The University Of Ibadan’s 2018 Convocation And 70th Founders’ Day Ceremony
REMARKS BY HIS EXCELLENCY, PROF. YEMI OSINBAJO, SAN, GCON, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA, AT THE UNIVERSITY OF IBADAN’S 2018 CONVOCATION AND 70TH FOUNDERS’ DAY CEREMONY, OYO STATE ON SATURDAY, 17 NOVEMBER, 2018.
It is a great honour to be here at the celebration of the 70th year of the founding of this pre-eminent Nigerian institution of higher learning. I bring you the warm greetings and felicitations of the Visitor President Muhammadu Buhari.
Let me also congratulate the eminent Nigerians and world citizens whom the University of Ibadan has found worthy to be conferred with honorary degrees and fellowships of this university on this occasion of its Platinum Jubilee.
The notable industrialist and philanthropist, Sir Bode Akindele; the distinguished first Professor of Geography in Africa, and the first African to be elected as a Foreign Associate of the United States National Academy of Science, Professor Akinlawon Mabogunje, CON, NNOM; the first female Vice Chancellor in Nigeria Professor Grace Alele Williams; much respected historian, and activist, Professor Alake Bolanle Awe, FNAL; UI’s eighth Vice Chancellor and former Federal Commissioner (Minister) for Economic Planning, Professor Omoniyi Adewoye; and the outstanding medical scholar making great waves in the diaspora, Professor Olufunmilayo Olopade, FAS, M.D., Hematology Oncologist, and a Professor in Medicine and Human Genetics.
It was Prof Omoniyi Adewoye, the historian, that made the profoundly insightful remark that “ the history of the University of Ibadan is, in a sense, inseparable from the history of Nigeria after the Second World War.” Indeed, to which I might add, that it is not just the history, but also the continuing story of the University of Ibadan, that is a metaphor for the Nigerian story with its many textures, twists and turns.
Three phases are often identified (Materu et al) in the University of Ibadan’s story: *1948-1962, the colonial (University of London years)
*1962-1966 the becoming of a National University, *1966-1999 the turbulent years, (and additionally, of course-1999-to-date, the struggle for self-realization/ maturity.)
The University of Ibadan, like the African universities of that generation, University of Legon, Ghana, Makerere University, Uganda, University of Khartoum, Sudan, and the Cheikh Anta Diop University, Senegal, were affiliated to Universities in the colonizing countries. The partnerships meant high standards comparable to the partner universities. But it also meant that the vision was the vision of the founding powers. The Asquith Commission was mandated to define “the principles which should guide the promotion of higher education, learning and research and the development of universities in the colonies”, a metaphor for Nigeria.
The original vision belonged to the colonial powers, but in the following years, through a continuous process of self realization, scholars and students of this great university in lock step with the nationalist elites, redefined the vision a step at a time, through painful and sometimes dysfunctional situations, to a university and a nation which increasingly approximates the yearnings and aspirations of the Nigerian people. That trying and difficult evolution has been on in the past seventy years.
There are many great successes and spectacular failures, but we have, by and large, run our show warts and all. In those years, the University of Ibadan and our nation were defined by the many icons of scholarship and social activism, Wole Soyinka (who would win the Nobel prize for literature in 1986), Chinua Achebe, John Pepper Clark, Chuwuemeka Ike. The pioneering work in research and teaching of history led by Prof Kenneth Onwuka Dike, the Ibadan School of History series was crucial in ensuring an accurate and nuanced interpretation of African history.
The University of Ibadan was also able to later develop its own world-acclaimed academics in various disciplines; J. F. Ade Ajayi (History), Akin Mabogunje (Geography), Ayo Bamgbose (Linguistics), the late Prof Benjamin Osuntokun, (Medicine) Emeritus Prof Ayo Banjo, (English) C. Agodi Onwumechili (Physics) among many others.
Even in its earlier days, UCH, University of Ibadan’s medical school, attracted students from across the world, including residency candidates from the US and up till now, is a Center of Excellence for Neurosciences, performing, a few years ago, the first Awake Brain Surgery on a female patient with a brain tumour.
Seventy years on, we have come a long way and we have an even longer way to go. Every generation, whether it knows it or not, is equipped to deal with the challenges of its times and to hand over a legacy that enables the next generation to navigate its own journey with greater ease. The university, of course, is the place from whence direction must come.
There are four big issues that call for incisive thinking; the first is the population challenge and opportunities. By 2050, Nigeria will be the third most populous country and over 60% will be under 25. The second is climate change and the threat of desertification. The third is and this I will spend some time on, the education challenge. That is, how to chart a course for educating this generation of young people for the competitive globalized knowledge economy. Also, how do we equip teachers with the skills required and in the numbers required? How do we fund education to prevent the slide in standards in the past two decades and the frequent disruptions of the educational calendar due to strikes?
Taking the first issue, it is evident that technology has radically changed both the challenges and opportunities in education. Given our limited resources and the current gaps in educational attainment in our country, it was clear to us that we had to change both the substance of education our children receive and the methods by which they are taught.
We identified early-stage investment in primary and secondary school education as the key to becoming a knowledge-driven economy. Our policy is to develop and introduce STEAM education; Science Education, Engineering Arts and Math curriculum in primary and secondary schools. This curriculum covers training in skills in cross disciplinary, critical and creative thinking, problem-solving and digital technologies, coding, digital arts, design thinking, and robotics.
We have had the collaboration of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Oracle Academy, Microsoft, Cisco Academy and IBM. How do we train teachers quickly and efficiently? Aside from traditional teacher training institutes, which must be refitted to deal with new technology driven pedagogy, we must use technology platforms to train.
We have had a few eye openers in this regard when we launched our N-Power programme, our employment and skills training programme which now employs 500,000 young men and women. We hired them using a technology platform developed by young Nigerians.
We trained them and provided materials for continuous training using our open platform and each of them was provided with an electronic tablet, which contains a lot of training materials and teaching materials for the large number who teach in schools in every local government in Nigeria.
So it is clear to us that in the next few years, both teacher training and teaching will be largely driven by technology. University education, and especially scientific research made easy by Virtual Reality and Artificial Intelligence tools.
We all I think will agree that Nigeria cannot attain accelerated development without substantial investments in education. We also will agree that today, we suffer the consequences of decades of under-investment and that turning this ship around will take time and painstaking effort. This we are determined to do, especially with respect to tertiary education. Amongst other options, we are working on the details of an education infrastructure bond for public universities, to involve raising money from the capital markets to give a push to infrastructure in our universities.
Our on going talks with ASUU are a fallout of the chequered history of negotiations concluded in 2013 with the then government. There is no question that ASUU has a point. However, we must seek to resolve amicably and with minimum disruption to the academic calendar.
It must however also be noted that education cannot be left to government alone. None of the world’s leading universities depend wholly or even substantially, on government funding; all have evolved innovative means of financing and investment to meet their funding needs and become financially sustainable.
Hard as that task of fundraising is, it is precisely what universities were established to do: to solve problems and create solutions that uplift society and mankind.
We can creatively address the issue looking at model solutions from other universities around the world, as well as creating homegrown, locally-tailored solutions for the Nigerian context.
One of the solutions that must be explored is the alumni network.
There is perhaps no university in Nigeria today that has the kind of alumni network that the University of Ibadan has, by virtue of its age and the breadth of its academic offerings. There must be ways to cultivate this alumni network, at home and in the diaspora, and get them to support the university and its work and vision.
This will not be an easy task, but in the 21st century, a range of digital tools have made it a lot easier to keep in touch with large numbers of people around the world, engage with them, and provide the information and inspiration that will be converted into philanthropy. There is also no doubt that the private sector and private philanthropy must be actively involved in the task of providing quality education for Nigerians.
I congratulate family and friends of the graduands on this day of joy.
For the graduands today, I cannot resist saying my favourite prayer for you; as your days, so shall your strength be. This means you will have enough strength in your bodies, minds and finances, to meet your daily challenges. There are a thousand and one excuses for failure, ignore them all, and you will surely succeed! Happy 70th Anniversary!