Bola Babalakin auditorium… A new centre for intellectual dialogue
The peaceful town of Gbongon in Osun State was alive recently, as stakeholders in the Nigerian educational sector converged at the newly built Bola Babalakin Auditorium for the 2018 JAMB Policy Meeting. From the flyover on the Ibadan-Ife Expressway down to Gbongan town proper, the entire stretch was full of activities, as the locals made brisk money selling items to delegates, who came from different part of the country for the meeting.
Who would have thought that such an important meeting could be hosted in a quiet town of Gbongon? It took an individual effort by a son of the soil, Dr. Wale Babalakin, to put in place the magnificent auditorium, which is entirely dedicate to hosting educational and intellectual engagements.
While addressing the gathering, which had in attendance the Minister of Education Dr. Adamu Adamu; Minister of State for Education Prof. Anthony Onwuka; JAMB Registrar Prof. Is-haq Oloyede; all Vice Chancellors of all Universities, the Rectors of Polytechnics and visiting delegation from Ghana, Dr. Wale Babalakin, who is also the Pro Chancellor of the University of Lagos, informed that was motivated to build the 4000 capacity auditorium due to his desire to provide an environment conducive for serious intellectual work.
“It is our fervent believe that Nigeria will only achieve its full potential when the aggregate of our intellectual capacity is developed and harnessed appropriately. We cannot achieve our full potential if we do not reward competence and hard work and simultaneously punish bad behavior.”
The auditorium, which was first put to use by JAMB, is equipped with modern communication equipment, private meeting rooms for smaller sessions, as well as ICT room with latest technology gadgets. Most importantly, the facility, aside from power from national grid, has dedicated generators to ensure uninterrupted power supply during sessions.
“I hope other serious institutions will utilise this facility, which many have described as one of the most elaborate. We hope as JAMB has done, other serious institutions will now take advantage of this comfortable auditorium, which has the capacity to host large-scale intellectual gathering like what we are having today,” Balalakin said.
On the motive behind the multi million-naira auditorium, which he dedicated to his father, Bola Babalakin, the philanthropist explained, “this is my own little contribution to the educational sector and I assure you that this auditorium will be used strictly for educational and intellectual purpose. I was motivated to put up this structure to create a centre that will be a base for discussion, for engaging in serious intellectual dialogues on how we can reposition Nigeria. Motivation for this edifice was to design a platform for contributions from all members of the society towards the enhancement of societal goals,” he said.
A lover of education, Babalakin has always made meaningful contributions to humanity, especially in the educational sector where he currently serves as a Pro Chancellor. “I have always been fascinated by education. I strongly believe that this nation will only develop appropriately when it has a very good education system. We must ensure that extremely educated, exposed and competent persons populate the public service. When we achieve this, then we will start getting great rewards for our efforts.”
Recalling his days as the Pro-Chancellor of University of Maiduguri, Babalakin said, “In UNIMAID, when we came in, we saw that there were infrastructural differences. So, we decided to improve the infrastructure. I have always said that the only way to develop infrastructure is to empower people, who have vision. When you just spend money generally without using people who have vision, you are wasting money.”
During his time in Maiduguri, Babalakin and his team completed nothing less than 42 projects, including a new College of Medicine, Pharmacy and Education in four years.“We even went as far as to build a 57- bedroom hostel on a land allocated to the university since 1978, which nobody was able to do anything. And we did all of that just managing our very scarce resources; we did not borrow a dime.
“We also found an indigenous way of providing electricity to the campus for 20 hours a day. We will not reveal the tactics, but we just intend to use it one day on the national platform. We don’t want to leak it so that it won’t be sabotaged. If you speak to the Vice Chancellors of UNIMAID, they will tell you that we came and served. It is also on record that we did not collect any sitting, travel or personal allowance; we did not participate in whatsoever commercial activity. We simply went there to provide service. It was charity work,” he noted.
According to the Osun State native, education remains the way forward for Nigeria in its quest for development and technological advancement.“All the countries that developed rapidly have taken their education very seriously. Two examples easily come to mind: England has Oxford and Cambridge universities; these universities have been there since 10th or 11th century, and they have kept the standard. They have not weakened the universities; rather they have kept the-Oxford and Cambridge up to standard.
“Today, an engineering qualification from Imperial College London is comparable to a degree in Oxford and Cambridge, but that was achieved by making Oxford and Cambridge the standard and encouraging everybody to meet the standard. What we have done in Nigeria is that we have five universities. Rather, than tell the other universities to emulate this standard, what we did was reduce the standard of the universities so that everybody could now claim to have a university when really they were not contributing anything useful to the educational system.”