The University of Nigeria Alumni Association (UNAA) has honoured her icons in a historic occasion tagged “2022 icons’ award celebration”, with the theme, “Celebrating the Legacy of the University of Nigeria Alumni Icons”, held on Thursday, November 17, 2022, at the Main Banquet Hall of the Hotel Presidential, Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
The event saw crème de la crème from all walks of life who have passed through the great University of Nigeria, together with their friends and associates, the presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP) in Nigeria, His Excellency, Mr Peter Obi, CON, who is also an alumnus of the university, was the keynote speaker.
In the keynote address, Mr Obi noted that alumni of Nigerian universities have more roles to play than they have been playing, as he used the UNAA as a case in focus; he further added that the nation is in dire need of rescue to avoid total collapse, noting that the recent report of 67 percent of Nigerians being poor is disgrace to the nation.
“I was in Nsuka two years ago. I challenged the association and said that the alumni association of the university should work differently. They should be the people building the university’s life. Alumni association is not a village society, where people just go for age grade. Alumni associations of Nigerian universities are not contributing in building the universities. We are not doing the right thing. Associations just come once in a year, when we want to hold a gathering like this. It shouldn’t be like that,” he said.
The first lady of Ondo state, Her Excellency, Mrs Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu, while lamenting the challenges of the University of Nigeria, as well as its Alumni Association, stated that the situation is unacceptable; she further added that she has started ensuring that the renovation of the Kwame Nkrumah Hall of the university, which she has chosen to shoulder, is completed.
She also added that vice chancellors of Nigerian universities should not always wait for alumni to donate or contribute money before they could record achievement in their various institutions; she tasked them to see the need for research, development and investing in innovation and renewable energy.
Her Excellency, Dame Patience Faka Jonathan, the immediate past First Lady, Federal Republic of Nigeria, who was represented by Dr Mrs Precious Bello, former Senior Special Adviser to Ex-President Goodluck Jonathan (her husband) on Millenium Development Goals, vowed to be part of the alumni’s multimillion naira building project.
The president of the association, Lady Doris Okoroh, PhD, who thanked all for their contributions, stated that the essence of the Alumni Centre project is to make the presence of the association felt in the school, while urging the icons and other alumni to choose a project that they can execute for the school, themselves, without giving anyone money; she promised that all who take part in the project will have their names inscribed on the Wall of Fame of the university.
Lady (Dr) Doris Okoro, who noted that Mr Obi’s speech two years ago in Nsuka inspired her desire to become the association’s president, thanked the presidential frontrunner, and further sought his collaboration in actualizing the goals of her administration, while adding that she feels fulfilled seeing the interests of alumni in identifying with the giant steps being taken by her administration.
Meanwhile, Chairman of the occasion, Chief (Dr) Emmanuel Chukwuemeka Iwuanyanwu, MFR, OFR, CFR, charged the alumni to ensure that they follow the legacies of the institution’s founding fathers, adding that his commitment to the association remains sacrosanct.
The guest speaker, Prof. Charles Esimone, who is also the Vice Chancellor, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, whose speech was presented by Prof. Ogbonna Okolisa, stressed that alumni were grown to grow others.
The Vice Chancellor, University of Nigeria, Nsuka, Prof. Charles Igwe, who was represented by Prof. Chuma Nwakuba, lamented that the federal government has been unwilling to provide fund for Nigerian universities anymore, noting that the university has continued to develop, embarking on projects despite the challenge,stressing that the donations of the alumni will be judiciously used and accounted for.
The immediate past president of the association, Sir (Surv.) Ben Okoronkwo, whose leadership secured the piece of land for the project from the university, tasked universities to source fund internally without depending on the allocation from the government; he however, urged the alumni to give back to the school, which made them, without relenting.
The Chairman, Local Organising Committee, Engr Michael Nwabueze, thanked everyone for their contributions.
Meanwhile, the host, Tochukwu Onyebuchi, the President, Port Harcourt Branch and South-South Zonal Vice President of the association noted that the members of the National Executive conceived the idea of celebrating the icons after the death of an icon, Prof. B.I.C. Ijomah, who died in 2020.
According to him, they had earlier decided to celebrate the elders who are still living before eventually deciding to include younger icons, who have made their marks as well.
Among the dignitaries honoured, were Her Excellency, Dame Patience Faka Jonathan, Her Excellency, Mrs Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu, the Vice Chancellors, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Prof. Charles Esimone and Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Prof. Maduebibisi Iwe, Alabo Sir (Dr) Gabriel Toby, a pioneer student of the university (1960-63), father of the day and former administrator in Rivers state, former President, Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria,Mazi Nnamdi Okwuadigbo.
Meanwhile, it was not only the elderly and the slightly above middle aged that were honoured; a youth was also there, whose impacts cannot be ignored, Dr Unegbu Obinna George, the Proprietor, Shekinah British International School, who also pledged total commitment to the movement, having been supporting the Imo state branch of the association.
Others include a retired Justice of the Supreme Court, Hon. Justice Mary Ukaego Peter-Odili, Vice Chancellor, Federal University of Technology, Owerri, Prof. Nnenna Oti, former Provost, Alvan Ikoku Federal College of Education, Owerri, Prof Blessing Ijioma, Dr Okey Ibeabuchi, Miannaya Aja Essien (SAN).
The following people were also honoured Chief (Dr) Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu (MFR), Chief (Engr) John Arachie, Founder/General Overeseer, Omega Power Ministries, Apostle Chibuzor Chinyere, Pharm Uchenna Apakama, Elder Wilcox Abereton (SAN), Chief Okwudili Otti, Prof. Azubuike Onyebuchi, Dr Godwin Asumugha, Prof. Felix Erondu, Sir Ahamefule Ejelam (SAN) and Hon. Valentine Ozigbo.
The event fortunately coincided with the 118th posthumous birthday of the founder of the school and first president of Nigeria, Late Rt Hon. (Dr) Nnamdi Azikiwe, as well as the 62nd anniversary of the institution.