A Professor of Agricultural and Environmental Engineering and former Vice-Chancellor, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Michael Faborode, has called on tertiary institutions in the country to engage in teaching and research that will produce the manpower needed to run the economy for prosperity and growth.
This move he said would create employment, sustain jobs, as well as solve most of the country's existential problems, including poverty, hunger, healthcare, quality education, infrastructure, desertification, ageing and gender inequality.
Faborode, who stated this recently at the fifth convocation lecture of McPherson University, Ogun State, said universities should be able to key into the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of preparing skilled and knowledgeable manpower and professionals for various sectors of the economy, generating and disseminating knowledge through research engagements for institutional development, as well as building the capacity of professionals, and imbuing them with values and citizenship skills.
In his convocation lecture titled 'Sustainable Development, Post COVID-19: Is Nigeria's Growing Population a Curse or Blessing', he said, "universities need to take the challenge of leading the global developmental march very seriously because it is intrinsically embedded in their mission and purpose.
"Nations must realise and deliberately take advantage of the potency of their universities. Indeed, universities have never been as crucial to nation states as they are today if such nations or states are to be competitive in the global economy."
The don explained that the country needs the university sector to produce and apply knowledge, as well as produce knowledgeable and well-skilled workers across the skills spectrum.
"University must key into the concept of sustainable development, just as Nigeria's education system is being looked upon for the dividends of the nation's membership of world bodies and her investment in education."
In other to achieve this, Faborode stressed the need for universities to be well funded and the accorded needed recognition, adding that in return, they must not be found wanting in responding to this crucial need that will determine their local relevance, global visibility and social value.
"One key strategy of accomplishing this onerous task of leading Africa to grow is for our universities to produce enterprising graduates, who are not only entrepreneurial, but are equally endowed with the zeal to establish enterprises, ventures, hubs to produce goods and services and create jobs. Graduates who will be the liberators, and the army of the new Africa, where knowledge, technological creativity, including new digital savviness, enveloped with genuine African humanistic values, will drive development and environmental conquest."
Faborode, who is also a former Secretary-General, Association of Vice-Chancellors of Nigerian Universities (AVCNU), emphasised on agriculture-led structural transformation of African economies.
He said efforts must be made to devise ways and means to unlock Nigeria and Africa's enormous agricultural potential and make it more competitive to support the continent's structural transformation process, while frontally decreasing food insecurity to achieve zero hunger and meaningfully contributing to poverty reduction.
"It has been argued that the low productivity of the agriculture sector, largely characterised by small-scale subsistence production, has not benefited from the green revolution that aided much of the rest of the developing world, hence we need to give urgent attention to the development of agricultural value chains and their consolidation in order to boost the overall productivity of African farmers/agro-processors, create and strengthen viable agribusiness industry and culture that is beginning to emerge."
A total of 92 students graduated in three faculties from the institution, with 12 finishing in the first class category. Miss Precious Aduekpe of the Accounting Department emerged the best graduating student with a Cumulative Grade Point Average (CGPA) of 4.97, the best ever in the history of the university. She received cash prizes and plaques for her effort.