An educationist, a Muslim cleric and a Catholic bishop were the three recipients of honorary doctorate degrees during the second convocation of the Federal University, Oye-Ekiti (FUOYE) last Saturday. RASAQ IBRAHIM reports on the epoch-making event that celebrated the honourees’ outstanding contributions to education, nation-building and humanity.

Every generation is blessed with exceptional personalities whose accomplishments confound their fellow humans.

An educationist, Chief Guy Gargiulo; Catholic Bishop of Ekiti Diocese Most Reverend Felix Femi Ajakaye; and Muslim cleric Alhaji Abubakar Abdullahi were recognised as belonging to the class of distinguished few when they were conferred with doctoral degrees (Honoria Causa) of the Federal University of Oye-Ekiti (FUOYE) at the weekend, having utilised their resources to serve the human race in commendable circumstances.

Chief Gargiulo and Most Rev. Ajakaye were conferred with the Degree of Doctor of Public Administration (Honoris Causa), while Alhaji Abdullahi was conferred with Doctor of Peace Studies (Honoris Causa).

Imam Abdullahi displayed moral courage by hiding 262 Berom Christians of Plateau State in the mosque where he served as Imam, as well as in his personal home in June, last year, thereby saving them from being killed by gunmen who launched a bloody attack on 10 villages in Barkin Ladin Local Government of the state.

In a fractious society like Nigeria, where religious fundamentalism and bigotry are on the rise, Imam Abdullah chose to show that a new Nigeria is possible where different ethnic nationalities with various religious beliefs can again live in harmony and be their brothers’ keeper.

Chief Garguilo, a British who dedicated his life to teaching, left the comfort of Europe for a far-flung sleepy community of Okeagbe-Akoko in Akoko West Local Government Area of Ondo State to train and mentor many Nigerians, many of whom have reached the peak of their careers.

For 60 years, Gargiulo mentored many Nigerians as a principal at Ajuwa Grammar School, Okeagbe-Akoko; C&S Academy, Ugbonla, Ilaje Ese-Odo and as headmaster at Igbobi College, Yaba, among others.

He is reputed for helping many Nigerians to rediscover lost destinies and provided a compass for those wandering in the wilderness of difficulties and uncertainties.

Many of his former students went on to make waves in the clergy, academia, military, police, law, Foreign Service, oil and gas, medicine, civil service, media and sports.

Notable among his products are the Minister of State for Labour, Employment and Productivity Senator Tayo Alasoadura; immediate past Commandant, National Defence Academy, Rear Admiral Samuel Alade; Mike Igbokwe, SAN and former Speaker, Ondo State House  of Assembly, Dr. Ilufowobi Bakkita Bello.

Others include Lagos State Commissioner for Information, Mr. Gbenga Omotoso, former Vice-Chairman of Mobil Oil, Otunba Solomon Oladunni, Bishop of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), the Rt. Rev.  Jacob Ajetunmobi; Human Resources Manager, International Breweries Plc, Ilesa, Mrs. Florence Justus-Oni (nee Ajimuda); The Nation Editor, Mr. Adeniyi Adesina, renowned broadcaster Mr. Ayo Ogedengbe; and Dr Foluso Arewa, consultant at the National Hospital, Abuja.

The octogenarian fondly called GG by his students had made an indelible imprint on the sands of time in the realm of human capital development, endearing himself to thousands who had benefited from his humanitarian services.

In his host community, Okeagbe-Akoko, Gargiulo had carried out many philanthropic activities and executed legacy projects.

He also sponsored surgicies carried out on some needy patients, even as he bankrolled the education of physically-challenged.

His giant strides in the education sector would not be forgotten in a hurry. These included introduction and implementation of Continuous Assessment in Ondo State Ministry of Education where he worked.

He also introduced vocational education in Ajuwa and Adeyemi College of Education, Ondo, where he served as Director of Computer Centre. He was the pioneer chairman of Ondo State Swimming Association.

Most Rev. Felix Femi Ajakaye, Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Ekiti, a philantropist and an advocate par excellence is known for using the pulpit and pen to advance the cause of the poor, especially in the educational sector.

He gave  national and international scholarships to thousands people who were financially challenged to advance their education.

Apart from Ajakaye’s commitment to the education of poor people, he carried out many philanthropic activities including sponsoring empowerment and skill acquisition programmes, especially widows and physically challenged individuals.

Many eminent personalities converged on FUOYE last Saturday to celebrate the trio during the university’s second combined convocation held at the institution’s hall.

President Muhammadu Buhari, represented by a Director at Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund), Dr John Ojo Olusola, praised the university’s decision to honour the trio based on their integrity unlike the practice in other universities that give such awards to money bags.

He said: “As a government, we take pride in our  popular appeal to integrity and excellence. That is why we are glad by the exemplary personalities and outstanding pedigrees of the distinguished Nigerians that the university has awarded.

“You can never be wrong in the choice of these worthy Nigerians, who have been absolutely selfless and altruistic in their commitments to the Nigerian project.

“The university’s decision, in this respect, I must admit, says a lot not only about the integrity of the selection process, also the quality of university’s management, especially the Vice Chancellor, Prof Kayode Soremekun.

“That this is coming at a time when most other Nigerian universities have completely bastardised and instrumentalised such awards, offering it to the highest bidders, makes it more commendable.

“But FUOYE chose to follow the path of honor. I congratulate you for this lofty height and call on Nigerian universities to emulate this inspiring story.”

Soremekun said the trio deserved the honour because of their contributions to humanity.

He said: “As you would have noticed, the choice of these outstanding gentlemen was done without any bias for materialism, favouritism or nepotism or some selfish desires. We have allowed integrity, patriotism, selflessness to guide our sense of judgment in giving the honorary awards.”

A former President of Ajuwa Grammar School Old Students’ Association (AOSA), Dr. Tunji Abayomi, who represented Gargiulo, said the honouree was unique and believed in the uncommon philosophy of selflessness to build the destinies of the people.

“This man Gargiulo is unique and he has built the destinies of many Nigerians, especially from Akoko region of Ondo State. Many of those he mentored are now distinguished scholars.

“Recently, he sold the property of his father, who was an Italian Air Force officer, to buy a tractor to help Akoko farmers. This man deliberately made himself poor for others to be great.”

Responding to the honour done him, Abdullahi hailed the university for finding him worthy of the honour, saying this would spur him to do more for the nation and humanity.

The Islamic cleric disclosed that he rescued the Christians from being killed because of his value for human life.

He said religious tolerance will enhance peaceful coexistence among the people, as well as prevent acrimony and animosity.

“I did not see them as opposition in religion but human beings. I believe both Muslims and Christians are from Allah.

“I think we should rise above religious inclination in our dealings and explore the opportunities in our diversity to better humanity. We should not allow religion to separate us because we are part of humanity”, he said in Hausa.

Dignitaries at the event included the Ekiti State Governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi, who  appreciated the contributions of the university to socio -economic growth of Ekiti, State. He assured authorities of the federal university that the campus’ internal roads would soon be tarred by the state government.

He also assured the university of the state government’s commitment to  partnering the university in the drive to make Ekiti the knowledge zone of Nigeria.

The Governor, who noted that the university was yet to adopt its new name, urged President Buhari, who is the visitor to the university, to ensure that the renaming of the institution after a former governor of the old western state, the late General Adeyinka Adebayo, is implemented.

Others present include the Pro-Chancellor, Prof Babatunde Samuel, the Chancellor, Agbabaidu Idakwo Ameh, Attah of Igala Kingdom.

Others were Chairman, Ekiti Council of Obas, Oba Adebanji Alabi, Alawe of Ilawe-Ekiti, Oba Oluwole Ademolaju, Oloye of Oye-Ekiti, the State Commissioner of Police, Asuquo Amba, and a host of others.

Many old students of Ajuwa Grammar School, including the Old students’ Association President Mr Funsho Akinseye; Treasurer, Olubunmi Dada and Mr. Dele Ogunsemoyin graced the occasion.