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Great Ife celebrates 60, retools with advancement foundation

By Opeyemi Babalola
05 December 2021   |   2:46 am
Top universities around the world rely heavily on funding outside of that provided by their founders and owners. They usually tap supports from industries and alumni to deliver on their core mandate of teaching

Alumni Relations, Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Mr. Gbolahan Ogunajo (left); Awardees’ Representative, Great Ife Alumni Association 60th Anniversary Celebration, Alhaji Rafiu Adisa Ebiti; and representative of the Vice Chancellor, OAU/ Chairman, Great lfe 60th Anniversary Celebration Committee, Professor Charles Ukeje at the briefing announcing the formal launching of Great Ife Advancement Foundation held in Lagos… last Friday

Top universities around the world rely heavily on funding outside of that provided by their founders and owners. They usually tap supports from industries and alumni to deliver on their core mandate of teaching, learning and research. 
This is why universities in Nigeria have been called on, especially first-generation universities to tap from the huge financial resources that their alumni scattered across different fields can provide. Many of them are captains of industries, who could use their network to provide funding for their alma mater through donations and endowments.

So, it was not surprising that Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), yesterday, launched a-N1billion Advancement Foundation as part of activities to mark its 60th anniversary.

Addressing the press ahead of the launching ceremony, which will also serve as an avenue to recognise 60 alumni of the institution, the Vice-Chancellor of OAU, Professor Eyitope Ogunbodede, said: “On June 8, 2021, our university clocked 60 years. As we glance into the rear-view mirror, it is delightful to acknowledge how far we have come and how many giant strides we have made as a leading institution of higher learning, research and training in Africa.
“It’s been a most eventful half-year for us. I am extremely delighted to come before you today, distinguished gentlemen of the press; this time, to share another good news of the impending inauguration of the Obafemi Awolowo University Advancement Foundation. I am much happier that the proposed inauguration, to be held on December 4, 2021, at the Marriott Hotels, Ikeja, is happening under my watch as the 11th Vice-Chancellor. Therefore, I owe God a great debt of gratitude for bringing this timely initiative to fruition.

“We may want to ask ourselves: what is the ambition behind setting up the OAU Advancement Foundation, which recently received the approval of the Corporate Affairs Commission. The reason is very simple: all over the world, the continued existence, success and overall development of any institution of higher learning depend largely on the financial and material benevolence of her alumni community, as well as those of friends, benefactors and other stakeholders.”
Ogunbodede, who was represented by Prof. Charles Ukeje, noted that at the heart of the OAU Advancement Foundation mandate, is the quest to garner support worldwide for the overall development and real-time growth of the university — Great Ife.
“We are proud that Obafemi Awolowo University is not only reputed to be Africa’s most beautiful campus, but we also boast of highly versatile and accomplished individuals whose tentacles spread across all spheres of the human endeavour around the world. Indeed, our alumni worldwide have continued to distinguish themselves, making positive impacts within their immediate environments and at the forefront of advancing humanity, in general.
“At a time when the resources accruable from the Federal Government, the owners of the university, is no longer sufficient to meet myriad of basic needs, public universities are finding it more and more difficult to even pay for consumables such as electricity and other social amenities.”
The Vice-Chancellor, therefore, implored all alumni, friends and benefactors of the university, at home and abroad, to come forth and generously contribute to the OAU Advancement Foundation, pledging that persons of impeccable credentials would manage the fund.
He added that the management is using the opportunity of the formal launch of the foundation to recognise and celebrate 60 distinguished, trailblazing alumni.
“The OAU Advancement Foundation will, among other key responsibilities, assist us to reposition the university to meet up with the standard of the 21st century as obtainable in other climes within and outside Africa. It will also help us to maintain and sustain the ideals of the founding fathers of our great institution, so that, OAU will be ranked first in Nigeria and Africa.

“It is gratifying to note that all the members of the Board of Trustees (BoT) of the foundation are men and women of impeccable character, credentials and candour. Membership of the board, to be unveiled during the formal launch of the foundation on December 4, shall comprise an eminent jurist, who currently sits in the Supreme Court of Nigeria; two distinguished lawyers and boardroom gurus, a highly seasoned pan-African banker, and a renowned scholar. We are proud of their accomplishments, and excited that they will bring their wealth of experience to bear in piloting the affairs of the foundation.”
Taking questions from journalists at the briefing, Prof. Ukeje, said the foundation will be run by individuals majorly with strong private sector backgrounds. 

“ In fact, the Vice-Chancellor is just a member, you could even pass him as ex-officio. So, it is strictly run by individuals who have vast experience in boardroom and different disciplines, who can bring to bear their experiences to run the foundation.”
On why OAU, which has been in existence for over six decades, is just launching an appeal fund, Ukeje said there is a period when you have done something up to a certain point, you need to stop and reflect on the work done and reload.
“ This is the point that we are in now. It is not as if we have never had resources that are set aside for the rainy day. Indeed for those of you who know Ife, those who midwife the university were very deliberate in terms of ensuring that the university could weather the storm in very difficult times. But the truth also is that the circumstances of the mid-1980s require some structural adjustments and economic austerity. 

“So, we feel that establishing this advancement foundation is an effort to update in line with the realities in the 21st century. So, I want you to take this new initiative as one that is supposed to respond to the imperative of the 21st century and beyond.” 
On the selection of the 60 honorees, Ukeje said the process was a very difficult task, considering the institution has existed for 60 years.

“But I can assure you that when you see the 60 people selected, you will really know why Ife is great. These are personalities in different sectors — medical sciences, arts, engineering, music, the legal profession, even in journalism. So, we don’t have a problem finding the right people to appreciate, because they are people that have, at different times, been there for us. And for me, this is also a clarion call for those who have not done much for the institution to step forward to be counted in terms of supporting the university.”

On other activities lined up for the anniversary, Ukeje disclosed that aside from the celebration; units like facilities have been encouraged to celebrate too, by showcasing their products and achievements.

“One activity that is a signature activity is the exhibition starting from December 1 to January 30, 2022. For 60 days, we shall be having an art exhibition titled, The 60 by 60. We have invited 60 alumni to showcase one artwork each that best represent them and we are going to have this for 60 days.”