Prince Bola Ajibola, a former judge of the International Court of
Justice and proprietor of Crescent University, Abeokuta, Ogun State,
told LAOLU HAROLDS in this interview that he did not just set out to
produce graduates who are outstanding in their fields of
specialisation, but graduates who would also be exemplary in
integrity, diligence, moral uprightness, among other virtues.
Crescent University has, since coming on the scene about 14 years ago,
been recording outstanding achievements: increasing steadily in
students’ population, turning out first class alumni and posting
impressive programme accreditation results from the National
Universities Commission. What has been the secret?
How have we been able to achieve so much? This is our observation: for
example, there is no state in Nigeria that we don’t have some of our
students from. We have covered all the 36 states in Nigeria. This is
because we don’t have inhibitions on the issue of religion. If you’re
a Christian, you’re welcome; if you’re Muslim, you’re welcome. If you
are none, you are still welcome. We don’t base our admission on your
religion or ethnicity. Then that gives us an idea of a retrospective
appraisal of what really caused this development (our growth and
achievements). We then found that basically the concept of the founder
and proprietor (that is I) is deeply rooted in his family development
– having a good father and bearing good children. I think we have that
richness in the family. We took note of certain incidents; incidents
that we can pinpoint as lime lights in the life of this family. Look
at those two pictures (framed photographs on the wall); they are the
pictures of members of the World Bank Administrative Tribunal. I’ve
not shown you that of the World Court. That is another important
aspect of my life. But if you look at that one (on the left), you will
appreciate the essence of good character, good moral, good
comportment. That is part of the source of our development. If you
look at the picture on the right (on the wall), you will notice that I
happened to be (standing) behind. The second thing you will notice is
that I happened to be the only black there. Then look at the one
(picture) on the left, with virtually all the people that are on the
right, but you will see me sitting down, in front and in the middle.
That was when they made me their president. And I served as their
president for years – a Nigerian, an African among Europeans, and I
happened to be their president at that time! What could have enriched
my position in that place at that time other than the fact that I had
the comportment and the qualities?
That is why we are trying to instill that philosophy and character
building in our students. That is the reason we are emphasising it,
that it is not only academics. We want them to be first class in
academics (they are doing very well and are going places all around
the world in academics); but equally, they have been noted in many
places many times for their good character.
We have what is called Global Citizenship in our university. We take
it seriously as a course. Even before my father was installed as the
Olowu of Owu Abeokuta, he was chief inspector of police, and he served
to the best of his ability. He served diligently; he served with
utmost integrity. We want our students to excel in academics, but we
also want them to be of good character. That is our plan; that is our
Listening to you, it appears that moral education has become somewhat
a niche for Crescent University. But by way of scholarship, what area
of knowledge are you positioning the university to be noted for?
We are on a programme that will identify us with medical research. We
are on it; we have not completed the plans. When we are done with it,
we will let people know that our research on human health and human
development is utmost in our minds also.
You are an icon of the legal profession not only nationally but
internationally. Have you at any time felt the nudge to make the Law
programme of Crescent University a niche too?
First of all, we are determined to diversify. We already have the
legal profession established. We have what we call the BAKOLAW, and
then we have all the facilities there for developing the legal
practice. We now intend to multiply some of our activities on the
legal aspect. And the one we intend to focus on at the moment is
arbitration – a kind of adjudication of a special nature; that is
giving chance to alternative legal services, which is also part of the
provision in the United Nations charter. But basically, what we are
now doing is to ensure that not only Law, but they must have good
character. Once that is established, all these other aspects will be
added to it.
The 100 per cent accreditation of the university’s programmes has been
consistent. Can you tell us some of the factors that have been working
for the university?
We ensure that we have the right type of professors as well as
lecturers doing well in their fields. We are strict, and we allow our
students to be exposed at all times to studying in the library and
also ensuring that they face their studies at all times. Two of our
students have already been accepted at the British Broadcasting
Corporation. One of our students went to Southampton and made seven
credits at that university. Another one went to Robert Gordon
University and she did excellently well, and now back in Nigeria she’s
wanted everywhere. Our students are doing very well, but we are not
resting on our oars. We have now started having Master’s degree
programmes and we are about to start PhDs also.
Talking about access; some people are saying that the scene is already
saturated and are calling on the Federal Government to cease further
issuance of licences to additional private universities. What is your
take on this?
I personally feel that, for the time being, especially in our own area
here in Ogun State, we have had enough. In all, I think we have about
16 private universities. It may be necessary in some other parts of
Nigeria, but not here.
What about TETFund interventions? There have been calls to the
government to extend these to private universities…
It’s unfortunate that we are not given that advantage. We also should
be given the advantage of receiving TETFund in private universities
because there is need for financial assistance in all the universities
irrespective of whether they are funded by government or private
individuals. I think they should all be given the advantage.