The Afe Babalola University, Ado-Ekiti’s letter intimating Asiwaju Bola Tinubu of that institution’s decision to confer on him an honorary doctorate degree and giving reasons for finding him worthy of the honour was unequivocal. It was also very insightful. The motivation for the award was even more eloquently put when the Acting Vice-Chancellor of the university, Professor Smaranda Olarinde, spoke on the issue. Elucidating on the rationale for the choice of the former Lagos governor and APC National Leader, Prof. Olarinde said Asiwaju Tinubu was not selected on the basis of his soaring political credentials because ABUAD is not a political entity.
“We didn’t consider Senator Bola Tinubu owing to his political career. He was only found worthy because of his immense contributions to humanity and his various selfless services that surpass that of anybody in Nigeria,” she said, adding also that Asiwaju Tinubu had “helped thousands to rediscover lost destinies, given hope to the hopeless and provided a compass for those wandering in the wilderness of difficulties and uncertainties.”
That statement encapsulated virtually all that the All Progressives Congress National Leader represented and continues to represent in Nigeria today and even beyond the country. To appreciate the critical point made by ABUAD in according Asiwaju Tinubu this honour, it is pertinent to wonder why a person like the Jagaban would give up a blossoming, still rising and secure career in the lucrative oil industry, from which he resigned as treasurer of Mobil oil, to chart a new course in the slippery, unpredictable terrain of Nigerian politics?
There was absolutely no guarantee that he would achieve any meaningful success in his unpredictable chosen path when he made the plunge into the stormy waters of politics back in the late 1980s during military President, General Ibrahim Babangida’s, tortuous political transition programme. Surely, not many people would summon the courage to take such a risk leaving the known for the unknown, the certain for the hazy, but Asiwaju did.
What then was Asiwaju’s motivation in taking this decision? Could it be the acquisition of wealth? But he already had that aplenty as a top manager of the funds of an oil multinational that was certainly richer than many states in the country at the time. And with money comes a certain degree of power even for the affluent person who is not in politics. But then, the ABUAD award goes to the very defining essence of Tinubu’s politics. His has been an exemplary politics of selfless service to his fellow human beings, particularly the downtrodden, either when he was in office as governor of Lagos State between 1999 and 2007 or for the past 12 years that he has been a private citizen, even though a very public political personality.
On many occasions Tinubu has stuck out his neck and made daring sacrifices to make his society better. Whether as a pro-democracy activist, where he emerged one of the leading lights who worked towards the termination of military rule in the land, as a two-term governor of Lagos State during which he revolutionalised Internally-generated Revenue after the illegal seizure of the state allocation by the Obasanjo regime as well as laid the foundation for the ongoing radical modernisation of Lagos or as a resilient opposition figure who helped, along with a few others, to build a coalition APC into a formidable political machine that ousted an incumbent at the centre for the first time in Nigeria’s history, Asiwaju’s efforts and politics have always been geared towards the common good. His trajectory speaks to courage and commitment to justice and excellence.
There seems to be a meeting of minds between Asiwaju Tinubu and ABUAD founder and Chancellor Aare Afe Babalola (SAN) in the pursuit of excellence and the beauty of engraving indelible names in the sands of time. Created about a decade ago, ABUAD is today a first class citadel of knowledge and a beacon of excellence for research as well as moral and capacity-building. The achievements of the university within those 10 years are quite impressive. This should not be surprising because Aare Babalola, a prodigious legal luminary, is noted for excellence, just like Asiwaju.
The authorities of ABUAD were certainly stating the undeniable fact when they stressed Tinubu’s indelible contributions to changing lives and turning destinies around. While a great majority of the affluent in most societies have a tendency to hoard their wealth, a substantial portion of Asiwaju’s fortune goes to succour the poor and disadvantaged. It is virtually impossible for those in need to come to him with a need and not have that challenge addressed to a considerable degree. Tinubu’s residence in Ikoyi is undoubtedly the busiest in that high-brow area of Lagos hosting an endless stream of people from all classes of society but most particularly the less -privileged. The ABUAD recognition will no doubt encourage more endowed Nigerians to emulate Tinubu’s lifestyle of giving.
Tinubu and Aare Babalola have mutual respect and admiration for each other. The ABUAD founder described Asiwaju as a man of ideas. Ideas rule the world, he told the APC National Leader last Monday in Ado-Ekiti. “It is not about the number of degrees one acquires; it is if you have the power of ideas, the power to turn dream into reality. Nations become big based on ideas that turn things around,” he added, while extending an invitation to Asiwaju to come and spend quality time, “of up to a week,” at the university to explore its facilities as some leaders across Africa and beyond had done. Tinubu himself was fulsome in his admiration of Aare Babalola. Impressed by what Aare had done with ABUAD within the little time, he likened the accomplishment to “what one person with a great idea and stoutness of heart can do.”
But this piece is about the investiture ceremony to which I must return. It was one unique and interesting event organized as part of activities for ABUAD’s 10th year anniversary and 7th convocation. Asiwaju was gifted a doctorate degree in Public Administration (honoris causa). He was not alone. Other awardees were the Sultan of Sokoto, His Eminence, Alhaji Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar 111; Obi of Onitsha, His Royal Majesty Igwe Nnaemeka Achebe, and an entrepreneur and Chairman/Chief Executive Officer, Green Energy International Limited, Prof. Anthony Adegbulugbe. It was an illustrious quartet.
Equally distinguished is the array of personalities who graced the occasion. Four governors namely- Alhaji Adegboyega Oyetola of Osun, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu (Lagos), Prince Dapo Abiodun (Ogun) and Alhaji Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto, Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, former APC Interim Chairman, Chief Bisi Akande, former Minister of State for Defence, Chief Ademola Seriki, and former Presidential Liaison Officer, Senate and Mutawale of Borno, Alhaji Kashim Ibrahim-Imam, among many others, attended the event. The host-governor, which is the governor of Ekiti State and Chairman of the Governor’s Forum, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, was part of President Buhari’s delegation to the 2019 Russia-Africa Summit in Sochi, Russia. He was represented by his deputy, Chief Egbeyemi.
It was, however, an emotional moment for Asiwaju when after the investiture the Sultan of Sokoto who was chosen to speak on behalf of the awardees in turn chose the former Lagos governor to speak for them and in fact led him to the podium.
And Asiwaju rose to the occasion. Speaking extempore, he thanked ABUAD and the founder of the school, Aare Babalola, for finding the four of them worthy of the honorary degrees. Commending the university for doing the right things in the right way and Aare Babalola for the vision and determination to establish the university, he said ABUAD’s record had been exemplary within its 10 years of existence.
He urged his fellow awardees to do all within their capacities so that they hand over a steady helm and a vibrant and strengthened nation to the young ones. For Asiwaju, education is everything. He left behind some quotable quotes: “Education is the light of a nation and ignorance its darkness. Only with that light can we hope to see where we are and to discover the path we must go to realise our greatness as a nation development.
“…To educate a generation is to secure the future. Thus, it is indeed my honour to be here with you for this university stands as a shining beacon, casting the light of education upon our nation and its people. ABUAD thus serves as a vital piston in the machinery of national progress. Our young people deserve and require quality education that will unlock their utmost potentials. This will engender critical thinking and build their capacities for self and national development.”
I can go on and on. While I was ruminating on that ceremony, the statement of ABUAD acting Vice Chancellor on the significance of the honorary degree again raced through my mind. The beauty of ABUAD awards, she said, is that they are awarded to persons who are deserving of such honours, having excelled in character and useful application of such intellect and excellence.