It was celebration all the way, as the University of Lagos recently held its 53rd convocation ceremonies, which witnessed 2,251 graduating students being conferred with degrees made up of 67 postgraduate diplomas, 2119 masters and 65 doctorate degrees.
Dr Ahmed Amoo Yinusa, one of the graduands, who obtained his PhD in Mechanical Engineering, was called out to receive his award for the overall best PhD thesis and best in science. It was no mean feat.
Dr Rita Okorite Kienka, who obtained her PhD in Guidance and Counseling, also got the best PhD thesis in Humanities. The oldest graduating student, Dr Michael Duyile, 83, obtained his PhD in Mass Communication. The octogenarian and veteran journalist covered the university’s opening ceremony in October 1962 while working for the Daily Times of Nigeria.
Another octogenarian, Bridget Okonji, 82, obtained a master’s in Education in Guidance and Counseling.
The institution awarded gold medal honorary awards to two eminent academics who have distinguished themselves in their chosen careers and demonstrated significant contributions in raising the university’s standard through teaching, research, administration and service to the community. They are a professor of Mathematics, Johnson Olaleru and a professor of Theatre Arts, Duro Oni.
The programme was part of activities marking the 60th anniversary of the university.
In his valedictory speech, Yinusa recalled how he got admission into the institution as an undergraduate and was employed as a graduate, having finished as the second-best student in the department of Mechanical Engineering with a first class final CGPA of 5.00/5.00 and a CGPA of 4.76/5.00. He thereafter commenced his M.Sc. immediately (2016/2017 session) and finished with a Distinction (CGPA of 4.90/5.00) in 2017.
Yinusa recalled how in early 2019, he tried to further his study at the university School of Postgraduate Studies (SPGS) and got a chance to be a PhD student (2018/2019) in the department of Mechanical engineering.
During his PhD programme, he said Hakeem recommended him, Amuda, to the climate change research group headed by the former VC, Prof Oluwatoyin Ogundipe and was after that nominated by the university to represent it in Grenoble, France, on smart energy and nanotechnology under the sponsorship of the French embassy in Nigeria.
“I took advantage of the clean room of CIME Nanotech laboratory, France and obtained some experimental results that were used to validate the analytical scheme employed in my work. I also came back with a diploma in climate change and another diploma in French A1,” he said.
After his third seminar, he said he had observed Advanced Process Control ( APC) and applied for the approval of his thesis title and supervisors, delayed by unions’ strike (ASUU, NAAT, SAANU and NASU).
“Unlike other students, I was getting double blow because I was not progressing academically and salaries were also withheld by the FG due to the strike. During the strike period, I was faced with serious financial challenges like paying hospital bills for my sick mother, payment of rents, children school fees and sustaining the family,” he revealed. “Many university workers had to resort to loans which some are still servicing to date.”
He, however, appealed to the federal government to release the withheld salaries of university workers while thanking the university management for supporting him throughout his project.
Speaking to journalists at the programme, Duyile said he has been looking for the opportunity to achieve the feat since 1991, adding that it finally came when he least expected it.
“I am short of words because I have been looking for this opportunity for over 30 years, but for me to still have the opportunity, I give thanks to God,” he stated.
He advised young journalists to be competent and committed to their profession, noting that at 83, “I am still a correspondent for oversea newspapers. I make my living from that, and I also teach in universities across the country.”
Earlier in her remarks, the Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Folashade Ogunsola, said in the last 60 years, the university has distinguished itself by the excellent calibre of its students, alumni and staff and its impact on national development.
“Indeed, the strength of the university system and structures built over these years has enabled each vice-chancellor to date to sustain the gains of the previous administration while pushing out to find new frontiers in the aspiration to make our institution one of the global best,” stated Ogunsola.
Her strategic plan, she affirmed, is to make UNILAG future-ready, yielding inquiring minds, discoveries, sound character and a globally impactful workforce while addressing the developmental needs of today, centred on 10 core goals.
While thanking the federal government for supporting the university system through sponsorship of academic research grants, and infrastructural development, the VC urged all stakeholders to come along on the journey.