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From Faculty to faculty, drums will rumble and grumble so thunderously as the campus of the University of Ibadan (UI), will be kept agog with all manner of festivities in celebration of the Nigeria’s premier university, University of Ibadan which turns 70 this November.  In marking the milestone however, the management of the university, headed by Prof. Abel IdowuOlayinka has declared a year-long ceremony, beginning from October to November 2019 in order to fully commemorate a university that has remarkably, impacted the world.

Established in 1948, UI which is admirably tagged “the First and Best”, could be described as a relatively young university when compared with some prestigious universities across the globe.  For instance, a 70-year old UI can’t be compared with the University of Cambridge in England which is 809 years old this year, neither can UI at 70 match the record of Harvard University which marked its 382 years this year. Again, Oxford University is 922 years in existence this year while Yale University which was founded in 1701 is 317 years old as of today. There are many others which are well above a thousand years!   This is, perhaps where those who are quick to condemn Nigerian universities because of poor world ranking need to be a bit cautious before throwing away the baby with the bathwater.  Obviously, there is still a long distance to destination!

However, despite its young age, UI has by far, established itself as a world-class institution, becoming a prestigious national patrimony with an enviable reputation and record of sound scholarship obtainable and comparable in any part of the world.

Universities all over the world function on the tripod of teaching, research and service to the community.  Ibadan has distinguished itself in all these key areas to the amazement of the pundits.  The exponential effect of its contributions to Nigeria, Africa and the world is unimaginable.  There is no continent that the UI’s products are not making waves.  It needs no emphasis that Ibadan produced the first generation of writers, scholars, diplomats, technocrats, artists among others. Those who attended UI are the pride of the country. They include but certainly not limited to Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe, J. P Clark, Christopher Okigbo, Mabel Segun, Ben Obumselu, MichealEcheruo, BiodunJeyifo, Francis J. Ellah, OladipoAkinkugbe, Femi Osofisan, NiyiOsundare, Odia Ofeimun, Bode Sowande, FranscescaPerreira, Dan Izevbaye, and AbiolaIrele. Also in the long list are Kenneth Dike, AdieleAfigbo, Kayode Osuntokun, Olumuyiwa Awe, J. F Ade Ajayi, Bola Ige, OlumbeBassir, GokeOlubunmi, DapoAdelugba, TekenaTamuno, ObaroIkime, Gamaliel Onosode, Billy Dudley, OjetunjiAboyade, Felix Ohiwerei, Akin Mabogunje, AdamuCiroma, Jubril Aminu, Ola Oni, Bade Onimode, OmafumeOnoge and so on.

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Traveling through the past, one is compelled to pay homage to those who had passed through Ibadan, thus, creating the enduring, rigorous intellectual template with which the institution has been reinventing itself.  Records show that scholars of different stripes from different parts of the world have passed through Ibadan, leaving behind remarkable creative, artistic and scientific legacies.  We have them to thank for blazing a worthy trail.  UI is what it is today because some people sacrificed their yesterday for the betterment of our today.  We are indeed beholden to our forebears.

Can this university celebrate its platinum jubilee without remembering the past vice chancellors who staked their lives for the survival of the system?  Many of them were insulted, embarrassed, threatened and assaulted in the course of building Ibadan. Yet, they put in their best to ensure that UI remains the flagship of higher education in Nigeria.  Prof. Kenneth Mellanby began this journey.  He was the first principal between 1947 and 1953, followed by J. T. Saunders (1953 – 1956), John Parry (1956 – 1960), Prof. Kenneth Onwuka Dike (1960 – 1967), Prof. Thomas Adeoye Lambo (1967 – 1971) and Prof. H. Oritsejolomi Thomas (1972 – 1975).

They also included Prof.Tekena N. Tamuno (1975 – 1979), Prof. Samson O. Olayide (1979 – 1983), Prof. Ayo Banjo (1983 – 1991), Prof. Alien B. Oyediran (1991 – 1995), Prof.OladosuOjengbele (1995 – 1996), Prof.OmoniyiAdewoye (1996 – 2000), Prof. O. O. Olorunsogo (acting, 2000), Prof.AyodeleFalase (2000 – 2005), Prof.OlufemiBamiro (2005 – 2010), Prof. Isaac FolorunsoAdewole (2010 – 2015) and the incumbent, Prof. Abel IdowuOlayinka whose five-year single tenure is expected to lapse in 2020. All these people and their team players gave UI their best of service. Perhaps it is against this background that a “Night of Honour” (where those who have contributed to the development of the university will be appreciated) is included in the schedule of activities marking the 70th anniversary.

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In the same vein, it is not out of place to thank Olubadan-in-Council and the entire Ibadan people for their generosity with their land.  Ibadan is a city of open arms.  The friendliness of the natives draws all like a mystic magnet.  Ibadan people gave the university much latitude to thrive as there has never been a record of hostility between the university community and the native of Ibadan.

Clearly, this 70th anniversary commands singing, drumming, dancing, champagne popping, jollification and merry making. It deserves a year-long commemoration that has been declared.  It was former President Goodluck Jonathan who noted with delight, some years back that every Nigerian bears the influence of UI. According to him, “if you did not attend UI, somebody from your family must have finished from UI. If that is not the case, but you went to school in Nigeria, you must have been taught by someone who graduated from UI or who was taught by someone who finished from UI. Therefore, you bear the influence of UI”. This could not have been an empty assertion, more so when UI produces 45 percent of all vice chancellors of other universities in the country. At a recent press conference, the UI Vice Chancellor, Prof.Olayinka disclosed that UI has since inception produced 232,225 graduates in various disciplines.  Today, Ibadan is the producer of the highest number of Ph.D. degree holders in Africa with over 400 professors on its staff list.  It is the intellectual capital of Nigeria; a scholastic beehive where cerebral honey is being produced for the world.

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Without exaggeration, this university is a shining star among the galaxy of stars with continued conversation on intellectualism. As postulated by an Indian boxer, Vijender Singh, “achievements are precious and timeless, just like the precious metal platinum.  And what better way to celebrate milestones than with precious platinum”.  This platinum jubilee ought to be celebrated with wine and sweet words. That is exactly what will be happening on campus in the next one year. This is because from inception till now, it has been one leap of progress unto another.  UI has been soaring higher and higher with the strength of its own wings, encouraging the growth and maturation of other universities.

Meanwhile, where are the UI alumni standing on this occasion?  It is obvious they are scattered all over the world, but this is the time for them to come back for a flashback.  This 70th anniversary is big enough to bring back those who were baked by Ibadan. The alumni should remember their alma mater with a view to assisting the school that made them.  The relationship between old students and their former schools is analogous to the relationship between a father and his children.  When the father is old, the children come back to assist.  At 70, most of the facilities put in place in 1948 have become ramshackle and bedraggled. Given the array of its products, UI has no reason to be poor.  By the way, this is an open invitation to all UI alumni all over the world to come and assist their university.  The money coming from the federal government is barely enough to run the university.  UI pays electricity bill of N60 million per month, buys diesel of about N5 million and pays N16 million for the cleaning of the campus. UI certainly needs help from those it has helped with knowledge.

Saanu is Media Assistant to vice chancellor, UI.