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, under leadership of the sixth substantive Vice-Chancellor, the respected administrator and Professor of Soil Physics, Felix Kolawole Salako.
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. 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 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 there is strong inter-relationship between agriculture and management, as the Pro-Chancellor and Chairman, Governing Council, Dr. Aboki Zhawa, assured that Council members would promote the provision of quality education.
The Vice-Chancellor admonished the graduates to uphold the institution’s core values of academic and moral excellence by being 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).
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, under the Chairmanship of Prof. Ayoade Ogunkunle of the Department of Agronomy, University of Ibadan, Oyo State.
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 be seen as ‘cost’, 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. 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, and meticulously coordinated by the Registrar, Dr. ‘Bola Adekola.
In the final analysis, there is strong justification to heed Mr. President’s call that stakeholders should fully deploy education towards addressing national needs with the assurance of the government’s support for funding. In realising this, the Agriculture Minister’s charge 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 COLMAS should be restored 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 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.
Not only that, everybody should agree and demonstrate that education is the best investment, as recommended by the Overall Best Graduating Student through the joint intervention of both government and non-governmental organisations like NAUW and 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 like “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind”, FUNAAB and our citadels of learning can truly make their desired outputs toward national development.