The news Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of the Governing Council of Ambrose Alli University (AAU), Ekpoma, Chief Lawson A. Omokhodion, KSM, has said that it is ‘a travesty for students to pay school fees and yet lecturers stay away from class.’
Omokhodion made this known last week during his inauguration as the Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of the Governing Council of AAU .
The AAU reconstituted Governing Council is made up of 20 members of which 8 members among whom is the Chairman, are directly appointed by the State Governor. Chief Omokhodion will lead the 20-member Council a mandatory 4-year period.
While inaugurating the reconstituted Council at the Festival Hall of Government House, Benin City recently, the State Governor, His Excellency, Mr. Godwin Nogheghase Obaseki, charged members of the Council to return AAU to the glorious days when at its creation it was heralded as a premier academic institution. He urged members of the AAU community to retool itself and project itself as a citadel of academic excellence.
The Governor noted that he has appointed a non-political Council made up of credible, tested and experienced professionals and he is optimistic that the AAU will excel under this Council.
Omokhodion thanked the Governor for the appointment and promised that the Council will operate wholly within the Law establishing the University and will be diligent, fair and firm in the discharge of its duties. Omokhodion, a Knight of the Roman Catholic Church, renowned Financial Journalist and Economic Editor, was an Adviser at the African Development Bank, ADB and former Managing Director/CEO of Liberty Bank Plc. He brings to this engagement a huge repertoire of knowledge, experience and goodwill.
In his acceptance speech Chief Omokhodion lamented that ‘as a young 1976 graduate of Unilag I was equal to my degree in both content and demeanor. I could withstand a Harvard, Cambridge, Oxford or Yale graduate in the same discipline. Can we say the same today of the graduates of AAU?’
He went further to say that no Nigerian university is mentioned in the group of 1000 saying ‘in Africa’s top 10 universities, no Nigerian university is mentioned. In the 2018 world university ranking of the first 1000 world universities, the best ten were 3 from the UK; 6 from the USA and 1 from Switzerland. (Oxford; Cambridge; California Institute of Tech; Stanford; MIT; Harvard; Princeton; Imperial College; University of Chicago and Swiss federal university of Tech). Only 10 universities in Africa ranked amongst the first 1000 in the world.
Read full speech below
It gives me a rare privilege to make these few remarks. I thank His Excellency for this appointment. While the announcement was made exactly two weeks ago, the inauguration of the Council has come soon after. I give all honour, glory and adoration to God almighty to whom I dedicate this appointment.
I won’t bore you with the quantity and quality of congratulatory messages I have received from all over the world. It tells the place of AAU in the hearts and minds of Edo citizens on the one hand and Nigerians on the other hand, of a first-generation state university, founded in 1981 by the indefatigable professor of morbid anatomy, the late Dr. Ambrose Folorunsho Alli, respected former Governor of Bendel state.
May his soul continue to rest in perfect peace. Amen. I commend the good works of all the previous Chairmen and Governing Councils of this university because they have provided the framework on which we shall build. I salute the principal officers, the university senate, academic and non-academic staff and all those who constitute the operating team of the AAU academic community.
His Excellency, kindly permit me to take a few liberties for a few minutes. Institutions are living creatures and so require renewals. I am a very close member of the AAU external public. I am not only an Esan man but an Ekpoma citizen and more importantly a scion of Ujemen land.
Indeed, this university is properly known as Ambrose Alli University, Ujemen-Ekpoma. Ujemen is one of the 12 clans of the Ekpoma kingdom. The only farmland I know was my grandfather’s portfolio of cocoa, rubber and kola-nut farm lands which are now part of the reserved territory of AAU and as a little boy I went with my grandfather to his farm each time I was at home from Benin.
I have always been very proud to be one of the benefactors of AAU. I schooled within the Nigerian educational system. I attended Immaculate Conception College and Edo College, Benin city for my WASC and HSC programmes, respectively. I then proceeded to the University of Lagos for my first degree and other educational pursuits outside the country followed on the heels. In the year 2000, as Executive Director in the now defunct Allstates Trust Bank Plc we constructed a lovely structure for use at AAU and it still stands today. As you can see I am a diligent home boy.
As a young 1976 graduate of Unilag I was equal to my degree in both content and demeanor. I could withstand a Harvard, Cambridge, Oxford or Yale graduate in the same discipline. Can we say the same today of the graduates of AAU? I agree that every university relies on the quality of the intakes. However, what processing do the students of AAU undergo? In the 2018 world university ranking of the first 1000 world universities, the best ten were 3 from the UK; 6 from the USA and 1 from Switzerland. (Oxford; Cambridge; California Institute of Tech; Stanford; MIT; Harvard; Princeton; Imperial College; University of Chicago and Swiss federal university of Tech). Only 10 universities in Africa ranked amongst the first 1000 in the world. No Nigerian university is mentioned in the group of 1000. In Africa’s top 10 universities, no Nigerian university is mentioned.
University of Ibadan comes 13th in Africa where it ties with 12 others. In West Africa the best university is the University of Ghana that is 12th in Africa. Covenant university is ranked amongst the best 10 in West Africa only surpassed by UI, UNILORIN and UNILAG in Nigeria. This ugly narrative must change.
I have followed closely the problems of the Nigerian university system. It is always on the table when the regular ASUU and Fed Govt feuding is in public domain. We hear of heart wrenching, horrendous and sordid tales in the universities. Sex for marks; sex for grades; blocking; gifts and money exchanged for good grades; cultism; prostitution; absentee lecturers; absentee students who still manage to get a 1st class or 2.1 and many others.
For me it is a travesty for students to pay school fees and yet lecturers stay away from class. Added to these are problems of poor infrastructure; inadequate academic faculty; deficient international linkages; professors and senior lecturers lacking in comfort etc. Then the almighty problem that dwarfs them all is the question of inadequate funding for the university.
In truth government alone cannot fund university education. The Nigerian constitution guarantee 9 years of free education for our children. As we share the burden of university education, financing the poor, indigent and disadvantaged students must be taken care of. When our present national embrace of corrupt practices become a thing of the past, with the promotion of greater transparency, I know those to share the burden of education will be more accepting. We may need to borrow from OECD countries the multiple viable schemes used to assist students to obtain sound university education because these students end up feeding well, paying tuition and housing, buying books and still have some money to look decent. In any case, I believe our Gov. G. N. Obaseki has graciously committed to funding AAU adequately.
My friends have asked me what is our 4-; 5-; or 10-point agenda? I told them none. That in AAU it is the totality of the university’s existence that the new Council will challenge. Council will work with the Vice Chancellor and his principal officers to interrogate the 3-prong mandate of every university viz: teaching, research and community service/consultancy.
This Council will task the Vice-Chancellor and his multidisciplinary teams of experts on seeking how to create a livable and academically pleasant university environment; how to sustain an intellectually fit student community; how to ensure that those paid to teach our students do so and students are in class for a full (not just part of) academic session; how we can grow a harmonious, free and fearless university environment at peace with its host community etc.
Council will be relentless in providing the Vice-Chancellor and his team the needed framework to massively grow the internally generated revenue of the university; reduce cost; avoid financial leakages; robustly augment subventions received from state government; ensure transparency and accountability in the deployment of funds and apply the concept of the advancement office to create local and international linkages. However, on behalf of the Governing Council, I pledge that all we do shall be within the confines of the Law establishing the university.
I salute the executives and members of the AAU chapter of ASUU, NASUU and NATS and assure the members that we shall work as a team to make AAU the world class university they have always desired. I have no doubt that without the buy-in of these critical stake holders in AAU, no Council will realise its dreams no matter how well articulated. But come to think of it. Afterall, for goodness sake, this is Edo state and I can imagine the quality of professors and lecturers in AAU. Hear Matthew 5: 14-16 “let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven”. I call on the AAU community to reclaim their pride of place as a citadel of academic excellence.
In conclusion, I like to say that we in Edo state are lucky to have H.E. Godwin Obaseki as our Governor. He is a dreamer, a strategist and a doer. He loves this state and will not relent until its schools, roads, hospitals and other infrastructure are in top class.
He is an investment banker of tremendous value and there is no project size too much for him to envision. No project is too complex for him to disaggregate. He is stoic, dynamic and diligent. You have already given him a name – “WAKE and SEE”. A close study of members of the Governing Council that the Governor has sworn-in today, reveals much emphasis and reliance on credible professionals with sound education and a huge blend of multidisciplinary work experience.
His Excellency, this Council is privileged to work with you and we promise not to disappoint you or the state. For me this opportunity to help in systematically developing young boys and girls for a successful life is invaluable. Therefore, on behalf of the newly inaugurated Council, I wholeheartedly accept our appointment as the Governing Council members of Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma.
Let me end by thanking everyone who is here today; representatives of the Onojie of Ekpoma, our siblings and classmates, our friends and family and my wife and children. On behalf of members of the AAU Governing Council I thank you all for coming.
Long live the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Long live Edo state the heartbeat of the nation. May God bless the AAU community.