H.E. Obasanjo’s Bahir Dar University Honorary doctorate degree Acceptance Speech,July 5,2014
Dear Your Excellency, Kassa Tekle Berhan, Speaker of the House of Federation for the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia
Dear Your …Excellency, Dr. Theordros Adhanom, Minsiter of Foreign Affairs for the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia
Dear Bahir Dar University Board members, members of Bahir Dar University Senate
And Bahir Dar University Community
Dear graduates of the Bahir Dar University
Families and invited guests
Good morning to you all.
Let me hasten to congratulate this university, the campus of which I see as one of the most green.
First I want to thank the Senate, Board members and the Bahir Dar University community for the great honour you awarded to me today in this beautiful campus of yours. This award is not only my award; it is also an award to all the great men and women who have worked tirelessly with me. I want to congratulate them for the recognition we are receiving today. This follows the precedent of Addis Ababa University.
Please allow me to thank the people of Nigeria and Africa, as a whole, for the opportunities to serve them.
Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen
We all know that universities are mushrooming all over our continent. Ethiopia, for example, has established more than 30 new universities in the last ten years. Today I want to share three points with you, which should draw the acute attention of universities in Africa.
The first point is the leadership challenge in Africa. Our fathers in Africa had hoped that they would quickly build prosperous nations across Africa after the elimination of colonialism from the continent. However, the continent still remains very poor. Very often this is attributed to poor leadership on the continent. Universities in Africa should carefully study African leadership practice and deficit to show the way forward.
We need to understand our culture and accordingly come up with appropriate leadership methodologies in order to propel our continent towards prosperity. Our universities are perfectly positioned to do this; but they must look more inward and less outward, they must find new and appropriate leadership solutions with continuous study and they must reflect on our culture and tradition to inform modern leadership practices.
I feel that Bahir Dar University has this type of reflexion to make this occasion possible by studying the leadership practices on the continent and if so, this shows clearly the interests and the commitment of this university on leadership challenge in Africa.
I am also glad to hear that the University is working towards creating strong African leadership centre, where many young Africans will come and build their capacity and also document the success and failures of African leaders. I hope that past African Leaders will be invited to interact and share experiences with such students. This is how the new generation can learn from the past and the present and how the future can be inspired. I whole-heartedly support efforts of Bahir Dar University in this and my writings will be available to the centre. A leadership is not great without bequeathing lasting legacy.
The second point is on structural change of the African economy. In order to build prosperous nations across Africa, our past leaders recognized the importance of bringing structural change and reforms to the African economy. They knew that selling agricultural products without any value addition would not help them to climb high on the ladder of economic development.
Manufacturing sector needs to grow and become dominant player in the economy. When we see the reality of the continent today, one can see the substantial challenges we have in sustaining this structural change and reform in the economy. Again, here our universities are positioned perfectly to lead the way.
They should be the place where young people will acquire the necessary knowledge, skills and attitudes to create the future multinational companies by African entrepreneurs. We need to build the capacity of our young people and make them the creators of many new jobs not just to have them as job seekers. It is time for all of us in Africa to make our education relevant particularly in job creation and empowerment generation. I see that the motto of Bahir Dar University is Wisdom at the Source of the Blue Nile and I congratulate you for this thoughtful message that clearly tells your students what the society expects from them: to be wise and useful.
Lastly, I wish our universities to focus on preparing students to handle diversity in Africa. Here three year ago at the Tana Forum we focused on diversity and security. Our ancestors lived peacefully in a collaborative manner for thousands of years. However, now we are facing problems at different levels and in different magnitude across the continent in terms of handling diversity. Why is this happening? Where did these problems come from? How should we address them? These questions are in the lips of many people across the continent. However, the participation and involvement of African universities in seeking solutions to this issue has not been sufficient in terms of training, academic discourse, debates and publications. We need our universities to dig up and dig out and find the wisdom of our ancestors in handling diversity. Diversity should be an asset and not a liability. Colonialism might not have only brought artificial boundaries, which has in some cases become the source of conflict, it also set aside some elements of might African culture that unit all the communities. All these things need to be, analyzed, synthesized and reflected upon thoroughly in order to understand the problems we are facing in terms of embracing diversity in Africa and to make diversity an asset rather than a liability. We must seek and attain unity, prosperity in diversity. Unity in diversity has advantage of numbers.
These three points are dependent on another three factors namely popular education, quality education and science and technology.
Popular education is an imperative because it is the only way to accommodate all stakeholders for training and preparation for life and livelihood, hence the target of education for all. With popular education and empowerment, all members of the society would be equipped to socially and politically take control of their own life and situations.
Quality of education is equally important and related to addressing the three points highlighted above. The world has become a global village due to landmark achievement in information and technology. For our people to be able to compete with their peers in other parts of the globe, quality education cannot be ignored nor compromised. Our people must be productive citizens of the world and they cannot be without quality education that is of world standard.
Last but not least, science and technology is indispensible in the development of any society. Its role in addressing and solving the problems of man cannot be overemphasised. It is one of the major determining factors that separate the developed world from the so called developing countries.
I felicitate with parents, friends and relatives of the graduates of today. May your support and sacrifices for them be richly rewarded in the years to come. I congratulate the graduates. Let this be the beginning and not the end of your aspiration. Let your certificate not just be a meal ticket but a service ticket to your family, communities, nation, Africa and the world.
You have been led while you are at this university, you have been thought, you have been given, you have acquired. Now with at that you have received, you must continue to learn, you must begin to give, you must begin to give, you must start to lead and aspire.
Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, I thank you all for being here to honour me.