Last Sunday’s convocation of Babcock University, Ilisan-Remo, Ogun State, was a potpourri of emotions. For some, it was expectedly exciting. Shouts of joy, mixed with backslapping and hugging, were not in short supply.
But while most of the graduating students had cause to rejoice and shed tears of joy, two of the graduating students and their family members, who managed to grace the occasion, were grief-stricken. But, first, they story of joy.
At the carnival-like 11th convocation, 1,359 students were awarded first degrees. Twenty got postgraduate diplomas, 71 obtained Master’s degrees in various disciplines while another set of 41 got PhD degrees in various disciplines.
The cynosure of all eyes were, however, a 20-year-old lady, Omobola Oduyoye, who emerged the best graduating student after scoring a Cumulative Grade Point Average of 4.92, and Nuhu Benjamin, who won the President’s Award for securing the overall best performances in leadership, academics, community and spiritual services.
Oduyoye, an indigene of Ilisan-Remo, Ikenne Local Government Area of the state, was awarded a first class degree in Public Health, while Nuhu also got a first degree in Christian Religious Studies.
Speaking with our correspondent after she received the Senior Vice-President’s Prize as the graduate with the highest overall CGPA, Oduyoye said commitment, discipline, hard work and focus – combined with what she called God’s grace – fetched her the award.
“Motivation from my parents, lecturers and course mates also helped me. Healthy competition from my course mates such as Akomolafe Damilola, who also obtained a CGPA of 4.60 , also enhanced my performance.
“I have a lot of respect for her because she is a mature married woman and a nurse. In spite of her age, she related well with us and she was very focused. Each time I looked at her, I felt like I should ask government to stop admitting fresh secondary school leavers straight into the university. They should be asked to do the A/Level or ordinary diploma programme before they enrol at the university,” she said.
Oduyoye, who aspires to become the nation’s health minister some day, noted that she would change the face of the nation’s health sector, particularly child and maternal health if given the chance.
“I’m from this town. I only lived the first six years of my life in Ghana and since then I’ve been here and I see a lot of challenges poor women and children go through daily. I want to make health delivery accessible, affordable and extremely cheap for our children and women. I will fight corruption in the health sector and ensure that our children and their mother don’t die again from preventable diseases,” she added.
This desire could explain why each time she and her colleagues had to embark on a field work, Oduyoye always ensured that children and young mothers were her target.
“Though I don’t have money to give them, I always organise seminar and workshop to train them on hygiene, oral health and how to handle preventable diseases. We at times give them off-the-counter drugs. But if God permits and I become the health minister, I’ll work hard to ensure better health service delivery for Nigerians,” she noted.
On how she handled pressure from male students and lecturers, Oduyoye, who had her primary and secondary school education at Babcock Primary School and Babcock University High School, stated that though she had so many male friends, she avoided getting intimate with them.
“I have a number of friends – including male students but I always draw a line between friendship for academic advancement and immoral relationship. I’m not abusive; neither am I a snub. But I don’t encourage any relationship that will distract me from my studies. I don’t encourage any action that can suggest to you that I’m a cheap commodity. I also ensure that I don’t go alone anywhere or follow anybody to dark corners even if she is a girl like me.
“It may sound funny to you, I have never kissed anyone in my life and I have not been kissed by anybody. I thank God for the grace He gives me to achieve this because I know that some people will say it is not easy but with God all things are possible,” the 20-year-old fresh graduate added.
Oduyoye advised young girls to abstain from sex, face their studies and respect people and honour God. But the lady, whose father is a lecturer in the Business Administration Department at Babcock, has a word for the management of the institution.
She stated, “They should relax the rules. Specifically, I don’t see any reason why a female student should not keep long hairs. Do you know it is so bad that security men on campus can stop a student and cut off her hair? This is not good. After all, undergraduates are no longer in the secondary school.”
Oduyoye however urged the university to sustain its dress code, though she wants students to be forced into engaging in physical activities. This, she said, is based on the result of a research she did in her final year.
“I did a project on the effect of physical inactivity among Babcock University students and my findings revealed that many of us were not physically active and this has implication for our academics, health and general wellbeing. The university should therefore invest more in sports and possibly compel everybody to participate in sports.
“They should also reduce the sale of fatty foods such as hamburger, doughnut, eggroll and meat-pie on campus. The scriptural and inspirational write ups on billboards in open spaces on campus are good but they should add educational health tips too,” she noted.
The former Governor of Cross River State, Mr. Donald Duke, was honoured with the honoraris causa of the institution for his distinguished public service works. He gave a lecture where he advised African leaders to work for the development of their people.
He also challenged the graduating students never to emulate corrupt leaders but to be passionate and committed to their vision.
Earlier, Makinde had told the gathering, including the Chancellor, BU, Pastor Gilbert Wari; the institution’s Pro-Chancellor, Dr. Oyeleke Owolabi; representative of the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi; and vice-chancellors of some Nigerian universities, that as is the tradition with the citadel, none of the graduating students had Third Class degree.
It was learnt that students whose CGPA was within the third class degree were given automatic extra year. According to Makinde, the institution is committed to its mission to produce graduates that have competence, character and commitment.
He told the gathering that all the programmes on offer in the institution had been accredited by the NUC. He also commended philanthropists, including Chief Kessignton Adebutu, Dr. Alex Otti and Alhaji Aliko Dangote, for their contributions towards the development of the university.
… as another graduating student loses 8 family members
Margaret Okwuikpo, who graduated with a second class upper degree in Nursing, was one of the two that could not help shedding bitter tears at the Babcock’s graduation. The lady had lost eight family members in a road crash on Friday, two days to her graduation.
It was learnt that 11 people, including Okwuikpo’s parents, brothers and sisters and her sister-in-law, had an accident shortly after they left Port-Harcourt for the convocation in Ilisan-Remo.
“Eight of the occupants of the vehicle, including Okwuikpo’s parents, her brother and his wife and their eight-month-old baby, died on the spot,” a source close to the family told our correspondent.
A man, who claimed to be Okwuikpo’s relations, said he could not talk to the press. The lady herself was not stable when our correspondent attempted to speak to her.
The correspondent’s telephone call to the university source, with a view to speaking with Okwuikpo, yielded no fruit, as she was said to have left for Port Harcourt on Monday morning.
However, another graduating student, simply identified as Tochi, also lost her father in the same accident.
Another university source, who claimed that Tochi’s brother works at Babcock, said he (the brother) was also too devastated to speak on the issue.
In the course of the ceremony, before it was the turn of the graduating students of her department to mount the rostrum to shake hands with the institution’s principal officers, led by the Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Kayode Makinde, Okwuikpo had controlled her emotions. But she soon started crying and collapsed on the podium as soon as she walked towards Makinde, Her friend and course mate, Rabiu Sakirat, who was right beside her, could only help in wiping off her tears.
Those who did not know what the matter was were confused.
“Why is she weeping?” a woman beside our correspondent asked rhetorically.
“Perhaps, she remembered her relation who might have been part of those who died in the ill-fated Dana crash a year ago,” another man, who had come to celebrate with her niece, said.
But silence fell upon the hitherto cheerful crowd when it was learnt that the grieving lady had lost her parents two days to her convocation. The institution’s Sports Complex, venue of the convocation, suddenly became a temporary hall of mourning. Parents, students and well wishers shared in the lady’s low moment, with some putting their hands on their heads while others just sighed.
Like a pastor, Makinde rose to the occasion, held Okuikpo’s hands and consoled her. Tochi and her mother were also called to the rostrum where they were prayed for. But efforts to speak with the mourning families were unsuccessful as a man who identified himself as Okuikpo’s relation said they were not in the mood to speak to the press about the sad incident.
Read more: Punch Newspapers