A former President Olusegun Obasanjo, (Dr) has told President Muhammadu Buhari that he must step on toes on friends and well-wishers in order to achieve the desired transformation and change
agenda of his administration.
Obasanjo, said hard choices must be made consciously or unconsciously to get Nigeria out of poverty and starvation.
He spoke on Saturday in Abuja where he was conferred with a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Christian Theology at the 7th convocation ceremony of the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN).
President Buhari, speaking on the occasion ordered that every discrimination against the graduates of NOUN should be stopped, saying the government would continue to accord the graduates of NOUN and those of other Distance Learning institutions in Nigeria due recognition.
He said there shall be no discrimination in terms of employment and opportunity for graduates of Open and Distance Learning programmes to pursue higher degrees either in conventional universities or the ODL setting.
While congratulating Obasanjo and other graduands, Buhari, described Obasanjo as the “Father of Open and Distance Education in Nigeria.”
Obasanjo, in his remarks, said from his field work during the course of his study and research, especially in the North Eastern part of the country, it was evident that leadership was Nigeria’s major problem.
He said: “Poverty is not our lot or a lot of any individual or group in Nigeria.”
“It is a choice made consciously or unconsciously by our leaders.” The beginning of getting Nigeria out of poverty to the wealth creation and employment generation is in the choice of our leaders who understand what development means and what it entails and who are ready to do what is needed to be done and make hard choices that need to be made.
“This includes stepping on toes of friends and well-wishers who would not conform to the transformation or change agenda,” he said.
Obasanjo said he proud and happy to be awarded PhD degree from NOUN, he described as one of the best universities of its kind in Africa.
He noted that at last count he had received about 20 of such honorary degrees from top rate universities from all over the world, noting that the earned doctorate degree conferred on comes with a different sense of fulfilment and accomplishment.
He added that his graduation has confirmed that via an open distance learning platform there is no age limit, no status barrier, no social limit to functional education.
Obasanjo said this has also provided an excellent example of education being from cradle to grave.
He said: “During my student days, at this great University, I requested that I should not be given any special treatment or privileges because I want to go through it as other students.
“I carry my NOUN bag like any other student, took my lectures like any other student, wrote my examinations in my study centre with other students and utilize the learner support services like any other student.”
“The second part of my aim to study at the University is to show to the public and academic community that knowledge or education acquired through open and distance learning is not in any way inferior to knowledge or education acquired from bricks and mortar or walled universities,” he said.
He urged the Federal government to give open and distance learning enough resources since it was obvious that not every Nigeria could have access to walled universities.
“It is worth remarking that I do not need the PhD degree of the University as a meal ticket. I do not intend to apply for a job relating to my area of specialization attaching my brand new certificate.”
“However, I want all to know that I enrolled for the programme and I allowed myself to go through the crucible of training and discipline of research and learning to have the opportunity to become more knowledgeable, productive, and serviceable to humanity and to my God.”
“If at any time my services are required as a result of my specialization,” I will gladly render such services as part of my community and society development effort.
Meanwhile, the Vice-chancellor of the University, Professor Abdalla Uba Adamu, disclosed that a total of 14, 769 students were graduated across all disciplines, saying marks the largest number of students so far graduated in the University.
He said it was remarkable that among the undergraduate graduands were 41 first class holders.
He said the conferment of PhD degree in Christian Theology on the former President Olusegun Obasanjo on Saturday, made him the oldest PhD graduating student in Nigeria.
Adamu said the successful completion of a rigorous course of study and going through the numerous examination process leading to confirmation by the University Senate was a most powerful statement about lifelong education.
He added that Obasanjo’s patience and perseverance in pursuing a doctorate degree programme at his age, station and status in life, is a roadmap to all and clearly communicates that “you are never too old to learn, you are never too powerful to learn and you are never too full of learning.”
A renowned comedian, Chief Chika Okpala, popularly known as Chief Zebrudaya Okorigwe Nwogbo alias 4.30 who is graduating with an MBA in the Faculty of Management Sciences.
Adamu noted that Okpala was one of NOUN Ambassadors who was offered admission by the University, adding that a well-known actor and comedian, he has contributed immensely to the growth of the University through various forms advocacy.