ABUAD as a model for university education in Nigeria
If anyone had told the founder of Afe Babalola University, Ado Ekiti (ABUAD), Aare Afe Babalola, 10 years ago that he would veer into education and establish a university that would be described by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) as a “world-class university,” he probably would not have believed it. He was comfortable, happy, and enjoying the beauty of a successful legal practice.
At 86, Babalola, who is also the chancellor/chief superintendent of the six-year old varsity, which has been rightly tagged as the fastest-growing educational institution in Africa, is working at the pace of a 30-year-old administrator
While many paint rosy pictures of the “ideal” university, the Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) has not only envisioned the need to make ABUAD the benchmark for quality education in the country, he is laying solid examples for enduring and sustainable academic excellence.
At the third convocation ceremony of the university, the founder doled out N250, 000 to all graduates of agricultural science. Asked why such “a parting gift”, Aare he said: “I don’t want them to roam the streets looking for employment. They have been well groomed and that is a way to encourage them to start their own ventures.”
It is instructive that the founder of ABUAD had, beginning last academic session, reduced by half the fees payable by students reading agric- related courses in a bid to encourage young people to embrace agriculture and promote national self-sufficiency in food production.
Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of Council, Professor Iyorwuese Hagher, in emphasizing the doctrine of the university, as envisioned by the founder said, “At ABUAD, we believe that promoting integrity among the young people is critical to building a better future for Nigeria. We believe that educational corruption is the worst form of corruption because it is a barrier to high quality education and social economic development”, he stated.
To him, education is “a fundamental human right” that drives personal, social and economic wellbeing of the nation. “Education is also the key to a better future, where educated citizens have the tools to contribute to society and live in dignity”, he said.
Prof. Hagher, a former university vice-chancellor and respected educationist opined that “ABUAD’s brand of tertiary education is the missing link and answer to Nigeria’s developmental challenges. The founder, trustees, council and the entire university is bound by a common institutional culture of excellence. Our journey to fame within a short period of time is as a result of being able to assemble and grow the best professors, lecturers and supporting staff that are not just paid salaries but are partners in the mission to advance the frontiers of academic excellence.”
Indeed, many respectable citizens and policy makers have similar views. Professor Peter Okebukola, former executive secretary of the National Universities Commission (NUC), in a recent book on private university education, said, “ABUAD has developed one of the most learner-friendly and high-end research supporting facilities in Nigeria.”
The former vice chancellor gave credit to Aare Babalola whom he said, “is at the wheel of steering the university to be a model for Africa in terms of quality of facilities, quality of staff, quality of students and quality of curriculum delivery.”
Okebukola gave kudos to Aare Babalola for setting standards that are high “and pitched at a level beyond Harvard.” The founder himself elaborated, stating that, “ABUAD’s commitment to the standard, ethical behavior, high-quality academic, modern laboratory equipment and skill development is total without comparison.”
Professor Attahiru Jega, who bagged an honorary degree of Doctor of Letters, said he has followed the evolution of the university from inception and is impressed at the development within a short period of time. “I, along with most Nigerians are impressed with ABUAD’s remarkable development and profound achievement it has recorded in a short period under the founder’s able guidance and mentorship,” he added.
Former Chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC), Justice Emmanuel Ayoola, who received an honorary Doctor of Laws award from the institution noted that “ABUAD has grown within a short period of five years to be a trail-blazer in quality education in Africa and the rest of the world.”
The Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi III, who received an honorary Doctor of Letters said, “ABUAD is reputed to be one of the best-administered universities in Africa, providing a benchmark for the assessment of competence, vision and focus in tertiary education.”
Laying emphasis on the growth and development of ABUAD, the royal father described the university as one that “has succeeded in designing its academic programmes to suit the demands of contemporary labour markets in a globalising world. Courses and programmes at the university are related and directly relevant to job markets all over the world, making the students globally competitive and professionally equipped to stand tall among their peers from any part of the world”.
Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Dr. Matthew Hassan Kukah, who delivered the convocation lecture and bagged an honorary Doctor of Divinity, praised Babalola’s unalloyed commitment to public service through law and education.
Taking a tour round the faculty of engineering at ABUAD one would be amazed by the structure commissioned two years ago by former President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan. Professor Isaac Asusu, Vice-Chancellor of the Federal University, Oye-Ekiti, noted that the laboratories were well equipped to prepare students for the industries in the outside world.