What was a mustard seed 10 years ago in the sleepy, relatively obscure part of Ota in Ogun State, Covenant University, has grown into a colossus that leaves behind its trail every new year, mind-blowing academic exploits and giant strides. Covenant University (CU) is only 10 years old today, but its accomplishments these past few years measure up to that of most if not all of the first generation universities. Talk about the child that grows his first tooth when his contemporaries are yet to grow mature gum; or a baby who takes his first step on two legs when others of his age are still learning how to crawl, you are referring to CU whose golden footprints these past years have made it a global point of reference.
The feats should not come as a surprise. The testimony has always been shared by the visioner and founder of the institution, Dr. David Oyedepo that when the institution was ready to open its doors for the first set of students in 2002, he led, in the scorching mid-summer’s sun, the church members, first set of academic and non-academic staff and his team of pastors on a thanksgiving course round the campus. While rounding off the covenant thanksgiving, Dr. Oyedepo did the unimaginable: he laid down flat on the ground, his chin and belly right on the hard floor which was already emitting heat from the midday sun, and declared openly that he had completed the assignment of building a university as ordered by God. He asked the Master to come and take over the institution.
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The story goes further that the strain, the stress and the heat the Chancellor, Dr. Oyedepo felt that day, was prophetic and symbolic as they were the last stress, strain and heat he would ever feel over the university. It was a wise and covenant step: giving the institution over to the sender and owner, God! From that moment, CU has never given him, nor the Board of Regents, nor the Management, Faculty, Staff and Students any sleepless night. Projects are completed in record time. The university is never short of qualitative manpower or funds. Award-winning inventions and innovations are made by staff and students. Little efforts become ample manifestations and global reference-points; and giant strides become daily events. Like the Chancellor says, and which is typified by CU, “those who make noise do not make news; it is he that makes waves that makes news”; CU’s staff and students continue to make waves and that gets them in the spotlight so many times, nationally and internationally.
Aside so many corporate awards, including best private university and third best university in Nigeria at different times; most subscribed university by admission seekers each year; and most ICT-driven university in Nigeria; its faculty members have also distinguished themselves in the widening community of fine scholars in the country. Being the first and only private university (until recently) in Nigeria to be recognized by the United States Fulbright Commission, its faculty members have won highly competitive US-sponsored awards such as the very prestigious Study of the United States Institute (SUSI), as well as Junior and Senior Fulbright fellowships. Some of the lecturers have also won CODESRIA grants and other local and international academic fellowships, including post-doctorates, of which a significant number of its PhD holders have completed abroad.
The institution has recorded a lot of firsts in competitive student contests at the national level. In its very first outing in the Model United Nations Conference in Abuja in 2007, the university came out among 31 other institutions as the Best Delegation. Its second outing in 2008 with a different set of students led by the same staff returned home yet for the second time with the Best Delegation award. Individual awards were won by some of the student delegates and the staff. Also in the Nigeria qualifiers of the Zain-Africa Challenge among universities, the university went quite far.
CU has hosted some of the most important events on university campuses. Just last year, it hosted the launching of the UN-Habitat Report, the first time that would be done in Africa. The first and second launch had been at Columbia (USA) and the London School of Economics respectively. Recently, the institution became the first private university to host the Fulbright Alumni Association of Nigeria (FAAN) Conference in the association’s 11-year history. Last year, CU hosted the Association of Vice Chancellors of Nigerian Universities (AVCNU). The two conferences were ground-breaking and still remain reference points in the bourgeoning Nigerian intellectual society.
CU is probably the only institution in Nigeria that has University Tour Guides, a group of specially trained and well comported students who take university guests on guided tour of the institution and Canaanland where CU is located. The Tour Guides idea was conceived in 2005 with the view to building the ambassadorial and hospitality talents of the students who may aspire-and some of whom have started-to take that career path. Like the Tour Guides, the institution came up with the Hands in Green initiative, which is charged with the responsibility of promoting the global cause of “going green” on the campus. And quite novel in the Nigerian university system is the Classroom Beyond Borders initiative and collaboration with Ithaca College, a New York-based university, in which CU and Ithaca students have joint and shared classes through Skype, Sakai and other ICT devices.
CU staff are probably the most hardworking set of university workers in Nigeria. With a hardworking Chancellor and his overly committed Executive Secretary, Pastor Yemi Nathaniel (the pioneer Registrar of CU), both of whom barely go to sleep, and a Management team which celebrates excellence, nothing short of diligence and sacrifice are expected of the staff. No wonder, the university as a whole never goes to sleep. And no wonder also, the achievements of the institution in just 10 years surpass the benchmark for a teething (would-be) world class university.
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For all these rare exploits and strong university character not known anywhere in Nigerian higher institutions, I join in congratulating Covenant University, the institution that has so much transformed my spiritual, intellectual and family life, on its 10 years of great achievements. I urge Nigerian universities to pay a little more attention to this institution and understudy it, in order to be on the same page and work concertedly in changing the face of the Nigerian university system.
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