A mixture of sorrow and joy characterized the convocation of Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife, due to the sudden death of the overall best of the graduating students.
Bibilari Elebuibon, son of a popular Ifa priest and foremost Nigerian artist, bagged the award of best student with an overall performance in Yoruba Language in the Faculty of Arts at the 42nd convocation ceremony of the OAU.
But silence rather than applause was witnessed from his colleagues at the point of his invitation to the podium by the Dean of Faculty of Arts, Prof. Gbemisola Adeoti to receive the award.
Mournful screams were elicited from the celebrants when the Public Relations Officer, Mr. Abiodun Olarewaju emerged to announce that a minute’s silence be observed in honour of Elebuibon, who reportedly died in an auto crash in Osogbo, the Osun State capital, in July.
The convocation produced no fewer than 66 students with first class degrees and saw 15 students graduating with distinctions from the faculty of pharmacy.
The university also produced 1305 students with second class upper; 2127 with second class lower, 606 third class graduates and 50 students with passes.
Out of 6,827 graduands; 4,646 were conferred with first degree; 518 bagged Postgraduate Diplomas and 1,663 got Postgraduate Degrees.
In his address, the acting Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Anthony Elujoba identified crises and frequent closures of the institution as the cause of instability of the university calendar.
While narrating his experience as the acting VC of the OAU, Elujoba wondered why many exhibited a do-or-die attitude to lead universities.
He identified the problem as spiritual that could only be tackled with divine and strategic approaches.
“My convocation address would be incomplete if I do not share my reflections on how tertiary institutions in Nigeria can manage campus crises more conservatively and yet with decisive effectiveness. Although, many aspirants pursue selection with a do-or-die vigour, from my little experience in only four months, the Nigerian VC seats (especially public universities) are too hot to be so attractive unless you are divinely chosen.
The five-year persistent heat radiation inflicted on VCs can even reduce one’s lifespan. Public institutions, particularly those concerned with youth education, need to create avenues for engaging and designing popularly accepted and non-confrontational strategies for managing conflicts in their campuses.”
He also said, “mutual dialogue and collaboration should be maintained between the university management and various students and staff stakeholders that constitute the University community in decision-making processes as a panacea for nipping crises in the bud.”
Elujoba challenged the graduating students to make a difference in Nigeria by participating in positive history making.
Among the outstanding alumni of the OAU identified by the acting VC is Dr. Oluyinka Olutoye, who carried out a surgical operation on an unborn baby and returned it to the mother’s womb.
He also showcased the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Mrs. Fatou Bensuoda.
“Let me remind you that the nation is facing challenges that require an intellectual response, involving the application of righteousness and cutting-edge research and service to tackle public challenges.
You are agents of change, and today, as you get empowered and commissioned to make a difference in different sectors of the nation in particular, and the world at large, you must carry along your integrity and honour,” he stated.
“My charge to you therefore is to explore novel strategies in applying what you have learnt in the lecture theatres, studios, and laboratories in order to provide solution to these growing challenges of our time” he added.