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UNN Vice-Chancellor, Professor Bartho Okolo’s Address on the 53rd Founders’ Day Celebration

An Address by the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Nigeria, Professor Bartho N. Okolo to the Press on the Occasion of the 53rd Founders’ Day Celebration and Golden Jubilee of the First Graduates of the University of Nigeria Scheduled for October 2nd

An Address by the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Nigeria, Professor Bartho N. Okolo to the Press on the Occasion of the 53rd Founders’ Day Celebration and Golden Jubilee of the First Graduates of the University of Nigeria Scheduled for October 2nd – 7th, 2013
On behalf of the management, staff and students of the University of Nigeria, I welcome you all to today’s press conference, which has been convened to share the programme of our founders’ day ceremony.
As you may be well aware, the Federal Government has appointed a new governing council for the University of Nigeria. Our new Chairman of Council and Pro-Chancellor is Sir, Dr. Emeka Enejere. So, please join me in receiving our new Pro-Chancellor and the new members of governing council.
The Founders’ Day celebration of the University of Nigeria is an annual event during which we remember and honour the founding founders of the university and reminisce on our strategic existence. I suppose you are all familiar with the unique history of the University of Nigeria and the remarkable men and women whose vision and foresight gave birth to the University just after Nigeria gained independence from colonial rule. Notable amongst these men were the first president of Nigeria, the Rt. Hon. Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, who was the first visitor to the university and later-on the chancellor of the university and Mr. E. U. Akpabio, the Minister for Education in the former Eastern Nigeria, who moved the motion for the establishment of the university.
The founders’ day celebration also offer us a chance to reflect on what the university has achieved over the years in relation to the mandate which was laid out at inception. In doing so, we also reflect on our present status and strategize on our future as a dynamic university.
This years’ celebration – the 53rd founders’ day celebration – is unique in the sense that we are celebrating another milestone – the golden jubilee of the first graduates of the University of Nigeria. This first generation of Lions and Lionesses, who numbered just 200 on admission and bore the registration numbers of 60/001 to 60/200, deserve a special celebration for more reasons than one.
Firstly, they were the results of an experiment in higher education, aptly dubbed the Nsukka experiment and championed by Nigeria’s first president, Rt. Hon. (Dr) Nnamdi Azikiwe. Secondly, the circumstance of the establishment of the University of Nigeria was such that bystanders wondered what manner of graduates these men and women would turn out to be. It was reported that their excellent performance at the next national civil service exams was the beginning of the reputation of excellence at University of Nigeria. It is against this background that we celebrate this generation of distinguished graduates on whose shoulders our much cherished reputation first rested. We salute them! We congratulate them!! We salute them for the legacy of excellence which they bequeathed to us.
To reflect this very special mood and the significance of this milestone, we have set out an elaborate programme in which a number of lectures will be delivered by eminent Nigerians, who have excelled in their chosen fields of endeavour.
The first lecture will hold on Saturday 5th October, 2013 and will be delivered by Dr. Kingsley Chiedu Moghalu. Dr Moghalu is the Deputy Governor (Financial System Stability) at Central Bank of Nigeria. He is also a distinguished alumnus of the University of Nigeria, class of 86, whose experience cuts across legal practice, diplomacy, journalism and financial management.  The topic of his lecture is Human Capital Dimension of Transformation.

The second lecture, which is scheduled for Monday 7th October will be delivered by Dr Humphrey Umunna Orjiakor. Dr Umunna is the Ambassador/Permanent Representative of Nigeria to the United Nations at Geneva. He is a thoroughbred diplomat and a distinguished alumnus of the University of Nigeria and of the class of 79. The topic of his lecture is Higher Education Experiment in Nigeria – the Nsukka Experience, 53 years After.
These guest lecturers have been chosen based on their accomplishments and ability to inspire the heterogeneous audience we expect at these events. To add colour to the celebrations, we have extended invitations not just to members of this first generation graduates, but to all alumni and friends of the university.
A celebration of this magnitude would be lacking in colour if our friends from the media are not in attendance. I am, therefore, also extending this invitation to all members of the fourth estate of the realm. We need you to witness what would be a celebration to remember.
There’s a saying in Igbo land which translates literarily to; a man who manages to climb an Iroko tree should take full advantage of the opportunity; and harvest all he needs, because no one climbs the Iroko everyday.
In the second phase of my address I would highlight the progress my administration has made in the pursuit of the vision which I laid out at the beginning of my tenure about four years ago. You would recall that my vision for the University of Nigeria is that of a functional, globally competitive & research-focused university which is responsive to the needs of the society, and delivers world-class education and Knowledge. Thus, the University of my Vision is one with a befitting environmental ambience and adequate ultra modern infrastructure fitted with modern cutting edge teaching and research facilities. It is also a university which collaborates with many reputable universities across the world in diverse disciplines and one whose faculty and graduates can compete with their peers from across the globe.
Recall also that as a path to this vision, I set out a mission to place the University of Nigeria at the forefront of research and development, innovation, knowledge generation and knowledge dissemination, human resource development and community service.
The result of a needs assessment which we conducted soon after I assumed office revealed that achieving this vision required urgent and far-reaching actions on upgrading the teaching and learning environment as well as the physical and municipal infrastructure. In addition, the university needed to embrace diversity and global outreach through the forging of new collaborations with universities and academic institutions across the globe. Furthermore, the study revealed that our University would need a new generation of brilliant, properly trained and exposed academics to sustain and improve on the traditions of excellence for which the university is known. Thus, the accomplishments of the past four years of my tenure can best be appreciated along these lines, which became my priorities.
Environmental and Infrastructural Upgrade: Arising from the infrastructure audit, the need for a master plan review and elaborate clean-up and rehabilitation of our environment became obvious. In addition to significant improvements in the environment and the state of municipal infrastructure within the campuses, we have made massive investments in infrastructure. These will be obvious if you undertake a tour of our campuses. This has been an era of unprecedented investment in physical infrastructure development. Some of these buildings have now been completed, while many more are at various stages of completion. These include:
    the new administration building for the Enugu Campus of the university
    the School of Postgraduate Studies
    the Institute of African Studies
    Faculties of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Law buildings
    Pathology laboratory building for the College of Medicine and College of Medicine building
    Faculty of Social Sciences building
    Bioprocess Physiology building
    Shell CEMAC building
    Centre of Excellence in Financial Studies building
    Clinical Diagnostic and Wellness Centre building
    Presidential Guest House
    Vocational Technical Education buildings
    Sociology building
    International Scholar building
    Students’ Multipurpose Centre, etc.
Many other buildings were extensively rehabilitated and modernized e.g. the GS building, Faculty of Business Administration, Jimbaz building, Carvar building¸Personnel and Records buildings, UNESCO Category 2 Biotechnology building, Education and Social Science buildings, Institute of Education building, etc. These buildings, which serve as staff offices, classrooms, laboratories, etc, have been designed to cope with anticipated growth in both staff and students population and informed the need for the simultaneous development. The buildings are also being fitted with requisite modern facilities to ensure optimum utilization. I am glad to mention that the initial uninformed resistance against these developments has turned to feelings of joy today.
In keeping with current global trends in the management of higher education institutions, we have pursued a programme of internationalization that involves the revitalisation of existing relationships and the establishment of over fifty (50) new mutually rewarding partnerships with reputable higher education institutions across the globe. In addition to increasing the visibility of our university on the global stage, these collaborations continue to create opportunities for our faculty to improve their research and teaching competencies by exposure to global best practices. The major tenets of these collaborations are joint research projects, staff and student exchanges, shared curriculum, joint applications for research grants, joint workshops and seminars/conferences as well as training, etc. Some of our collaborators have even gone a step further to make donations of research equipments to our university.
Scholarship and Excellence:
A major determinant of academic excellence and one of the major quality assurance features in higher education is the competence of faculty. Thus, as part of efforts to sustain the standard of scholarship at the University of Nigeria, we have continued to offer automatic employment to first class graduates and best graduating students of good universities. As at the last count, over 300 of such young scholars have been hired. Through the many partnerships which we established with universities overseas, TETFUND grant, the Fulbright scholarship, the Commonwealth scholarship and many other grant outlets including internally generated resources, we are able to create opportunities for these young academics to get exposed to international best practices in teaching, research and administration. Some have completed their training and have returned, while many more are still studying towards postgraduate degrees overseas. Having this number of young, brilliant scholars on our faculty gives me hope that the future of our university is bright. This new generation of scholars are being looked upon to sustain our renewed match towards world class status.
Many distinguished scholars have also been attracted and hired to join our faculty from across the world in tenured, sabbatical and visiting positions. At the same time, training opportunities and international exposure for our junior/middle level faculty have been a major priority for the University in the past four years.
We have also created opportunities for training of other cadre of staff including administrative staff in a deliberate directed attempt at sharpening their skills and motivating them for improved performance and proper attitude to work. We have also created many global centres of learning in our university within this period. The UNESCO Category 2 Centre of Excellence in Biotechnology, the Shell Centre for Environmental Management and Control, the Centre for Oceanography and Marine Studies are some of the institutes that have been established or upgraded as medium for achievement of excellence in scholarship in our University.
The university is currently investing massively in the acquisition of ultramodern teaching and research facilities for our classrooms and laboratories. The newly created classrooms have been fitted with modern furniture, smart boards and projectors and indeed multimedia facilities which take advantage of the campus-wide network to provide a modern teaching and learning experience. The laboratories are also being fitted with newer equipment to support research by faculty and staff. This is having a direct impact on the level of research output by the university. Based on research publications as published by Researchgate – a Berlin based network, our university occupied the second position in the latest ranking of Nigerian universities and 22nd in Africa.
We have also recorded improvements in other aspects of administration. The efficiency and speed with which students’ results are processed have improved considerably. Furthermore, Students’ results are now graded, computed and approved by Senate at the end of each semester. The days of ‘working results’ and students hanging around for up to three years after completing their residency period waiting for final results are over.
An automated transcript processing mechanism, which enables alumni in any part of the world to apply online and obtain transcripts in 48 hours has been put in place and functioning effectively for over 6 months. An electronic alumni administration system through which alumni of the university in different parts of the world can communicate and also make donations to the university from any part of the world and in any global currency has also been developed. This is based on a software called raisers’ edge and net communication used by major universities across the globe.
Fund mobilization is a critical aspect of higher education administration. The Nigerian higher education environment has suffered severe setbacks due to the lack of adequate resources and pressure arising from astronomical increase in enrolment as well as integrated growth. It is very obvious that in the very near future any university that is not able to raise its own capital for university development and operations may not survive. It is because of this looming reality that we began to develop and put in place sustainable resource options and financial opportunities for the university going forward.
Towards this end, the ultramodern Presidential Guest House Nsukka campus and the University Liaison Office in Abuja were expanded, remodelled and modernized to give service to the University and generate funds.  A prime property for the construction of a new liaison office and business facilities capable of generating over N2 billion annually for the University was purchased in Lagos. Construction will soon commence. The University Bookshop, alumni transcript portal and alumni revenue and network systems, the Clinical Diagnostic and Wellness Centre as well as the Science Engineering and Technology Innovation Park are a few of the fund generating channels we have created in an attempt to support resource creation for sustainability for the University.

Gratitude: As always, we remain grateful to governments, institutions and individuals whose benevolence have made these developments possible. They include the Federal Government of Nigeria, the Education Trust Fund, National Universities Commission, the governments of Enugu, Delta, Anambra and Akwa Ibom States, Fidelity Bank Plc, First Bank Plc, Diamond Bank Plc, MTN, Main One Plc, Google Incorporated, Central Bank of Nigeria, etc. We are also grateful to individual donors such as Chief Ifeanyi Ubah, Chief (Dr) Cletus Ibeto and many others.
What my administration has done in effect is to lay the foundation for a gradual match towards creating a global learning and research centre at the University of Nigeria, not just in the state of physical infrastructure and facilities, but in terms of teaching and learning, research, the quality and competence of faculty as well as global best practices in university operations. These are essential features of the kind of international learning centre we dream and talk about. Rome, they say, was not built in a day. The university we desire can only be achieved through bold, consistent and focused achievements – the kind that we have seen in the last four years. Even the pessimists admit that if the on-going level of development is sustained over the years, we will surely fulfil the mandates of our founding fathers, and the university of my vision.
Thank you.

Professor Bartho N. Okolo

Source: www.unn.edu.ng

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Comments (2)

  • No doudt u hv made so much achievement but coming to d area of admission of new students no much improvement has been made,why will a person who scored 192 nd 200 in UTME and Post UTME respectivly be given admission before a person who scored 206 nd 210 respectivly in both exams?.

  • I quite agree and commend you but all that mentioned excludes faculty of Arts. Faculty of Arts has been abandoned especially department of mass communication and combined arts. Pls innovation and modernisation is needed because this is where the voice and right of the people is expressed.


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