears instantly disappeared when we realised what Papa Aafe has brought to us unsolicited.”
ABUAD has not stopped soaring like eagle; conquering new territories and making uncommon exploits. The private university has grown in leaps knowing no bounds.
That thick forest of 2008 is now a serene academic community. Courtesy: Babalola. Sitting in the centre of the hitherto dreaded forest is the magnificent citadel of knowledge, ABUAD.
The university remains outstanding and foremost anywhere in the world. The proofs and evidences are as numerous and as legion. Samplers are overwhelming.
So, dateline Monday, June 21, 2021, ABUAD was at it again. As usual for good reasons; doing what it knows how to do best. It forged ahead in its “escapades” and feats unhindered. There’s no stopping it. That would be suicidal.
In one fell swoop, it commissioned its own Independent Power Project (IPP), the first in any private university in Nigeria and launched a multi-billion-naira industrial park. The IPP would initially generate 2.5 megawatts. The target is five megawatts.
The foundation laying ceremony of nine factories took place on the same day. They included, Herbal Drug Production, Intravenous Fluid Manufacturing, Rice Processing, Yam (Poundo), Cassava Pepper Drying and Processing, Bottle Recycling, FESTO Facts Centre and MDF/HDF Wood Processing.
The Vice Chancellor, Prof Smaranda Olarinde could not hide her joy: “Today, we become the first university to launch an industrial park with its IPP in Nigeria. This is an accomplishment like no other as it offers not only the prospect of uninterrupted electricity supply for research, learning and scientific advancement here in ABUAD, but will at the same time deliver unprecedented economic opportunities for the community.
“The Industrial Research Park, first of its kind in Africa, is designed to translate into viable products the research efforts of the university through the establishment of various industries in a dedicated park with provision for all necessary infrastructural facilities such as energy.”
Important dignitaries then took turns to lay the foundations of the factories. The Pro-Chancellor, Prof Tunde Adeniran, did the flag-off with the Cassava Factory. Governor Kayode Fayemi who had earlier commissioned the IPP, followed suit with the Bottle Recycling Factory.
Prof Abba Waziri of the Medical and Dental Association of Nigeria laid the foundation of the Intravenous Fluid Manufacturing Factory. Alaaye of Efon-Alaye, Oba Emmanuel Aladejare, did that of the Pepper Drying and Processing Factory. Ajero of Ijero-Ekiti, Oba Adewole, performing that of Poundo Yam Factory remarked: “We can have pounded yam all year round in Ekiti.”
At the turning of sod of each factory, Afe was receiving heartfelt prayers and bountiful blessings. He walked the well over one-kilometre industrial park to witness the epoch-making ceremony. All through, he was full of smiles. He displayed rare humility as he responded to comments, remarks, observations and encomiums even at age 93 years.
Of course, his wife, Yeye Aare Modupe, was aptly on hand. She closely stood by him, providing the necessary support.
Babalola practically took the centre stage. It was expected. He walked his talks in his speech. He literally vowed, ABUAD would never stop excelling. He told his delighted audience in Alfa Belgore Hall:
“Our vision has always been to produce a new generation of skilled graduates and ‘techno-preneurs’ with functional technological, entrepreneurial skills, and exemplary character needed to solve several of the key challenges facing our country today.”
He proudly showcased ABUAD’s milestones in the last 11 years: “When you drive around our campus, you will see why ABUAD is now lauded as the university with the largest modern infrastructural investment in Africa.”
You cannot fault him: “The infrastructural investment includes, but not limited to the world-class healthcare infrastructure and facilities at the ABUAD Multi-Systems Hospital, the expansive ABUAD Farm, ABUAD Planetarium and Space Centre and the ABUAD Talent Discovery Centre, all of which have become important tourist destinations. Indeed, ABUAD is redefining the essence of transformational education in Nigeria and beyond.” Agreed!
The day’s event was undoubtedly monumental. It underscored ABUAD as an innovative, self-sustaining and forward-thinking institution. The Chancellor continued his testimony:
“The IPP and the nine industries are designed to enhance learning at ABUAD. The projects will also solve some of the most complex challenges facing this country. Earlier this month, Nigeria was ranked by the World Bank as the country with the largest electricity deficit in the world and one of the energy poorest countries on earth.”
This is disgusting and unacceptable to him. And he promptly displayed it: “Estimates indeed show that based on current demands in Nigeria, the country must generate at least 40,000 Megawatts (MW) to meet power demands and to address power deficiency. Yet, we remain very far from meeting this target.”
Perhaps, the reason ABUAD’s IPP was birthed. Hear him further: “We are setting a record as the first university in Nigeria to have a dedicated IPP for its research cum industrial park. The primary purpose of the IPP is to power the research park. Today, we have taken decisive steps to ensure that ABUAD has uninterrupted electricity supply.”
Not only that: “The IPP will also provide a much-needed boost for the rapid development of the university’s expansive 121-unit of industries in the Industrial Research Park.”
This Aafe is restless and restive. He has striking and remarkable audacity: “The ABUAD Industrial Research Park provides the much-needed research hub that will facilitate enterprise development, industry partnership and socio-economic opportunities for Ekiti State and Nigeria as a whole. The factories will be essential components of the ABUAD Research Park.
“The park is the most promising, realistic economic development enterprise embarked upon by any organisation since Ekiti State was created in 1996. The estimated capital cost of the first phase is N50billion.
“The raw materials are available locally. The annual revenue is between N7billion and N10billion. Above all, it will provide employment for over 1000 people.” This is simply unbeatable!
Aare is forever grateful to the Board of Trustees, Governing Council, Senate, the management, all members of staff of ABUAD and students, past and present: “ABUAD is undoubtedly the leader in reformation, quality and functional education today because of your belief in my vision.”
His focus naturally shifted to Miss Mary Adeola Adeyemi, a First Class Law graduate of ABUAD. She has been offered a direct admission for a Ph.D. Programme at the Oxford University, United Kingdom, without going through the LL.M Programme. Another exceptional feat from the stable of ABUAD
It was not lost on Aare to celebrate her: “This is an uncommon and remarkable achievement, attesting to our global reputation and the high quality of training that our students receive here. Individually and in international competitions, our students never stop excelling.”
For her exploits, ABUAD gave Adeyemo full scholarship to pursue the programme. This covers the annual course fees and living cost of 41,450 Pounds Sterling (N89.2million) for three years. She was present with her mother to receive the gesture.
In the course of her study at ABUAD, Adeyemo got 21 awards. She appreciated the founder, the school, lecturers, staff, colleagues and students of the university:
“I am almost lost of words. Certainly, what God cannot do does not exist.”
Fayemi praised her for excellent performance: “She passed through the university and the university also passed through her. We will like to support her. She has done us proud. She does not matter whether you are from Ekiti.”
Adeyemo hails from Fiditi, Oyo State. She lives in Ikorodu, Lagos State, with her parents.
The governor was grateful to Aafe for bringing the university to Ekiti State: “You could as well establish it in Ibadan, Oyo State, where you reside, or Abuja for easy access.
“Baba is an uncommon gift to Ekiti, Nigeria and Africa. No appreciation will be enough for him. He is one of the highest taxpayers. One is amazed at the audacity of his inspiration.
“The amount of the projects is likely to dampen any spirit. It is not the cost but what the projects mean to him. ABUAD is a state within a state.
“He challenged those of us in leadership. He inspired me in our own IPP. He is never burgled down by bureaucracy. He always demonstrates possibility. He ensures sustainability. We want him to live for ever.”
The Osemawe of Ondo, Oba Victor Kiladejo, Jilo 111, was the chairman at the occasion. He also testified: “The Aare is a good finisher. Whatever he starts, he finishes it so well. Please, keep on doing well.”
The Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar, sent a goodwill message. He commended Babalola’s vision, urging him to sustain the tempo of his uncommon excellence demonstrated at various levels and over the years.
The Pro-Chancellor, Prof Adeniran who donated his personal library to the university said: “I am immensely pleased that ABUAD has made the choice of honouring my little gesture in support of a laudable vision and in appreciation of a great humanist, philanthropist, educationist and benefactor. It is on my value orientation that I have chosen to make a donation of my entire personal library to ABUAD.
“With his inspiring mantra of ‘Making Impossibilities Possible’, we see in Aare the manifestation of the audacity of hope, that the efforts of a single individual making the right choices could add and multiply the required value to systems and enterprises and transform society.”
Aafe Babalola was presented with “NACCIMA at 60 and Nigeria at 60 Excellence Award in the Practice of Law and Outstanding Contributions to Education in Nigeria.”
Hajia Saratu Illiya Aliyu explained away the award this way: “Aare Afel Babalola is an exemplary employer of labour, who has never relented in creating more job opportunities for the youth.”