The American University of Nigeria has conferred it’s degrees on 303 persons, including three dignitaries, at the 4th Commencement Ceremony witnessed by more than 3,000 spectators.
The momentous occasion took place inside the new Aliyu Musdafa Graduation Hall on the main campus on Saturday 19, May 2012.
Dignitaries include the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Dr. Matthew Hassan Kukah; the Lamido of Adamawa, Dr. Muhammadu Barkindo Musdafa, and a founding board member, Dr. Robert Alan Pastor of the American University, Washington, DC. All three were conferred with the honorary doctorate, while the other recipients were graduates of AUN’s three schools of Arts & Sciences, Business & Entrepreneurship and Information Technology & Communications.
On the eve of the graduation ceremony, 19 of the fresh graduates who finished in flying colors were honored with different categories of awards, in the areas of community service, sports and leadership.
Speaking at the degree-conferment ceremony on Saturday, May 19, the AUN President Margee Ensign explained that the honorary degree is the highest honor that the University can bestow, given only to individuals who have reached the pinnacle of their careers, and have also made significant contributions to humanity, either in terms of philanthropy and public service or have demonstrated outstanding leadership.
“The award entails a formal ceremony, formal robes, and the actual conferring of an appropriate honorary diploma. The degree is awarded with the approval of the University faculty, Senate and Board of Trustees,” she added. Those honored were meant to be role models for the students of the institution; their values exemplify the University's core values.
Addressing the graduates, she reminded them of the enormous challenges ahead and charged them to be good ambassadors of and to live up to the expectations of the wider society.
According to her, Nigeria is a complex society where a lot of potentials are yet to be released, hence the need for them to bring their skills and professional competence to bear on the ongoing efforts to make Nigeria a better society.
She expressed optimism that training acquired by the graduates in the last four years would help the nation in finding solutions to the various socio-economic challenges bedeviling it.
In her welcome address, President Margee Ensign commended the seniors for their academic achievement but pointed out that there were challenges ahead of them in the society.
Some of the problems she identified include poverty, health and illiteracy. “People are poor who need not be poor; people are ill who should be healthy; people are illiterate who should be able to read; people die, who need not die. What then is your responsibility?” she asked the seniors.
There are many socioeconomic ills that can be fixed given the enormous potentials that were available in the country. All that is required is a system that is just and parity based.
This is possible in a good society.
What makes a good society, Ensign asked? A good society is one where people, always different in so many ways, respect each other regardless of their differences.
Cultures of the world, too, may differ but certainly there are things that we (as people) can agree upon.
She reminded the seniors of their civic responsibility to society, and frowned upon the idea that the realization of a responsible society was solely the role of government. “People tend to think that the realization of a just and compassionate and responsible society is only the work of government, but that is not so. In any society, particularly a democratic society, the job is not theirs; the job is ours."
Besides, being a responsible and educated citizen has many dimensions too. “It implies knowing much about how the world works, its politics, economics, technologies, and its cultures; it implies knowing how your own expertise will fit into that picture; it implies that you hear, and it implies that you act,” explained the President.
She later thanked the AUN founder, His Excellency Atiku Abubakar, for his vision and generosity toward AUN and she showed appreciation to parents for their support and faith in the management team as well as the students.
Other VIPs in attendance include ex-Vice President Atiku Abubakar, the AUN Founder; wife of the Vice President, Mrs. Amina Sambo; wife of Adamawa State governor, Mrs. Zainab Nyako, Irish Republic Ambassador, Dr. Patrick Fay; Minister of Federal Capital Territory, Senator Bala Mohammed; former Chief Justice Mohammed Lawal Uwais; Secretary-General of the Association of African Universities (AAU), Accra, Ghana, Professor Olugbemiro Jegede; the Adamawa State House of Assembly Speaker, Hon. Ahmadu Umaru Fintiri; vice chancellors and commissioners, among others from across the country.
AGENTS OF CHANGE
Also speaking at the occasion, Professor Robert Alan Pastor, the 2012 Commencement Speaker, advised the graduating Class of 2012 to be agents of change wherever they find themselves.
Professor Pastor recalled the vision of the founder to make AUN the first development university on the continent and said that national and continental problems were already the focus of the institution, with a view to proffer solutions through education and enlightenment.
“Education is universal to development. The greatest error of (the major faiths in the world) is for them to think that there is only one way. The path to heaven is through enlightenment and education, not violence and destruction.”
Pastor’s advice to the new graduands: If you can’t find a job, try to create one; if people tell you that Nigeria is corrupt or that Africa is poor, remind them that change has begun because you all will be the agents of change.
APPRECIATION TO FACULTY
Meanwhile, the graduating Class of 2012 has expressed deep appreciation to the University faculty for the lasting values of honesty, integrity and punctuality inculcated in them in the course of their four-year stint in the academe.
These values, some of which they were forced to imbibe or remember, were generated in the course of interaction with many lecturers.
Mr. Daniel Denis, the 2012 Class Speaker and representative, said though many of them disliked, even hated some lecturers or even called them names at the beginning, they soon learnt to conform to faculty and University expectations, thereby improving on performance and assimilation.
“Today,” he said, “all we can feel towards you is appreciation for your insistence, discipline and hard work.”
To the undergraduates who are left behind, here is his word of counsel: “It is essential to have fun, but of paramount importance to study hard and be committed to your study because that is why we are all here.”
The 2012 Valedictorian, Ms. Maryam Awaisu, had several reasons to be joyous. Not only did she win the award for Best Graduating Student in the Business Administration, with specialization in marketing, she also won the award for the Best Graduating Student in the School of Business & Entrepreneurship.
In addition, she was the recipient of the President’s Award for Leadership in the female category as well as the Corporate Award for Academic Excellence as the overall best graduating student – the Haruna Musa Award. She thanked her parents and family who had been there for her since the beginning, the faculty and staff for all their support and prayed God’s blessing upon them all.
A faculty member of the School of Arts & Sciences, Dr. Linus Okoro, was also recognized for "excellent teaching and contributions to student clubs".