UNILAG VC charges other alumni to emulate Engineering FacultyJuly 29, 2023
UNILAG Chemistry Class of ’83 donates multi-million naira laboratory equipment to departmentAugust 18, 2023
Greatest and Distinguished Akokites!
Can you recall the jocular statement ‘If you go anywhere in the world and you do not find a Nigerian there, take to your heels’? Although said in jest, the veracity of this statement is not lost on us- Nigerians are some of the most resilient and resourceful humans on earth! On this propitious occasion, I wish to give my utmost regards to our alumni everywhere, especially those of you here in the diaspora, who representing and doing us proud across various fields of endeavour.
On Sunday, 18th December, 2022, I was conferred with the leadership of our Association, and announced as the 15th President of the University of Lagos Alumni Association. I am delighted to address the Convention of our North American Chapter for the first time as the President of our great Association. This is a huge honour especially considering that UNILAG Alumni Association has become in our country the definition of what an Alumni Association should be.
The landmark achievements recorded by past alumni administrations are well known to all of us and need no repeating. Beyond the physical developments, your Association witnessed tremendous growth in membership with vibrant new branches springing up in Nigeria and the diaspora.
Since our assumption of office, we have embarked on deft dispute resolution and the results have been quite remarkable. I am happy to report that the Ogun State Branch, which was hitherto suspended, is now fully back in the fold. We have also put in place a robust conflict resolution and early detection strategy to avert such preventable situation in the future. Also, the healthy partnership between the University and the Association continues to soar. Although we have witnessed steady increase in the numbers of active alumni, we shall intensify our membership drive to attain exponential growth through branch multiplication in Nigeria and the diaspora.
The theme of this convention is UNILAG: The Roadmap to a World-class University. And I have been asked to speak on the topic; 360 View of a World class University.” How apt is this!
The term ‘world-class’ is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as something ‘that is of a quality or standard regarded as outstanding throughout the world; comparable to or able to compete with the best in the world’. We were witnesses to the remarkable address given by the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Folasade Ogunsola, at her investiture where she informed us of steps she intends to take, together with her team and with our support, to make UNILAG future ready. These include Financing, Infrastructure, Reputation and Manpower Development with the acronym FIRM. It is indeed a future we all look forward to.
You will recall that Aesop’s fable titled ‘Who will Bell the Cat?’ A family of mice had been living in fear because of a cat. One day they came together to discuss strategies to defeat the cat. After much discussion, one young mouse gets up to suggest an idea. He suggests that they put a bell around the cat’s neck, so they can hear it when it approaches. All the other mice agree, apart from one wise, old mouse. The old mouse agrees with the plan in theory, but suggests “Who will put the bell on the Cat?” The moral of the story is – it is easy to see problems and propose solutions but who will implement those solutions? We may be awash with ideas but what we need are straight-forward solutions.
The 16th and first female Vice-Chancellor of our University has stepped up to ‘bell the cat’. However, she can’t do it alone. This is where we as alumni come in – to partner with her and by extension the University to make UNILAG future-ready.
University’s needs: The University is a community that is sometimes bigger than many Local Governments in some countries. Hitherto, our universities have run on the subventions they receive from the Government in addition to its paltry Internally Generated Revenue (IGR), which is usually pittance compared to its needs. Let me give you just one example. Whereas the University gets a bill of N180m expenditure on electricity consumption per month the subvention is less than a third of that figure. I am sure the Vice Chancellor will do justice to this issue in her address. Now faced with shrunken levels of public funding amidst harsh economic realities, our university is forced to strive harder than ever to procure the means to support research and teaching. It is even confronted with greater task to provide a conducive environment for learning and teaching in the 21st century.
Sadly, raising funds is not a walk in the park. It has never been. Giving back to an Alma Mater is a relatively new notion for many and so the message needs to be proclaimed, especially because we are used to the government funding the institution over the years. Now even the government is beginning to realise that the old method of funding is no longer sustainable. This is where we come in. We are beneficiaries of the existence of the University of Lagos and our destinies have become intertwined. We must therefore be a part of its continuity as our reputation is referenced to that of our Alma mater. There was a certain standard that held sway when we were students. We cannot deny that times are different, but it is now up to us to help these students experience some of what we enjoyed. Together, we can take our Association and our Alma Mater to that future we imagine.
Before I identify some of the projects your Association intends to embark upon in coming days and years, let me touch briefly on the topic I have been given – 360 View of a World class University. What does this mean?
To elucidate this view, please permit me to recall something said recently by the Chairman of the Court of Governors of the College of Medicine, (CMUL), University of Lagos, Dr. Aderemi Desalu. He posits, and I totally agree, that the definition of an illiterate will soon no longer be those who cannot read nor write but will include even Professors who are not able to function in the new digital world where you will only be handed what looks like a pen but which actually holds the key to how you access all your needs, eat a meal, travel, receive medical treatment, while navigating the world. I am sure you all will agree with him.
A world class university is one that can be transformed to meet the standards of a digital world. A 21st century world class university is a dynamic and multifaceted institution that excels in various aspects of education, research, innovation, and community engagement. Such an institution plays a pivotal role in shaping future leaders, advancing knowledge, and contributing to global progress. Such a university encompasses a myriad of facets, including:
`Academic excellence that entails offering cutting-edge programs featuring a renowned faculty, and establishing collaborations with other leading institutions worldwide.
• Research innovation through state-of-the-art laboratories, research centers, and technological infrastructure, resulting in groundbreaking research across various disciplines. These advancements can subsequently be translated into real-world applications.
• Technological integration that capitalises on online courses, interactive simulations, and virtual labs, all within a smart-enabled campus. This environment ensures efficient management, security, and access to advanced computational resources and AI tools, thereby enhancing research capabilities and facilitating extensive data accessibility.
• Inclusive and diverse engagement, wherein the university attracts students from around the globe, fostering a multicultural and diverse learning environment.
• Entrepreneurship and industry engagement, achieved by deliberately nurturing entrepreneurship and providing resources, mentorship, and physical spaces for startups. Additionally, the university intentionally cultivates partnerships with businesses and organisations to facilitate internships and employment opportunities.
• Sustainability and social impact, as the university dedicates its efforts to addressing global challenges such as climate change, health disparities, and poverty.
• Cultural enrichment, which supports various artistic disciplines, granting students opportunities to explore and showcase their talents. This approach encourages innovative thinking and unique problemsolving approaches, often in collaboration with the sciences.
• Lastly, comprehensive student support that addresses students’ mental and physical well-being, as well as their academic and personal development, with the aim of shaping them into well-rounded individuals. The advancement of the University is uppermost on our minds and so we will:
1. Embark on the construction of a hostel to alleviate the perennial accommodation challenges amongst students
2. Undertake adoption of existing hostels with a bid to revamping them and making them fit for use
3. Facilitate engagement of the faculties with their relevant industries.
4. Purchase industrial scanners to help the University lessen the backlog of transcript requests. (I am happy to report that I have been able to personally procure one of these for the University) .
5. Facilitate the employment of graduates of the University of Lagos.
6. Seek internship for students.
7. Draw further attention to the dilemma of the University among our circles of influence nationally and globally.
Finally, ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’ says the Chinese Proverb. For the kind of alumni that we boast of- distinguished individuals in virtually all fields of human endeavour – in governance, Engineering, Medicine, Law, Sciences, Finance, Insurance, Advertising, Administration, Journalism, Academia, and many others throughout the nation and the rest of the world- our alma mater must look befitting. We need to place before these students the possibilities that the future holds.
To Mrs. Abimbola Omotoso, the Chairman, Mr Tunde Deru, the Vice Chairman and to the rest of the North American Chapter of our Association, I say well done! To all present here, participants and friends, thank you and congratulations on commencement of this August occasion. May you be immensely rewarded for your love for our University and Association.
As a last word ‘The great aim of education is not knowledge but action’ – Herbert Spencer.
God bless you all!
Engr. IfeOluwa Oyedele, FNSE, FNIEEE, FRMN President (Worldwide)