by Hauwa Gambo
Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN), the governor of Lagos State, was guest at the 17th Convocation ceremony of the Lagos State University (LASU) yesterday when – in restating his drive to improve the institution – he announced his decision to suspend further awards of honourary degrees by the school.
“Let us find our voices and ask them. What is the basis for honour? Do we have electricity? Are we enforcing our laws? Have we broken new grounds in medicine? Have we designed the tallest building or invented the most productive and yielding grain of maize, cassava, tomato or rice?”
“A University’s image and reputation is defined by many factors, ranging from its past history, which creates a brand, its structures and architectural buildings, and its content in terms of its teaching personnel and the learning aids and equipment that it offers students,” the governor, who never holds back from wielding the big stick, said.
According to Channels Television, the governor said he has studied the law setting up the institution and in consultation with members of the governing council has decided to suspend the conferment of honourary degrees from LASU until there is an improvement in the quality of the lives of the people.
He explained that he should not be misunderstood as suggesting that there are no men or women who will be deserving of such honours should the University decide as such, but that this is not a time for the people to lie at ease, but rather one to ask those men to do more to inspire the generation behind that there is intrinsic and unquantifiable value in delaying the sense of gratification and appreciation.
According to the governor, it is most inappropriate that any university whose products are struggling to measure up to globally accepted minimum educational standards, should be in the business of conferring honourary degrees on any category of people in the society, no matter how deserving.
The governor who spoke at the New University Auditorium in Ojo, which he unveiled just before the commencement of the Convocation ceremony, stated that the University used to be a reference point amongst tertiary institutions in Nigeria and would regain that reputation, because government will do everything in its power to ensure that it does.
“There is a vital aspect to the award of honorary degrees. They are actually supposed to be equivalent to the full degree and therefore the recipient enjoys the full benefits of the degree as if he or she actually studies for it in the awarding institution.
“This implies that the recipients must be carefully chosen and their contributions to the upliftment of the society in whatever area of human endeavor must be well established”, he added.
He reiterated that the contributions of the recipients of these honours in the places where the idea was adopted from is not only visible and measurable, but that the quality of life of the entire community is commendable
“Can we truly say that all honourary degrees in our society in Law, Engineering, Philosophy, Economics, Agriculture and many disciplines is truly reflective of value added?
“Regrettably it would seem that in our society, we require titles and honours in order to add value to our names. This is a worrisome path from which we must retreat. Although it will be very difficult to impeach the contributions of past honourees of this institution, and because we are determined to keep the stream of honour pure, we have decided to raise the bar”, the Governor stated.
The Governor said he cannot reconcile the award of honorary degrees with the level of underdevelopment in the society, saying the worrisome phenomenon is not limited to honourary degrees as educational institutions, churches, mosques, traditional institutions and even social clubs, need to reflect on the trend.
We couldn’t agree more.