From Aloysius Attah, Onitsha
The atmosphere at the Nnamdi Azikiwe University (NAU), Awka, was different on that day. It was filled with excitement. The graduating students were busy as their guests trooped into the campus. It was, indeed, the climax of the 11th convocation ceremony.
The almost weeklong ceremony was remarkable unlike in the past when convocation ceremonies combined graduands from upwards of three academic years.
The last convocation was evidence that the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Joseph Ahaneku has decided to ensure that the event becomes an annual ritual under his administration.
Ahaneku had said during last year’s convocation ceremony that his administration would ensure that as the students are matriculated yearly, convocation would also hold yearly.
He had said at the pre-convocation briefing that his administration has decided to maintain core university values in sticking to the time for matriculation for new students and convocation for graduands.
He said that going by the motto of the university, they would continue to celebrate excellence, noting that if the students have been groomed and found worthy in character and learning, there was need to celebrate them too during the convocation.
“Our unrelenting drive to equip our students, both undergraduate and postgraduate, with entrepreneurial and vocational skills is driven by the conviction that panacea to youth unemployment in the country lies in equipping the youths with these skills in preparation, on graduation, for entry into small and medium scale enterprises which in themselves are potent avenues to economic development,” he said.
He disclosed that the university had approved the award of honorary doctorate degree on three eminent Nigerians who are torchbearers – former Senate president, Ken Nnamani; first Nigerian Ambassador to South Africa, Shehu Mallami; and the Managing Director, MP Infrastructure, Mr. Clem Nwogbo- in line with the ideals of the late Zik of Africa who the university was named after.
Ahaneku said because Zik was a cosmopolitan Nigerian, the university chose to honour only qualitied Nigerians with broad-based mindset.
On the last day of the convocation, the visitor to the university, President Muhammadu Buhari felicitated with the institution on its development drives, academic laurels and efforts in researches.
Buhari, who was represented by the Minister of State for Education, Prof. Anthony Anwukah, commissioned several projects built by the Ahaneku administration and also flagged off new ones.
The projects included the multi-purpose hall and offices for Natural Sciences, classes and offices for the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Agulu; Clinical Students Hostel located at Nnamdi Azikiwe University Teaching Hospital, Nnewi; prototype classroom block for the Department of Architecture, including offices for the College of Health Sciences, Nnewi among others.
The president also performed the foundation laying ceremony of the Centre for Community and Rural Development Building.
Buhari charged the graduands to utilise their energy for entrepreneurship, innovation and creativity.
He said a survey of economies of the industrialised world revealed that their economies were not sustained by public sector jobs alone, but also by entrepreneurial driven small and medium scale enterprises.
He said Federal Government was striving hard to put in place an enabling environment for the sustenance of the entrepreneurial spirit and challenged the graduands to key into the opportunities.
Presenting the honorary doctorate degree on the three recipients, the Chancellor, Da Jacob Gyang Buba, the Gbong Gwom Jos, described the trio as good Nigerians who had distinguished themselves through their unwavering commitment to selfless service.
He said the recognition and privileges which come with the award should spur them to greater service to the country.
Nnamani who responded on behalf of the awardees said the Ahaneku’s administration has offered a paradigm shift in university management through his efforts in entrepreneurship, innovation and research.
He advocated that universities in the country should be treated according to the seriousness and vision of its management.
He pledged on behalf of the other awardees to do their best in maintaining the reputation of the university, as well as support its vision for excellence in scholarship and learning.
The convocation ceremony was attended by governors Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State and Roachas Okorocha of Imo State, Igwe Alfred Nnaemeka Achebe; Igwe Kenneth Orizu; Eze Nwabueze Ezea, among others.