…Delivers institution’s 43rd convocation lecture
From Chidi Nnadi (Enugu) and Emmanuel Uzor (Abakaliki)
It was the first day of December. The dust that characterises the month and dry season was high, leaving vehicles plying the roads with dusty marks.
Thus was Ebonyi roads, particularly the one leading to the College of Agriculture, Ishiagu, in Ivo Local Government Area of Ebonyi State, on that fateful Thursday morning, which was very busy.
On getting into the college, the atmosphere was calm as the students were radiating joy; it was indeed a great day, the eve of the 43rd convocation of the college, and a day set aside by the school authorities for the former governor of Abia State and founder of the Slok Group, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, to deliver the convocation lecture.
At 10:30am, Kalu, accompanied by the former Director-General of NIMASA, Dr. Ferdinand Agu, and other members of his entourage, arrived at the college.
As his convoy passed the institution’s gate, students and members of staff were visibly elated to see the eminent businessman come to their institution to deliver the lecture.
As soon as Kalu arrived, he proceeded to inaugurate projects initiated and completed by the Provost of the College, Prof. (Mrs) Justina U. Mgbada.
Among the projects were the perimeter fence of the official residence of the provost, modern market stalls, a lecture theatre and an e-library, among others.
Commissioning the perimeter fence, Kalu expressed happiness that the change mantra of President Muhammadu Buhari has started to trickle down to the grassroots.
He commended Mgbada for being proactive in handling projects in the college, describing the fencing of the official residence of the provost as timely, especially in the face of Fulani herdsmen’s menace, and he called her “Action Provost,” which was similar to when former President Olusegun Obasanjo came to Abia when he was governor and called him action governor because of his developmental strides.
His words: “You have done well as provost and when we see people like you doing this type of thing, we are very happy that the change mantra of President Muhammadu Buhari has reached the grassroots. I want to thank the Minister of Agriculture, Chief Audu Ogbeh, for his support to this college of agriculture.”
After that, Kalu went to the ultra-modern market constructed by the school management under Mgbada.
Apparently happy over the efforts of the provost in the construction of the stalls, Kalu called on the College of Agriculture to take up the challenge of providing enablement to produce food for the populace of the institution and the country at large.
He pointed out that the projects by the provost have direct bearing on the students and members of staff, and they would enhance teaching and learning.
Next on the list of projects for launching was the water treatment plant with 160,000 litres capacity built by Mgbada’s administration.
The former Abia State governor could not hide his joy as he commended the school authorities for going the extra mile to create an enabling environment for the students to study without inhibition, describing water as one of the basic needs of mankind.
He said, with the water treatment plant, the issue of water scarcity, which is prevalent in Ishiagu, would be a thing of the past.
He also called on the students to make use of the equipment to better their lot as well as reciprocate the good gesture of the institution.
After the water treatment plant was the lecture theatre, where Kalu expressed happiness at the immense work done on the project.
He noted that the new theatre would help the students to study in a more serene and modern edifice that would boost their understanding. He commended the provost for initiating life-touching projects in the school.
Also commissioned by Kalu was the entrance to the Federal College of Agriculture, which was also given a facelift by the provost.
In her response, Mgbada told Kalu that she embarked on the projects because of their importance to the well-being of members of staff and the students of the institution.
She disclosed that when she resumed office as the provost about one and half years ago, she discovered, among other things, that water scarcity topped the chart of the priorities in the school, which made her to resolve to tackle it head-long.
Mgbada explained that the installation of the water treatment and reticulation plant was as a result of the perennial water problem in the whole of Ishiagu, the host community for the Federal College of Agriculture, adding that, with the water plant fully operational, it had ended the water problem in the school.
On the market, she said when she came to the school she inherited a dilapidated market that posed great danger to the security and safety of the students.
She, therefore, embarked on the construction of modern market stalls to end the problem associated with the old market stalls, which she claimed posed security challenges to the students of the college.
Speaking in his turn at the event, Agu expressed happiness at the transformation going on in the college of agriculture under Mgbada as provost just as he urged her to continue to add colour to the school management.
Agu noted that with the already completed and commissioned projects by the provost, the school in no distant time would become one of the best and most sought after colleges of agriculture in West Africa.
On his part, the traditional ruler of Ishiagu, Eze Moses Ngele, commended Kalu for coming to launch the projects in the school and expressed optimism that the business mogul would in no distant time be entrusted again with another high office of responsibility.
He chronicled the achievements of Orji as former governor of Abia State, pointing out that since he left office, Abia State, especially the commercial city of Aba, has been in ruins and in deep need of help.
Indeed, Kalu took the students and members of the college on an agricultural journey as he delivered the convocation lecture titled “Sustainable Agriculture: A Credible Alternative for National Development.”
According to Kalu, the lecture afforded him “another great opportunity to point out specifically where we have all got it wrong over the years.”
He said, “Today’s gathering is not only timely considering the avowed commitment of the current administration to diversify the economy, with agriculture being topmost on the agenda, it is also very apt for me to state my mind on the need for our institutions to be less theoretical and become more practical, especially now that the world is changing.
“The time has come for us to move this great country forward and, to do this, there has to be an end to the blame game. Like I always tell people in the course of discussing issues concerning Nigeria, what is uppermost now in making this country great once again is for all to support genuine policies of any administration whether at federal, state or local government level.
“Not too long ago, I reflected on the success stories of our leaders immediately after independence, and one thing I was able to identify that made them successful was the cooperation they received from both supporters and the opposition on issues that had to do with development.
“Today, I make bold to say that all over the country, what we enjoy in terms of infrastructure are basically projects that were initiated and executed by the founding fathers of this great country.”
He told his excited audience that today “those who had abandoned agriculture and migrated to cities for greener pastures and now coming back for the greenest pastures and God-given opportunity they failed to acknowledge in the past.
“For lack of vision, we relegated agriculture to the background. The most painful aspect of it was that while retired generals have been going back to land to cultivate, able-bodied men and women felt it was not their business to veer into food production.”