AUN honours Adesina, AfDB president, with honorary doctorate at Commencement ceremony
The American University of Nigeria (AUN) has awarded an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters to Akinwumi Adesina, president, African Development Bank (AfDB).
Adesina was decorated Saturday by Margee Ensign, president of AUN, during the institution’s 12th Commencement (convocation) ceremony (Classes of 2020 and 2021).
The honour, Ensign said, was in recognition of Adesina’s “exemplary service in the public sector.”
According to her, “In many ways, he stands for what AUN stands for as Africa’s development university. We are honoured to honour a truly Nigerian and African hero.”
Describing the award as an additional responsibility on him to do more for humanity, the AfDB president, who gave the keynote address at the event, said: “It’s a call to do more, and I will. A commitment to transform the lives of young people, and I will be a great ambassador for AUN.”
In his commencement lecture entitled ‘Building a New Nigeria: Imperatives for shared prosperity’, Adesina expressed worries that Nigeria has refused to take advantage of its diversity.
He advised that “Nigeria must start managing its diversity for prosperity.”
According to him, “We must drive for national cohesion, not ethnic nationalities.”
Also worried that the country is today embroiled in all manner of agitations, the AfDB president advised that “We must address the fundamental reasons for agitations, by listening, understanding, removing prejudices, and allowing for open, national dialogues, without preconditions, but with one goal: build one cohesive, united, fair, just and equitable nation for all, not for a few or for any section of the nation or religion.
“A nation, unified by a sense of common wealth, not a collage of ethnic nationalism. A nation driven my meritocracy, not ethnocracy, religiocracy.”
He noted that “One of the things that Singapore did well was to have four national languages: English, Malay, Mandarin and Tamil. Nigeria needs to put in place the compulsory teaching of its major languages in schools, from primary through universities, to ensure multilingualism, cross-cultural understanding, and to build a strong socio-cultural capital that unifies.”
It was also his considered opinion that the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) was a very good idea, as it allowed graduates from tertiary institutions to have one year of national service, largely (ideally) outside of their places of origin.
“The real test, however, of ‘national service’ is that it often revealed the lack of diversity. After one year of service the NYSC graduates are often not able to gain employment in governments where they served, simply because they are not indigenes of those states,” he said, noting that “That in itself, is an irony!”
The keynote speaker also sadly noted that the young graduates were strangers in their own country- “a country they pledged to serve. opportunity is denied just because they were not born in those states! Even if they were born in those states, they are told to return to the states of their origin.
“Yet, their origin is Nigeria, not their states! In Nigeria, regardless of how long you have resided in any place, you cannot run for political offices in those states or locations, just because you were not born there. State governments, therefore, largely reflect nativism not residency, which further sends a message to non-indigenes that they do not belong.
“Over time, this has created greater insularism, splintering, a lack of inclusiveness, the promotion of ethnic and religious chauvinism, instead of promoting national cohesion, trust and inclusiveness.”
Calling for urgent change, the global banker said: “Governments must be open to representation based on nationality not on ethnicity, to build a society of mutual trust, where diversity is well managed.
“Unless someone can live in any part of the nation, work within the laws and not be discriminated against, based on religion, race or culture, or place of birth, they will always be strangers in the nation.”
Urging Nigerians, particularly leaders at all levels to employ justice and allow fairness to be their watchword, Adesina said: “I love the Nigerian National Anthem. My favourite stanza is the one that says, ‘to build a nation, where peace and justice shall reign.’
“I get emotional whenever I sing it. I remember when I was a Federal Minister, each time we gathered at the Federal Executive Council and had to sing, or at any other function strong emotions would well up within me, for a nation I love, serve, and will always serve, selflessly.”
According to him, “I know that we can be better than we are. We have everything and every reason to be. For Nigeria to be all that it can be, the youth of Nigeria must be all they can be.”
A total of 475 graduands took part in the combined graduation ceremony.
Mohammad Nasiru Yakubu made history as the first-ever doctorate degree graduate to be produced by AUN, in its 17 years of existence.
The university held an elaborate awards ceremony earlier on Friday night, where outstanding graduating students were honoured for academic excellence, community service, leadership and sporting achievements.
The event was well attended by dignitaries, including traditional rulers, captains of industry, some serving and ex-governors and Atiku Abubakar, founder of the institution.