How the University of Ibadan rejected the request of the head of state for an honorary PhD
A test of the university’s commitment to merit and personal integrity of its members came during the tenure of Prof. Lambo as Vice-Chancellor. Sir Samuel Manuwa was the Chairman of Council. A request came to the University (of Ibadan) through the Chairman of Council, from the Visitor of the University, General Gowon, Head of State and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria which was brought before the Senate. Haile Selasie, the Emperor of Ethiopia, was coming on a State visit to Nigeria as guest of the Federal Military Government.
The University was requested by the Visitor to confer on the Emperor, at a special convocation, an Honorary Dr. of Letters degree during the visit. Senate declined to grant the request because it could not justify such a decision through an honest citation. The Emperor had done nothing to improve the lives of his subjects who were suffering under one of the worst conditions of poverty in Africa. Their views were communicated to the Chairman of the Council.
He was embarrassed. He requested a joint meeting of the Council and Senate. At the joint meeting, all the pleading from the Chairman and members of the Council failed to move Senate to shift from its stand. Senate members argued that a citation of the August candidate would not be free of false statements and would be damaging to the image of the University. This was reported back by the Chairman of Council, to the Visitor.
The federal government passed the request to Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria which granted it. A convocation was held and the Honorary Doctor of Letters was conferred on the Emperor as requested. The stand of the University of Ibadan was, however, vindicated, because, on the day following the special Convocation at which the emperor obtained the Honorary Doctor of Letters of Ahmadu Bello University, he was toppled by a popular coup at home. He did not regain his crown. On arrival back at home he was placed on house arrest living under disgraceful conditions until he died.
Excerpts from PATH OF DESTINY, the autobiography of Professor Jamiu Olaloye Mosobalaje OYAWOYE, OON CON.