The recently held 14th convocation ceremony of Ajayi Crowther University, located in the ancient city of Oyo, may have come and gone; but not so its impact. Perhaps, the uniqueness of the event was underscored by the attendance of three serving state governors whose appearance generated so much hype, hoopla and hysteria amid drums, dance, glitz and glamour.
The governors; including Seyi Makinde of Oyo, Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos, and Nyesom Wike of Rivers were invited to be decorated with the honorary doctorate degree (honoris causa) of the university, following their contributions to society. However, a huge crowd comprising proud parents of the graduands, friends and family members, invited guests who turned out gaily-dressed made the carnivalesque event not only impressive but picturesque with all manner of photographers jockeying for vantage positions.
It was indeed a fine moment for the Vice-Chancellor, Prof Timothy Abiodun Adebayo, as well as his deputy, Prof. Benjamin Popoola, and other principal officers whose students trooped out of their various halls of residence with a tumultuous ovation “to see governors we have only been seeing on the television screen live on our campus”, just as many Oyo residents thronged the campus to witness the unfolding event.
Established in 2005 by the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), Supra Diocesan Board (West) comprising the five ecclesiastical Provinces of Lagos, Ondo, Ibadan, Bendel and Kwara, ACU has over the years grown steadily. At the convocation ceremony, various degrees were conferred on 2,034 deserving graduands. Specifically, while 1,451 were in the undergraduate category, 583 were awarded various postgraduate degrees, with 34 bagging PhD in various fields.
Universities all over the world function on the tripod of teaching, research and service. ACU, however, seems to have redefined its own creed as the institution has added “intellectual, spiritual and moral compasses to its offerings as part of its unique selling propositions. Its motto is “raising godly intellectuals” which it has been doing admirably.
To this end, ACU holds ‘staff fellowship’ every Monday and another solemn spiritual programme called ‘beginning the month with Christ’, which takes place every first day of the new month in which Bishops of the owner dioceses are invited to preside over. All these spiritual engagements are tailored towards raising godly scholars.
In a far more creative manner, this dynamic university, according to the VC, promotes practical knowledge that facilitates students’ self-reliance in addition to their theoretical training. From their first year onwards, ‘the students are exposed to both entrepreneurial, education and vocational training in 17 different skills including electrical works and wiring, auto mechanical work, metal works and welding, wood works and carpentry as well as masonry and block making. They will also be taught creative arts, music recording and sound engineering, computer hardware repair, tailoring, fashion designing among others.
Interestingly, this university seems to be very lucky with the quality of leaders in charge. Here is a private university which neither benefits from the Federal Government subvention nor gains anything from the Tertiary Education Trust Fund, yet developing rapidly on the goodwill of its leaders and proprietors. For instance, ACU Chancellor, Chief Tunde Afolabi, through his Josephus Foundation, offers scholarships to many students in which he pays several millions of naira every year. He has been a good example in educational philanthropy.
What can one say about the outgoing Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of Council, Chief Wole Olanipekun, who has been enriching the university in the last eight years? His is not only phenomenal but remarkably and sensationally prodigious. To the discerning, the attendance of the three serving governors at the university campus was as a result of Olanipekun’s goodwill. Inviting the three governors was simply the icing on the cake concerning his outstanding contributions to the development of the faith-based university.
Indeed, those who have been following his trajectory since 2009 when he was appointed Chairman of Council for the University of Ibadan may not be too surprised by what he has done at ACU. Without repeating all he did in UI, which had been variously reported in many newspapers, Olanipekun simply re-enacted almost the same uncommon marvellous feats in Oyo.
To him, any service without personal sacrifice is lip service. Consequently, the Olanipekun-led council began to provide the road map for the university in terms of infrastructural developments and academic advancement in 2014 when the council was constituted. In 2016, along with his elegant wife, Olanipekun built and donated the Vice-Chancellor’s lodge. In addition, he saw to the tarring of the entire road network as well as scores of building projects
To commemorate this 14th convocation ceremony, several projects including a 640-sitting capacity multipurpose lecture hall, medical and surgical laboratory for the Bachelor of Nursing Science Programme, radiography and radiation science imaging laboratory, civil engineering workshop, medical laboratory, science laboratory and student cafeteria were commissioned at both the St. Andrew and Offa Meta campuses of the university.
With his vast and wide network of contacts and goodwill, Olanipekun had earlier facilitated tremendous financial and infrastructural support from both his friends and clients. For instance, the former Oyo State Governor, Senator Abiola Ajimobi, of blessed memory built and donated an information and communication technologies centre to ACU. So also are former Minister of Defence, General Theophilus Danjuma(retd.), who endowed the university with a library building, and the couple, Modupe and Folorunsho Alakija, who donated the law building.
In terms of academic development, there were only four faculties when the Olanipekun-led council in 2014 took over. Today, as the council winds down, seven additional faculties, including agriculture, basic medical sciences, communication and media studies, education, postgraduate school among others are being bequeathed. He has also led the university out of the quagmire of reliance on bank loans to fulfil its financial obligations.
Despite these achievements though, ACU still needs more libraries, laboratories, hostels and other appurtenances of learning. As Prof Adebayo put it, “We need adequate funds in order to keep our Offa Meta permanent campus more functional. We are in urgent need to have faculty buildings with state-of-the-art functionalities. We seek the endowment of professorial chairs and we need university undergraduate male halls of residence as well as building donations towards establishing a College of Medicine.
Obviously, it is against this background that Olanipekun facilitated the coming of three governors who are members of the Anglican family. They should be able to do something towards the development of ACU. If Wike could build and donate a law school in Rivers, ACU should be able to name a project after him. If Ajumobi’s name is immortalised in ACU, Makinde’s name should not be missing on this campus. I know that Sanwo-Olu will make Lagos proud at the ACU campus. The best way for anyone to achieve historical immortality is to build and donate to any higher institution of learning. Nobody will ever change the name. Generations yet unborn will come and meet such a building years after the donor may have gone.
However, touched by the numerous contributions of Olanipekun, Prof Adebayo, in his speech, has this to say: “Our council chairman has consistently proven that he is a great man, who altruistically seeks happiness in others. He remains an honourable member of this family. So, we will continue to reach out to him, and seek his counsel. He has shown us repeatedly that it is possible to have angels in a natural human form. We marvel at the ease with which he sacrificially expresses benevolence through meaningful interventions. With a rare and endearing philanthropic disposition, he continues to demonstrate a deep sense of love and empathy for humanity. As the university’s council chairman, he manifests a true sense of leadership which thrives on sacrifice, responsiveness and commitment. The nation was not surprised when he was honoured recently by the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari(retd.), as Commander of the Order of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. In fact, he deserves such awards more and more.”
What more to say? Olanipekun is simply amazing when it comes to giving. He is regal, resplendent, rich and righteous. He is gracious in goodness and generous in giving. At over 70, age hasn’t removed the spring from his steps. He is a great man who carries greatness lightly with his light physical frame disguising the giant in him! May God reward him for all he has, and still doing for the betterment of humanity.