Hope Rises For Okpara Varsity,As Otti, Soludo, Others Eulogize Late Premier At 30th Founder’s Day Celebration

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The spirit of late Premier of former Eastern Region,Dr Michael Iheonukara Okpara came alive last week in Umuahia as the University named after him rolled out the drums to celebrate its 30th anniversary.

Speakers after speakers eulogized the charismatic and visionary leader who transformed the region into the fastest growing economy in sub Saharan Africa. His Agricultural and industrial revolution was held up as a model for the modern development of this part of the country, technological advancement notwithstanding.

Governors Alex Otti and Chukwuma Soludo of Abia and Anambra states, Director General of World Trade Centre, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala,  former Vice Chancellor of Alex Ekwueme Federal University,Ebonyi state,Prof Chinedum Nwajiuba and the host Vice Chancellor,Prof Maduebibisi Iwe were of the same accord that Okpara’s era remained the finest in the region and that efforts should be made  to sustain it. 

As the egg heads gathered to launch the first endowment fund for the University,institute the first Michael Okpara lecture series and awards to  reward hardworking and former staff, it was obvious that the University named after the legend had recorded giant strides but would have done better if the Federal Government had given it its take off grant and land grabbers offered it a breathing space.

However, it was a lucky day for the current management led by Prof Iwe in that Gov Alex Otti,the brand new governor of the state was physically present and the Lamentations of the University pierced his ears.

Put succinctly, three decades after its establishment, MOUAU has not been given a Certificate of Occupancy by the Abia State Government and because of the absence of this vital title deed, the institution cannot access the federal government take off grant. Alex Otti whose brand new administration is noted for its pragmatism and transparency immediately took steps to remedy the situation.

Dr. Alex Chioma Otti used the occasion of Dr. Michael Iheonukara Okpara maiden lecture, MOUAU Founders’ Day celebration and 30th Anniversary to provide hope for finding lasting solution to the problem confronting the University.

Speaking at the occasion held at The Pius Anyim Pius Auditorium on 31st August, 2023, the Governor promised to issue a Certificate of Occupancy to the institution to bring a  permanent solution to the problem of the University being squeezed into about 1000 hectares of land out of a parcel of 6,465 hectares of land acquired for its development in the master plan since 2005.

The Abia State Governor requested the University to officially bring up the matter to the government immediately and expressed optimism that the original land donors will cooperate with his administration and the federal Government to bring a  permanent solution to the problem.

He also used the platform to announce that his administration would retrieve all school lands which many had illegally built upon, stressing that those good structures built on such lands will not be demolished but will be recovered and put into the University’s  use adding that Government  had set a machinery in motionto that  effect.

Governor Alex Chioma Otti commended the University for its thoughtfulness in organizing Dr. Michael Iheonukara Okpara maiden lecture: MOUAU founders’ day celebration and 30th Anniversary and formally launched the endowment fund of the institution.

He noted that his administration will continue to cooperate with  Michael Okpara University of Agriculture Umudike pointing out that he appointed two of his key functionaries of his government from the University.

Earlier in a welcome address, the Vice Chancellor Michael Okpara University of Agriculture Umudike Prof. Maduebibisi Iwe noted that the day should have been used to celebrate the institution’s success and achievements but that the University was constrained because there were many issues begging for attention in the Nigerian University system including Michael Okpara University. 

He  outlined past leaders of the institution who contributed in no mean ways to the take-off and growth and balance of the University.

Prof. Iwe listed the past Vice Chancellors who led the University at one season or  the other to include Prof. Placid Njoku (pioneer), Prof. Ogbonnaya C. Onwudike, Prof Ikenna Oyido, Prof. Hilary O. Edeoga, Prof. Francis O. Otunta (of blessed memory) and himself.

He explained that each of the six administrations within the 30 years existence of the institution has had its own emphasis, enabled or constrained by the socio-economic and political climate under which it operated and boldly stressed that cumulatively the Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike has made great strides in academics, human capital development, infrastructure, community service and administration.

Specifically on the academic front, Prof. Iwe explained that the University has been making steady progress.

According to him “our graduates are part of the manpower that have been contributing immensely towards the socio economic and political development of the Nation’.

He further pointed out that in line with the vision of the founding fathers of the University, many of its products have become established farmers, employers of labour and major contributors toward ensuring food security in Nigeria. On the other hand, many of the Institution’s staff have earned engaged in cutting edge researches,  won national and international grants and obtained fellowships from institutions, professional associations and organizations.

Focusing on problems confronting the Michael Okpara University of Agriculture Umudike, Prof Maduebibisi Ofo Iwe, lamented that the major obstacle facing the University was inadequate physical facilities.

He declared that “it is certain that the state of the University’s infrastructure and physical facilities” belies  our collective commitment to provide quality education for our students.

“Even the best curricular suffer significant deficit, if all the facilities and physical structures needed for effective delivery are not fully aggregated.” he said.

He stated clearly that there is therefore the crying need for significant infusion of funds for the upgrade of the University’s physical environment especially when it is realized that it is among those started with the disadvantage of not having a take-off grant from Federal Government and the absence of endowment fund before now.

The vice Chancellor pointed out that the university is in a rural setting thereby placing a lot of demands on the provision of amenities at very exorbitant costs.

He underscored that due to bad roads, access to the university is occasionally a problem, access and control of the land acquired by Abia State Government for the Federal Government for the University had been worrisome issues.

Prof. Iwe on behalf of the University council, Senate, Staff and students of the Institution made a passionate plea to the Abia State Government to once again appeal  to the land donors who ceded lands to the Abia State Government in the early 1990s to allow the University access to them.

In addition, he appealed to the state Government to Issue the University with title to the land to enable the staff, students and Contractors to easily access the lands for the expected uses pointing that it is land that makes a Universality of Agriculture.The vice chancellor stated that all the challenges facing the institution necessitated the University to resolve for the establishment of an endowment fund to help redress some of the financial challenges of the university.

He  however,thanked all and sundry particularly the Abia State Governor, Dr. Alex Chioma Otti and the Governor of Anambra State Prof. Charles Soludo and Chairman of the occasion,Prof Chinedum Nwajiuba for making out time to grace the occasion.

In an address the Minister of Agriculture and Food Security, Senator Abubakar Kyari, represented by Mrs. Falsat Lawal lauded the giant strides of the late premier, adding that the Federal Government is committed to growing the economy through food production and called for exploring the country’s comparative and competitive advantage in agriculture to meet the needs of the people.

Speaking on the theme, “Our Future in our past:  Reinventing Dr. Michael Okpara policy for national growth” The Governor of Anambra Prof. Charles Soludo appreciated the Federal Government under Chief Olusegun Obasanjo for renaming the institution in honour of the Late Primer of Eastern Nigeria Region which he noted will serve as a reminder to the younger generation that the South East once had a glorious past.Prof. Soludo said the foundation to the future of the South East and Nigeria at large will start with the regeneration of the past created by Nigeria’s formost Leaders including Dr. M. I. Okpara. He posited that  for the community to move forward, the  people must go back to fundamental values of society without which the future will be bleak.The former CBN Governor described the Late M.I. Okpara as a policy entrepreneur who understood the importance of creating a sustainable policy for the South East region and Nigeria at large.The Anambra State Governor estolled  the Late Michael Okpara for his Agricultural and Industrial Estates which saw to the even development of the zone and urged Nigeria leaders to emulate the sterling leadership qualities of the late premier by being change agents every where they find themselves. 
In the lecture he titled “Our Future In Our Past: Reinventing Dr. M.I. Okpara Policy For National Growth”, the Anambra State Governor and former Governor of the CBN, Prof Charles Soludo, reminded the people of the old Eastern Region that they once had a glorious past.
He said it was unfortunate that Nigeria had become a country whose past seemed to be more glorious than the present, regretting that, even to maintain things inherited by the heroes past, was a challenge
He bemoaned a situation where clean cities, social amenities, education, good roads and other life advancement projects were now fairy tales.
Governor Soludo, who described Dr. Okpara as a policy entrepreneur, nationalist, and humanist with character and selflessness, called on leaders to reinvent the ideals of the late premier as a guide to a better economy and for Nigeria to progress.
He said the election of Governor Otti as Abia Governor was a great favour for not only Ndi Abia but the entire South East, assuring that Abia would see developmental strides under Otti.
Speaking virtually, Dr.Okonjo-Iweala said Dr. Okpara was an incomparable role model in his accomplishments in agriculture, health, politics, adding that he left legacies in all fronts that all should follow.
She made a case for the present-day political leaders to serve the people in the manner late Dr. Okpara did.
President General, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Dr. Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, described the event as very important, stressing that the scorecard of Dr. Okpara would tell leaders of today whether they were doing well or not.
In his remarks,  the chairman of the occasion and former vice-chancellor of Alex Ekwueme Federal University, Ndufu, Alike , Professor Chinedum Nwajiuba noted that the progressive policies of Dr Michael Okpara made it possible for the region to attain economic growth effortlessly.  He called for the revival of all the farm settlements set up by Okpara as a memorial to his name.
At the award ceremony  in which more than 200 serving and retired staff  including the vice-chancellor were given categories of awards, Prof Iwe urged them to be role models to students of the institution.  He explained that the award was instituted to reward and encourage hardworking staff who exemplify the ideals of the university. 
One of the recipients of the awards and immediate past Provost of Abia State College of Education, Technical, Arochukwu, Dr Philips Nto pledged to redouble his efforts in making the university proud.  Dr Nto who is a former Commissioner for Finance and Economic Planning in Abia State donated one million naira for the sustenance of the Michael Okpara memorial lecture. 
In his vote of thanks,  the Chairman, Organising Committee of the 30th anniversary and founder’s day, Prof Jude Mbanasor expressed appreciation to the two governors and other dignitaries who graced the occasion.  He noted that the authorities of the institution were overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and solidarity to the university during the entire programme. 
Prof Mbanasor who is the president of Agricultural Society of Nigeria  was also full of praises for the Vice Chancellor, Prof Iwe for finding him and the committee members worthy to serve the university and pledged to uphold the high standards for which MOUAU is known for.

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