…Students, party men roll out drums for former governor
From Chidi Nnadi, Enugu
As the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN) began preparations for its 47th convocation, the Senate of the premier university selected nine prominent Nigerians to be conferred with the institution’s doctorate degree, honoris causa.
As time progressed, about 70 academic egg-heads retired into the Senate Chambers to deliberate on the nine nominees and after exhaustive debates they agreed to honour former Abia State governor and Chairman of the Slok Group, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu with Doctor of Public Administration; the Chairman of Zenith Bank Plc, Chief Jim Ovia, Doctor of Business Administration; and the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar 111, Doctor of Law.
That set the tone for the convocation ceremony, which climaxed on December 2, with the award of higher and honorary degrees to the recipients.
The week-long ceremony had actually started on November 27, when the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Benjamin Ozumba, addressed a pre-convocation press conference at the Enugu Campus of the institution.
The university continued with the other activities for the ceremony until December 2, seen by many as the climax.
As Kalu, Ovia and the Sultan arrived at the Nsukka Campus early that morning with other dignitaries, the university atmosphere was enveloped with joy as different dance groups took positions at strategic locations, entertaining the guests.
The honorarees with the Governor of Enugu State, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi; the UNN Chancellor and Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi; the Pro-Chancellor and Chairman, Governing Council, Chief Mike Olorunfemi and the principal officers of the university had gone into the vice chancellors conference room from where the procession for the convocation began.
By 11a.m, when the procession came out to the front of the vice chancellor’s office, the students went into wild jubilation as they sighted Kalu and the other doctorate degree recipients, shouting and praising the former governor who the student said is an amiable friend of the youths.
As the procession entered the Margaret Ekpo Convocation Arena, an excited UNN VC, Ozumba, welcoming the guests said “the University of Nigeria functions like a family, connecting the present to the past and by so doing, gets some view of the future.
“This functionality is reflected in the admission and training of postgraduates to higher degrees and diplomas, identification of successful and worthy individuals who have mirrored the society appropriately for the award of superlative recognitions, and the honouring of retired professors who have, in no less degree, contributed pricelessly to the visions of the Founding Fathers. Today, is another day for that demonstration”
He disclosed that the university was committed to the encouragement of high accomplishments in the society, adding that he was happy “that no matter the challenges facing us, the University of Nigeria will continue to provide her inestimable services to the intellect, the academic community and humanity.”
The Pro-Chancellor thanked President Muhammadu Buhari who was represented by the Minister of State, Education, Prof. Anthony Anwuka, for finding time to be with them.
“For the 47th time in our 57-year-old march through history, the University of Nigeria celebrates another milestone in the appreciation of academic excellence, contributions to research and learning, and contributions to the development of humanity and society.
“In universities all over the world, convocation ceremonies are very happy occasions where the sweats, toils and sacrifices of worthy graduands who made these contributions are grandly celebrated. The University of Nigeria is a proud brand and enabler of this your life-long seal of achievement. A big congratulation to you, the graduands!
“As you go into the world where the challenges are rising, make very frantic efforts to put your seals of achievement to good use. Embody the boldness to dare to make changes yet have the kindness to enkindle humanity. Above all, be worthy and proud ambassadors of your Alma Mater and keep in touch. And when your circumstances do permit, do not hesitate to give back to your Alma Mater and society,” the pro-chancellor advised.
For the UNN Chancellor and Ooni of Ife, Oba Ogunwusi, the university under Ozumba and the Senate deserved a big congratulation for the continuous training and graduating of high class manpower, as well as for identifying and honouring superlative achievers for the conferment of honorary degrees and Professor Emeriti of the UNN.
“I urge all the graduates of higher degrees and diplomas and honorary awardees never to relent in being good ambassadors of this great university. To you, the professors Emeriti, I congratulate you for the high academic feats you have achieved and also request you to continually and dedicatedly play elderly and mentorship roles to the younger academics of this university,” the Ooni counseled.
With the convocation over, Kalu and his entourage proceeded to the Vice Chancellor’s Lodge before going over to the Nsukka home of the All Progressives Congress (APC) chieftain and chairman of Peace Mass Transit, Dr. Samuel Onyishi, who organised an elaborate reception for the former governor. Before Kalu arrived at Onyishi’s residence, hundreds of APC faithful, students and different dance groups, had filled up the expansive compound.
They erupted into joy as Kalu alighted from his vehicle in his full academic regalia and in his characteristic manner he went straight to exchange banters with the multitude that had gathered.
Flanked by Dr. Onyishi and other APC stalwarts, Kalu said he was excited over the degree awarded to him by the UNN.
“It represents recognition by Igbo intellectuals in Eastern Nigeria and I am very excited that Igbo intellectuals recognised me on their own. As I was told, there were 70 Senate members of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka and over 60 voted for me to be given this honorary doctorate degree, so I am excited.”
Kalu who had during the convocation promised to build a centre for conflict resolution at the UNN said: “It’s going to be a research centre where experts will research on how to end all these insurgencies, it will be like a clinic, a room, where these problems will be researched into and sorted out and solutions proffered.”
He also assured that the Igbo would give President Buhari over 70 percent vote in 2019 to enable the people of the region make requests from his government.
Dr. Onyishi said he organised the reception for Kalu because “I believe I am a good patriotic Igbo son, and an Igbo,” adding that he believes in doing things that are good and right to do.
“I see in Orji Kalu a man that does not forget those that are below. I see in him, a young, energetic, patriotic, forward-looking and philanthropic Igbo politician-cum-business person. I see in him, a man that has the intention of being a good Igbo leader, and he has been, to the best of my knowledge, because by the grace of God and by the opportunity that God has given me as a businessman who has businesses in most of the states in Nigeria, I was also in business in Abia State when he was the governor and I knew his antecedence then and I also know the antecedence of those that are in such positions today in other states and even in the South East.
“When a man deserves honour, you should honour him, when a man deserves respect, you should respect him. We are Igbo and it is time we begin to recognise, celebrate and honour our own leaders so that others outside will honour them too and by so doing, one day we will have somebody that will say this man can represent and speak for us.
And when such person speaks, even if he makes a mistake, we will not say, ‘Oga you have made a mistake’ in public, No! we’ll come back home to tell him ‘Oga, please next time don’t talk like that.’ That’s my thinking and that’s the line of my thoughts about Igbo leadership.
“So, it is not for any other reason; apart from the fact that he is a good Igbo man, I believe he deserves this honour. And I felt he is coming with his people to Nsukka – my village – to come and receive an honorary doctorate degree from the UNN and I am around, so why won’t I give them food and drinks? Should I allow them to return to Abia before they can take water or to go to a hotel while I am here?
“Again, Orji Kalu happens to come from my party – APC – so as an APC man he has a home in Nsukka. As a good Igbo man, he has a home in Nsukka and that’s my home, so I decided to ask him to come over and take a cup of water before going back to Abia State.”
Corroborating what Kalu said that the Igbo would give Buhari full support in 2019, the South East Zonal Publicity Secretary of APC, Chief Hyacinth Ngwu, noted that a lot of prominent Igbo people have moved over to the APC from the other parties.
He, therefore, pointed out that the movement would impact positively on the party and the president in 2019.
“Like our leader, Orji Kalu said, this is just the beginning. The Igbo have realised that the shortest route to the presidency is APC and that is in 2023.
“So, this movement you witnessed today is the beginning of good things that will be accruing to the Igbo, particularly in 2023 and it will start after 2019 when the Igbo would have given APC massive support.
“He (Kalu) said 70 per cent votes, but I am looking at more than 70 per cent of votes from the South East that will go to President Buhari in 2019 and that will be the beginning of full integration of the Igbo into the mainstream of the Nigerian politics.
“The value is the tremendous goodwill he (Kalu) has which he is now rubbing off into APC. He has a lot of immense value that he is rubbing on us and we are happy for that. We thank God for Kalu coming into the party,” he said.