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Ex-Nigerian President Begins University Course Work

The Immediate past president of Nigeria Olusegun Obasanjo yesterday (Thursday) began his full academic work at the National Open University (NOUN) in the commercial capital Lagos. The former president enrolled at the University as a post-graduate Christian theology student in the faculty of arts and sciences. The 69-year-old Obasanjo is one of the oldest postgraduates ever to enroll in a Nigerian University and the only sitting President in Africa to have registered for tertiary education while still in power.

Professor Olugbemiro Jegede is the Vice Chancellor of the National Open University of Nigeria. From Lagos, he told VOA more about the former president’s course work.

“President Obasanjo, the immediate past president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, has now formally begun his life as student Obasanjo at the National Open University of Nigeria…but of course he told the world that he would begin his studies after completing his term in office at Abuja, and so that’s what he has done. He kept to his word and called us up yesterday (Wednesday) and said he was coming in today (Thursday) to start his studies, and that is exactly what he did today,” Jegede noted.

He said former president Obasanjo has shown he can be relied upon.

“First, it shows a demonstration of credibility and the fact that somebody can say something and keep to his words. It’s significant because it has shown the world that all the speculations that he was just using it as a media stunt, etcetera, are wrong. He has demonstrated that whether old or young, whether a president or a private person can undertake life-long education and obtain life-wide experiences at skills. That’s what he has demonstrated,” he said.

Jegede denied the former president’s alleged controversial role during the country’s just ended elections could generate negative publicity for the university.

“Definitely not! I don’t see why the vote for an individual can cast any negative clouds on somebody who is going to school. They are two different things. He has decided to go to school and he’s kept to his word. For me, that should even be a plus. I think we better put all that behind us, there is no perfect system in the world, he is moving on with his life,” Jegede said.

He said the former president had already declared he wanted to be treated like any other student of the institution.

“He said that he wanted to be treated just like everybody else. He doesn’t want to be treated as a special student, and that, to me, is significant, that somebody who had lived so highly can now decide to come down and stay at the level of everybody to be treated like any ordinary Nigerian,” he pointed out.

Jegede said the university has presented the opportunity for some Nigerians to have access to tertiary education, which didn’t previously exist.

“As you know, Nigeria is a country of one hundred and forty million people plus. We have 89 universities, and at the moment can only cater for just about one-point-two million people. We have not been able to even take care of 10% of the population looking for admissions into high education. So the president’s coming today is significant, first telling the whole world, telling Nigerians that there is an alternative, quality-oriented, credible, cost effective means of obtaining a high degree, especially for those who are too busy or who are married or who for one reason or the other cannot have access to the conventional universities,” he said.