In appreciation of his immeasurable contributions and multi-billion-naira investments in education, the national leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, has described the founder and chancellor of Afe Babalola University, Ado-Ekiti (ABUAD), as a rare builder.
Tinubu, who spoke on behalf of three other eminent Nigerians, the Sultan of Sokoto, His Eminence, Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar III, the Obi of Onitsha, His Royal Majesty, Igwe Alfred Nnaemeka Achebe (Agbogidi) and Prof. Anthony Adegbulugbe, a serial entrepreneur and energy expert, who were conferred with honorary degrees of ABUAD at its seventh convocation over the weekend, eulogized Babalola saying, “We are proud to be associated with you.”
Tinubu, who was accompanied to the event by Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, Governor of Lagos State, Mr. Dapo Abiodun (Ogun), Mr. Adegboyega Oyetola (Osun), Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola (Minister of Interior), Chief Bisi Akande (APC chieftain) and Mr. Demola Seriki (former Defence Minister), said: “Truly, investing in education at 90, in the twilight of a man’s life like Afe Babalola, is something you cannot find in the books but in the heart. Babalola is an embodiment of strong commitment, great determination, honourable character, a talent-seeker and producer”
He added: “We know that the lack of economic facilities in many of our public institutions is affecting our nation. We will promise you that there will be a rehabilitation of facilities in the areas of roads and more infrastructures will be provided in other sectors. We will not give you Nigerians excuses because we are practical and pragmatic economists”
The APC chieftain, who was obviously elated with the honour bestowed on him, said it was a privilege and honour for him to be considered among the group that was recognized, stressing that he deeply treasured the award of the honorary degree of the 21st Century university.
Waxing philosophical, Tinubu stressed that education was the light of a nation, while ignorance constituted its darkness; and it is only with the light that Nigeria will see and appreciate where it is and discover the path it must tread to realise its greatness as a nation.
According to him, ABUAD, in its first decade, has become the vital piston in the machinery of national progress, pointing out that young Nigerians require and deserve quality and functional education that will unlock their potential.
The APC national leader said that ABUAD has demonstrated that it is committed and dedicated to providing stellar education in which it has distinguished itself since it opened its doors for the commencement of academic activities on Monday, January 4, 2010, as a result of which it has graduated seven sets of graduates since its maiden convocation on October 21, 2013.
In his words: “If we don’t board the train of progress, it will pass us by. This means that we must acquire and use scientific and technological skills of the 21st Century to advance our common purpose. In this manner, we will help in breaking the fetters of underdevelopment and expand the boundaries of economic, intellectual and moral growth.”
Earlier, Aare Afe Babalola, SAN, thanked all stakeholders who in the last 10 years have assisted the university to grow in leaps and bounds to the extent that it has received accolades from national and international educational stakeholders like the NUC, which acknowledged it as “a model, benchmark and reference point” as well as “the pride of education system in Nigeria.” On its part, the Association of Vice Chancellors of Nigerian Universities acknowledged it as “the most successful private university in Nigeria,” while UNESCO endorsed it as “a world class institution of higher education.”
His words: “Today, we can boldly say that we have overshot our expectations in the first 10 years. I thank God Almighty, the regulatory bodies like the NUC, MDCN, Council for Legal Education, the Nursing Council, the MLS Council, our parents, the loyal and committed staff and, above all, our students for assisting me in realising my vision and dream. I thank you all.”
He added: “On our part, we will continue to act on such words of advice in our focused determination and unalloyed aim to make our university the best, not only in Africa, but certainly one of the best in the world.
“I equally pay special tribute to my pioneer staff and our first of students who joined me in navigating the then thick forest to become the most beautiful university in Nigeria today. I am happy to announce to you all that many of our first set of graduates are making waves round the world and have remained leaders in reformation, in character, in dressing, all of which have become the culture of the university today.”
Having successfully fought its way to the top among the prestigious universities in the country and having completed its first 10-year plan, Babalola revealed the university’s next 10-year plan is to build on its achievements and navigate itself to the club of the first 100 universities in the world.
To actualise this dream, he expressed his preparedness to join hands with others stakeholders to ensure that Ekiti State, which is a landlocked state, has a viable and all-time functional airport, good motorable roads, independent power project and a good dam as well as other water storage facilities.
In addition, he emphasized the need to put up relevant and very useful structures for the College of Pharmacy, Dentistry, Opthalmology, mental home, drug manufacturing company, cancer centre, dialysis centre, completion of ICT building, which is under construction, expansion of its programmes to make them more functional and international, increase the university’s undergraduate and graduate admission to African countries and overseas, employment of international students and international lawyers, embark on staff and student exchange programmes and award scholarships to students, including students from other countries.
He encouraged Nigerians to emulate the practice in other parts of the world where the leading universities derive their income from school fees, alumni contributions and donations, endowment and gifts. He, therefore, appealed to ABUAD benefactors, admirers, parents and those honoured with its degrees to contribute generously to the university. This, according to him, could be by way of endowing professorial chairs, putting up buildings, which will be named after the donor, giving scholarships and prizes to outstanding students or poor students.
He thanked parents and guardians for looking in the direction of ABUAD as the university where they wanted their children to be trained, mentored and guided into stars ready to conquer the world like the testimonies of appreciation the university has been receiving from many of its former students, stressing that: “you will now appreciate that you have gained a lot by sending your children here, a university devoid of strike actions and renowned for its predictable academic calendar. We have not failed you. Their colleagues in other universities are many years behind them. This university will continue to lead this country in qualitative and functional education.”
Babalola advised the graduates to always be good ambassadors of the university, adding nothing must be done to bring down the quality of education and the name the university has toiled to build over the years.
His words: “Always remember too that hard work does not kill. It is slothfulness that destroys. Always remember your University Anthem which emphasizes the place of determination, discipline and integrity. This must be your watchword as you go into the world. I wish you well”
•Olofintila writes from Ado-Ekiti