BEING THE TEXT OF THE ACCEPTANCE SPEECH OF HON. JUSTICE (DR.) ADESUYI OLATERU – OLAGBEGI, ON THE OCCASION OF HIS CONFERMENT WITH THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF LAWS, LLD, HONORIS CAUSA BY ACHIEVERS UNIVERSITY OWO, AT ITS 1OTH CONVOCATION ON 24TH APRIL,2021.
Not many people know that before Achievers University was established in 2007, two previous efforts were made to establish a University in Owo kingdom.
The first effort was made by Oba Sir Olateru Olagbegi II K.B.E as far back as 1961/1962.
Had the effort succeeded, we would have had a University of Owo and not a University of Ife, as we did.
The second attempt was made in the late nineties by Chief (Mrs) Winifred Adefolahan Awosika, the Oshobiken of Owo land.
Had her attempt succeeded, we would have had a University of Christland Owo, as far back as about 1996.
The stories behind the fortunes of those attempts will be told another day.
Suffice it to say that with Achievers University, Owo, Owo was third time lucky with a University. A visit to the website of the University reveals that in the relatively short period of its existence, Achievers University offers about 23 first Degree courses and 10 post graduate and Diploma courses which are all duly accredited by the National Universities Commission. Given the peculiar beaurocratic narration of the Nigerian Government and its agencies, this achievement is no mean feat.
The founder of the University and Pro-Chancellor, Hon. Dr. Olabode Ayorinde is a man of indomitable spirit and I salute his astuteness, diligence, determination, perseverance, courage and his ‘go for it’ spirit. It is a testament to the bottomless potential of all creations of God that this man (Ayorinde) has created this colossus of an Institution out of virtually nothing.
His achievement is a lesson of hope for all humanity. Congratulations to you therefore Mr. Pro-Chancellor. Congratulations too to all members of the Senate and University Council who have no doubt made enormous contributions to the founding, funding and running of this pioneer private University in Owo Kingdom. Here we are then in this most serene environment which is far from the madding crowd and which is profoundly conducive to learning.
Sadly, the serenity of this place is a sharp contrast to the worrisome reality of our Nation – the Nigeria of today which is enveloped by gloom and despondency, economically and politically.
In the Punch publication of April 12, 2021 the Debt Management Office (DMO) released the following chilling facts about the state of our economy, namely: (a) That the debt portfolio of the country rose from 27.4 trillion naira at the end of 2019 to 32. 9 trillion naira at the end of 2020. (b) That the debts thus incurred did not go towards capital investment but went towards payment of salaries and wages.
Therefore, the whole country is being run on credit, all of which have contributed to the spiralling inflation rate, now estimated at 17 plus per cent.
In the social sphere, the state of insecurity in Nigeria has assumed a tragically awful proportion. Thus in many parts of Northern Nigeria, Boko Haram forces have wiped out thousands of lives and properties and continue to destabilise the governments and people of the Region. Meanwhile, kidnapping and banditry in all parts of Nigeria reign supreme, bringing in their wake, misery, untold hardship, restrictions of the fundamental rights to freedom of movement of the people, untimely deaths, loss of hard earned money, savings and possessions of the victims of crime. It is as if Nigeria is at war.
The other notable but sad features of the times we live in (not in any particular order) are:- (i) Scandalous graduate and youth unemployment leading inadvertently to the enlargement of the population of those class of energetic youths wickedly and wrongly stigmatized as “hoodlums”.
(ii) Sharp fall in the general standard of education in our schools occasioned by neglectful and scarce allocation of resources to the education sector.
(iii) Low morale of the Nigerian Police and Nigerian Army occasioned by poor pay, use of obsolete equipments and lack of adequate incentives particularly for those posted to high risk areas.
(iv) Defective Central command structure of the Nigeria Police under which officers are posted to unfamiliar geographical parts and terrains of the country. This practice impairs the task of intelligence gathering and surveillance which consequently reduces the operational efficiency of the Police.
(v) Pauperization and miserable remuneration of Traditional Rulers.
(v) Corruption at all levels of government and in many Agencies of government.
(vi) Lack of ideology by the political parties and lack of commitment to the welfare and security of the people.
(vii) Inequitable Distribution of the resources and commonwealth of the people.
(viii) Criminal neglect of the Agricultural sector leading to massive migration to the cities of able-bodied youths who if they stayed behind in the country-side to farm would feed the nation with a large surplus left over for export.
The foregoing narrative is the profile of a failed state.
In his Easter Message to Nigerians, which was reported in several Nigerian Newspapers including the Punch of 5 April, 2021, the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto, the Most Rev. Matthew Hassan Kukah had this to say: ” Nigeria has turned into a massive killing field — taunted by Boko Haram, ravaged by bandits, kidnappers, armed robbers and other merchants of death across the nation, THERE IS A COLLECTIVE FEAR AS TO WHETHER NIGERIA’S GLORY IS ABOUT TO DEPART” (my emphasis).
He went on further to say: “The very survival of the nation is at stake. The nation is pulling apart. Widespread serious insecurity for long unaddressed has left the sad and dangerous impressions that those who have assumed the duty and authority to serve the nation are either unable or worse, unwilling to take up the responsibilities of their office. Patience is running out. Sadly, all these warnings are falling on deaf ears.
“Separatist clamours in many parts of the nation are at their highest crescendo than ever before. It is alarmingly evident that unless a peaceful restructuring of the country is actualized quickly, the union will be seriously imperilled.
The political elites are best advised to pool together their vast human and formidable financial resources into the actualization of the political restructuring of the country for the sake of the preservation of the entity and for the sake of the present and future generations.
In the hope that the authorities will heed the national clamour for a peaceful review of the terms of the Nigerian Union at a Constitutional Conference or by way of a plebiscite on critical issues, it is suggested that the areas which require attention at any such peaceful meeting include the following:
SECURITY: CREATING STATE POLICE.
The central Police command structure of the Nigeria Police has evidently failed to meet the security needs of the people. It is now therefore imperative to fill the yawning security gaps and lapses in our security system by creating ‘State Police Force’ in all States of the Federation and in the FCT whose officers are conversant with the terrains of the respective communities and who will protect the lives and property of the people more efficiently than under the present dispensation.
ADOPTION OF PARLIAMENTARY SYSTEM IN PLACE OF PRESIDENTIAL SYSTEM WITH PART-TIME LEGISLATORS.
Having experimented with both Parliamentary as well as Presidential systems of Government, the latter has proved to be wasteful, divisive, dictatorial and unsuitable for Nigeria’s ethnic Nationalities to thrive in brotherhood. A modified form of parliamentary Government will suit us better. Regardless of whichever system is adopted, legislative duties must be made part-time whilst the salaries and other emoluments of Legislators must be substantially slashed to a fraction of the colossal un-earned amounts that they allegedly receive under the present dispensation. The funds that are thus freed up from such savings should be applied towards the funding of education, roads, infrastructures, security and the health sector. In the first Republic, it was the norm that Legislators had fulltime jobs, in addition to their legislative roles. They were in some profession, vocation or trade. They legislated part-time, received modest allowances and did a good job even though they did not have the benefit of the Internet and the full complement of ‘Assistants’ to conduct research, as the present crop of Legislators do.
CONSTITUTIONAL RECOGNITION OF TRADITIONAL RULERS.
Traditional rulers are the fulcrum on which corporate Yoruba Kingdoms and Communities rest. At all material times, they were at the head of arbitral and administrative activities in their communities together with their Inner council chiefs. They contributed to the stability of society then; they are doing so again now. Traditional Rulers should be given Constitutional roles to play similar to what obtained in the first Republic when the likes of Oba Sir Olateru Olagbegi II K.B.E and Oba C.D Akran were part of the Government of the old Western Nigeria and made very useful contributions to the affairs of Government. Educated traditional Rulers exist in abundance. We have, for example, the likes of the Olowo of Owo, a Legal practitioner of many years standing; Oba of Lagos, a retired Senior Police Officer and Alake of Abeokuta, a retired Army Officer. There are many others like them. A statutory role should be created for them that will enable society to benefit from their services, knowledge, vast experience and proximity to the grass roots.
The aforementioned proposals would of course require constitutional amendments. There are however several areas of our social and political life which cry for immediate change but which do not require constitutional amendments. They are as follows:
REVIVAL OF AGRICULTURE
A major structural defect in our national economy is its monolithic – revenue base and overdependence on oil. State governments should embark on massive farming; acquire large acreage of arable land and procure tractors and equipments to clear the land for cultivation. They should purchase seedlings as well and lease the farms out to cooperative groups of youths at affordable cost which is payable at harvest time. In-between planting and harvesting, the participants should be paid stipends sufficient enough to secure their interest and participation, keep them off the streets and sustain them till harvest time.
RELOCATION OF HIGHWAY MARKETS.
State governments should relocate markets from our Highways to more suitable locations for safety and security purposes and for the free flow of traffic.
In terms of acquisition of knowledge, our children are being seriously disadvantaged as to their preparation for future life. The syllabus in use is archaic and does not adequately prepare school children for the present world of computer and information technology. As a matter of government policy, all schools must be supplied with computers and all ancillary IT gadgets. Computer literacy for all children of school age must be the norm. Furthermore, emphasis should be shifted from mere paper certificates to vocational training programs like building, carpentry, plumbing, electrician and the like. This will variously enable youths to be self-employed. Compulsory subjects must also include History, English and other languages. It must also be acknowledged that basic knowledge of the customs and traditions of the land is a sine qua non to the confidence- building and sound education of any child. Mission schools should be returned to the missions that are desirous of having them back, thus giving parents the choice of which schools to send their wards. The availability of choice is the hallmark of any civilized democratic society. I therefore congratulate, once again, the Governor of Ondo State, Arakunrin Rotimi Akeredolu for his administration’s policy decision announced since January 2021 to return Ondo State schools to the missions willing to take them back. On behalf of Aquinas College Akure Old Students Association (of which I have the honour to be the National and Worldwide President) I respectfully urge the Governor to take decisive steps now to give effect to the said policy decision by returning Aquinas College, Akure, our Alma Mater, to the Catholic Mission which has been yearning for it for over 12 years. This will pave the way for the restoration of the historical hallmark of academic and sporting excellence of the school as well as its trademark of integrity.
REVIVAL OF NEIGHBOURHOOD “OLODE” WATCHMEN OUTFITS.
In the past, one traditional form of security arrangement which proved very effective was the neighbourhood ‘Olode’ (night watchman) outfits. The ‘Olodes’ were usually very conversant with the nooks and crannies of their neighbourhoods. They were well organised, honest and effective in the prevention of crime. Bringing them back will prove beneficial. They may be maintained by the respective Local governments in each Region. Whilst the Amotekun outfit should be given sometime to prove itself, a revived neighbourhood watchmen regime will be a valuable complement to it and to State Police security outfit respectively.
PAY TRADITIONAL RULERS ADEQUATE NUMERATION.
Traditional Rulers ensure peace and stability in their domains. They should be paid reasonable salaries and emoluments commensurate with and in recognition of their valuable roles in society.
Once again, I heartily congratulate the Chancellor, Pro Chancellor, Vice Chancellor, Senate and Council of the Achievers University Owo on this auspicious occasion of the 10th Convocation of the University. To God be the glory.
In the same vein, I congratulate all graduands and fellow awardees. I thank the Senate and the Council of the University for finding me worthy for the award of a Degree of Doctor of Laws, LLD., Honoris Causa. I am highly honoured by the conferment, not just because it is coming from the pioneer and only University in our Kingdom (which is over one thousand years old) but also because the award is in the field of my profession and learning. The Legal profession was not my first love.
My first love was Medicine. However since entering into the said profession, there has been no looking back. I have given it my very best and practiced it with diligence, professionalism, and integrity. I shall therefore treasure this award for the rest of my life. I pledge to work in harmony with and join hands with the authorities of Achievers University towards making it one of the best in the world. Towards this end, as a modest contribution to learning, I propose to sponsor an annual HON JUSTICE (Dr) ADESUYI OLATERU OLAGBEGI Lecture on latest developments in the field of Law and on contemporary issues of national importance.
In addition to this, an annual OBA SIR OLATERU OLAGBEGI 11, KBE Cash Prize award for the best graduating student in Law will be established.
Before I am done, let me speak about sports. Other than the legacy of service to God and humanity, the other legacy that our father gave to the children is that of lawn tennis. Sports has become an integral part of the developmental imperative for young people. It enhances assimilation and good academic performance. It is also a good form of relaxation. It keeps youths away from mischief and assists in the cultivation of healthy competition habits ahead of adult life. Besides, it promotes comradeship and good interpersonal relationship. Above all, it is fun. It gives me a great pleasure therefore to inform you of the decision to establish the OBA SIR OLATERU OLAGBEGI II, ACHIEVERS UNIVERSITY TENNIS CLUB for the promotion and growth of lawn tennis amongst the students of this University in this secured environment. It is proposed that the two pioneer grand patrons of the club shall be our Olori Ebi, Professor Solomon Adebamiji Olateru Olagbegi and the Olowo of Owo, His Imperial Majesty, Oba Ajibade Ogunoye 111 respectively. Several of my siblings have signed up to join hands with me to make the project a success.
In conclusion, it is my honour, privilege and indescribable pleasure to accept this Doctorate Award. I do so not just for myself but for and on behalf of all members of the Royal Dynasty of Oba Ologho Olagbegi, represented here today by the Olori Ebi, Prince Solomon Adebamiji Olateru-Olagbegi; Oba Ologho Ogunoye, represented here by His Imperial Majesty Oba Ajibade Ogunoye 111 and Oba Ologho Ajike. To all of them therefore, I dedicate this honour.
I join my faith with that of Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah and pray that the glory of God will not depart from this Nation Nigeria; that it will not depart from Owo Kingdom and that it will not depart from our lives in Jesus Name, Amen. Thank you all for listening.
Hon. Justice (Dr.) Adesuyi OlateruOlagbegi.