- consolidating Loans on Human Resources Fast Facts: Legal
- Fatima Abubakar on My 2012 Class Speaker Speech — Daniel Denis
- gabriel.tobby on Class of 2011 Valedictory Speech –by Daniel Harbor
- Daniel Harbor on Class of 2011 Valedictory Speech –by Daniel Harbor
- Babatunde Johnson on Class of 2011 Valedictory Speech –by Daniel Harbor
. . .find your news and blogs
AUN is a Labor of Love
It is easy to flirt with Africa.
To the nature lover, she offers the Great Migration, with its herds of wildebeests galloping across the plains; tracts of wilderness whose untarnished contours bear the mark of geologic time and little else; mountains, grasslands, and the daunting mystery of the largest desert in the world. To the student of culture, she offers a diversity of peoples and languages that would take many lifetimes to unravel. To the curious, to the adventurous, and to the bold, she offers no end of wonder and challenge. From modern Nairobi, to villages where no car has ever traversed the footpaths of those who count by seasons and generations, Africa is an unparalleled and unforgettable wonder…and when the intrepid tourist departs, the Dark Continent may seem a little less dark.
Loving Africa is an entirely different matter.
The woes and troubles of our world are all here; poverty, famine, disease, war, and now more than ever the plight of an environment at the crossroads between dearth and plenty. Africa has had more military coups in the last century than any continent on the planet and the specter of civil war looms large in the collective memory of those who hope for a new paradigm of progress. Traveling her roads is not easy, and she can be as unforgiving as the elemental deities honored by her traditional religions. To those who have not been toughened from birth to bear her many burdens, she is implacable and unrelenting.
When I first agreed to come to AUN, I was a flirt. I admit it. I was not prepared to love Africa, and I certainly was not prepared to love the most populous nation on the continent. I was enamored, as many tourists no doubt are, by the prospect of exploring the land of the first people—but AUN demanded more than flirtation from me, and I quickly learned that no less than love would serve.
Love, as anyone who has experienced it knows, is work—often hard work. Beyond the initial impact is the realization that love is a story (and you must forgive my analogy as a professor of English Literature). In order to fully appreciate the narrative, you can’t jump to the end. Love requires that you read all the way through, from the beginning. At times it may seem that the thread of the story is altogether lost; but there is more to a mission statement than institutional rhetoric. AUN’s mission statement as a developmental university is both an anchor, to sustain it through troubled times, and an imperative that will brook no deviation.
AUN is a labor of love, founded by a man who understands that any such labor unfolds and blossoms, often, despite the harshness of the soil or the unremitting heat of the sun. AUN is proud to offer American-style education to a country more than ready to think for itself; but this gift is neither prepackaged nor the product of uncaring industry. It is a story unfolding even now, replenishing itself with each student that benefits from it…but, unlike a flower given to a lover, which blooms, withers, and eventually dies, this is a blossom that is continually strengthened, nourishing the soil in which it grows.
As a Development University, AUN’s role is unquestionably unique. Most universities, here as elsewhere, would consider it part and parcel of their mission to develop their students; but to be mindful of the stakes and challenges, and to assume the responsibility of directly connecting those students to a young nation that has already been through so much—the picture changes. Development becomes a multifaceted directive, intended not only to provide students with the means to better themselves, but intended also to create a space whereby students can be encouraged to participate in a different kind of love story: that of a people learning to love their nation and the diversity that comprises it.
Why would anyone build an American style university in Yola, of all places? In northern Nigeria, in a part of the country considered rural and undeveloped? The answer, ultimately, is simple: a university, like the faculty and administrators who are a part of it, should strive to improve the culture that sustains and surrounds it. Many accuse the predominantly Muslim north of being hostile to Western education—an accusation unfortunately well-represented by the now-infamous Boko Haram—and some argue that AUN would have been better placed in the capital of Abuja or the commercial center of Lagos. Southern Nigeria thrives, primarily by virtue of its natural resources, and universities of repute are not unknown; from Ile-Ife to Ibadan, Benin City to Calabar, there are institutions brimming with life—but AUN offers something more: an international faculty whose diversity of perspectives complements perfectly the diversity of perspectives in the classroom.
Recently, AUN held its graduation ceremony in the newly built Lamido Aliyu Musdafa Hall, named after the late Lamido of Adamawa State. It was a profound experience for everyone involved; but to me, it represented a moment where the underlying meaning of the story became clear, like a melody in the background of a song suddenly becoming clearer after a refrain. Those students were not just getting a piece of paper, churned out on the conveyor belt of an educational assembly line; they were receiving a license to make change, an empowerment that is both a validation of their effort and a blessing to undertake a hazardous journey into the global future of our shared world.
To the teacher, Africa offers the opportunity to help prevent a people from making the same mistakes that we have made. There is little doubt that the Continent is developing quickly, and educators have a responsibility to help its people realize the magnitude of the stakes, the challenge at the crossroads up ahead, and the incredible fact that the many countries involved have genuine choices to make—choices that may yet set an example for the rest of the developed world.