IT is an incontestable fact that universities across the world are created to fulfill three purposes: learning, research, and community service. There is also no gainsaying the fact that higher institutions, especially universities, are veritable change agents wherever they are located, as they invariably over time transform the social and economic lives of their host communities. The influx of both academic and non-academic staff and thousands of students has always led to a sharp upward turn in all facets of the community.
Examples abound across the world of how locating a university in a rural and agrarian community led to a boom in land appreciation, market value of goods and services, rent appreciation, a boom in the transportation sector and lots of money being pumped into the local economy by staff and students. These, in addition to both direct and indirect employment generation in the locality and beyond make higher institutions veritable change agents.
Akungba Akoko, the immediate host community of Adekunle Ajasin University, along with neighbouring towns and communities, is no exception to all the above-stated facts since the relocation of the then Ondo State University. What was hitherto a rural and largely agrarian community has since become the fastest growing economy in Akokoland. It must be emphasized at this juncture that no public university in Nigeria boasts of adequate hostel facility for all its students; thus many students seek accommodation in the host community.
So, prior to the coming of AAUA, accommodation was a kobo a dozen in Akungba and other neighbouring towns. Most buildings had vacant rooms that were inhabited by goats and other domestic animals as no one was renting them. The few that were rented out were given out virtually for free.
Since the take-off of the university, however, house owners have been smiling to the banks as practically every house has students or staff members of the institution living in it. The time-honoured law of demand and supply has also ensured that rooms given out for pittance in the past now attract good money. This ‘bumper harvest’ is not limited to Akungba alone; neighbouring towns like Ikare, Oka, Supare, Oba, and Iwaro-Oka are equally ‘reaping’ bountifully.
Also, hitherto barely existing commercial motorcyclists now come thick and fast. They are everywhere in all the nooks and crannies of Akungba town and its environs, ferrying around passengers, made up mostly of students and staff of the ever-growing institution. The ripple effect of the increase in population is also felt in the markets where the number of buyers has grown astronomically with the coming of the university.
Even artisans like barbers, hairdressers, tailors, food vendors, shoe repairers and traders, and small-scale industrialists like cassava processing plant owners, electronics dealers, and gas plant operators have all grown in number as there are now more and eager customers to cater for. They now get good returns on their investment, while farmers also get better prices for their produce as there appears to be ever-increasing mouths to feed. The university has also brought lots of value to the community. For instance, the medical laboratory health services rendered by the university’s Health Centre are rated second to none in the entire Akokoland.
According to the Director of Health Services of the institution, Dr Babatunde Aiyejumo, the university’s Medical Laboratory renders invaluable service to the populace through reliable medical diagnosis.
The AAUA Medical Centre also admits members of the public desiring competent medical and health services. The Centre exists to cater for both staff and students just as it is open to outsiders from the host and neighbouring communities.
The university also has a well-equipped sports gymnasium that is not only open to both staff and students but also to select members of the public. Stocked with modern and multi-million naira equipment, the gym boasts of treadmill, body massager, gym balls, exercise mats and inflatables, bells, and various weights.
The Director of Sports, Mr. Bolanle Babalola, said, “We have four-seater machines that are good for reducing body fat, toning muscles and helping to ensure good blood circulation. There are machines that will massage your aching joints. We have ergometer machine. If you want to gain muscles, we have machine for that. If you are watching your weight, we have machines for that.”
With all these transformations and more that Adekunle Ajasin University has brought to its immediate community, there is therefore no doubt that the Institution has changed the face of its host communities. Any wonder then that it has been kudos and applause all the way for the multiple-award winning institution?
The Olubaka and paramount ruler of Oka Akoko kingdom, Oba (Dr) Yusuff Adebori Adeleye, OON, agreed that Adekunle Ajasin University has brought tremendous positive changes to Akokoland. The first class monarch said, “Going down memory lane, you will see that Akungba has developed and grown rapidly in terms of economy since the siting of the university there.
Several new houses and hotels are springing up everywhere and the land appreciation is growing in leaps and bounds. Akungba has more or less become the centre of socio-economic development and the fastest growing economy in Akokoland today.
“Apart from Akungba, Oka-Akoko has benefitted. Many of the students and staff are staying in parts of my community here, especially in Iwaro. Some are staying in Ikare too. In fact, the institution has a hostel in Ikareland. Some students and staff are staying in Supare and as far away as Oba-Akoko. So, the multiplying effect is glaring across the entire Akokoland in terms of social and economic development. I’m of the firm belief that the university has brought a lot of development to Akungba in particular and Akokoland in general.”
Need we say more when the traditional ruler and custodian of the culture and tradition of the land has spoken? Indeed, Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba-Akoko, has brought tremendous and positive changes to the land and its people. One can therefore say with all boldness that AAUA has been a veritable change agent in Akokoland in particular and Ondo State in general.
*Balogun writes from the Information, Protocol and Public Relations Unit of Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba Akoko.