Thirty years after its establishment, Ekiti State University takes stock while graduating 27,000 students
The long stretch of the dusty university road, Ado Ekiti, Ekiti State, had a major traffic burden between Thursday, March 29 and Saturday, March 31. This is because for those three days, the Ekiti State University, EKSU, the state’s flagship tertiary institution, located on the road, threw open its ivory gates to the international community and the academia for the official release of 27,000 graduating students. Indeed, in a colourful ceremony, EKSU marked its 17th convocation and a landmark 30th anniversary of its existence.
The convocation ceremony started when, with measured strides and anticipation, the academic procession beamed its way from the Omolayo Administrative Building to the 3,000-seater lecture theatre, venue of the event. At this point, it was clear to the graduands, their friends and relations gathered to witness the convocation that the appointed time had come.
In the bubble of the excitement, Patrick Aina, vice chancellor, VC, congratulated the graduands and urged them to be good ambassadors of the university. “I wish to rejoice with all our graduating students and I congratulate you all on the successful completion of your studies. All of us are proud to be associated with your success. It is our hope and indeed our trust that you will make the best use of what you have learnt during your stay here to benefit not only yourselves but the nation and the world,” he said.
For Aina, a professor of soil physics, the convocation ceremony was significant. It was the first since his appointment as VC four months ago. It was also an opportunity for him to make account of his observations about the challenges that had faced the institution before he came on board. Indeed, since its establishment in 1982, EKSU has sailed through a stormy weather, battered by the elements of underfunding, cult clashes, neglect and incessant change of names.
It was known as Obafemi Awolowo University, OAU, when the government of Adekunle Ajasin, the late former governor of Ondo State, founded the institution in 1982. It later metamorphosed into the Ondo State University, and later the University of Ado-Ekiti, UNAD, when Ekiti State was created.
Last year, however, a merger with the then University of Education, Ikere-Ekiti, TUNEDIK, and the University of Science and Technology, Ifaki-Ekiti, USTI, on the orders of the state government, gave the university its present identity and name.
Beyond constant name changes, the university had also suffered neglect. For 30 years, the university community groped in darkness while the students burnt both the proverbial and real night candles to study. Water was a luxury on campus while VCs lived outside the university campus. To make matters worse, the university suffered acute subvention decrease while all laboratory and workshop equipment and tools meant for practical exposure were left to decay.
At the convocation ceremony, Akinjide Osuntokun, pro-chancellor and chairman of council, underscored the decay in his address. According to him, “The university went through a chequered history of neglect, underfunding, repeated change of names, exodus of staff, loss of focus, industrial unrest, student protests, incidents of cult clashes and the likes.” With the appointment of Aina, however, things have gradually started looking up for the university again. For the first time in its history, the campus is being re-connected to the national grid with the installation of a new switchgear panel. Two industrial boreholes have also been sunk to solve the water challenge on campus.
Blessed with a wide and largely uncultivated expanse of land, the university is set to take advantage of its asset to generate funds that will be used to kick-start the campus once again.
Looking at these efforts, Aina says he envisions a university “that is recognised worldwide for its academic excellence, vibrant academic culture, diversified and cosmopolitan university community, and for the quality and impact of its scientific and technological research, teaching and service; a university that will be among the world’s truly great, that will set the standard for the creation and dissemination of knowledge in service to its communities, state, nation and the world.”
It is this new mega university, comprising of staff and students of the old TUNEDIK and USIT, that Aina hopes to position for international relevance in the future. The integrated farming project of the university is expected to be one flagship programme that will drive that change. “We have a vast land for agriculture and housing purposes. Ekiti as a state is known for agriculture. We are in partnership with the state government to industrialise agriculture to feed the nation and to generate a sustainable income to revive infrastructure on campus,” he said.
This plan notwithstanding, Osuntokun enjoined the state government to “increase substantially the subvention to the university which at the moment constitutes a fraction of what is needed to settle wages. Besides, the university needs a major intervention in terms of capital grant to tackle some of the infrastructural problems,” adding that “however, it is clear to me that it will be unreasonable for us to depend solely on government for the survival or for the improvement of the university.”
Kayode Fayemi, Ekiti State governor and Visitor to the university, also recognised this limitation and urged the leadership of the university not to relent in the drive for internally generated revenue, IGR. “I am not unaware that the major complaints of public institutions centre on inadequate funding. While this is true, it would however be unacceptable to this government should the Ekiti State University be attracted to the temptation of using this as an excuse for failure to meet its obligations as required,” Fayemi said.
Beyond the debate for improved IGR, the convocation ceremony also witnessed the conferment of honourary degrees on notable individuals like John Mahama, vice president of Ghana, and Kande Yumkella, director-general, United Nations Industrial Development, as well as Tekena Tamuno, former VC, University of Ibadan. They were honoured for their contributions to the academia and the nation as a whole. The investiture of the former governor of Ondo State, Bamidele Olumilua, as chancellor of the university, also took place.