SPEECH OF ACCEPTANCE FOR HONORARY DOCTORATE FROMEKITI STATE UNIVERSITY[Greetings]H.E. Gov. of Ekiti and his lovely wifeH.E. wife of the VP of GhanaChancellor of the UniversityVice Chancellor, Academic Staff, students of EKSUDistinguished ladies and gentlemen. I am extremely grateful to be here today at Ekiti State University. It isindeed a privilege to have this Honorary Doctorate of Public Administrationdegree conferred upon me by your esteemed institution. I would like to first thankthe Governing Council of the university for this great honour done me. I wouldalso wish to extend my best wishes to H.E. Gov. Kayode Fayemi and the people ofEkiti state for the warm welcome you have accorded myself and my delegationsince our arrival. Additionally, I would like to extend my congratulations to AmbassadorBamidele Olumilua on being named Chancellor of the University; Dr. KandehYumkella and Professor Tamuna, upon whom Doctorate of Science and Doctorateof Letters degree were conferred, respectively. I would also like to congratulate allof the graduates of Ekiti State—those who are being celebrated during this 17th
convocation ceremony, as well as all those whose lives have been enriched in thelecture halls and rooms of this university during its 30 years of existence.This is my first doctorate degree, honorary or otherwise. I think it’s especiallysymbolic—both personally and professionally—for me to be receiving it here inNigeria. I’ll begin by sharing with you the personal relevance.As I am sure many of you are aware, our two countries, Ghana and Nigeria, havealways had a symbiotic relationship. There are so many commonalities betweenus—from the fact that each is Anglophone and shares borders with Francophonecountries to the fact that we share, within our own individual borders, the samephysical geography and seasonal climatic patterns, and similar food and customs.Where else in the West African subregion can you go—but Ghana if you’reNigerian or Nigeria if you’re Ghanaian—and eat food that will make you feel asthough you’ve never left home? Fufu, egusi, gari, garden egg stew.But more than any of that is the history that we share; it is a history that hasbrought us together as one in much more than food and clothing and customs. Ithas brought us together in art and entertainment, and it has brought us together inour bloodlines. Like a number of Ghanaians, in addition to having friends andformer schoolmates who are Nigerian, I also have relatives; my sister is Nigerian.
In the first few decades of independence, as our two nations were struggling tofind their feet as constitutional democracies, during times of difficulty in Nigeria,many citizens sought refuge in Ghana; likewise, during times of difficulty inGhana, many of citizens sought refuge in Nigeria. I was among the one million ormore Ghanaians who came to Nigeria during the early part of the 1980s.My father, who had fled Ghana into exile, lived for some time in Nigeria as apolitical refugee. I was a young man at the time. I had completed my first degreein History and was looking to earn a second degree. In order to be close to mydad, I joined him in Nigeria and set my sights on attending a post-graduateprogramme here. I remember how, as I was waiting for the application season tocome around, I used to walk around the campuses of various universitiesenvisioning myself sitting in their lecture halls and then, hopefully one day,receiving my postgraduate degree and taking part in a convocation ceremony muchlike this one today.As it turns out, destiny pulled me in a different direction and I was never able tofulfil the dreams I once had of graduating from a university in Nigeria. 28 yearslater, here I am with such a scroll in my hands. You can see then why today holdssuch significance for me on a personal level.
I’ve heard people refer to degrees as nothing more than simple sheets of paper. Ofcourse, we all know they are so much more than that. These seemingly simplesheets of paper represent the richness of the experiences we’ve had; they documentthe depth of the knowledge we’ve acquired. Today I am also reminded that thesesheets of paper that we hold, that we will frame and hang on our walls, and that wewill reference on our CVs; these sheets of paper carry within them the hopes anddreams of a past, as well as the hopes and dreams for a future.This leads me to the second reason why this honour and why being here with youtoday is both significant and symbolic—and that is from the professionalperspective. So I speak now, not only as an individual, but as a politician, onewho has spent my entire life, in one way or another, traversing the politicallandscape of this West African subregion.My father was a politician. He served as a minister of state and as a member of thefirst parliament of the first republic of Ghana, under our first president, OsagyefoDr. Kwame Nkrumah. And from this vantage point, as the child of a politician whoalso came to find my calling as a politician, I would like to speak for a moment on
the matter of our shared destiny, on the matter of the hopes and dreams of ourcollective past, as well as the hopes and dreams for our collective future.Through the years, I have seen the promise and potential that Ghana and Nigeriahold. And I have seen both countries struggle to overcome tremendous obstaclesin order to live up to that promise and potential. Often when people talk about ourcountries, as well as other African countries, they choose to focus solely on thestruggle, the challenges, on the tremendous obstacles; they choose to overlook,minimize or entirely dismiss the fact that we have overcome, and that we continueto overcome. It is true that there is still much work to be done. We have dailybattles that sometimes seem insurmountable; but we also have daily victories thatare worthy of celebration. The majority of African countries are today underconstitutional rule and governed by principles of democracy and the rule of law.This year alone more than 20 African nations are holding elections. Six out of tencountries with the highest GDP growth rates this year were African.With 150 million residents, Nigeria—by way of population—is by far the largestcountry in the West African subregion. But the position Nigeria holds at theforefront of our subregion is not simply because of the numbers of people it canboast. Nigeria’s GDP constitutes more than 50% of the West African subregion’s
economy. Nigeria’s film industry is the third highest grossing in the world afterHollywood and Bollywood. Nigerian authors, musicians, journalists, doctors,engineers and businessmen are some of the most skilled, successful and revered inthe world.You have a great country. Blessed with some of the best human material andnatural resources. It is said "the grass often looks greener on the other side". Thegrass is green here too. You can make Nigeria one of the greatest nations of theworld only if you learn to appreciate who you are and what you have. Rome wasnot built in a day. Recognize your successes in build on them.Nigeria’s tenacity and its successes are due in large part to the investment that thiscountry makes in its most important natural resource, its human resource. Andwhen it comes down to it, that—more than anything else, including money—iswhat a nation’s development is dependent upon, its human resource.When I was informed that I was to receive an honorary degree from Ekiti Stateuniversity, several of them immediately asked "where is Ekiti". They must haveassumed I was awaiting an honorary degree from an Oxford, or Cambridge orsome such centuries old university. I am proud to be receiving this degree fromEKSU. Because the hope of moving Africa forward is not the Oxfords or
Cambridges of this world, but the little incubators of innovation and learningdotted across Africa such as EKSU. I am proud to be associated with your greatinstitution.Resources and money alone do not make a university. It is human determination,innovation dedication and creativity that makes a successful learning experience.We’ve seen what can be done when a nation empowers its citizens by making highquality, reasonably priced education available to its citizens. Cuba is one example.Look at what that country has been able to do for its citizens, and for its ownsurvival, despite having been effectively shunned by most of the globalcommunity.Recently Pres. Goodluck Jonathan was honoured with a honorary doctorate degreeby the GIMPA. Today here I stand at EKSU receiving honor and recognition forservice to country. This probably is symbolic of the closeness and uselessness ofthe borders that separate our nations.Fela show invitation I spoke earlier of the hopes and dreams of the past, as well as the hopes anddreams for the future. Each and every one of us—you, me, all of the peoplestanding beside us and around us—is here today because of somebody’s hopes,dreams and prayers—be that person a friend, a parent, an elder, or an ancestor thathas passed on. Institutions such as Ekiti State University enable us to continue
hoping, dreaming and praying, not only for the improvement of our individuallives or the lives of our children, but for the improvement of the conditions in thecommunities, the countries, and the world at large that we each call home. Institutions such as Ekiti State University allow us to move past the stage ofhoping and dreaming and praying and to start doing the work that is necessary innation-building. These degrees that we leave Ekiti State University holding are acall to action. It is, for me, a powerful reminder of all the reasons why I felt called into alife of public service, namely the fact that I believed and continue to believe in thelimitless possibilities of this great continent of ours. I am deeply grateful andhumbled by the recognition and wholeheartedly accept the responsibilities withwhich it comes. I thank you for this. (I’ll hold up docotoral degree) Dedication to the partnership of our two countries Ghana and Nigeria To my parents To the people of Ghana To President J.J. Rawlings To President John Evans Atta Mills To my Wife. The domestic C in C (invite Lordina)
and finally to the almighty God for blessing, protecting and preserving me todate. May God continue to bless our two countries, Ghana and Nigeria, sisters intheir daily struggles and their daily victories, and may God continue to blessAfrica. Thank you.