For a university that’s just four years old, one would have expected the Afe Babalola University, Ado Ekiti, to be grappling with what is generally known as its teething problems. Somehow, if there are problems, which are bound to exist, ABUAD is making a big statement with its ambitious agriculture programme, which may ultimately announce the profile of the institution as a food basket of at least, its own community in Ekiti State.
On a recent visit to the school, the intention was to assess the much-talked about infrastructural facilities, which the eminent lawyer turned educationist, Chief Afe Babalola, has been able to set up in the university, a development that has been able to attract high-profile guests, including President Goodluck Jonathan, who graced the maiden convocation ceremony of the institution in October. It could safely be concluded that the promoters of the university had a vision of a first-rate institution of higher learning and appear to be making a steady progress towards accomplishing the set goals.
Though privately owned, Babalola, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, said his experience during his eight-year tenure as the Pro-Chancellor of the University of Lagos, has empowered him sufficiently to identify the shortcomings of the university system in Nigeria and how to address same using private initiatives.
“Having spent eight years in UNILAG as pro-chancellor, I was able to realise that one needs total commitment to establish and run a quality university. Then, I was able to prevail and beg my big clients like Mobil and others to support me to develop UNILAG and they did. The halls, the lecture theatres and hostels bear testimonies to the support that we received,” said the eminent lawyer, who stopped a meeting of the Board of Trustees of the institution to receive his guests.
“The realisation that we have a big problem in our university system propelled me into making up my mind to dedicate my later years to building a quality university that will be one of the best in the world.”
One may figure out that the serene ambience of the Elemi area of Ado Ekiti, where the school is located; the completed and the ongoing building projects; the e-library for each faculty and other state-of-the-art facilities may be a result of the deep pockets of the promoters. The ambitious agriculture programme of the university, however, has justified the belief of the school of thought that without crude oil and the largesse that has promoted official graft, Nigeria can conveniently be a developed country by encouraging and promoting large-scale agriculture.
The ABUAD Farm, separated from the main campus of the institution by a fence, is located to the north of the Elemi River and covers an approximately over 100 hectares. An official of the school said two more villages had been annexed to expand the farm. In essence, the farm could be twice the specified size. Currently occupying different sections of the farm are fish ponds, nursery for various plants, an elaborate high-breed mango plantation, moringa, soya bean, tick tree and a feed mill among others.
The Farm, according to its Fishery Supervisor, Stephen Ayodele, currently has 85 ponds for cat fish, some harvested and others at various stages of maturity. To ensure their sustainability, a hatchery is on the farm to produce fingerlings while another complex on the farm equally houses the post-harvesting of the ponds. Ayodele explained that the water to refresh the ponds had never been a problem.
“The Elemi River is our source of water. We have linked the ponds with the river, which provides the opportunity to pump water into the ponds when such is necessary,” he said.
There is also another building on the farm where the fish could be dried or preserved. An official of the school, who would not want to be named, told our correspondent that a sizable portion of the fish from the farm would be exported. She however did not specify where the cat fish would be exported to or when this would start.
Babalola, the proprietor of the school, appeared to have made up his mind to ensure that the profile of the farm may contend with the status of the university in terms of exposure. Little wonder that President Jonathan had words of praises for the initiative of the promoter when he was at the school during the maiden convocation of the institution in 2013. The sheer size of the farm gives one an idea that the SAN has not limited his foray into education to the classroom.
“I’m donating 500 ponds of fish to the university. I’m also donating 350,000 moringa trees and 350,000 tick trees to the school,” he said.
This drive of the promoter of the university appears to be responsible for the passion of the Production Manager of the moringa farm production centre, Ajibola Jacob, who said the section had started the packaging of moringa leaves and the production of drugs, which he explained would need to undergo necessary stages of registration.
One may think that power supply, which seems to be taking on the toga of a monster in recent times, may scuttle the ambitious dream of the university and its revolutionary farm. Spokesman for the school, Layi Ajibola, however, said the institution had concluded an agreement with General Electric of the United States, which had granted the school $700,000 to build an hydro electric power on the Elemi River, which passes through the institution.
With such facilities in place and the passion of the backers of the university to do more, one may not be able to dispute the decision of UNESCO, which in 2013, nominated the institution as one of its centres of excellence.