Commissioning Of The KAAF Auditorium, Department Of Human Nutrition And Dietetics At The University Of Ibadan
SPEECH DELIVERED BY HIS EXCELLENCY, PROF. YEMI OSINBAJO, SAN, GCON, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA AT THE COMMISSIONING OF THE KENSINGTON ADEBUNKOLA ADEBUTU FOUNDATION, KAAF, AUDITORIUM, DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN NUTRITION AND DIETETICS AT THE UNIVERSITY OF IBADAN, OYO STATE ON THE 16TH OF MAY, 2023
It is such a pleasure and a privilege to join you today at this special commissioning ceremony. Two important ideas converge here; the first is the importance of relevant ideation, research and teaching and the second is the power of philanthropy in supporting development ideas. The most advanced nations on earth have the best universities.
They all indeed have traditions of investment in research, and the best examples are those countries where private and public investment in education is robust.
Research in those best-practice countries is fundamental and directed at solving, health, technology, engineering, and a myriad of societal problems. The university is the place where the best ideas and solutions are produced and fine-tuned for use, it is not merely an ivory tower.
I am a Professor of Law myself and spent a lot of years teaching and researching. So, I know the problems very well and also happen to know to some extent, some of the solutions. The easiest thing in the world is to blame the government, government must do research, government must pay more money. The government already spends 2/3 on personnel.
So, some of the best universities in the world are those where there is aggressive fundraising – Harvard, Yale, Cambridge, and Oxford, all have departments solely for marketing and fundraising. For example, I went to the University of Lagos and then the London School of Economics. Every month unfailingly, I get a letter from the London School of Economics asking me to give money. Even if it is 10 pounds, they are always aggressively marketing me. I have been getting this letter since I left in 1981, but I get no letter from the University of Lagos. And I am sure it is the same here at the University of Ibadan. No government in the world can fund a university to the extent that it is required.
We have to have programmes that we are selling so that the university is making money. It is the private money that sustains universities. Today, Harvard has about $52billion dollars, all private money. This is a premier university (University of Ibadan), so it shouldn’t be difficult getting money and there is money out there.
This department of Nutrition and Dietetics is, therefore, an important one, because of the great challenges we have in human nutrition today.
I have for the past three years taken an active interest in nutrition as chair of the Nutrition Council of Nigeria. The issues are grave. In the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, poverty has deepened and Malnutrition and unhealthy dietary practices create unique threats to health and productivity for a huge segment of our population.
A large number of children are undernourished. Malnutrition and food insecurity make it harder for children to learn and gain the skills and knowledge needed to succeed in the workforce. But worse is that mental and physical stunting are irreversible. Imagine a generation of adults who suffer arrested physical and mental health, and the social and economic burden on their families, their communities and the nation.
Imagine the implications of approximately 50% of Nigeria’s population being at risk of irreversible mental and physical stunting if we do not get it right. I think the work of this foremost nutrition department is well cut out for it.
We now have to hone research in public health nutrition, nutrition and agriculture linkages. We must pay attention to food fortification, Nigeria has the local capacity to manufacture Ready to Use Therapeutic Foods (RUTF); energy, vitamin and mineral-rich foods used to treat severe acute malnutrition in the country. We also have the potential to produce enough RUTF for the whole of Africa. And the projections are that the price of Ready to Use Therapeutic Foods is projected to increase.
We must research the cheaper options and formulas and I am aware that the department played a pivotal role in the National Food Consumption and Micronutrient Survey and is a Centre for Excellence for Food Composition in Nigeria. We must now engage with the government and the public sector so that relevant research must benefit our people.
Fortunately, many of our food manufacturing partners such as Dangote, BUA and Honeywell are already doing interesting work on food fortification. Perhaps they should also be funding research here.
The other point of convergence today is private philanthropy and the public good. Again, the most advanced nations on earth especially liberal democracies have traditions of private philanthropy contributing massively to the development of universities and research. This is why we are all so excited about this donation by Chief Kensington Adebutu, a.k.a Baba Ijebu.
Chief Adebutu is one of the most prominent philanthropists in Nigeria, although he tends to be relatively quiet about his giving, I know that he is also someone who is so cerebral and well educated that in my conversations with him you can tell that his concerns are about national development, education, public healthcare, human capital development etc. and I know that this sort of support for education is exactly what he loves to do.
I am glad that he has continually set the pace in supporting human capital development through his huge donations. This is the way it must be. Government budgets alone can hardly scratch the surface of our numerous developmental needs.
Private capital must kick in and positively directed philanthropy is the best course to take. But the coming together of philanthropy and the needs of universities require forward-looking individuals who understand this synergy.
Private people in developing countries have several causes and people daily making requests of them, so the university must be aggressive in sourcing philanthropists.
A whole active well-resourced department in the university to chase up donors is the best practice. But for taking and maintaining the initiative, we must commend the efforts of Prof. Tola Atinmo who pioneered the request to Chief Adebutu in 2012 and Dr Oladejo Thomas Adepoju who in 2018 as the acting Head of the Department, continued the plans and showed the donor the initial drawings and estimates.
Again, let me on behalf of President Muhammadu Buhari, the visitor to this University, thank this patriotic and forward-looking philanthropist Chief Kensington Adebutu, for the wonderful support given to the University of Ibadan’s Department of Nutrition and Dietetics.
It is now my special privilege and pleasure to officially commission the KAAF Auditorium, Department of Human Nutrition and Dietetics for the use of the students and staff of the department and the benefit of the Nigerian people and to the glory of the Almighty God.