If anyone had told Aare Afe Babalola, the founder and Chancellor of Afe Babalola University, Ado Ekiti, ABUAD, 10 years ago, that he would venture into education and establish a university that would be described by UNESCO“as a ‘world class university’, he may not have believed it. He was comfortable, happy, and enjoying the beauty of a successful legal practice.
At 86, Aare Babalola is working at the pace of a 30-year old administrator; the chief superintendent of the six-year-old varsity that has been rightly tagged as the fastest-growing educational institution in Africa. While many paint rosy pictures of the ‘ideal’ university, the Senior Advocate of Nigeria has not only envisioned the need to make ABUAD the benchmark for quality education in the country, he is laying solid examples for enduring and sustainable academic excellence.
At the third convocation ceremony of the university, the founder doled out N250,000 to graduates of agricultural science. Asked why such “a parting gift”, Babalola said: “I don’t want them to roam the streets looking for employment. They have been well groomed and that is a way to encourage them to start their own ventures.
It is instructive that the founder of ABUAD had, beginning last academic session, reduced by half the fees payable by students reading agric- related courses in a bid to encourage young people to embrace agriculture and promote national self-sufficiency in food production.
Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of Council, Professor Iyorwuese Hagher, emphasized the doctrine of the university as envisioned by the founder. “At ABUAD, we believe that promoting integrity among the young people is critical to building a better future for Nigeria. We believe that educational corruption is the worst form of corruption because it is a barrier to high quality education and social economic development”, he stated.
To him, education is “a fundamental human right” that drives personal, social and economic well being of the nation. “Education is also the key to a better future, where educated citizens have the tools to contribute to society and live in dignity”, he said.
Hagher, a former university vice chancellor and respected educationist, said: “ABUAD brand of tertiary education is the missing link and answer to Nigeria’s developmental challenges. The Founder, Trustees, Council and the entire university is bound by a common institutional culture of excellence. Our journey to fame within a short period of time is as a result of being able to assemble and grow the best professors,“lecturers and supporting staff that are not just paid salaries but are partners in the mission to advance the frontiers of academic excellence”.
Indeed, many respectable citizens and policy makers have similar views.“Professor Peter Okebukola, a former Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission, in a recent book on private university education, said “ABUAD has developed one of the most learner-friendly and high-end research supporting facilities in Nigeria.” The former vice chancellor gave credit to Aare Babalola whom he says “is at the wheel of steering the university to be a model for Africa in terms of quality of facilities,“quality of staff, quality of students and quality of curriculum delivery.
Okebukola gave kudos to Babalola for setting standards that are high “and pitched at a level beyond Harvard.” The founder himself elaborated, stating that “ABUAD’s commitment to standard, ethical behavior, high quality academic, modern laboratory equipment and skill development is total without comparison.
Professor Attahiru Jega, who bagged an honorary degree of Doctor of Letters, said he has followed the evolution of the university from inception and is impressed at the development within a short period of time. “I along with most Nigerians are impressed with ABUAD’s remarkable development and profound achievement it has recorded in a short period under the Founder’s able guidance and mentorship,” he added.
Honourable Justice Emmanuel Ayoola, former Chairman of ICPC, who received honorary Doctor of Laws award, noted that “ABUAD has grown within a short period of five years to be a trail-blazer in quality education in Africa and the rest of the world”.
Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi III, the Alaafin of Oyo, who received honorary Doctor of Letters, said “ABUAD is reputed to be one of the best administered universities in Africa, providing benchmark for the assessment of competence, vision and focus in tertiary education.
The Reverend, Dr. Matthew Hassan Kukah, who delivered the convocation lecture and bagged honorary Doctor of Divinity, praised Aare Babalola’s unalloyed commitment to public service through law and education.