President Muhammadu Buhari has called for a stop to discrimination against graduates of the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN).
Speaking at the 7th convocation ceremony of the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN) in Abuja where former president, Olusegun Obasanjo was conferred with a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Christian Theology, Buhari said the government would continue to accord the graduates of NOUN and those of other Distance Learning institutions in Nigeria due recognition.
Buhari who was represented at the event by the executive secretary, National Universities Commission (NUC), Prof. Abubakar Rasheed, said there should be no discrimination in terms of employment and opportunity for graduates of Open and Distance Learning (ODL) programmes to pursue higher degrees either in conventional universities or the ODL setting.
While congratulating Obasanjo and the other 14, 770 graduates, Buhari, described Obasanjo as the “Father of Open and Distance Education in Nigeria.”
Buhari said NOUN is the best and only solution to the challenges of admission into conventional universities in Nigeria and re-stated that the federal government would accord due recognition to NOUN graduates.
“Open Distance Learning is the best alternative to the challenges of gaining admission into the universities in Nigeria,” the president said.
“All the conventional universities cannot admit more than one-third of qualified candidates annually. But we are happy that, in line with global education, open distance learning, ODL, being run by NOUN will soon completely eradicate the challenges of admission into universities,” he said.
In his response, Obasanjo told the president to make hard choices consciously or unconsciously to get Nigeria out of poverty and starvation.
To achieve that, Obasanjo said Buhari must step on his (Buhari) friends’ and well-wishers’ toes to accomplish the desired transformation and change
Obasanjo said from his field work during the course of his study and research, especially in the North Eastern part of the country, it was evident that leadership was Nigeria’s major problem.
“Poverty is not our lot or a lot of any individual or group in Nigeria. It is a choice made consciously or unconsciously by our leaders.
“The beginning of getting Nigeria out of poverty to the wealth creation and employment generation is in the choice of our leaders who understand what development means and what it entails and who are ready to do what is needed to be done and make hard choices that need to be made.
“This includes stepping on toes of friends and well-wishers who would not conform to the transformation or change agenda,” he said.
Obasanjo said he was proud and happy to be awarded a PhD degree from NOUN, which he described as “one of the best universities of its kind in Africa.”
Obasanjo explained the rigours of academic life he went through at NOUN.
“I understand that there is no age limit, no status limit and no social barrier to education.
“Before I started from the beginning, I told everyone concerned and the university that, I should not be given any special treatment.
“I carry my bag like any other student. I carry my books like any other student and did all my researches myself, like any other student; I also went through the rigours of academic life like any other student.
He called on the Buhari administration to give enough resources for the development of open distance learning in Nigeria.
“For me, I will use what I learned to develop the society,” he said.