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How Al-Hikma University encourages excellence

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By Oghenefego Obaebor

THE 8th Convocation ceremony of Al-Hikmah University, Ilorin, has come and gone, leaving the curious observer with a number of things to remember, two of which stood out.

The first was the public presentation of the book titled: The Unschooled Schooling Leaders: Lessons on Creativity, Creative Courage, and Creative Capitalism, in honour of the Founder, Dr. Abdur-Raheem Oladimeji.  This book stands out as it chronicles the life or case stories (as the authors called them) of the man who never had the privilege to attend a formal school but turned round, not only to be a successful entrepreneur, but also Founder of a tertiary institution. Al-Hikma University may, therefore, be the first, if not the only university anywhere, founded by someone with no formal education.

Reviewed by the former Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission, NUC, Professor Peter Okebukola and presented by Dr. Yusuf Ali, SAN, the book, with narratives by Chief Oladimeji himself, tells the story of how the successful entrepreneur lost both parents before the age of 10 and every opportunity to attend formal school was aborted. The octogenarian ended up in Lagos as a child, in 1948, where he lived and worked with a food seller in Isalegangan, Lagos Island. For a wage of nine shillings per month, he did all sorts of menial work including washing of dishes, bathrooms, toilets, clothes and gutters. He also cleaned shoes and fetched water. By dint of hard work, perseverance and integrity, he became a successful entrepreneur with no fewer than five successful companies.

The second was the sheer worth of the prizes awarded the outstanding students at the convocation, which prompted one of the guests to remark that the students had all the encouragement they needed to strive for excellence. It is common to hear snide remarks about some best graduating students in some universities in the country being awarded as little as N10, 000 or N20,000 in endowed prizes, but not Al-Hikma. The endowment from Chancellor, Dr. Sayyu Dantata alone, came to a total of N3, 174, 500.  A breakdown of this showed that the Best Graduating Students in the four faculties: Humanities and Social Sciences, Management Sciences, Natural and Applied Sciences as well as Education got N453, 500 each. The Second Best Graduating Students were awarded N226, 750 each, while the Third Best Graduating Students got N113, 375 each. Added to these were two awards, worth N50, 000 each, for the Best Graduating Student (Male and Female) in Character.

There were also seven prizes worth N50, 000 each, by the Kwara State Internal Revenue Service, for the Best Graduating Students in Accounting, Business Administration, Economics etc. There were several other prizes endowed by the Founder, traditional rulers and organsations, in and around his community as well as the Kwara State Governor, Dr. Abdulfatah Ahmed.

The Chancellor who was represented, stated that he counted himself lucky to be a part of the Al-Hikma project, commending the Founder for the steady growth of the university and his support. He reiterated his promise to mobilise  support for the development of the university, adding that no amount of money spent on education was too much.

He, therefore, called on well-meaning Nigerians and government to support private universities in the country.

The Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of Council, Dr. Muhammad Dahiru Abubakar, CFR, IGP (rtd), also commended the Founder for his courage, dedication and commiting all his resources to ensure success of the University Project. He called on the Federal Government to re-examine and review the legal instruments that currently exclude private universities from benefiting from TETFund as public universities do.  According to him, private universities ought to benefit because they, among others, complement the public universities in offering higher education to Nigerian youths; they contribute to the provision of the country’s manpower needs, they pay their taxes where they are domiciled and it was becoming increasingly difficult for private individuals to continue to fund universities.

In his address of welcome, the Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Taofeek Ibrahim, noted that as the premier Muslim faith-based University in Nigeria, Al-Hikma, which turns 14 this January, has emerged as a Centre of Excellence in learning for wisdom and morality. He disclosed that all the University’s programmes that were due for NUC accreditation, including Law, got full accreditation. The University currently runs a total of 47 undergraduate, 21 postgraduate and seven sub-degree diploma programmes, while it also got NUC’s approval to commence 12 undergraduate and six postgraduate programmes. He congratulated all the graduands and wished them success in their future endeavours.

Governor Ahmed reassured the University of his government’s continued support through students’ sponsorship/scholarship, while congratulating the Founder, staff, students and honorary awardees for their achievements.

giant strides recorded so far. He observed that in order to take the University to greater heights, it must ensure continuous development of high quality physical facilities and infrastructure, merit-based admission procedure, curriculum review and modernisation, sustainable funding, good governance and management structure as well as deployment of ICT, among others.

A total of 876 students, including 798 undergraduates, 61 postgraduates and 17 sub-degree diplomas graduated at the ceremony. A breakdown of the undergraduates showed that 20 (3%) of them bagged First Class, 206 (26%) made the Second Class Upper Division, 421 (53%) made Second Class Lower, while 144 (18%) and 7 (1%), earned the Third Class and Pass degrees respectively.

The University conferred honorary degrees of Doctor of Philosophy on three prominent personalities: His Excellency, the Governor of Katsina State, Rt. Hon. Aminu Bello Masari  and former Minister of Transport, Alhaji Yusuf Suleiman (Doctors of Political Science and Public Administration);  while the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Max Air Limited, Alh. Dahiru Barau Mangal was awarded the honorary Doctor of Business Administration degree.

Governor Masari, who delivered the acceptance speech on behalf of the awardees, thanked the University for the honour, with a pledge to justify it and serve as its great ambassadors.

The Governor stressed the need for cooperation and synergy between the public and private sectors to uplift people from poverty and ignorance.  He enjoined the students to recognise the exceptional privilege which their association with Al-Hikma University confered on them. He added that it was imperative for the graduands to imbibe the excellent and remarkable values upon which Al-Hikmah University was built.

Another highlight of the convocation was Professor Munzali Jubril delivered this year’s convocation lecture titled “Re-Structure or Not To Re-Structure Nigeria. In his speech he emphasized that Nigeria needs devolution of powers, responsibilities and resources from the Centre to the Federating Units. As Nigerians we must be accountable and also practice a good democracy system that is not bias or corrupt. Professor Munzali said all this can be achieved without re-structuring Nigeria into more geopolitical zones which would only take us fifty years back

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