A NEW ERA OF QUALITY EDUCATION
AN ADDRESS BY AARE AFE BABALOLA, OFR, CON, SAN, LL.D, D.Litt AT THE 1ST CONVOCATION CEREMONY OF AFE BABALOLA UNIVERSITY, ADO-EKITI ON THE 21ST OF OCTOBER, 2013
It is with sense of singular honour and consummate humility that I welcome everyone here present to participate in this historic event.
I recall that I have been asked several times, mostly by journalists what the happiest day in my life was. The happiest day of my life that readily came to my mind was the 21st day of October, 1959 when I received a letter from the University of London informing me that I was one of the successful external candidates in the Commonwealth in the B.Sc Economics (Honours) degree examination of that year.
However, in the last five years, many concerned people had asked me why at over 80 years of age, I got myself involved in the establishment of a not-for-profit university. My answer is that the poverty induced challenges of my early life from peasant farming to what I have achieved through quality elementary education imprinted on my consciousness the conviction that education is the most potent weapon to fight poverty, ignorance, disease and improve standard of living. Having seen the rot in our public universities during my tenure as Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of Council at the University of Lagos, I came to the conclusion that the best legacy I can bequeath to the present generation and those coming after it is to reform education by establishing a model university which will provide practicable and feasible solutions to the multifarious problems militating against the growth of education in Nigeria.
I can now beat my chest and testify, openly and formally, with thanks to God, the Creator of our planet, that in 4 years, my staff and I have succeeded largely in translating my vision into reality with the cooperation of the parents, students, the government and its regulatory authorities. We have turned a jungle into the most beautiful university campus in Nigeria adorned with aesthetic and magnificent structures which are equipped with most modern teaching facilities that are not available in the many universities. We have, through carefully selected teachers, succeeded in raising a new generation of university graduates who believe in the core values of this university to wit; determination, industry, discipline, character, service, integrity, vocational and functionaleducation and quality leadership.
Today, the 21st of October, 2013, (fifty-four years after obtaining my first degree stated above), we are here seated to witness the first convocation ceremony of our pioneer students who completed a four year course in three and half years of intensive academic work. However, it is an open question whether or not this unprecedented achievement of this pace-setter university, culminating in the convocation ceremony of today in 3 ½ years has made this day the happiest day of my life. But certainly this is a very happy day for me.
There is an Hausa aphorism “gaaniyafiji” meaning “seeing is believing”. I invite you to spare time to go round our university as well as our modern Enterprise Village cum Tourist Centre. I also invite you to read the comments, acknowledgements and awards enumerated on pages……………..of this booklet.
I congratulate very heartily all the parents, guardians and friends of the graduating students on this milestone achievement. I thank you for the confidence you have in me and our staff by sending your children to be pioneer students of this university in 2010. I appreciate and cherish the faith you have in me: Afterall the establishment of the university is an act of faith.
I also seize this opportunity to appeal to all Nigerians particularly, parents that God does not give you a child to donate to the government for training or to donate to a university for training without your input. In our bid to reform education in Nigeria, we need the maximum cooperation of parents and their sacrifices to ensure that we make a total man of each of these children.
I congratulate the Board of Trustees, the Governing Council, Senate and the Vice Chancellor, members of the university community, staff and students for your commitment to the vision, goals and objectives of the Founder to reform education. Maintaining the status quo or standing still is not good enough for anybody. Our goal is to make our university the best and finest in the world.Together we shall restore the dignity of the teaching profession. ABUAD is the leader and pace-setter in that regard.We have lit the fire of innovation, enterprise, qualitative as well as functional education. I seize this opportunity to appeal to others in the system to join us in our crusade to reform our education system.
Afe Babalola University was a dream 4 years ago. Now it is a reality.A new era of quality education has begun. We must build the future together so that when our grand children look back, they will see what we did in our time. They will say we did our best and will be proud to carry on from where we stopped.
SPECIAL TRIBUTE TO EWI OF ADO-EKITI AND HIS WIFE
At this juncture, I want to pay a special tribute to the Ewi of Ado-Ekiti, His Royal Majesty, Oba Rufus Adeyemo Adejugbe, Aladesanmi III and his amiable Olori, the Eyesorun for their uncommon and unflinching support in this journey.
I salute our numerous admirers and well wishers all over the country, especially the entire staff of NUC and its tireless working helmsman, the distinguished Prof. Julius Okojie, the Director of the Council of Legal Education, the erudite Dr. Tahir Mammam for their steadfast support and unalloyed belief in us at our modest attempt at reforming education in Nigeria.
I also want to specially congratulate the awardees of today for being the first beneficiaries of our honourary degrees, which were awarded to them on the basis of their sterling contributions to humanity and their special interest in our university.
I pay special tribute to Chief Olusegun Obasanjo who appointed me as Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of Council of the University of Lagos during which time I was able to see barefacedly the rot and decay in our educational system which fired my desire to set up this university.
Indeed, Chief Obasanjo can be described as a catalyst, for it was he who ignited the fire in me to set up ABUAD.
I cannot but mention our highly esteemed Guest Lecturer, Her Excellency, Dr. LallaAicha Ben Barka, despite her very tight and engaging schedule did not hesitate to honour us with her esteemed presence and delivery of the maiden convocation lecture. Your Excellency, we cannot thank you enough, but I know for sure that the good Lord and posterity with thank you and reward you abundantly.
To the graduating students, I say hearty congratulations, I want to express once more, my deep love and appreciation for your hard-work and your endurance as pioneer students, who in 3 ½ years performed the seemingly impossible, by doing a 4 year course in 3 ½ years. Your colleagues in some other universities are still battling with their second year programme. I am extremely happy that your hard-work and endurance have translated into quality degrees.
You must feel very happy and proud of this unprecedented achievement. As you go out from this place today, you must hold on to the core values of this institution. Always remember and sing ABUAD anthem to yourself and others and emphasize that what the Founder is today was made possible through determination, industry, hard-work, integrity and faith.
Today, you are by destiny the pace-setters in qualitative and functional education in Nigeria and the first set of Alumni of this great university. The role of the Alumni is crucial in shaping the destiny of any university. You are ambassadors of ABUAD. You are crusaders and agents of reformation. You must preach this gospel of qualitative and functional education which ABUAD stands for.
I am proud to remember that I was born into a generation that had the courage to dream and the will to fight and struggle to make dreams come true. Growing up with my parents, I knew what hardship and poverty was. It was their struggle and sacrifice that made me succeed in life and which in turn, has given birth to ABUAD. As I use this opportunity to thank my parents for their love and sacrifice, I also urge you to pull yourselves together and give back to ABUAD which has done everything to give you qualitative education.
As you go into the world, you will be confronted with challenges. You are advised to stand up for those things you have been taught here. Always remember to say that if the Founder can make it, then you can make it better having regard to better opportunities than I had. You must continue to dream high.
I wish to end this short address with the following statements which I cherish very much. “It must be borne in mind that the tragedy of life does not lie in not reaching your goal, the tragedy of life lies in having no goal to reach. It is not a calamity to die with dreams unfulfilled but it is a calamity not to dream. It is not a disaster to be unable to capture your ideal but it is a disaster to have no ideal to capture. It is not a disgrace to aim to reach for the stars but it is a disgrace to have no star to reach for. Not failure but low aim is the sin”.
Congratulations. God be with you.
AARE AFE BABALOLA, OFR, CON, SAN, LL.D, D.Litt