• Thursday, June 20, 2024
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We want to initiate a gradual change of lifestyle in a healthy direction – Rev. Ebido

We want to initiate a gradual change of lifestyle in a healthy direction – Rev. Ebido

In this interview, Augustine Ebido, member of the board of trustees of the Dominican University and director of the University’s Education Foundation, shares his experience as a Catholic priest on the importance of a balanced lifestyle, good character formation, and entrepreneurship. Excerpts by SEYI JOHN SALAU:

Dominican University is a few years old and might be relatively unknown to non-Catholics; can you tell us a bit about the history behind the school?

Yes and No. It started as a university in 2017 after we got our NUC license (in 2016). But over and above that, there has been an Institute called Dominican Institute (DI) that has been in existence since 1996, affiliated with the University of Ibadan, Angelicum (Rome), and Duquesne University (USA). But it was like an ecclesiastical institution, though it admits men and women of all walks of life into Philosophy, Theology, and Religious studies. We share a boundary with the University of Ibadan. It is this institute of over 25 years’ experience that eventually transitioned to a full-blown university when we got our license.

I think it is a beautiful thing because it provides us a platform to contribute our quota in solving some of the problems of nation building. Our goal for Dominican University is to provide a first class education and moral formation for future leaders and citizens of this country. In addition, this will over time save huge funds (capital flights) moving out to fund educating our children abroad. Everywhere you go around the world, Nigerians are there studying.

The reason is not only that we don’t have quality education, but that many eligible youths cannot find admission for lack of space in existing Universities. Furthermore, those who get admitted are not sure when they will graduate due to constant strike action. The last one lasted almost a whole year! Private Universities like DU is here to provide parents with real alternatives.

Do you have a provision for adult education?

You know that the university is a universe of its own. We start small and then expand as we respond to the needs around us. Dominican University is here to partner with the Main Street (public) to find solutions to problems of our society. For example, you know that priests used to major only in Philosophy and Theology. However, given the real needs of our society, they are now moving into professional areas like accountancy, architecture, engineering, law, among others. Why? While I am not particularly happy about this development because of its possible adverse consequences in time, it is a response to need. At the core of our problem in nation building is lack of trust or honesty.

I have many people who tell me they will easily open up big businesses here that can employ people, but the problem is, who will run it? The average Nigerian you employ today, is ready to liquidate your business for his selfish gain. That is why we must get back to a good education. Without good character formation, we cannot build a good society. So, at DU we are going back to the drawing board, to raise leaders and citizens who are responsible knowing that in the end, the quality of a country is a statement about the quality of the people in it.

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Let’s talk about the walk for life initiative; what does the campaign for a healthy living mean to you?

It is a beautiful experience for me to do this. We coordinated this WALK initiative for the university. The inspiration behind it is very personal because after the COVID season, we began to see signs of a lot of deaths especially among young people. I have heard of people coming back from work or market, sitting in their parlour and dying. In the last two years, I have buried so many young people as a Priest; and it breaks my heart! Unfortunately, there are no statistics. So, there is no way to find out what is the reason for these strange deaths! I am not talking about older people dying. I am talking about young, active, and relatively “healthy” people dying.

Could this be depression or frustration considering the current economic situation of things?

I wish I could answer that question. In other climes, they will research and find out the reason. But, I think that as a country, we need to know that each of us can do something to build a better country. If we look up to the government for everything, then we forget that we are agents of change for our country. Nobody is going to build this country for us. We have to build it ourselves; and the university thought that there is something we could do as an institution, to create awareness for our people. If you are dying and you don’t know the reason why the deaths are happening, you can at least take the most reasonable cause of action like exercise.

Exercise has been proven to be very helpful in improving mental, physiological, and cardiovascular health. A little but regular exercise can therefore prolong your life. Though I am not a physician, I personally feel that many of these deaths are simple cholesterol problems because many of them are either heart attacks or strokes. That is something that could easily be managed through exercise. So, this walk is to create awareness that we can prolong our lives by making it a routine culture to do some form of exercise every day, or at least every week. As an institution when people see us do something like this on a regular basis, it sends out signals to people that the ongoing hype on exercise is no longer a joke. That is how a bad cultural habit changes: we want to initiate a gradual change of lifestyle in a healthy direction.

How does the walk tie into the vision of the University?
The vision for Dominican University is to promote not just academic excellence but also good character formation. It is owned by a Catholic organization; the Dominicans, an international organization but it’s open to everyone, not just Catholics. Our mission is to help build a better society by providing good, holistic education, that is, education of mind, heart, and hands to all who pass through the University. The Catholic Church is known for good education. In fact the universities we see today are the product of Catholic education initiative because universities started from monasteries, or monastery-schools in Bologna, in Paris, then spread in Europe.

Dominicans have an 800 years history of being involved in education worldwide. Our founder Dominic de Guzman, a Spaniard, sent his first followers to Universities in Bologna, in Paris, in Oxford, to learn and to teach there. We still have Blackfriars in Oxford today, they are Dominicans. It is ideas that rule the world. Universities are incubators for ideas. We want to raise young people who have good ideas about how to rebuild this nation. But it’s not just about ideas, but about the character of people with these powerful ideas. We want to raise future leaders who are responsible and accountable. If there is anything that is lacking in our country today, it is accountability in our leadership. So, we want to form a new generation of Nigerians, who will know that Nigeria is our Heritage.

It is in our power to build the kind of country we want to live in. If we want Nigeria to be a place where everybody is relatively happy, because everybody has a fair share, then it begins with good character formation. Catholics have been champions of a good education worldwide. Good education is not just about academics but it includes the formation of good character. At Dominican University we concentrate on academic excellence and good character formation. We call it integral formation or holistic education.

Tell us a bit about yourself and how long have you been a priest?

I studied what is called systematic theology but with a moral-ethical background. I studied in the United States, and came back to be a part of the change that we seek because change doesn’t happen until people take responsibility for the kind of change they desire. I was ordained a priest in 2001 but it takes about 9 years to ordain a Catholic priest.