AJIBEFUN AS PREMIER UNIVERSITY’S AMBASSADOR AND THE BURDEN OF A PRIZE By Debo Ikuesewo-Akinbami
Thinking of Nigeria’s first University, the University of Ibadan, the words of Professor Mark Nwagwu, distinguished Professor of Zoology, readily come to mind: The University of Ibadan Campus provides the most elegant, beloved, and intriguing piece of prized property in Nigeria. Some of Nigeria’s finest minds have lived here and still live here.
I would dare say that, in so many interesting ways, Nigeria begins and ends where the University of Ibadan begins and ends. Whoever think of this country must perforce think of the University of Ibadan. This is not just a University: it is a cultural and intellectual masterpiece in our variegated firmament of knowledge and enterprise.
Nwagwu is correct, evidently. There is no denying the fact that the University of Ibadan, Nigeria’s first and leading ivory tower is in a distinct class of its own. It is arguably matchless in this clime in matters that theme on knowledge production and distribution. It is first in most things as far as the charge of a University gets. And it’s vain debating this. A sturdy brand, both by standing and ranking. One that has consistently sit atop local and international estimations on several fronts, and has distinguished itself in deeds and deliveries, raised stars whose luster lit the world, built geniuses who hold the torch on the various fronts, and successfully constructed a consequential galaxy.
When one refreshes the fact that Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka, Emeritus Professors Chinua Achebe, O. O. Akinkugbe, Niyi Osundare, Bolanle Awe, Ayo Banjo and other listless laureates of global stature belong to the Alumni tent of the University of Ibadan, when one considers that army of her products are champions in the various fields around the world, it would therefore mean ordinariness of thought to think that a university of this altitude is itching to gather fund or fame by conferring awards on persons. On the contrary, when the University of Ibadan honours a persona, it lends its sheen to the honoree, and that, to logic, is profound – something both the public and the recipient should take seriously.
Having built its weight and worth through the seasons, one can safely take it for granted that the University of Ibadan would not sell its prestige for any price or lend its glow to demagoguery. For the University or any of its arms to give ambassadorial tag out to a person, the recipient must not only be distinguished, such person must have demonstrated proven integrity, scholarship and affective distinctions, and can hold his head high up among peers.
Prestigious University of Ibadan has given so much to the world of quality products that have distinguished themselves in all walks of life; products who are themselves eminent ambassadors of the Premiere University, among whom is the honoree who in his own right is a genius of no mean measure. Announcing the award of ‘a Worthy Ambassador ‘ on Professor Igbekele Ajibefun by the National Alumni Association of the University of Ibadan, provokes one to new thinking. And in finding the meaning and essence of Awards, Oxfords Advanced Dictionary makes gives clear impression: a prize that is given to a person who wins a competition, race, etc. or who does very good work. Oxford’s letterings mirror the mileage Professor Ajibefun has covered. He is a serial winner of competitions who does very good work, and with evidences littered around.
Ajibefun is a holder of First Class degree, towering Professor of Agricultural Economics at the Federal University of Technology, Akure, FUTA, former Rector of the Rufus Giwa Polytechnic, Owo, Ondo State, and currently the Vice Chancellor, Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba Akoko, Ondo State, Nigeria.
As he receives this huge honour and the sheen it brings, Prof. Ajibefun must find his own meaning for this honour. Though he has earned a long list of laurels, he must appreciate this differently. He must also acknowledge the weight of the award as one with real difference, one laced with onerous task he must enjoy to do; a call to do more and give more.
By pedigree, Ajibefun is expected to believed to have the fibre. He’s reputed to have what it takes to deliver. After all, he had held many high ranking positions in related capacities both within and outside Nigeria: Japan Foundation Research Fellow at the Department of Agricultural and Forestry Economics, Kyoto University, Japan (1995); World Bank/NUC Visiting Research Scholar, Department of Econometrics, School of Economics, University of New England, Armidale, Australia (1996), Alexander von Humboldt Foundation Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Leibniz Centre for Agricultural Landscape and Land Use Research, Muncheberg, Germany (2004 and 2008); Consultant to United States Agency for International Development (USAID); the World Bank; International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA); the African Economic Research Consortium, CIRAD, (France); International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA); The African Union Challenge Project, Niger Republic, The Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Ondo State Government.
His experiences as member of International Association of University Presidents (IAUP); Commonwealth Association of Polytechnics in Africa; European Society for Soil Conservation (ESSC); International Association of Agricultural Economists (IAAE); African Economic Research Consortium (AERC); Asian Society of Agricultural Economists (ASAE) and the Nigerian Participatory Rural Appraisal Network (NIPRANET), should make firm his feet for the new responsibilities that lay ahead of him.
Award is good, yet it comes with a price. Since Professor Ajibefun is a fellow who knows the price of a prize. He is used to hard work; a lifestyle which has helped him to cope remarkably with the tides of time. With the new badge he now wears, it is hoped that settling down to work towards keeping the name of the University of Ibadan atop and aglow should not be a hard task.