Although I am from Owo, it was from a non-indigene that I first learnt of the existence of the Achievers University located in the town. Tunji Bakare (Alhaji, as we fondly call him) had just returned from Owo with tales of the good time he had there. He had taken his son to resume classes at Achievers University. Alhaji’s son attended Achievers between 2010 and 2012; he was the second set.
Alhaji’s choice might have been influenced by his closeness to, and respect for, one of his mentors and role models in the Lagos State Civil Service, Mr. Olutokunbo Disu, who hails from Owo. Mr. Disu went on to retire from the Lagos State Public Service as Permanent Secretary. I met face-to-face for the first time with the founder of Achievers University, Dr. Hon. Bode Ayorinde, penultimate Friday at the university’s 10th convocation lecture, which was held at the university’s permanent site, Kilometre 1, Idashen-Ute Road, Owo.
Before then, Ayorinde and I had interacted on social media. He had been an ardent reader of my columns. And when he chose to throw his hat into the ring in the last Ondo State governorship contest, he informed me. Knowing the Nigerian political system for what it is; that, like the then military Head of State, Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo, said in 1979, the best candidate may not win in an election, I expressed reservations about his decision. But politicians are incurable optimists!
I would have loved to see Ayorinde achieve his goal. Visionaries like him are the leaders that our present circumstance and situation demand. Building a university from the scratch is not an easy task; especially for someone who cannot be said to be a money-bag. The skill, discipline and unyielding commitment of an entrepreneur that have seen him succeed at the Achievers University would, no doubt, have served Ondo State well.
Ayorinde has an uncanny resemblance with VP Yemi Osinbajo that you can easily mistake one for the other: Similar stature, similar gait, similar intensity in their eyes and similar Awo cap worn in the reverse order. His greatest wish is that the Owo community would see Achievers University first and foremost as a community project that the zeal for community development has placed heavily on his (Ayorinde) heart.
How I wish there was an Ayorinde and his university when I was passing out of secondary school at Owo High School in 1974! My trajectory in life would have been different! Now, there are no more excuses for students in the Owo community desiring university education. It is now up to the individual! As if that was not enough, Achievers University has instituted a scholarship programme to aid indigent students. At its last matriculation in March 2021, 255 out of the 593 students began to enjoy tuition free scholarship, the first of its kind in any Nigerian private university.
Achievers University was approved by the Federal Government on the 24th October, 2007 while its operational licence was issued by the National Universities Commission on the 11th December, 2007. One hundred and twenty-six (126) pioneer students of the university resumed academic activities on the 2nd April, 2008. The university had since graduated 10 sets of graduates.
The vision of Achievers University is “to be the best university in Africa and, indeed, one of the best in the world” and its motto is “Knowledge, Integrity and Leadership” Its mission is “to provide the enabling environment – physically and academically – for the production of competent and quality graduates who would be self-reliant, highly productive and globally relevant in every sphere of human endeavour” Its philosophy “is the development of the total person in body, soul and character to make him useful to himself and to the society at large. The concept of the total man with accentuated leadership potential, desire for self-development and heightened community spirit is the underlying principle of Achievers University”
The university started with two Colleges (College of Social and Management Sciences and College of Natural and Applied Sciences) but has since added three additional Colleges and one School. These are the College of Engineering and Technology, College of Law, College of Basic Health Sciences, and the School of Postgraduate Studies. In all, there are 25 Departments at the undergraduate level out of which nine have proceeded to the postgraduate level.
Understandably, the authorities rolled out the drums for the university’s 10th convocation ceremony. Activities began on Monday, 19th April with a press conference addressed by Prof. Samuel Olabanji Aje, Achievers University’s third vice-chancellor but the first who is an indigene of Owo town. That was Day One. Day Two witnessed a novelty football match between students and staff. Day Three was epochal: The commissioning of the first phase of the College of Engineering and Technology complex by the Registrar/Chief Executive of COREN, Engr. (Prof.) Joseph Obofoni Odigure. Ayorinde described the complex as “the biggest Engineering Faculty in Nigeria”. The Ologho of Ogho, His Imperial Majesty Oba Gbadegesin Ogunoye 111 graced the commissioning and displayed an understanding, maturity, and humility rare for VIPs of his stature.
The Convocation Lecture came up next: Titled “The reality of university education objectives: Post-Convocation life”, it was delivered by Odigure. He said tough as the times were and daunting as the challenges, “every sustainable success is in self-reinventing and dogged life-long learning” A Jumat thanksgiving service followed at the Owo Central Mosque while the evening and night of same day were filled up with a novelty Lawn Tennis match and Gala/Variety Night respectively.
The novelty Lawn Tennis match was dominated by the Olateru-Olagbegis, princes of two-time Ologho Sir Olateru Olagbegi, KBE, whose love for lawn tennis reverberated during his lifetime. So, his children are simply keeping alive the tradition. It was the Gala/Variety Nite held at the exquisite Midas Hotel and Resorts that sent me cascading on memory’s lane. Chancellor of the university and ex-Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Aminu Dogara, was in attendance.
Oh my God, Ogho is not only rich but also steeped in culture and tradition! I listened to old flame traditional music like the Oseghe, which has now been modified and digitalised, as the MC of the occasion, the humorous Obanoyen Abiola, later explained. The performance was electrifying. Then came Apapara, which was expertly performed. I noticed that some of the men carried cardboards and not animal skin as was the practice. Abiola explained this as a result of the scarcity of animal skins these days. Don’t we have hunters again or are there no more animals in the forests? Or have all the forests been cleared for physical development?
I yearned for Ogagaago before it made the stage. My God! I love the drum beat of Ogagaago, especially the point at which the drums begin to sound “Ogagaago, ogagaago, ogagaago” The lead performer was something else. His dance steps were out of this world. I then asked for Kokoma but was shaken to my pants when told it had gone into extinction!
Rural-urban migration has dealt our culture and traditions cruel blows. So-called Western civilization swallowed hook-line-and-sinker by our elite, of which I am one, have short-changed and left our roots desolate. I went round, visiting my father and mother’s graves at Ijebu-Owo; my grandmother’s grave at Owatowose, and my maternal grandfather’s grave at Ofi via Owo or Ipele. Everywhere, desolation stared me in the face.
“Uprooted” from our homesteads and “rooted” now in alien lands in the cities and in the Diaspora, we have advertently and or inadvertently uprooted the pumpkin in our old homesteads, which Okot P’Bitek had warned we should not. True, then, is the saying: “B’olode o ba ku ojude re ko ki n hu koriko” When our parents were alive and we ourselves were still at home, our homesteads bubbled; they were not desolate. True, then, is another saying that “owo” (hands) and “owo” (money) are the veritable tools that sustain development.
It is in this wise that we must appreciate the likes of Ayorinde who chose to contribute to the development of the homestead by siting his university at Owo and not at Ibadan where he and his amiable wife started the Achievers educational business as a continuous education centre in 1991. This singular action has had a multiplier effect: Bringing tertiary education closer to the grassroots, stemming the rural-urban drift; providing employment and financially empowering the people; thus contributing, in one fell swoop, to the educational, social and economic development of Owo and its environs.
It is also in this regard that we must seriously take into consideration the homilies of Ayorinde in his convocation address of Saturday, 24th April where he suggested the establishment of “nine big companies in the nine towns that made Owo kingdom” If just one “big company” like the Achievers University can bring so much development and recognition to Owo, imagine the contributions that “nine big companies” will make! But I digress!
Saturday, 24th April, 2021 was the convocation proper, witnessing long speeches – by the Chancellor, Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara, who lamented the spate of insecurity in the land, yet declared his abiding love for Nigeria “although Nigeria has broken my heart severally”; Ayorinde who disclosed that in penning his convocation speech, he had taken inspiration from my “Treasures” column in the New Telegraph newspaper of Wednesday, 7th March, 2021; the vice-chancellor, Prof. Aje, who gave a trajectory of the growth of the university from inception to date and its plans for the future; and the best graduating student, Mariam Oluwadamilola Oloko, who gave thanks that he survived an illness that might have made another person replace her on her day of glory.
The high points of the convocation were the conferment of honorary doctorate degrees on three worthy personalities (Prof. Joseph Obofoni Odigure; Hon. Justice Adesuyi Olateru-Olagbegi; and Mr. Foluso Falaye); the admission to first and post-graduate degrees; and the presentation of prizes. The events were capped on Sunday, 25th April, 2021 with a thanksgiving service at the university’s Chapel of Grace and Glory. The sermon, titled “An incomparable investment”, was given by Pastor Oluwafemi Olatunji while the university Registrar/Chairman, Chapel Committee, Rev. Canon S. Bayode Oladimeji, gave the benediction.
The Ologho was also at the Convocation ceremony. That Ologho Ogunoye 111 attended a function where an Olateru-Olagbegi was being honoured; that the awardee, Hon. Justice Adesuyi Olateru-Olagbegi, called Ologho Ogunoye 111 “omiye mi'' (my own blood); that Adesuyi disclosed that he contacted the Ologho when he (Adesuyi) got wind of plans to confer him with the honorary doctorate degree; and that the same Adesuyi prayed intermittently for the Ologho while giving his vote of thanks – all these may be clear indications that the age-old cleavages that imperilled Ogho have given way for cooperation and unity of all Ogho sons and daughters.
Falaye, after his investiture, descended the podium and headed straight to where the Ologho sat to do obeisance and take photographs with Kabiyesi. Kabiyesi and Falaye, including this writer, are old boys of Owo High School, Owo. Adesuyi followed suit after his own investiture and the entire hall erupted as the Ologho Ogunoye 111 and Adesuyi Olateru-Olagbegi stood shoulder-to-shoulder while the photographers clicked away.
It is appropriate to end this piece with Adesuyi’s prayers for the Ologho: “Orisa oke ma duun s’Ologho!” May the God of Heaven not allow any evil befall the Ologho!” No doubt, Ogho is on the move. And for this, we owe Dr. Hon. Olabode Ayorinde a world of gratitude.
LAST WORD: Dr. Foluso Falaye advised that we promote our own pronunciation and spelling (Ogho) rather than continue to wallow in the adulterated version (Owo). I think it makes sense!
Published in the Sunday Tribune newspaper of Sunday, May 2, 2021 in the ""On the Lord's Day" column.