On Saturday 26th October 2019, the Lagos Continental Suites situated along Kofo Abayomi Street, Victoria Island played host to a gathering of University of Lagos alumni.
The University of Lagos Alumni Association Distinguished Awards, which was put together in commemoration of its 50th anniversary, honoured alumni who have distinguished themselves professionally and made significant contributions to nation building.
The honourees included the Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, GCON, All Progressives Congress (APC) stalwart, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Osun State Governor Mr. Adegboyega Oyetola.
In his opening address, the Alumni President worldwide, Dr. John Momoh, said the Association had come a long way and would continue to seek best possible partnership in its drive to develop the University.
The Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, while reacting to the gesture thanked the association on behalf of other honourees for the award presented to them. He described the feeling as one they will continue to appreciate for long. He spoke on the many great successes of outstanding Alumni which is a testament to the University’s own success. “As great Akokites, we have a lot to be proud of and I want to give a shout out to those who have contributed so much and who will continue to do so much”.
He mentioned Dr. John Momoh, as a proud alumnus and under whose visionary leadership Channels Television earned a reputation of being not just a news channel but rather a station that produces air documentary and has become a watchdog for media and political gladiators, keeping them on their toes in their nation-building duties.
Other alumni that he mentioned include frontline Banker Tony Elumelu; Nollywood, Actress Genevieve Nnaji, who recently had her directorial debut with her film “Lion Heart” on Netflix and will be Nigeria’s submission for the 2020 OSCARS next year; the owner of Terra Kulture, Mrs. Bolanle Austen-Peters who he says was his student years back. He informed the audience that her BAP Productions’ Wakaa the Musical was the first Nigerian musical to be staged in London’s West End.
The Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of Council, Dr. Bolanle Olawale Babalakin said that universities cannot continue to survive on government largesse, adding that they must learn to invest and improve on revenue generation.
Dr. Babalakin stated that while there had been arguments on whether education should be funded by government alone or it should be funded by government and all stakeholders, his position was that quality education “is an inescapable necessity”.
The Pro Chancellor decried the absence of Nigerian universities in the top 800 global ranking and he noted that to change the narrative, well-meaning alumni would have to start donating to bring back the good old days.
Also at the event, the All Progressive Congress National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu was honoured with a special recognition award for keeping Nigeria on the path towards good governance, respect for human rights and prosperity for all.
The former Lagos State governor, who was represented by ex-Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr Dele Alake, urged individuals and other stakeholders to work together and take UNILAG to enviable heights.
“Government alone cannot fund excellent universities. The initiative is for private individuals, alumni and everyone to work together to make sure UNILAG ranks among the best in the world,” he said.
The Vice Chancellor, Professor Toyin Ogundipe, who was also given a special recognition award at the event, in his address recalled how the institution had excelled in national and global competitions since his assumption to office as Vice Chancellor. He averred that students of the institution now compete nationally and globally.
“We have students who can hold their own anywhere. Our students won the National Mathematics Competition for university students. Also, two of our postgraduate students won design competition. In the area of innovation, our students are also doing well,”.
He however sought the support for indigent students, saying the Bank of Industry (BoI) had given the school a grant of N250 million to support student entrepreneurs upon completion of their academic studies at the university.
Ekiti State Governor Dr Kayode Fayemi while responding, stated that inadequate funding must be tackled in order to enhance the growth of the Education sector. He said: “We must find a radical solution to the issue of funding education in Nigeria. We need to do more so that our universities will not be glorified secondary schools. Our budget is small compared to that of some other countries. “We need to revisit our development activities in the universities and other support systems.”
Other honourees include business moguls Alhaji Aliko Dangote, Mr. Femi Otedola and Dr. Mike Adenuga, Provost, College of Medicine. Idi-Araba, UNILAG, Prof. Foluso Afolabi Lesi. Other awardees include Chairman/Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian Diaspora Commission, Mrs. Abike Dabiri-Erewa; Chairman and founder, Zenith Bank, Mr Jim Ovia; Sir Olu Okeowo; Advertising & Multimedia guru, Mr. Biodun Shobanjo; Governors Babajide Sanwo-Olu (Lagos State), Adegboyega Oyetola (Osun) and Seyi Makinde (Oyo) as well as former General Secretary of the Commonwealth, Chief Emeka Anyaoku and others.