By Adewale Kupoluyi
The just-concluded 27th convocation ceremony of the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (FUNAAB), Ogun State offers a unique opportunity to showcase its success story, ruminate over rough moments, and interact with key holders to chart a way forward for the 32-year-old university. The event was the second to be held after the sixth substantive Vice-Chancellor, the respected administrator and Professor of Soil Physics, Felix Kolawole Salako, assumed office.
At the event, the Visitor to the university, President Muhammadu Buhari, has reiterated the role of education as a tool for nation-building and development. President Buhari, who was represented by the Minister of State for Education, Hon. Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba, charged stakeholders to fully deploy education towards addressing national needs and assured of his administration’s continuous support in funding, noting that the provision of job was not the sole responsibility of government. The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Alhaji Mohammed Nanono had highlighted the efforts of the Federal Government at improving the agricultural sector and reducing the nation’s overdependence on oil.
The minister observed that many challenges were facing the nation’s agricultural production such as inadequate mechanisation, and the relegation of research and development to the background. In the same vein, the Executive Secretary, National Universities Commission (NUC), Prof. Abubakar Rasheed has called on specialised universities to work closely with the industries, to mitigate unemployment problems facing the country. The Executive Secretary was represented by NUC Deputy Executive Secretary (Academics), Dr. Sulaimon Ramon-Yusuf.
FUNAAB Chancellor and Obong of Calabar, Edidem Ekpo Okon, Abasi Otu V, appealed to the Visitor, to restore the institution’s courses in the College of Management Sciences (COLMAS) that were delisted about three years ago, stating that the establishment of the College was for the diversification of academic courses in specialised universities with the assurance to retain agriculture as the flagship programme in FUNAAB, having recognised the strong inter-relationship between agriculture and management, as the Pro-Chancellor and Chairman, Governing Council, Dr. Aboki Zhawa, assured that Council members would key into the President’s mission of fighting corruption and in the provision of quality education.
On his part, the Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Salako, admonished the graduates to uphold the institution’s core values of academic and moral excellence, and be good ambassadors. The well-attended convocation ceremony witnessed the conferment of Honorary Degree (Doctor of Science) on the President of the African Development Bank (AfDB) and a former Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Adewumi Adesina as well as the appointments of two Professors Emeriti, who were former vice-chancellors of FUNAAB; Prof. Julius Okojie, immediate past Executive Secretary, NUC; and Prof. Israel Adu, National President, Nigerian Institute of Animal Science (NIAS).
The honorary awardee, a first-class graduate of agricultural economics at the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University), has won several local, international accolades and honorary awards. Dr. Adesina disclosed that agriculture remained the most important profession and business in the world that could guaranty food security. The President of AfDB advised the Federal Government to develop an integrated value chain, to make Nigeria more competitive in the food and agriculture industry, saying that the size of food and agriculture in Africa would rise to $1 trillion by 2030, as the population of Africa, now at 1.2 billion, would double to 2.5 billion by 2050, saying universities of agriculture were crucial in linking research, innovations, technologies, and that AfDB was spearheading efforts to Feed Africa by investing $25 billion over a 10-year-period.
As part of the 5-day convocation activities, there were Jumat and interdenominational church services, press conference, theatre performance, film show, commissioning of projects, and research and agricultural fair. The film, “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind” was directed by the Nigerian-born British actor, Chiwetel Ejiofor and screened by a Visiting Fellow to FUNAAB, Alagba ‘Tunde Kelani; while the Convocation Lecture titled, “The Beast Unburdened Once Again: Artificial Intelligence and Life More Abundant”, was delivered by the renowned scholar, journalist and novelist, Prof. Adebayo Williams, Executive Director, The Nation newspapers, under the Chairmanship of Prof. Ayoade Ogunkunle of the Department of Agronomy, University of Ibadan, Oyo State.
Prof. Williams described the era of Artificial Intelligence as the most far-reaching in human, scientific and technological revolution, stressing that it had opened up an era of surplus and unprecedented prosperity and new possibilities for the human race by making life more abundant, by ensuring food security and safety. The don wants the graduating students to address the ‘imbalance’ between the dramatically expanding frontiers of knowledge in other societies unlike the contraction in Africa and tasked federal authorities to constitute a National Initiative for the Recovery of Intellectual Treasures (NIRIT) Board, to make the nation great again.
The Overall Best Graduating Student, Miss Odunayo Odunsi, of the Department of Aquaculture and Fisheries Management, College of Environmental Resources Management (COLERM), stressed that the best investment that any society can make is the education of its young people and this should not basically be looked upon myopically as a ‘cost’. Rather, it should be seen as the best investment that any society can make. Miss Odunsi described FUNAAB as a place that is more than an academic learning ground for her, while appreciating the efforts of the FUNAAB Chapter, Nigerian Association of University Women (NAUW), under the leadership of Prof. Comfort Onifade of the Department of Communication and General Studies (COLAMRUD), for sponsoring her entrepreneurial training that helped her in alleviating her financial burden on campus. The eloquence of the University Orator, Prof. Christian Ikeobi of the Department of Animal Breeding and Genetics, College of Animal Science and Livestock Production (COLANIM), added flavour to the convocation that had a total of 3,226 graduates from various disciplines out of which 122 bagged first-class honour degrees; and meticulously coordinated by the Registrar, Dr. ‘Bola Adekola.
In the final analysis, there is strong justification to heed the Visitor’s call that stakeholders should fully deploy education towards addressing national needs with the assurance of the government’s continued support for funding. In realising this, the Agriculture Minister’s call for the reduction of the nation’s overdependence on oil is equally apt while specialised universities work more closely with industries to address the perennial problem of unemployment, as canvassed by the NUC Executive Secretary. This makes the plea by the Chancellor that the College of Management Sciences should be restored because of the synergy between agriculture and management and in line with the Pro-Chancellor’s call for quality education.
No doubt, quality education coupled with the Vice-Chancellor’s admonition for FUNAAB graduates to uphold the institution’s core values of academic and moral excellence that would distinguish them as good ambassadors and the promise by the AfDB President, to invest $25 billion over a 10-year period to transform the continent’s agriculture, and the timely suggestion by the Convocation Lecturer that federal authorities should partner entrepreneurs in establishing centres and institutes for Artificial Intelligence, to bring about cutting edge innovations in the knowledge-industry would produce the needed tonic for our ivory towers.
Not only that, everybody should agree and indeed demonstrate that education is the best investment that any society can make through, as recommended by the Overall Best Graduating Student through the joint intervention of both government and non-governmental organisations like NAUW and many others and more importantly, by creating the convivial atmosphere of peace to reign, as advocated during the convocation Jumat and interdenominational church services. With these variables in place, just the like “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind”, FUNAAB and our citadels of learning, can truly make their desired outputs toward national development.
Kupoluyi writes from the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta