By Lucky Isibor
President Mohammadu Buhari has challenged Nigerian universities to proffer solutions to the social and economic challenges presently confronting Nigeria.
The president made the call Saturday, November 25, 2017 while addressing the 43rd convocation ceremony of the University of Benin, Edo State.
President Buhari who is the visitor of the university and represented by Prof. Chinedu Mafiani, the Deputy Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission, NUC, reiterated the commitment of the federal government to the provision of qualitative education, especially tertiary education for the teeming of the country.
“As you are all aware, this convocation ceremony is being held at a period of enormous economic and social challenges in Nigeria. Consequently, the nation will continue to look on to our ivory tower for solution to some of these challenges.
Let me reiterate the policy of the federal government of Nigeria in the provision of qualitative education, especially tertiary education for the teeming youths of this country”, president Buhari said.
Stressing the imperative for reforms in the educational sector, president Buhari said there is a consensus of opinion from stakeholders in the sector on reforms. This, according to him necessitated the federal government’s directive to the Minister of Education to convene a ministerial summit on education.
“If there is one thing most Nigerians agree on, is the fact that our educational system must be reformed.
“In pursuance of this objective, the federal government has directed the Honourable Minister of Education to convene a ministerial summit on education to brainstorm the appropriate ways of tackling the myriad of problems plaguing the educational sector with a view to restoring education to its leading role in human capital development”, the president said.
While emphasising the role of education in the present knowledge driven age, president Buhari said: “I will now reiterate the fact that in the knowledge driven 21st century, education is clearly the key driver for socio-economic development as no sustainable development can take place in the absence of quality education
Our universities must therefore remain the major vehicle for driving development, growth as well as nation building.
“Universities must galvanise research efforts and energies to solving problems in their immediate environment for growth and development. This we believe is achievable with the presence of at least one federal university in each state of the federation”.
Tasking the ivory towers further, president Buhari said: “Universities must continue to to build their capabilities to take advantage of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund research fund in carrying out implementable, innovative problem solving researches specific to national needs.
“Universities must also redefine their dreams and mission by not loosing their presence of mind, but focus on the objectives for which they were established in the first place”.
While assuring of the federal government’s continues support to the sector, president Buhari has this to say: “The federal government is strengthening institutional facilities and nurturing the enabling environment so that research may improve and blossom”.
President Buhari paid glowing tributes to the first visitor of the university and former Military Governor of the defunct Midwestern State, late Dr. Samuel Osaigbovo Ogbemudia whom he said: “whose visionary leadership as Military Governor of the defunct Midwestern State planted the seed that has blossomed into a World institution of learning that has produced some of the best minds in government, public service and academia as well as the private sector”.
The convocation ceremony which was chaired by the Chancellor of the university, Alhaji Muhammedu Sanusi 11, the Emir of Kano and attended by the Pro Chancellor and chairman of Council, Rt. Hon. Isah Ashiru, saw the university awarding masters degrees and doctorate degrees to deserving students.
Honorary doctorate degrees were also confered on Prof. Grace Alele-Williams, a former Vice Chancellor of the university and Dr. George Osemwengie Agbonlahor, a business man and key player in national economy for their commitment towards the growth and development of education in the country.
Professor Luis Ojogwu was also appointed a Professor emeritus of the university.