‘OAU Alumni as agents of reviving varsities’



THE task of restoring the glory of Nigerian universities towards a knowledge-based development led to the convocation of the first Alumni Reunion of the Faculty of Social Sciences, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, recently. The reunion which was put together by the outgoing Dean of the faculty, Professor Anthony Akinlo and members of the faculty brought together its numerous alumni and faculty members to a round-table discussion. In the opening remarks delivered by Professor Oladeji Ojo, the former director of evaluation, African Development Bank and a former Dean of the faculty painted the glorious picture of how universities in Nigeria from the early days of independence up till the early 1990s contributed immensely to national development. Citing his own personal example, he provided information on how he benefitted from the staff development programme of the university, which defined him as a distinguished economist that eventually propelled him to the international arena. He also provided information on a Central Bank of Nigeria’s official who attested to the high quality of students produced by OAU that joined the bank.

Professor Oladeji Ojo in his remark described the 1990s up to the present as the age of diminishing academic excellence and a period of economic and social decline in Nigeria which was brought about by reduced funding and proliferation of universities which indeed stretched government’s limited resources to the limit. The consequence of this is the generation of inadequate knowledge for social and economic development in Nigeria. He however opined that any strategy that will lead to repositioning the universities for knowledge-based development must centre on knowledge generation, dissemination and utilization. In achieving this, he pointed out that the issue of funding and quality of higher institutions in Nigeria must be addressed. In the area of funding, he pointed out that university education is highly capital intensive and also a public good which may not be produced in the right proportion and thus suggested that its “efficient production has to be arrived at through some compromises arrived at through national discussions of the benefits and costs of education and how to share those costs and benefits among all beneficiaries of education in Nigeria”. He however pointed out that “in Nigeria, every attempt to reach a compromise has been made very difficult by political leadership (civilian and military) that has politicised the issue over the years. The result being an ill-defined and confused policy on the part of the government and a reluctant policy on the part of the private sector towards the funding of education”.

He highlighted the roles alumni of the universities can play in sustaining the glory of their alma mater. First among the roles is for the alumni to set up an endowment fund to be managed by the alumni association. This fund according to him can be targeted or untargeted at specific programmes, but suffice to say that the alumni must see themselves as agent of fund mobilization for the progress and development of the institutions that produced them. In addition, the alumni association must also from time to time dialogue with the administration in the universities on how to sustain the quality of graduates been produced, and also to make teaching curricula and staff research agenda more relevant to national development. Furthermore, alumni associations must also be active in helping to disseminate research outputs from the universities, and this they can do by sponsoring seminars and conferences on topical issues of development and also revitalizing moribund faculty journals.

In another paper delivered by the keynote speaker, Mr. Doyin Owolabi, a former president of Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria and a former student of the Department of Economics in the 1970s who titled his paper “Giving back to a system you took from: the case of University Education”, highlighted ways in which the alumni associations could offer assistance to students and faculty members in ensuring that the universities live up to their expectation. Mr. Owolabi suggested six areas in which alumni associations could intervene and these include; (i) constant career counselling to help the students, (ii) award of scholarships and bursaries to deserving students (iii) equipping of students and staff libraries (iv) Funding of projects and research works through grants (v) Linking of faculty/department/university with international agencies for material and financial assistance and (vi) participating well in issues/events concerning the faculty/university.

One of the highlights of the occasion was the conferment of honours and awards to deserving members of the faculty. The awards were in two categories, the meritorious service award and the award of excellence. Those on the meritorious awards list include the foundation Dean of the Faculty, Professor Sam Aluko who was given a posthumous award. Others include, Professor Oladeji Ojo, a former Dean and chairman of the occasion, Professor (Mrs) Olufunmilayo Oloruntimehin (first female alumni dean), Professor J.A. Fabayo, Professor O. Ekanade, Professor Ogunbameru, Professor Ogunjuyigbe, Professor S. Obiyan and Dr. A.A. Adegoke. In the award of Excellence, recipients include the current Deputy Vice Chancellor of the University, Professor Ayobami Salami who graduated from Geography Department but has moved to Institute of Ecology of the University. Others include, Mr. Doyin Owolabi, former ICAN president, Dr. Oladimeji Alo (former Director General, Financial Institutions Training Center Lagos), Rt. Hon. Salaam Naheem Folasayo (Speaker Osun State house of Assembly), Mr Kayode Ojo (Federal Inland Revenue Service), and Mr. Enitan Awojobi (Addax Petroleum Nigeria Limited).

The Dean, Professor Akinlo thanked the organising committee of the alumni reunion led by Dr. Olufemi Obembe and all those who contributed to making the reunion a possibility and expressed his desire for a continuous dialogue henceforth between the Faculty of Social Sciences and its Alumni in advancing the greatness of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife.

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