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INVESTITURE | His Majesty, Nnaemeka Alfred Ugochukwu Achebe,

Address

Citation

Address by His Majesty, Nnaemeka Alfred Ugochukwu Achebe, CFR, mni, MBA, LL.D (Hons), Dsc. (Hons), Obi of Onitsha (Agbogidi),

Protocols . . .

 

I should start with gratitude to God Almighty for making today possible and bringing us together safely and peacefully. We trust in Him for an orderly and harmonious proceeding and safe return to our various destinations. I also thank the Federal Government for deeming me worthy to be Chancellor of this great citadel of education and learning founded by, and named after, one of the three noble founding fathers of modern Nigeria, His Excellency, The Right Honorable, Alhaji Sir Ahmadu Bello, Sardauna of Sokoto. I was in awe and trepidation on learning that I would become a successor to Alhaji Sir Ahmadu, who was the first Chancellor, but also thrilled to be succeeding my good friend and royal brother, His Eminence, Alhaji Sa'ad Abubakar, CFR, mni, Sultan of Sokoto, who vacated this position to become Chancellor of the University of Ibadan last Tuesday.

Between these two eminent scions of the great spiritual leader, Usman Dan Fodio,   a lot has happened in the history of this institution. A mustard seed that was sown on 04 October 1962 with four faculties, fifteen departments and 426 students has now grown to some twelve academic faculties, a post graduate school and 82 academic departments, in addition to institutes, specialized centres, colleges, and a student enrolment of some 35,000 from every State in Nigeria, Africa, and the world at large. Ahmadu Bello University has also nurtured two other universities and has some thirty colleges of education and schools of basic studies around the country affiliated with it. This university is by far the largest and most extensive in sub-Saharan Africa and boasts of a most impressive roll of alumni. Becoming Chancellor of such a great institution must, therefore, be perceived with utmost humility and sense of responsibility. It is on this note that I also sincerely thank the entire university community for accepting my appointment. I do not bring much to my role as Chancellor except a sincere commitment to work with all stakeholders to move the university to even greater heights in its quest to serve God and humanity according to its founding philosophy. Whilst the position is commonly seen as largely titular and honorary, I believe firmly that anyone so elevated has a duty to reciprocate that distinction by giving all within his ability to advance the cause of the institution. An occasion such as this affords one the opportunity to contribute to the ongoing soul searching in our polity. The recent change of political leadership in the country has given us a new perspective on the state of affairs in the country, particularly the national economy. But, the thrust of my remarks will not be on the economy, but rather on our mindset as a nation, which, if not changed, will frustrate every measure to redress the economic decline.  Here are a few paradoxical situations to ponder:

 

 We spend unbelievable amounts importing petrol and subsidizing its retail price whilst our three refineries with adequate capacity to meet our national requirement are literarily moribund, despite huge sums spent on endless turn around maintenances; smaller and less endowed countries successfully operate their own refineries optimally and do not suffer scarcity.

 

 Nigeria is probably the largest importer of electric generators in the world despite our endowment with natural sources of energy, such as petroleum, coal, hydro and solar energies, and the huge sums spent by successive governments on the power sector. On the other hand, a smaller country, Ghana, takes gas from Nigeria and generates most of its electricity requirements.

 

 Our food import bill, spent mostly on rice and wheat, is about $22 billion annually, yet our country is blessed with vast arable land and a large population of young jobless people that can be usefully deployed to agriculture.

 

 Road construction in Nigeria is more expensive than most parts of the world, yet our roads are breaking down faster than we build them because the traditional mode for heavy haulage, namely, railways, pipelines and waterways, are comatose; a trailer load of petrol from Mosimi to Maiduguri causes more damage to our roads than the value of the product being transported.

 

 A majority of our State Governments have recently taken the so-called “bailout loans” for recurrent expenditure, meaning that future generations are being inflicted with the burden of the profligacy of the current generation.

 

The same contradictions exist in many other aspects of our national life such as education, health, manufacturing, public service, governance, etc. But, it all boils down to a simple message, namely, that we may have lost our bearing as a nation with the discovery of petroleum in the 1950s. A false sense of national wealth has turned us into a nation of frolickers and hustlers, who are fighting one another for a greater share of the proverbial national cake, and spending it extravagantly, rather  than leveraging the God given windfall to build a stable, diversified, and more prosperous nation. As the volume of production and market value of petroleum have fallen, that is, as the national cake has shrunk in size, the competition and struggle for a stake in that cake has become more intense.

 

Thus, today, there is tension everywhere – Niger Delta, Boko Haram, MASSOB, industrial strikes, armed robbery, kidnapping, ethnic rivalries, tension between and within the political parties, etc, The sum total is that our national mindset, particularly amongst the upper and middle classes, which includes most of us in this audience, has been focused on the consumption, rather than the creation, of our national wealth.  Consequently, I have a distinct feeling that the current efforts to re-set our economic bearings and improve our wellbeing must be accompanied by a national crusade at restoring and re-asserting our core values as a nation – a commitment to justice, equity, mutual respect, hard work, transparency, modesty, and, above all, a sense of nation or a belief in our Nigerian-ness. Such a crusade must transcend partisanship and sectional interest and reach out to all levels of our society on a sustained basis. So, what has a university got to do with all of this? I dare say, everything! Education and learning are not an end but a means to achieving a better world and future for our children. Thus, our universities, as centres of education and learning, must constantly engage with our national challenges, and be sufficiently strong and dynamic to effectively do so. In my brief interview in the current edition of ABU News, I stated that good education is the greatest investment that a parent can make in a child, or a nation in her citizenry. It is human capital that indisputably drives all aspects of development. As the breeding ground for human capital and the advancement of knowledge, the university must willy-nilly be central to the transformation that this country aspires to, and deserves, for true greatness.

 

But, we must also ask if our educational system, particularly at the tertiary levels, is in a position to meet this yearning challenge. An occasion as this is not a proper forum for a full dilation on this broad issue, though one cannot resist the recent reference to The Nigerian Education System by Professor Peter Okebukola, former Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Universities Commission, as being anchored on “sinking, sandy shores”. Nevertheless, I would like to identify four issues that I feel demand some serious and immediate contemplation by the ABU and other leading universities in the country.

 

1. Today, the demand for tertiary education amongst our teeming population still outstrips the ability of our universities to cope; it will remain so for the foreseeable future. This is notwithstanding the near exponential growth from one University College in 1960 to 141 universities today with an aggregate student population of over 1.8 million students. Such rapid growth poses a danger of dilution in quality unless investments are sustained, particularly in the training and development of faculty and staff.

This university and its sister first generation counterparts must therefore continue to devote particular attention to research and graduate education to fulfill their own need and that of the many younger institutions that will increasingly be calling at their doors for recruitment.

 

2. There is a mismatch or imbalance in number, quality, and discipline between the needs of the employers of manpower and the output of the universities and tertiary institutions. This situation raises the dual questions of unemployment and un-employability, and demands a closer cooperation between the universities and employers in curriculum development and deployment of resources in order to optimize the employment market. Again, this is an opportunity for this university to play a leading role.

 

3. The above reduction in the mismatch in demand and supply, even if achieved, would still leave a situation where opportunities for salaried employment will continuously decline proportionate to growing university output and national economic expansion and diversity. Thus, the emphasis in university education, going forward, must be placed on nurturing entrepreneurial, self-starting, and self-reliant citizens, who will create employment, not seek employment. We in A.B.U can be exemplary on this, also.

 

4. In order to successfully address these and the myriad of challenges facing the universities, a more secure financial base becomes imperative as a prerequisite for effective pursuit of long term plans and strategies. There are two aspects to the financial challenge, namely, seriously creating independent sources of income over and above government subventions and grants from donor agencies, and becoming more prudent, modern, and innovative in the management of available financial resources.

 

With its founding philosophy, history of growth and development, enviable location in this ancient kingdom of Zaria and proximity to the metropolitan cities of Kaduna and Abuja, and a most illustrious roll of alumni, I am convinced that Ahmadu Bello University is eminently positioned to rise above these and other    dynamic challenges facing our tertiary education system, and significantly enhance its leadership position in improving the world that we live in. Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, I have spoken at length for an occasion such as this. In summary, my message is that this great university is well positioned to play a leading role in the positive and sustainable change that His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari seeks for our

nation. I, therefore, call on all stakeholders and people of goodwill to join hands and support the university to achieve this lofty goal. As your Chancellor, I will do my own honest best in this regard.

 

I thank you all for your attention.

 

Agbogidi

 

21st November, 2015

 

A Citation

His Royal Majesty, Obi Nnaemeka Achebe, was born in Onitsha on 14th May, 1941, the first child of Akunne Anthony Chinwuba, and Chukwuebuka Winifred Ogbenyeanu, Achebe. He is

a direct descendant of Ezechima, the founding monarch of Onitsha Ado N'Idu. He ascended the throne on 14th May, 2002 as the 21st Obi of Onitsha, following a tradition that has been

unbroken for over 500 years. Obi Achebe has had a sound preparation for life through his education and family upbringing. After primary and secondary schools in Nigeria, he gained admission in 1963 to the prestigious Stanford University in California, USA, where he took a Bachelor's Degree in Chemistry. He also took a Master's Degree in Business Administration in the equally famous Columbia University in New York City. His education was crowned with his attendance in 1979 of the maiden Senior Executive Course of the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies in Kuru, Jos. Following a brief working experience in the USA, Obi Achebe returned to Nigeria in 1972 to begin a long, varied, and fulfilling career with the Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (Shell Nigeria) and the Royal Dutch Shell Group. Barely nine years after joining the Company, he was in 1981 appointed to the Board of Directors of Shell Nigeria as General Manager for the Eastern Division of the Company.  On his normal retirement from Shell Nigeria in 1996, Obi Achebe was appointed to Shell International in London, where he effectively acted as “ambassador at large” for the Shell Group on Nigeria matters. In that capacity, he travelled and lectured widely in all continents, including addresses to parliamentary committees in the European Union (EU), USA, United Kingdom, Irish Republic, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.  Besides his long tenure as Director of Shell Nigeria, Obi Achebe was also, during 1985 – 1987, a Director of several other Shell companies in the United Kingdom, Nederland, Ghana, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Gambia, Liberia and Angola. Outside Shell, Obi Achebe has held positions on the Governing Councils of the Petroleum Training Institute, Effurun, and the Nigerian Employers' Consultative Association. In corporate life, he holds the following

 

Positions:

 

 Chairman of Diamond Bank PLC from 2007 to 2014 and Director from 2006 to 2014

 

Chairman of Omak Maritime Limited since 2003

 

Chairman of Unilever Nigeria PLC since 2011 and Director since 2003

 

Chairman of Intafact Beverages Limited (SAB-Miller) since 2012

 

He has also been Chairman of Universal Insurance PLC (2004 – 2012) and Director of Regency Insurance Company Limited, Diamond Pension Fund Custodian PLC, and Energy Equity Resources (UK) Limited.

 

On two occasions, Obi Achebe has served the nation on panels of enquiry in the petroleum sector. In 1976, for example, he was a member of the Administrative Panel of Enquiry on the Port Harcourt Refinery. In 2004, President Obasanjo called on him to be Chairman of the Presidential Enquiry into the February 2003 Fuel Shortage in the Country. In 2005, Obi Achebe was a delegate to the National Political Reform Conference representing the traditional rulers of South-Eastern States. He became Chairman of the

 

Committee on Environment and Natural Resources Management Reforms and coordinated the Traditional Rulers' Forum at the Conference.

 

Obi Achebe belongs to a string of social, professional and voluntary (non-profit) organisations in Nigeria and overseas, where he has made invaluable contributions in various capacities. He is respectively a fellow of the Nigerian Institute of Management and the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations, Life Member of the Nigerian Economic Society, and member respectively of the Nigerian Institute of Personnel Management and Nigerian Environmental Society. He is Patron of the MTN Foundation, Vice-Patron of Island Club, Lagos, Vice-Patron of Lagos Country Club, Lagos and Member of the Metropolitan Club, Lagos.  On bilateral and multilateral relations, Obi Achebe has also represented Nigeria's interests on social, cultural and commercial matters. He has been a member of the Nigeria-Britain Association (NBA) and life member of the counterpart Britain-Nigeria Association (BNA). He has served as member of the Governing Board of the BNA, the Advisory Board of the Britain-Nigeria Business Council, and the Board of Trustees of the Africa Centre, all based in the United Kingdom. On becoming a traditional ruler, the Africa Centre, in recognition of his services, made him one of its five Patrons, with Nelson Mandela as the Grand Patron. Obi Achebe has a strong passion for education as a fundamental factor in national development. In his firm belief that lack of funds should not prevent any child from acquiring good education, he set up early in reign a manpower development trust fund for his community. In 2007, he, along with His Majesty, Oba Okunade Sijuwade, Ooni of Ife and His Majesty, Alhaji Ado Bayero, Emir of Kano, was guest of the Director-General of UNESCO in Paris to share thoughts on the strategic role of monarchs in promoting the development of science and technology. In 2008 and 2010, he addressed the annual symposium of the Nigeria Higher Education Foundation in New York City to promote partnership between the US and Nigerian universities. He became Chancellor of Kogi State University in 2010.

As monarch, Obi Achebe has portrayed a vision for Onitsha, which identifies the city's most singular challenge today as the need to reverse the decline and restore the foundations for

development and growth for the Kingdom. He believes that his people can restore their glory and pride of place by keeping abreast of change without losing their rich culture, traditions and identity as a people. He also believes that the imperatives of commercialisation and urbanisation can be effectively balanced with the need to preserve the features that distinguish indigenous communities as a people, that is, their culture, norms and tradition Obi Achebe is committed to building a more inclusive community based on mutual respect, and to protecting the interest of everyone and every organisation within his domain. He sees his role as providing selfless, honest, peaceful and impartial leadership to all stakeholders, indigenes and residents alike, and encouraging enterprise and productivity. Since ascending the throne, Obi Achebe has been addressing the myriad issues and challenges facing the town, skilfully balancing his vast international managerial experience with a deep understanding and belief in the norms and traditions of his people. He has expanded his traditional cabinet by appointing people of proven ability and integrity and reached out to all sectors and communities within the Onitsha metropolis.In recognition of his varied services to the society, Obi Achebe was decorated with the National Honour of Commander of the Order of the Federal Republic (CFR) in 2004. He was appointed Chairman of Anambra State Traditional Rulers Council in 2008; made an Honorary Fellow of the Nwafor Orizu College of Education in 2008; and awarded the degrees of Doctor of Law (LL.D) Honoris Causa by the Anambra State University in 2008, and Doctor of Science (DSc) Honoris Causa by the Kogi State University in 2010. He was in 2015 honoured with This Day Lifetime Achievement Award. In summary, Obi Achebe has lived a life of service for the common good. His royal background has not stood on his way to giving loyal and dedicated service to the nation in various spheres of life. In a long and unblemished career, he reached the pinnacle of the petroleum industry in Nigeria and beyond. He has equally served with distinction and represented the country in the educational, cultural, civic, social, and commercial spheres.

By the grace of Almighty God, and the will of his people, he is today the traditional ruler of Onitsha, one of the oldest and most respected Kingdoms in Nigeria.

 

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