Nigerians believe or, at least act as if men and women over the age of 70 should be choosing fabrics for their coffins like that woman in the memorable film, Polyanna in which the young Haley Mills – Polyanna – resurrected the woman – and the whole town.
I do not know whether Nsukka (University of Nigeria – as I knew and will always know it) Chief Ade-Ojo (Elizade) has already conferred an honoris causa on Ilara AND Nigeria’s illustrious son but the Elizade boss (Toyota’s main Nigeria dealership) reminds me of three people for three different reasons:
Warren Buffet whose swashbuckling business acquisitions in his 80s gives little room for morbid thoughts of the Great Beyond even while he must have at the back of his mind the Psalmist’s injunction that we learn to number our days.
The great Polaroid inventor, Land, who dropped out of Harvard but would later say – my words – ‘doctorate Physicists, you are not doing it right; what I want with this camera (the SX-70) is for the film to be EXPOSED TO LIGHT while being developed! If you’ll ‘scuse me guys, I’ll do it myself.
Where else could my third person that Elizade’s efforts remind me of come from but good ol’ U.S.A.!
In college back in the 70s in the States, I developed interest in biographies/history not only of people but of institutions, and that of Stanford University, an academic powerhouse in the league of America’s Harvard, MIT, Yale & Princeton – interested me: a great institution founded by a father as a gift to other kids, a memorial to an only child he and his wife lost.
No, Elizade has not made a scientific breakthrough but Harvard did confer Land with a honorary doctorate of Science and until I read how that hit of the 60s – the camera that made its films “develop before your eyes” which was against the principles of developing films, I had assumed that a “Dr.” Land coming up with that kind of out-of-the-world invention must have a REAL Ph.D.
Nsukka should be first among many to grant a man who deserves the oft-bandied visionary a honorary doctorate – if it has not.
In his 70s, Elizade has put structures that would become two renowned institutions at his native Ilara-Mokin which Dele Ojo once made famous. but while mostly Nigerians above 60 remember the music maestro of the 60s, the star out of Ifedore Local Council of the 2010s is working on a legacy that will not only outlive him, his children and grandchildren but one that would put the university that he’s about to open within the next several months in the category of the great institutions of the world.
Elizade must have looked well into the past to fashion a future for the great institution he has in mind.
The Chairman of Council is an illustrious first class brains of Ondo State origin, Professor Sylvester Adegoke, one of ELEVEN Ondo State indigenes who are recipients of Nigeria’s National Merit Awards OUT OF the SIXTY awardees – nearly 20 percent!
While I’m not aware of the name of the founding Vice-Chancellor being made public yet, I know for a fact that he’s another Ondo State indigene, a high-flying first class scholar who rose to professorial rank back in the late 70s before retiring and joining an international organization where he worked for almost two decades before retiring.
Founding heads of universities have rare opportunities to chart the directions of the institutions they lead. David Starr Jordan, Stanford’s first President (Nigeria Vice Chancellor), laid the foundation to a great institution that has more than fulfilled his dream “of a school which may last as long as human civilization. … It is hallowed by no traditions; it is hampered by none. Its finger posts all point forward.”
Professor Hezekiah A. Oluwasanmi did no less at the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) even though he had less financial resources to work with.
Those were pioneers who did not see a university as an isolated academic community or learning as a path to be travelled devoid of culture and beauty.
More information is online.
While Jordan cared enough for aesthetics to employ the architect who designed New York’s fabled Central Park, Oluwasanmi established a Parks & Gardens unit that was unprecedented in the annals of university campuses in Nigeria. Most evenings of the couple of years that I worked at the Vice-Chancellor’s office doing secretarial work in the early years of Ife saw Oluwasanmi WALKING around the beautiful campus. If a common and ordinarily-resilient croton was dying among a bunched group in a far corner of the main road of the campus, Parks & Gardens would hear of it the morning after!
I have no doubt in my mind that Elizade’s founding Vice-Chancellor will take advantage of available resources to transform a budding beauty to a stunner.
Adjoining the sprawling Elizade University where plantings are many though needing streamlining and more colors – eh, this IS the tropics – is a very impressive 18-hole golf course. My party on excursion had the opportunity of getting to the 18th hole where a hotel is in the pipeline, and my, what a view from the plateau to the hills of Ikere Ekiti 30 circuitous miles away through Akure, my native Iju and then Ikere, as opposed to a straight line that could not be more than ten miles!
I can foresee Elizade getting on the Pro Golf Tour in the very near future where the Tiger Woods of the golf world would actually love to play.
I do not play golf although I’ve watched enough golf on television to hear Vijay Singh narrate how he once played in Lagos – yeah Nigeria – when he was still coming up and raking up points to qualify for the Big Time! The Lagos Club where he played was nothing much to write about compared to Torrey Pines [California], the Congressional Country Club [Washington, D.C. suburb]… and, of course, the Augusta, Georgia home of the U.S. Masters AND – St. Andrews, etcetera where Singh would later strut his stuff.
I feel certain that with Elizade University, Nigerians who have the means would gladly choose a Nigerian university rather than the thousands of our kids who now journey to Ghana (sounds embarrassing & I mean that in a positive way for the little country that has always proved it can), South Africa and other destinations that take millions in foreign exchange from Nigeria annually.
With the kind of plans for staffing and the very impressive accommodation for staff and students (students will be two to a room), I feel excited about this institution that is about to take off in my native state.
Here is what Stanford’s Jordan wrote when the college opened its doors almost a century ago:
“It is for us as teachers and students in the university’s first year to lay the foundations of a school which may last as long as human civilization. … It is hallowed by no traditions; it is hampered by none. Its finger posts all point forward.”
It is not only Elizade- from Elizabeth (his late first wife) and Ade from his own first name – who is excitedly looking forward to hearing words that would go on marble that his first vice-chancellor would utter to call the staff and students to rise to the challenge that a true visionary has thrown their privileged way.
All of us who know about Elizade – the man and the mission – are!
Please read the next story, a sort of Florida (Gators’) reunion