By Emmanuel Edukugho
Not many people reckoned that exiled, controversial former chairman of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, who was a fugitive from the law, will return suddenly to the country and within 48 hours, conferred with the Doctor of Laws Degree, LLD (Honoris Causa) by Nigeriaâ€™s pioneer, leading private university. The honour caught our nation unaware.
The opening words in the citation before conferment read thus:
â€œYou may hate or even detest him. You may admire or even love him. You may fear him or cringe at theÂ very mention of his name. Whatever you do, you may not safely ignore him except at your own peril. He fits perfectly into Ellen Whiteâ€™s inspired prophetic definition of Nigeriaâ€™s greatest need of all time.
His name is Nuhu, a child of destiny born on 21st November 1960 exactly 52 days after the nationâ€™s independence from colonial domination.â€ Titled â€” A citation for Hope, it actually began with a quote from Ellen G. White who said:
â€œThe greatest want of the world is the want of men, men who will not be bought or sold, men who in their inmost souls are true and honest, men who do not fear to call sin by its right name, men whose conscience is as true to duty as the needle to the pole, men who will stand for the right though the heavens fall.â€
He was described as â€œa patriot and worthy citizen par excellence, an incorruptible, fearless and passionate professional driven by fierce loyalty to principles, honour, excellence and humanity.â€
Babcock University Vice Chancellor, Professor Kayode Makinde, in an excluse interview with Vanguard after the convocation ceremony explained the rationale behind the honour and defended the choice of Ribadu, who was the guest of honour and the only recipient of honorary doctorate degree at the occasion.
He said that the university was honouring Ribadu today because he has become an institution symbolic of a better tomorrow and the future defined by a single man whose zero tolerance and hatred for naked corruption bring hope to our nation.
What statement is Babcock trying to make by this honour to Ribadu?
It is a positive statement that weâ€™re making. We are an academic institution, the brain centre of the society, with activated brain power and so in any community, we are able to say what is right.
The decision to confer this honour on him was taken long ago by the senate while even he was still outside the country. This meant that Babcock University had already recognised him before government cleared him and allowed him to return home.
We believed in all what Ribadu had been doing and also believed in the decision of the senate thereafter because Babcock University stands for integrity, excellence, truth, and transparency.
Which criteria used in selecting Ribadu for the award?
We considered three things competence, character and commitment. We found all these in Ribadu. And so we canâ€™t get it wrong. We have to begin from somewhere however. He is a man of great courage, highly disciplined, loyal with passion for selfless service and fearless.
These are some of the other attributes considered. Few may not understand all these things. But the Nigerian academic community through Babcock University has a made a public statement with this honour clearly for all to see.
In Ribadu, you have integrity, capability, audacity.
How do you see education in Nigeria?
Education is the future of this country. If there is no investment in education, there is no future for Nigeria. It is not only by budget votes that the nation invests in education.
Every institution should be required to provide adequate funds for its running. The Education Trust Fund (ETF) can do better and sustained instead of contract awards which is prone to corruption and waste. Such huge amount of money (N380 bn in three years) can be put into research for development, innovation and creativity like what is happening in the USA.
If the government distributes money, Babcock wonâ€™t ask for government money. Government alone should not be left to initiate, regulate and operate educational institutions:
Do you think JAMB is still relevant?
There was a time, everyone came to JAMB. We all – federal, state, keyed into JAMB. All struggled to be part of JAMB. When private universities came, they went to JAMB also. But I said that the senate has the power to regulate, operate.
Post-UTME is still necessary. For a private university like Babcock, weâ€™ve been conducting screening exercise forÂ admission from day one. Having five credits, scoring above 200 not enough for admission. There should be character, being fit, have the desire to learn and so on.15, 2010.