Today, all roads lead to the International Conference Centre, Abuja, where the President, Commander-in-Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces, Dr Goodluck Jonathan, GCFR, confers awards on 305 Nigerians and others for their enormous contributions and services to the nation.
Though the national awards event has been holding for years, there is something remarkable about this 2013/2014 edition. Apart from the quality and representativeness of the recipients, including achievers like a taxi driver who returned some 18 million naira forgotten in his car by a passenger, among other ordinary people doing extra-ordinary things, a cursory look at the medals table this time reveals that of the seven universities mentioned by name, only the University of Ilorin appears twice.
The seven universities, whose affiliated personalities are given national recognition, in their order of appearance are: UNILORIN, Gregory University, Ebonyi State University, Kaduna State University, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, ESUT (Enugu State University of Technology) and Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto.
The awards list also reveals that three current Vice-Chancellors (of UNILORIN, Kaduna State University and ESUT) and three former Vice-Chancellors (of UNILORIN, University of Nigeria and Usmanu Danfodiyo University) are considered worthy of the prestigious honours. The other award recipients in our constituency are a Visitor (Gregory University) and a Pro-Chancellor (Ebonyi State University).
This is a remarkable achievement of no mean proportions. Nigeria has 129 universities out of which the name of UNILORIN is mentioned twice! It is great; it is phenomenal. This is an occasion for all staff, students and friends of the University to celebrate because for their University, it never rains but pours.
Before the announcement of this year’s award recipients was made, I had in the last publication of this column drawn a connection between the previous and present administrations of the University. I wrote that while the Oloyede administration was marked by transformation, the Ambali administration is driven by innovation.
I noted that the transformational administration of Prof. Is-haq Oloyede resulted in the University of Ilorin becoming the flagship of the Nigerian University system while the innovative administration of Prof. Abdul Ganiyu Ambali has made the University of Ilorin the most admired University and the first University in Nigeria to ever be ranked among the world’s best 2,000.The Federal Government seems to agree by serenading the two shining UNILORIN stars by giving them national honours among the galaxy of great men and women.
In his last address as Vice-Chancellor, captioned “I Thank Him; I Thank You”, Prof. Oloyede on October 15, 2012 had said there is no success without a successor. He described Prof. Ambali as “a robust scholar of international standard, who is well respected all over the world among his professional colleagues. His sterling records as Head of Department, Dean of Faculty and Council Member of the University of Maiduguri at various times are a testimony to his academic acumen and administrative astuteness.”
Prof. Oloyede also described Prof. Ambali as a “cosmopolitan personality with a vast and varied academic background” who would take the University of Ilorin higher. Today, the University is higher due to the same qualities mentioned and the whole world knows it! By emerging probably as the first Vice-Chancellor to receive that national recognition within less than two years in the saddle, Prof. Ambali has raised the bar of excellence.
Also, in his first address as Vice-Chancellor, “Another Dawn” on the same October 15, 2012, Prof. Ambali said about Prof. Oloyede: “I have taken time to understudy the outgoing Vice-Chancellor, who anywhere and by whatever standard, is an outstanding achiever. He is a dynamic man of many parts and I have resolved to follow his track and adjust where necessary, just as he followed the track of his great predecessors, a pattern that accounted for the spectacular progress of the University….” He also promised “to serve, to lead and to stimulate all the organs of this great institution to greater achievements” and now the name of the University appears conspicuously on the national roll of honours.
For a person like me who has been accused of always seeing good things about the University of Ilorin on this platform and others due to positive mental attitude (for which I plead guilty), it is satisfying that the two leaders have justified each other with the Officer of the Federal Republic (OFR) and Officer of the Order of Niger (OON) conferred on them. These two awards for the two eminent Nigerians are for the University of Ilorin, the University that connects the dots!
The Alma Mater therefore congratulates the Council, Senate, management, staff, students and friends of the University on the combined honours being conferred on their University. The column also congratulates the Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Ambali, and his predecessor, Prof. Oloyede, on today’s auspicious occasion.
As both of them step up today to receive their well-deserved national awards from Mr. President and Visitor to the University of the University of Ilorin, I pray that God continue to guide and guard them in the course of their noble causes!
And for the lucky new students whose resumption coincides with the joyous moment of the University, The Alma Mater congratulates them specially and wishes them success in their academic sojourn in UNILORIN starting today.