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Afe Babalola, Sultan Sa’ad Abubakar: A reversal of roles

By Tunde Olofintila

Secuirty, northern

DEPENDING on what side of the prism one looks at it, history could be an interesting and rewarding phenomenon. What one does today could be what he would get in return in future. It could also be that what one does to/for another man today will be exactly what that other man will do to/for him at a later date.

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, 2019 when the Educational juggernaut and legal colossus, Aare Afe Babalola, SAN, and four other eminent Nigerians were conferred with the Honorary Doctorate Degrees of the University.

Whereas Babalola was conferred with the Honorary Doctor of Letters, Emeritus Professor Ayodele Falase bagged a Fellowship of the institution, Prof. Folagbade Aboaba, Honorary Doctor of Science, Dr. Alex Ezeh, Honorary Doctor of Science while Prof. Chukwuma Edozien received a Honorary Doctor of Science posthumously.

The interesting point of history in the Monday, November 18, 2019 Award of Honorary Doctor of Letters to Babalola was that exactly 29 days after he, as the Chancellor of Afe Babalola University, Ado-Ekiti, ABUAD, decorated the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar, with the Honorary Doctorate Degree of ABUAD, he (Babalola) was in turn decorated by the same Sultan as the Chancellor of the University of Ibadan. The event  coincided with the 71st anniversary of Babalola’s sojourn in Ibadan where he rose from grass to grace and from obscurity to national and international acclaim.

Babalola who was accorded the honour of responding on behalf of his other award recipients paid glowing tribute to the founding fathers of the University of Ibadan on whose shoulders Nigeria has leaned to now have 268 public and private universities in Nigeria, stressing that without their vision, dream and their pioneering efforts, perhaps Nigeria may still be groaning in darkness – education-wise.

He eulogized the university’s former and serving Vice Chancellors like Dr. Kenneth Mellanby, Prof. Ayo Banjo, a quiet worker and consensus builder, Prof. Olufemi Bamiro, a First Class Honours Graduate in Engineering from Nottingham, Prof. Isaac Adewole, the immediate past Minister of Health of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and the incumbent Vice Chancellor, Prof. Idowu Olayinka, who holds the enviable record of being the first person from the Faculty of Science and the Department of Geology to be appointed as the Chief Executive Officer of UI since it came into being in 1948. They have worked assiduously well in the last 71 years to sustain the tempo and the dream which came into fruition and manifestation in 1948.

On the incumbent Vice Chancellor, Prof. Idowu Olayinka, Babalola said: “He has been a man after my heart. Even before our paths crossed each other, he has been a passionate lover of ABUAD”.

Commenting on the superlative performance by ABUAD Law Students at the 2018 Bar Examination where they recorded 100 per cent pass rate in the examination conducted by the Council of Legal Education, 12 First Class and with the overall best student coming from ABUAD and where ABUAD students won 24 out of the 36 available prizes, Prof. Olayinka said: “Afe Babalola University, Ado-Ekiti, ABUAD, a private university established less than 15 years ago, is clearly a star, with its outstanding performance of having a dozen First Class. 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.

“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 who drew a correlation between the grand finale of UI’s 71st Founder’s Day Celebration and his award 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.

“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 by the University of Ibadan is special to in many ways: The award which is coming during the 71st Founder’s Day of the University of Ibadan coincided with 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, Ibadan is the city where I lived and practised Law for more than five decades before moving to Ado-Ekiti to supervise the operations of our own university, Afe Babalola University, Ado-Ekiti. 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”.

He pledged his support and that of his co-award recipients for the Alumni Association of the University. He lamented that the various Alumni Associations have failed in Nigeria unlike the practice in Europe and America where alumni associations play a significant role in the life and running of their alma mater.

He decried the situation in Nigeria “where everybody wants the government to provide everything: provide free education, free feeding, free uniform and indeed free everything. This is a country where people believe that all you need to do is to raise children and donate them to government to train. I have always said that education is such an expensive venture that cannot be left in the hands of the government.

“As worthy Alumni of this University, all we need to do is to give by way of grants, donations and endowment of professorial chairs to support our university. After 71 years of producing many billionaires, the annual gifts and donations by members of the Alumni Association of UI should by now be running into trillions of naira”

He called on the university system in Nigeria to join ABUAD and others in the crusade to return autonomy to Nigerian universities, cautioning that unless this is done, public universities in Nigeria will continue to remain no more than extension of the civil service where the government appoints the vice chancellor, members of the governing council and pro chancellor, who in most cases are members of their political parties.

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…I urge UI to cooperate with us. May be, together we can be among the Best 100 universities”.

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