Founded in 1962, the University of Lagos (UNILAG) recently floated a colourful World Carnival as part of activities to mark the 50th anniversary of its establishment.
It was a spectacular, extraordinary occasion with students drawn from Creative Arts Department along with their counterparts from other faculties as well as students of Theatre Arts and Music from the Lagos State University (LASU) in collaboration.
Adding international flavours to the carnival, the students representing Brazil, China, Cuba, Trinidad and Tobago, India, Ghana, Jamaica, Egypt, Nigeria and South Africa, resplendently clad in colourful, beautiful costumes and national attires of these countries had assembled in separate contingents at the Senate House Parking Lot. Others wore sexy bikinis, some on horses, dancing and singing in jubilation.
As the build-up reached its crescendo, with everyone in excitement, awaiting the arrival of the Acting Vice-Chancellor, Prof Rahamon Bello, he came into the venue accompanied by Prof Babajide Alo, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic and Research), Barrister Oluwarotimi Shodimu (Registrar) Mr. L.A. Odekunle (Bursar), Dr. Okanlawon Adediji (Acting Librarian) and some Deans of Faculties. Others present were academic and non-academic staff, students, Alumni members and stakeholders.
UNILAG students during the carnival
Addressing the carnival audience and participants after the national anthem was played, Bello paid tribute to the memory of the departed vice-chancellor Prof Babatunde Sofoluwe who died in office after kick starting the programme for the 50th anniversary celebration. A minute silence was observed. He then expressed his tremendous pleasure in welcoming everyone to the carnival.
"There is no doubt that for staff, students, alumni members and other stakeholders, this is a day of great delight. As we all look back over the last 50 years, we should all be very proud of the giant strides recorded by our university, "Bello said.
The Acting Vice-Chancellor went on: "Today, the University of Lagos can boast of a stable academic calendar which is largely attributable to the peace and tranquility in our task-environment.
We are poised to sustain the peaceful and conducive task-environment through team-work, open administration and democratic governance. This explains why management holds regular meetings with staff unions, students' representatives, alumni and other stakeholders."
He added: "We are proud of our products, many of whom are in the commanding heights of industry, government and organisations. We are therefore thankful to the almighty for our success story today which explains the rationale for rolling out the red carpet to celebrate our golden jubilee."
Bello noted that in the true carnival fashion, students have all turned out massively in colourful constumes to publicly mark this great milestone with parades, music and traditional dances.
The celebration featured displays highlighting the culture and carnival of about 10 countries across the globe being represented by the students themselves.
After his speech, the Acting Vice-Chancellor accompanied by some of the principal officers went round each of the countries and were received by tumultuous applause before coming down to take their seats on the high table under a special canopy draped in post card pictures of all the vice-chancellors of the University since inception 50 years ago. There was live coverage of the celebration by UNILAG Radio.
Each of the 10 countries represented by students moved one after the other to the front of the distinguished principal officers which included the Acting Vice-Chancellor.
The respective national anthems were rendered in the languages of the countries perfectly well by the students who dressed in unique costumes and waving national flags, attracting huge applause from all watching.
First nation to emerge was China whose national anthem was beautifully rendered in Chinese language, followed by Brazil, Cuba, led by mounted horses with girls riding them, Egypt, Ghana, India and Jamaica. Nigeria whose representatives were clad in green and white costume worn by the lead singer, a male in "Buba", while others wore attires depicting the diversity of the country - Edo, Hausa, Itsekiri, Igbo, Yoruba, etc. The singing of Nigeria's national anthem in English was followed by reciting of the plege.
South Africa with the female participants dressed in black outfit while the males were bare chested in Zulu tradition, all waving the South African flags.
At the rear was Trinidad and Tobago led by someone on motor bike as others held colourful umbrellas to match.
After this aspect of the celebration, the carnival train regrouped moving from senate building parking lot in a long stretch to the Main Gate, Education, Ransome Kuti, Distance Learning Institute (DLI), Health Centre, Staff School, Science, Moremi Car park back to the Senate parking lot for the grand finale of fire works display.
An excited female announcer dressed in carnival costume expressed appreciation to the vice-chancellor, registrar, teaching and non-teaching staff, mummies, daddies, deans, professors and others present, praying that, "we shall be here to celebrate 60th, 70th, etc. My kids will attend Unilag by the grace of God, Amen."
In a brief interview with Vanguard, Prof. Bello, who took over in acting capacity after the death of Prof. Sofoluwe, said that the celebration is to showcase what University of Lagos had been known for: the University of first choice, the pride of the nation and one of the best.
He affirmed that the celebration was put together mainly by the Department of Creative Arts.
"Hence if all the departments and faculties work together, they will provide the best. The ambience was nice."
His advice to the Federal Government was - "Maintain the Universities, provide adequate funding and universities will excel."
It will be recalled that the University of Lagos was established by an Act of the Federal Parliament in April, 1962. Its development was planned to be implemented in three phases. The first phase began in October 1962 with establishment of Faculty of Business and Social Studies, Faculty of Law and a medical college conceived as an autonomous unit of the University with a Teaching Hospital (LUTH).
Originally, the idea of University of Lagos was contained in the Report of the Ashby Commission on post-school certificate and Higher Education in Nigeria and the subsequent report of the Advisory Commission of the Univeted Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) for the establishment of the University presented to the Federal Government in September 1960, barely one month before Nigeria got independence from British colonial rule on October 1st, 1960.
The Golden Jubilee celebration was marked with great passion and reverence by students and staff after the University survived an obnoxious and controversial attempt to re-name it on May 29, 2012 after Chief Moshood Kashimawo Abiola, the presumed winner of the June 12, 1993 presidential vote.
Since 1652, the university had ten substantive vice-chancellors as follows: Late Prof Eni Njoku (1962-1965), late Prof Saburi Biobaku, (1965-1971), Prof Festus Ade Ajayi (172-1978), Late Prof Babatunde Kwaku Adadevoh (1978-1980), late Prof Akin Adesola (1981-1988), Prof. Nurudeen Oladapo Alao (1988-1995), late Prof Jelili Adebisi Omotola (1995-2000), Prof. Oyewusi Ibidapo-Obe (2000-2002 Acting, and 2002-2007), Prof Tolulope Olukayode Odugbemi (2007-2010), late Prof Babatunde Sofoluwe (2010-2012), who died in office.