Joe Effiong, Uyo
About 40 years ago, what is now Ritman University, Ikot Ekpene the foremost private university in Akwa Ibom State was a thick forest. If it were in this Nollywood era, it would have been termed evil forest of Ikot Ekpene.
But today the story is different. What the forest popularly known as Akai Nkuku has delivered to the academic community and to the development of Nigeria in the mould of Ritman University is however equally rich, green resourceful and historic as any rich forest.
In fact, the sweetest history of the forest is the one told by the founder of the University, Senator Emmanuel Ibok Essien,, who explained how the university emerged from it, at its convocation, recently..
“Ritman University is a dream fulfilled. As a child, each time I passed through our big forest, Akai Nkuku, to farm, I kept wondering what the forest was doing there. We would only enter that forest once a year to take anything we desired from it. I kept thinking that the place out to be a school. Whenever I slept, I kept dreaming of the place becoming a school. That was in the early sixties, before the Nigerian civil war.
“After the war, Nto Akpan Edu and Nto Akpabio families that owned the forest decided to clear it for farming. My mind focussed more on how the place can become a school. Throughout my years in secondary school (1970 -1974), that desire kept burning in my mind.
”In 1978, a technical school was established in my village, Ikot Abia Idem and I washed the forest site was used as the site. .By providence, I was able to acquire. By Providence in 1987, I met Engr Sunday Inyang Unoh and wife, who we agreed to partner and form Ritman Nigeria Limited together. The company has produced several other companies, including Ritman University, the ultimate,” Senator Ibok Essien narrated.
He said he had wanted to start a polytechnic but was advised to start with highbrow primary and secondary school to eventually end up in university as there was still social disparity between university and polytechnic graduates.
Ibok Essien the federal executive council graciously approved Ritman University as the 58th private university in Nigeria on March 5, 2015 as Ritman University commenced academic activities for its premier undergraduate students on November 23, 2015 in three faculties with 14 departments as approved by the NUC
“ It is gratifying to mention that following its comprehensive accreditation exercise, in October/November 2018, the NUC granted Ritman University accreditation in all its 14 programmes. On April 1, 2019, the commission granted Ritman University full operational licence and additional six programmes were approved to commence in 2019/2020 academic year.”
He congratulated the students on making history as the first set of graduates from the university. The vice chancellor of the university, Prof Celestine Ntuen, told the graduates that he felt satisfied that armed with Ritman way philosophy, “and emboldened by RU seven values of which Faith in God is the lead, I hereby let you go in the world, especially, into Nigeria, were your talents would be most needed.”
He said history had been made in the education system in Nigeria as Ritman University completed her wisdom cycle by graduating her first batch of students in exactly four years after commencement.
Reeling out the achievements of the young institution, Ntuen said the university which commenced its academic work on November 23, 2015, had kept the promise of producing education leaders and scholars capable of solving societal problems by turning challenges into opportunities and making a difference in their chosen fields.
He said the institution has one of the best e-libraries in the Nigeria with access to millions of databases, well stocked main library, state of the art laboratories including natural sciences, language and accounting laboratories, museum equipped with cultural and historical artifacts, rabbitry, botanical garden and ultra modern hostel equipped for optimum comfort of the students.
“All courses offered in Ritman University were accredited by the NUC in January 2019, The programmes are in faculty of humanities; English Language and library studies, history and international studies; in natural and applied sciences; accounting, banking and finance, economics, industrial relation and personnel management, management sciences, as well as political science and public administration.
“On April 1, 2019, we progressed from provisional licence we started with and won full licence to operate a private university having met NUC requirements. Our students and staff now have a leeway to spend part of their study years learning abroad under the academic exchange partnership with two American tertiary institution – Guildford College and Greensboro College in North Carolina, USA, “
Apart from conducting and hosting periodic lecture series, the university according to Ntuen, has won several awards in the short period of its existence.
They include Best Private University of the Year by West African Youth Parliament; Most Outstanding Private University in Nigeria by Arewa Consultative Youth Assembly; Institutional Merit Award by the Investigator Nigeria; Winner at Women Supporting Women National Conference, Award of Excellence by Nigeria Television Authority; and, Second Prize Inter-university quiz of History Students at the University of Uyo.
At the first convocation, the VC said they started with 32 students in 2015/2016 academic session but graduated 23, or 72 percent. Four of the nine not graduating had carryover issues while the other five dropped out due to family financial issues.
“There are two best graduating students who are in the first class category. They are Mr Victor Arnold Bassey of the Department of Computer Sciences with a CGPA of 4.60 (who actually addressed the convocation as best graduating student) and Enobong Monday Nyahette of Department of Biology with CGPA of 4.55.
“Ritman University senate as a part of strengthening the traditional Town and Gown relationship approved the conferment of honorary doctorates degrees to two outstanding Nigerians: Senator Ibrahim Shekarau, Doctor of Science (DSC) Honoris Causa and Chief Effiong Afiakufue, Doctor of Business Administration (BDA) Honoris Causa.”
To boost the revenue base of the university, Ntuen announced that the management had approved a N700,000 fundraising for 2020 academic year campaign in line with Ritman University Strategic plan
The chancellor of the university and minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, described the emergence of Ritman University in Ikot Ekpene as historic, in an historic town even as his life has been historic having been an illegal pupil in his childhood days due to his inability to pay fees, and had to be chased away into the bush by the school security men.
“I thank God for those security men who chased me from the school into the bush. They meant it for evil but God turned it to good. Ever since that harrowing experience, it has been my avowed duty and life-long commitment to chase children from the bush to the school. That bush race ignited a fire in me which neither the effluxion of time nor the limitations of resources can quench.
“As a Governor, that race for my life through the bush was the inspiration behind the free and compulsory education programme established by us. I believe that the ultimate obligation of leadership is to build people, nurture people and give people hope, not build infrastructures only.
“The Ritman University’s pioneer graduates and the rest of the cerebral people in this academic environment must brace up for the challenge of development. They must produce ideas that would change the world. I dare to believe that we can produce another “Albert Einstein” who would re-write and expand our knowledge of the theory of Relativity.” The chancellor said.
The chairman board of trustees of the university, Sen Effiong Bob said contrary to belief that proprietors open universities to make money, running a private university is rather capital intensive requiring may year of continuous investment.
“Ritman University is a community university, not the property of one man. It behoves everyone to contribute their quota for the sustenance and advancement of this promising young institution.” Senator Bob said.