AN ADDRESS BY THE VICE-CHANCELLOR, PROFESSOR BARTHO N. OKOLO, ON THE OCCASION OF THE ENDOWMENT LECTURE AND N20 BILLION ENDOWMENT LAUNCHING AS PART OF THE 52ND FOUNDER’S DAY CELEBRATION OF THE UNIVERSITY OF NIGERIA HELD ON 5TH OCTOBER, 2012
On behalf of the management, staff and students of the University of Nigeria, I am pleased to formally welcome you all to this very happy occasion of the endowment lecture and a N20 billion Naira development fund launching for our university. We have reserved a very warm welcome for our guest lecturer, His Excellency, Owelle Rochas Anayo Okorocha, the Executive Governor of Imo State, and his entourage. We are also pleased to have in our midst today the Chairman of APGA, Chief Victor Umeh (Akunwata), Chief Austin Ndigwe (Ozo Gidigba-Gidigba), our distinguished alumni, friends and stakeholders, who have come to make today’s endowment a reality.
Today’s event is the second highpoint in the activities lined up for the 52nd anniversary of the university. Yesterday, we had the 52nd founder’s day lecture which was delivered by Mr Mustafa Chike-Obi, the Managing Director of the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON), under the chairmanship of Ambassador Arthur Mbanefo. The topic of the lecture, “sustainability as a key in life, business and government” has proven to be both apt and prophetic, because just one day after the lecture, we are back here to raise funds to guarantee the sustainability of an institution that all lovers of education in the country should hold dear. A legacy institution founded by no less a person than the first President of our country, Rt. Hon. Dr. Nnamdi Azikwe, with a motto “To Restore the Dignity of Man”.
`Today’s endowment is very remarkable in more ways than one. It would surely be remembered in history as a very bold attempt at endowing a fund that would sustain the growth and development of the University of Nigeria. By today’s development the university would be following in the footsteps of legacy institutions all over the world where such capital campaign exist and are used to fund a variety of projects, including infrastructure development, research and scholarship.
We always knew the importance of an endowment of this nature in the development of an institution like ours and we knew it was important that a legacy institution like ours had an endowment fund like its peers.
However, it has taken the foresight and commitment of the current Governing Council, under the chairmanship of our Pro-Chancellor, Professor S. O. Igwe, an experienced academic administrator, to make this a reality. I, therefore, congratulate the Chairman and members of the Governing Council of our university, especially members of the Joint Council/Senate Committee on endowment for all their efforts that have made today’s event a reality.
Your choice of Owelle Rochas Anayo Okorocha, a philanthropist and genuine lover of education, as guest lecturer at today’s event is perfect and commendable. Over the years, His Excellency, Owelle Rochas Okorocha has shown an unsurpassed interest in education. Long before he became the executive governor of Imo State, Owelle, as he is fondly called, established schools in different parts of the country. Working through the Rochas Foundation – one of the most functional and effective educational charities in the country. His Excellency sought to bring education to the reach of those who could not afford it.
As the executive governor of Imo State, His Excellency has relentlessly pursued a rather ambitious programme of free education in his state. In truth, there could have been no better choice of a guest lecturer for today’s endowment. His topic, “Leadership and Nigeria at 52” seems to address the question on the mind of every patriotic Nigerian at this moment.
Without doubt, this attempt to raise a 20-billion endowment fund for our university has added to the feeling of excitement on our campuses. As the saying goes, the endowment is an initiative whose time has come. This is partly because at 52, our university is saddled with the burden of aged and dilapidated infrastructure most of which were built 5 decades ago to serve the needs of a few hundred students and a corresponding number of staff.
Following the natural growth in the numbers of students and staff, these spaces have become inadequate and some of the buildings are beginning to fall apart, necessitating the extensive renovation and reconstruction work on our campuses. In addition, the funding needed to finance the research efforts of staff has also been inadequate, and currently impacts on the quality of research and scholarship. The university also needs additional resources to adapt to newer challenges brought about by globalization and advances in technology, and the resultant changes in pedagogy, research and administration.
It is obvious, therefore, that we must seek new ways of funding for our university if we must produce good quality students and retain our pride of place when lined up amongst our peers across the globe.
In truth, the challenges we face are extensive and could be daunting. However, I am pleased to report that these are exciting times at our university.
Thanks to the government, alumni and friends of the university, we have found the funding to embark on the first major overhaul of our campuses since its inception 52 years ago. Without doubt, these and other projects which are still in the pipeline would go a long way towards finding a lasting solution to the problems of office and classroom spaces in our campuses. Other immediate challenges include fitting of new classrooms, offices and laboratories with new teaching and research facilities for productive scholarship.
I therefore very respectfully invite our very distinguished Guest Lecturer and lover of education, His Excellency, Owelle, Rochas, Anayo, Okorocha, our special guests, all stakeholders, governments at all levels, the alumni and friends of the university as well as philanthropists, to kindly come to the aid of our great University of Nigeria by donating generously to this endowment fund or sponsoring specific projects.
Providing these facilities will have the effect of empowering our children, the youth of Nigeria. This is how they can embrace global best practices and be competitive in an aggressively competitive world of today.
I appreciate you in anticipation of your benevolence.
As a Vice-Chancellor, I am privileged and delighted to have a Governing Council that shares my vision of a 21st century learning centre. This is evident in their attempt to make today’s endowment a reality. I cannot ask for more, but pray that today’s endowment meets with every success.
Finally, I have never been more optimistic of the future of this university. If anyone asked me if I thought we would achieve the university of our vision; the university of our dream – a truly 21st century global learning centre, my candid response would be “yes, we can”. Indeed, yes we can!
Once again, I welcome you all to what is simply a remarkable day at the University of Nigeria.
Thank you all for coming.
Professor Bartho N. Okolo