1. His Excellency, the Deputy Governor of Nasarawa State;
2. Members of the National Assembly here present;
3. Members of the Federal Executive Council here present;
4. The Right Honourable Speaker, Nasarawa State House of Assembly;
5. The Honourable Chief Judge of Nasarawa State;
6. Principal Officers and Members of the State House of Assembly;
7. Members of the State Executive and Security Councils;
8. Secretary to the Government of Nasarawa State;
9. The Head of Civil Service;
10. The State Chairman, All Progressives Congress (APC);
11. The Chancellor of the Nasarawa State University, Keffi,
Highness, Dr. Shehu Usman Yamusa III, Emir of Keffi;
12. Permanent Secretaries;
13. His Royal Highness,Alh. (Dr.) Isa Mustapha Agwai I, CFR,
Lafia and Chairman, Nasarawa State Council of Chiefs;
14. Chairmen and Chief Executives of Commissions, Boards and Parastatals;
15. The Pro-Chancellor/Chairman and Members of the University Governing Council;
16. The Executive Secretary, National Universities Commission;
17. The Executive Secretary, TETFund;
18. The Registrar, Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB);
19. The Vice Chancellor, Principal Officers, Nasarawa State University, Keffi;
20. Other Visiting Vice Chancellors;
21. Chairmen, Interim Management Committees of Local Government Councils;
22. Heads of Tertiary Institutions;
23. Their Royal Highnesses, Emirs and Chiefs;
24. Our Distinguished Honorary Doctorate Degree Awardees;
25. Prominent Sons and Daughters of Nasarawa State;
26. Staff and Students of Nasarawa State University;
27. My Dear Graduands;
28. Gentlemen of the Press;
29. Ladies and gentlemen.
I feel honoured and privileged to be part of the grand occasion of today, the 5th Combined Convocation Ceremony of the Nasarawa State University, Keffi. It is exciting that this convocation is coming up after over 8years since the last one. I have great admiration for the emphasis this institution places on life-long learning and development, positive engagement with the community, developing leadership skills, qualities that will positively impact not only in Nasarawa State alone but Nigeria at large.
2. To the graduating students, this is your day and I
congratulate you on your achievement and I am sure you are looking forward to a
bright and fulfilling future, irrespective of the gloom of the job market and
other symptoms of anxiety in Nigeria today. You are fortunate that you are
graduating from an institution that has prepared you exceptionally well. As SETH
GODIN outlines in his book Stop Stealing Dreams: “You are entering a new Chapter
in your life in an exciting world, full of challenges, opportunities amplified
by the Web and the connection revolution, human beings are no longer rewarded
most for being complaint cogs. Instead, our chaotic world is open to the work of
passionate individuals, intent on carving their own paths. That is the new job
of school. Not to hand a map to those willing to follow it, but to inculcate
leadership and restlessness into a new generation”.
This I believe is a scenario that is apt and a challenge to each of you.
3. Nasarawa State University has prepared you not just on the academic front, but to play your part in helping communities improve their quality of life. This is a quality that you must build on: Nigeria is littered with major environmental, ecological disasters and security issues due to increasing numbers of the population living below the poverty line. This is due to corruption, poor governance and leadership. Nigeria needs your input and you must at every stage of your life play your part in turning this unacceptable situation for the sake of the future generation. Nigeria is endowed with natural potentials and great human resources, we have no reason to fail.
4. As these students are unleashed, so to speak, on society, it is in the womb of time how and what the products of the institution will turn out to be. It is my fervent hope and prayer that they will turn out to be of the highest quality such that the society and the graduates themselves would have been done a great deal and not short-changed.
5. This brings me to the pertinent question of the University and its place in society. To be sure,universities emerged as an offshoot of the educational arm of religious institutions but were basically academies for providing universal education and studying the universe and interpreting it. Universities have set the pace for society and responded to challenges within society. Indeed, universities are saddled with providing high level manpower, ideas, solutions for Government, arts and entertainment and, indeed the industrial society.
6. From a single university in Nigeria in 1948, there are now more than 100 universities both Government and private, mostly offering generalist courses, with few specialising in Agriculture and Technology. With the army of those educated abroad, there are hardly enough jobs for the graduates. It raises the question: what is (or, what should be) the role of the university in society?
7. There are basically four main objectives for a university namely: instruction in skills; the promotion of the general powers of the mind so as to produce not mere specialists but rather cultivated men and women; to maintain research in balance with teaching, since teaching should not be separated from the advancement of learning and the search for truth; and to transmit a common culture and common standards of citizenship.
8. From this, it is apparent that universities are not just institutions for awarding degrees just to have collar jobs but a very central institution of control in a society. Universities are supposed to be in the forefront of any social challenge, especially with the power of research being focused on areas that will promote human development and solve existing problems. Research is not just for promotion of lecturers but its findings are part of a society’s knowledge base which is transmitted to students and industries. So then, a university must be an institution for the people. It must be a center for knowledge and problem solving for society. Indeed, a pragmatic centre for problem solving and societal growth which alternatively determines the viability of our future.
9. Part of our problem is that our society is not knowledge
driven. We have problem with finding jobs for young people. In most of our
States, the Government is still the major employer and accounted for about 80%
of those in the formal sector.We have problem with agriculture since we cannot
feed our teeming population; our agriculture is still largely primitive. Such
things as improved seedlings (high yielding, disease resistant, early maturing
seeds), modern farming implements and methods and farm financing are still
neither available nor affordable to most of our farmers. We have problem with
the economy such that it is difficult to identify trends and predict direction
of the economy. This is why it has been difficult to get serious players to jump
into the Nigerian economy,
not with the policy summersault that happened with the emergence of every new government. These problems have persisted and are burgeoning because the universities are largely out of sync with society. In plain term, we are not being ruled by ideas. That is why we must be practical and pragmatic. This will surely reverse the trend from just subsistence farming to profitable and lucrative venture, from a makeshift economy to a reliable, dependable and predictable economy. That is why in Nasarawa state we are interfacing with tertiary institutions especially Nasarawa State University, Keffi for value addition.
10. Increasingly, our universities continue to issue certificates to graduates who are barely literate, if we take literacy literally to be the ability to read and write, the education is bland and not tied to need of society. Education must be woven into life with a common thread running through life and society. This is how universities can be relevant. Universities in Nigeria today, are themselves as troubled as the society itself. But a university is supposed to be a centre of excellence that stands above society, passes judgment on it and ultimately impart excellence into it. In our case in this country, I am sorry to say most universities can hardly provide municipal services for themselves. Such things like safe water, electricity, security and waste disposal are still huge challenges for them. Instead of spending billions on diesel to power generators, why can’t the universities devote themselves to research in alternative and cheap sources of power for their campuses? even if for only street lighting and ordinary lighting points. With all the physics and Electrical and Electronics departments, why must the universities be part of the diesel guzzling society? Universities engage contractors for buildings and road construction and are largely part of the contract driven economy. Why are their civil engineering and ancillary departments not involved with research on constructing roads and building at a fraction of today’s cost? If the universities are not indeed, centres of excellence, how can they impact excellence on society? In kura na maganin zawo tayi wakanta. That is the whole idea behind education being pragmatic and worthwhile.
11. To address the issue of isolated disconnected pseudo citadel of learning and youth employment in Nasarawa State, my Government has been investing massively in the areas of research and technological innovation and in other sectors that will kick-start an economic transformation in the State, already, concerted efforts towards alleviating the problems faced by farmers in the State have reached advanced stage. Recently, the Honourable Commissioner of Agriculture led a delegation from the State to Pakistan to explore ways of improving farming activities in the State, through collaboration and exchange programme with the University of Agriculture Faisalbad to better the lots of farmers of Nasarawa State. New rice seedlings from Pakistan have been procured and I have already directed the Honourable Commissioner of Agriculture to start experimenting on the possibility of Nasarawa State becoming not only major producer of rice in the country but also specialize in Basmatic Rice as part our efforts to add value to the system.
12. In order to improve our farming technics in terms of equipment and seedlings, my Government is proposing the establishment of Institute of Agriculture in Lafia to be saddled with the responsibility of research. This will go a long way not only in improving the quantity but also the quality of agricultural produce in the State. Also, in order to boost agricultural production in the State, my Government recently procured 4 units fertilizer blending machines for the sole purpose of producing fertilizers at a subsidized rate for local farmers. This is in addition to the contract this Government has signed with a tractor manufacturing company to establish a plant in the State for assembling and maintenance of tractors the company will supply not only to Nasarawa State but to be the one-stop centre for agric mechanization in the entire North-Central zone.
13. The Nasarawa State Government is providing the enabling environment for agricultural business to thrive. We have the OLAM farms, which is one of the largest rice producers in Africa, cultivating about 10,000 hectres of rice. Recently, Dangote has concluded plans to invest over N200 Billion for the establishment of a sugar plantation and refinery in the State. Over 60,000 hectres have already been acquired and work already in advanced stage to have the second largest sugar refinery in Africa. This will go a long way in addressing the problem of youth unemployment in the State. I urge the graduands to take advantage of these opportunities.
14. SOLID MINERALS:Given the large deposit of Cocking coal in the State, we shall soon embark on its prospection through collaboration with Hyepec of China, for power generation that will support the national power needs. The University will play a vital role through its Department of Solid Minerals.
15. Administration and governance are still serious challenges in our ivory tower. On a regular basis, students go on rampage and lecturers go on strike over matters that astute administrators and appreciative stakeholders could have taken care of. Many do not even understand basic economics of admitting only the number of students that existing facilities and resources can support. In most cases, they would have overstretched existing facilities before seeking to expand them, and after severe crisis would have brewed from this indiscretion. I urge university administrators not to succumb to pressure to admit more students than the facilities could support in order to ensure serenity, decorum and contentment in our universities.
16. Most of our universities can still not grapple with the challenges of finance. The only strait- jacket approach they have is charging students cut throat fees and going cap-in-hand to their proprietors for subvention. In the United States for example, university Presidents are appointed on their capability to raise funds and administer effectively through consultancy and entrepreneurial initiatives. I think we have something to learn from this.
17. I am still not satisfied that the university is in the best shape it should be. The reality however, is that with the financial position of the State amidst other competing demands, hardly could we fulfill our dream of the ideal university. When we look at a university really, we should be making global comparison and should position Nasarawa State University to compete globally. This will require a change of paradigm in terms of its structure, operations, philosophy, funding and even ownership.
18. What I am looking forward to, therefore, is unification of existing tertiary institutions on a creative basis. The future, therefore, is of linkages and integration. While I challenge the lecturers, the administrators and the students alike, I wish to appreciate them for the synergy and cooperation for ensuring industrial harmony and peace in the university. This is a ready platform for a greater future.
19. Let me once again congratulate this university on its 5th Combined Convocation and especially the graduating students, their parents and well-wishers who look forward to a bright future. My prayer is that your expectations and that of the society will be achieved sooner than later.
20. I also congratulate these distinguished Nigerians who have been considered for the award of Honorary Degrees of this university today by virtue of their track record and ground breaking accomplishments in life and contributions to society. No doubt the trio of (i) Venerable Selka Miner (ii) Prof. Adamu David Baikie, and (iii) Prof. Tam David West deserve this award.
21. I thank you for your kind attention.