They filed into the expansive hall of the Obas’ Complex, Oke-Mosan, Abeokuta, with their heads high and clutched their laurels to the admiration of the audience. The hall was filled to capacity by top political and government functionaries, royal fathers, academic eggheads, proud parents and well-wishers, who had come to witness the public presentation and celebration of the Ogun finest brains and brilliant minds.
The event, tagged Ogun Academic Laureates 2021, was a major milestone in the annals of ‘firsts’ by the State. It was a memorable afternoon on Thursday when Ogun indigenes – students and teachers – who had aced various academic competitions and won trophies for the Gateway State, were honoured by the Governor, Prince Dapo Abiodun.
Leading the pack of the honourees was Oladimeji Sotunde, who emerged the 2020 Overall Best Graduating Student of the Lagos State University, Ojo, Lagos. But by far the cynosure of all eyes was the 15-year-old Mathematics genius, Faith Odunsi, a student of the Ambassadors College, Ota. The shining star was equally honoured for her five-star performance and win in the Global Open Mathematics Tournament.
Others were students who had made Ogun proud in JETS and some science competitions. Also, teachers who have excelled in their chosen fields, were recognised and rewarded by the state government.
The teachers included Olalekan Ademola Adeeko of the Baptist Boys High School, Abeokuta, who emerged a winner at the 2020 African Union Continental Teachers Award and his wife, Adeeko Folukemi Asabi who teaches at Patterson Memorial Baptist Grammar School, Idi-Aba who was a runner up at the Maltina Teacher Of The Year 2020. While the husband got a two-bedroom bungalow, the wife went home with N250,000 cash! The Governor also gave a two-bedroom bungalow to Mrs Oluyemisi Oladejo, another teacher at Oronna High School (Snr), Ilaro, who won first position in 2020 African Writer’s Award.
The year 2020 Global Teacher Prize has gone to Mr. Olasunkanmi Opeifa, we will be giving you a two-bedroom bungalow, the 2020 African Writers Award has gone to Mrs. Oluyemi Oladejo who came first in the 2020 African Writers Award, you will also be getting a two-bedroom bungalow, the year 2020 African Union Continental Teacher Prize which was won by Mr. Olalekan Ademola Adeeko, you won the first position in the African Union Continental Teacher Prize award, you will also be getting a two-bedroom bungalow,” Abiodun reeled out to the excitement of the audience.
To the Ogun State Institute of Technology, Igbesa which has emerged as the most compliant institution when it came to the process of complying with JAMB requirements, we will continue to support the institution; we are motivating you with a sum of one million naira.
“To Faith, we have decided we are going to invest in you because we can see that the sky can only be the beginning for you. We are giving you a laptop, a brand new and powerful one at that. But, more importantly, we are going to set up an endowment fund for you and we will put money in that Endowment. We are going to put a seed money of five million naira into that fund
“We will also call on our private sector partners to put money in that endowment fund. The fund will be managed by a financial institution, the interest alone will be enough to pay your school fees and when you come of age, you can decide to cash it in, I congratulate you,” the governor stated.
According to him, the awardees have further put Ogun on the global pedestal, hence, the need to fete them. He attributed feats recorded by the awardees to his administration’s methodical and calculated interventions aimed at rescuing the education sector from the dwindling fortunes inflicted on it by the indifference of the past.
He pointed out that his administration focused on infrastructural development, human capital development and provision of conducive environment, among many others, to redeem the education sector and restore its lost glory.
Abiodun further said, “We are celebrating awards in Projects, Quiz in Mathematics, Basic Science, Basic Technology, Agricultural Science, Physics and Biology.
“We are Best State and we have overall best students for both male and female students in JETS. We are the Champion! The story of the deluge of awards we are witnessing today cannot be completed without the teachers and school administrators who are also champions in their own rights. It is not a flash in the pan to have Award of Excellence in leadership and productivity won by five schools in the State.
“Looking at these young men and women of Ogun State, I find in them not just a reward for our commitment, but indeed, an encouragement to do more. We have continued to dedicate and demonstrate our commitment to the successful implementation of the ‘Building our Future Together’ Agenda.”
He assured that the state, under his watch, would continue to put measures in place towards providing quality education necessary for the development of the state. He charged teachers to continue to discharge their professional duties creditably beyond the new demands of COVID-19
In his remarks, the Commissioner for Education, Science and Technology, Prof. Abayomi Arigbabu, said the event was the showcasing of commitment, dedication and extraordinary engagement by the awardees.
While noting that the state-owned Institute of Technology, Igbesa, won the Most Compliant Institution in keeping to guidelines of admissions which attracted N75 million award as one of the five best performing tertiary institutions in the country, Arigbabu enthused that the state has achieved a lot since he assumed office. These included the purchase of 25,000 furniture for the use of learners in schools, increase in running cost for public primary and secondary schools; approval of N200 million as State Education Trust Fund for the development of infrastructure in state-owned tertiary institutions and the approval of Ogun TEACH programme.
The Commissioner, however, said all the feats were achieved as a result of the unalloyed support of the Governor. He pointed out that the Ogun Academic Laureates would continue to inspire hard work and excellence, raise the bar of excellence in education and make teaching a rewarding profession.
Also speaking, former Executive Secretary, National Universities Commission (NUC), Professor Peter Okebukola, said Ogun had been at the forefront of education attainment in the country. He recalled that as a Quiz Master of JETS Competitions, he had witnessed how the state’s contingents swept awards after awards.
Okebukola, who is the Council Chair of the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN), noted that the performance of the laureates was not a fluke, but a continuation of academic excellence the state is known for.
He said though an Ogun indigene remains the only Nigerian who had won a Nobel Prize for Literature, the crops of junior academic prodigies would in no distant future win a Nobel Prize in science, medicine and physiology.
On his part, a former Vice Chancellor of the University of Ibadan, Professor Olufemi Bamiro, commended the Ogun State Government’s efforts in the education sector and called for the support of individuals, private sector and the various alumni associations in further taking the state to an enviable height.
Also, the Registrar, Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB), Prof. Ishaq Oloyede, while urging the young scholars not to rest on their oars, commended the Institute of Technology, Igbesa, for not cutting corners and for keeping to the guidelines of admissions.
Professor Adewale Solarin, the Director, National Mathematical Centre, Abuja, said Ogun State representatives at the national maths competitions always distinguished themselves by coming out tops. He advised the state government not to relent in its huge investment in education.
Also, the Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, who spoke via Zoom just like Professors Bamiro, Solarin and Oloyede, expressed delight that the state still held its top position in the area of education, science and technology.
He charged the awardees not to be carried away by the laurels, but aspire to do more in order to gain not only continental recognition, but international accolades.
A renowned Nigerian historian, Professor Anthony Asiwaju, commended the laureates for making the state proud and urged them to go ahead to win Nobel prize, not only in sciences, but history as well.
In his remarks, the Alake and Paramount Ruler of Egbaland, Oba Adedotun Aremu Gbadebo, remarked that the feats recorded by the students and teachers were not a surprise, but a confirmation that Ogun is a trailblazer in education. The monarch commended the governor for showcasing the academic prowess of both the students and teachers, noting such would serve as the needed elixir to achieve more, not only for Ogun but also Nigeria.
The Speaker, Ogun State House of Assembly, Olakunle Oluomo, said to commemorate the historic event, the House would soon pass a law legalising the offices of Principal and Headmaster Generals in the state, adding that when passed, the law would make the office a permanent one for teachers in the state.
For our teachers, I commend you for the good job you have been doing. The idea of Principal-General and HeadMaster-General is not legalised in Ogun State, but, because the governor has done it, the House of Assembly will pass a law which the governor will sign and it will become permanent in Ogun State. I want to appeal to the students in Ogun State to keep on climbing the ladder of excellence and keeping Ogun State on the mountain top,” Oluomo said.
The State Chairman of Academic Staff Union of Secondary Schools (ASUSS), Comrade Akeem Lasisi, declared that the reward of outstanding teachers and learners would “boost the morale” of the teachers, particularly public school teachers in the state, to be more committed to their teaching profession.
Lasisi, who is also the National Vice President of ASUSS, commended Governor Abiodun for the improved condition of teaching and learning, assuring that teachers in the state would continue to discharge their duties with commitment.