The university bestowed the honour on Mr Adesina at its 12th joint commencement (graduation) ceremony for its classes of 2020 and 2021.
AUN President (vice-chancellor), Margee Ensign, who garlanded Mr Adesina, said the AfDB President was honoured “for his exemplary service in the public sector.”
Ms Ensign said Mr Adesina’s record of service epitomises AUN’s motto: Excellence, Integrity, Service — for the collective good of the people of Nigeria, of Africa and of the world.
“In many ways, he stands for what AUN stands for as Africa’s development university,” Ms Ensign said. “We are honoured to honour a truly Nigerian and African hero.”
An elated Mr Adesina described the award as an additional responsibility on him to do more for humanity.
“It’s a call to do more, and I will,” he said. “I will be a great ambassador of this university.”
The AfDB President later gave a commencement lecture entitled “Building a New Nigeria: Imperative for Shared Prosperity” at the ceremony.
In the keynote, Mr Adesina said he fully understood the challenges Nigeria is facing as a nation but expressed optimism that the country will arise from its problems, and become a more prosperous and united nation.
“I speak to you today as a Nigerian. As I have quite often said, I will live as a Nigerian, die as a Nigerian, and on the resurrection morning I will ask God for permission to rise as a Nigerian, with the green-white-green flag in my hand!” Mr Adesina said.
“Nigeria is blessed with incredibly rich diversity: of people, of cultures, of religions, of mineral resources, oil, and gas, an amazingly rich biodiversity, that should make us the envy of the world. We are blessed with abundantly diverse agro-ecologies, that should also make us a land of bountiful harvests with capacity to feed Africa.
“We are a religious nation, so we should understand that God loves diversity. The diversity of rich and brilliant colours that we see in our forests, oceans, seas, and in flora and fauna, reflect the beauty of the Creator.
“Therefore, our diversity is not our problem. Diversity is our strength.
“But when mismanaged, diversity becomes divergence. Rather than unite, we become splintered, with each entity believing that, somehow, it is better without the other.”
While urging Nigerians to learn from the Singaporean example, Mr Adesina urged Africa’s most populous nation to manage its diversity well for the collective good of its people.
The AfDB President added, “The Singaporean society is based on meritocracy, not aristocracy or ethnocracy or religiocracy.
“Any society where meritocracy is subjugated to aristocracy, ethnocracy or religiocracy eventually tends towards mediocrity.
“Nigeria must learn from this experience and forge a new way of engaging among its diverse ethnic groups and religions.
“Nigeria must start managing its diversity for prosperity. We must drive for national cohesion, not ethnic nationalities.
“We must address the fundamental reasons for agitations, by listening, understanding, removing prejudices, and allowing for open, national dialogues, without preconditions, but with one goal: build one cohesive, united, fair, just and equitable nation for all, not for a few or for any section of the nation or religion.
“A nation, unified by a sense of commonwealth, not a collage of ethnic nationalism. A nation driven by meritocracy, not ethnocracy, religiocracy or aristocracy.”
A total of 475 candidates graduated at the ceremony, earning undergraduate and graduate degrees — 165 from the class of 2020 and 310 from the class of 2020.
Among the candidates was Mohammad Nasiru Yakubu, who became the first-ever doctorate degree graduate to be produced by the 17-year old university.
At the commencement ceremony were former Vice President Atiku Abubakar (founder of the university), Governors Simon Lalong of Plateau and Umaru Fintiri of Adamawa, former Senator Ben Obi (chairperson of the university’s governing council), the Lamido Adamawa, Muhammadu Musdafa, among other dignitaries.
Earlier on Friday night, the university held a lavish awards ceremony where outstanding graduating students were honoured for academic excellence, community service, leadership and sporting achievements.
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