By Tunde Olofintila
Life often is a cycle of interesting and rewarding ironies. What one does today, he gets in return in future, sometimes from the beneficiary of his favour or disfavour.
The above captures the scenario at the International Conference Centre, Ibadan, venue of the grand finale of the 71st Founder’s Day celebration of Nigeria’s Premier University, University of Ibadan, on Monday, November 18, when renowned educationist and legal icon, Aare Afe Babalola, SAN, and four other eminent Nigerians were conferred with the Honorary Doctorate Degrees of the premier university.
Babalola was honoured with the Doctor of Letters, while Emeritus Professor Ayodele Falase, who bagged a Fellowship of the institution. Their three fellow recipients – Prof. Folagbade Aboaba, Dr. Alex Ezeh and Prof. Chukwuma Edozien were decorated with the hoods of Honorary Doctor of Science, the latter posthumously.
The interesting point of history in the November 18 event was, however, the Doctor of Letters award to Babalola, which came precisely 29 days after he, as the Chancellor of Afe Babalola University, Ado-Ekiti, ABUAD, decorated UI’s Chancellor, the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar, with the honorary Doctorate Degree of ABUAD, at an event which coincided with the 71st anniversary of Babalola’s sojourn in Ibadan where he spent most of his professional life as a lawyer and rose to national and international limelight. A sweet reversal of roles, indeed!
Babalola, who was accorded the honour of responding on behalf of the honorees, paid glowing tribute to the founding fathers of UI on whose shoulders Nigeria have leaned to now have 268 public and private universities in Nigeria, stressing that without their vision and pioneering efforts, Nigeria may still be groaning in darkness – education-wise.
He eulogized the university’s past and serving Vice Chancellors notably Dr. Kenneth Mellanby, Prof. Ayo Banjo, Prof. Olufemi Bamiro, Prof. Isaac Adewole, the immediate past Minister of Health, and the incumbent, Prof. Idowu Olayinka, for working assiduously in the last 71 years to sustain the dream, tempo and drive at making the institution a citadel of academic excellence.
Commenting on the superlative performance by ABUAD Law Students at the 2018 Bar Examination where they recorded 100 percent pass rate, with 12 bagging First Class and one them emerging the Overall Best Student, as well as a haul of 24 out of the 36 available academic distinction prizes, UI’s VC, Prof. Olayinka, said: the feat by ABUAD, a private university established less than 15 years ago, had shown it to be “clearly a star”. He remarked: “This is what you get when there is a strategic investment in human and material resources for which we warmly congratulate the Founder and Proprietor, Aare Afe Babalola, SAN”
He added: “Some of the people in public universities, both staff and students, have the habit of dismissing the private universities. This is not supported by hard and empirical facts as seen in the example of Afe Babalola University. ABUAD has clearly distinguished itself as confirmed by this league table of performance at the Nigerian Law School…”
Babalola drew a correlation between the grand finale of UI’s 71st Founder’s Day celebration and his award. He said: “There is something special to me about the 71st Founder’s Day Celebration of UI. 74 years ago, I passed my Standard VI Examinations with credit. I wrote and passed the qualifying examination to a Secondary School, but I could not proceed because of paucity of funds. There was therefore this ominous cloud over my future. This made me to decide to leave Ado-Ekiti for Ibadan without the knowledge of my parents. Within me, I made a vow that I would not return to Ado-Ekiti unless I make it in life.
He added: “Ibadan has since remained my domicile while Ado-Ekiti remains my place of birth. It was here in Ibadan that I passed my Cambridge Senior School Certificate in 1950, Six GCE Ordinary Level papers of London University in 1952, Four Advanced Level papers in 1954 and B. Sc Economics of London University in 1959 as well as LL.B Honours of London University in 1963 as an External Student.
“For me, it is a good coincidence that I am being honoured in Ibadan today on the 71st Founder’s Day celebration of UI which incidentally coincides with the 71st Anniversary of the beginning of my sojourn in Ibadan. Even though I have received more than 10 honorary degrees from many universities in Nigeria, Asia, Europe and America, this award… is special to me in many ways: The Award which is coming during the 71st anniversary of my coming to Ibadan where I took a job as a pupil teacher at St. Peter’s Primary School, Aremo, Ibadan… and indeed, I have some sentimental and emotional attachment to the city of Ibadan, a city where I rose from grass to grace, from obscurity to national and international acclaim”.
The ABUAD founder pledged his support and that of his fellow honorees to the university’s Alumni Association, which along with others in the country, he urged to emulate their counterparts in Europe and America where such associations played significant role in the life and running of their Alma Mata, particularly through giving or facilitating grants, donations and endowment of professorial chairs to support the universities.
He called on the university system in Nigeria to join ABUAD in the crusade to return autonomy to Nigerian universities, particularly the public-owned in order to remove them from political control and as appendages and extension of the Civil Service that had hitherto hampered their efficiency and effectiveness.
Concluding, he said: “ABUAD is on the heel and it is putting all other universities, including the University of Ibadan on the run because we have a goal, a mission and a vision. Our goal, mission and vision are that within the next 10 years we will be among the Best 100 Universities in the world… Maybe, together we can be among the Best 100 universities”.
Olofintila writes in from Ado-Ekiti