I feel honoured by your invitation for me to be here today. It is therefore with a joyful heart and a sense of privilege that I present this goodwill message at today’s historical Alumni Conference of NDU at 20. Let me first congratulate all the distinguished and proud Alumni of Bayelsa State-owned Niger Delta University for achieving this milestone. Let me also seize the opportunity of this rare occasion to appreciate most profoundly and pay tributes to the Founding Fathers of this University.
I am referring to the men and women of vision led by the late first elected Governor of Bayelsa State, Chief Diepreye Solomon Peter Alamieyeseigha — the unforgettable Governor-General of Ijaw Nation. He dreamt big. He saw today from yesterday.
Standing firmly behind him to actualise this dream was the Deputy Governor at that time, our beloved immediate past leader of this country, President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, GCFR. I join the alumni association, the students and management of this institution to thank these great sons of our generation for laying the foundation for academic development of Bayelsa State through the establishment of the Niger Delta University.
Today’s event is unique in many ways. Niger Delta University is a-dream-come-true. It is a vision realised although we cannot claim to have yet reached the Promised Land.
Somehow, I do wonder what would have become of our brothers and sisters if this university was not established; or if our leaders did not dream and took practical steps to bring this dream to pass. Considering our minority position in Nigeria, and the stiff competition involved in selecting candidates for admission to particular universities, it would have been difficult, if not out-rightly impossible, for some of our children to acquire university education. This is why we must appreciate our visionary and selfless leaders who were blessed with the art of seeing the invisible.
In the last 20 years, I am aware the NDU has made some remarkable strides, which have been widely acknowledged by stakeholders. The University has produced exceptional human resources who, in character and learning, can compete with their equals elsewhere. You have made a name for yourself in the area of academic excellence. One of your students, Ebizi Eradiri, graduated with a first class in law and also bagged a first class at the Nigerian Law School. This is a great accomplishment, which must be sustained.
I am delighted that you have proposed to utilise the opportunity of the NDU @ 20 Conference to also review challenges, do a self-analytical stock-taking and a future outlook for the University. Without being told I am aware that a major challenge of State Universities as yours is that of funding. In this connection, I will advise you give attention to discussing disruptive ideas and strategies to assist the university achieve self-sufficiency in its funding status. The culture of giving back to your alma matter must be a major imperative in your agenda.
The University’s current dependence on the state government for funding of infrastructure, academic programmes and research development could be a source of frustration in the near future and inevitably not sustainable. Universities all over the world—whether privately-owned or founded by government—have since moved beyond this point. The University cannot continue to depend on government for financial sustenance.
Part of my assignment in the next two minutes will be to challenge you a little on ideas. As you may be aware, recent studies have shown that contemporary functions of Universities have advanced from performing conventional research and education responsibility to serving as an innovation-promoting knowledge hub. It is therefore important that this Alumni Conference deliberate on new possibilities for partnership and collaboration with the private sector to attract donations of funds, equipment and infrastructure. We must aspire and learn from success stories of time-tested Alumni organisations like the famous Stanford University Alumni reputed to have, according to Caleb Silver in theTop 25 Economies of the world, “founded numerous companies, which combined produce more than $2.7 trillion in annual revenue and have created 5.4 million jobs as of 2011, roughly equivalent to the 7th largest economy in the world (as of 2020)’’
I will advice you be strategic in approach, constitute an Alumni committee, and vigorously work to support the University to surmount the tough challenges of raising the appropriate funds needed to deliver high-quality education and research capabilities. When inaugurated, such a committee will be charged with the responsibility of establishing relationships and partnerships with various International foundations and devise structured ways of fund raising. This Alumni committee will assist the University to formulate a five to ten-year strategic plan, which will form the basis for approaching private sector organisations, foundations and philanthropists/public spirited individuals for support. The golden rule is that you do not go asking for funds without indicating the potential areas of utilisation.
To complement the Alumni’s intentions at this age of the 4th Industrial Revolution, there is need to advocate the enthronement of transformational leadership for the University. At 20, NDU will need a leadership that will think out of the box; a leadership that does not consider ethnic or tribal interest but is focused on development interest. You need a leadership that will guide your university towards development of its resources to solve its problems—a leadership with abundant digital ideas to get problems solved. We need a leadership that will re-position the university in a manner that will attract funding and investment from the private sector and notable foundations. That means such a leader must have the right connections in and out of Nigeria.
I am definitely not speaking in condemnation of the present or past leadership. I am speaking about the future—our turning point. We need to come to a point where we do things differently. What the dreamers of this university had in mind prior to 20 years ago was an academic citadel compared only to the best private universities in Africa and competing in competencies, infrastructure and research with only the best in Europe and America. The Niger Delta University needs a leadership that is sufficiently radical in thoughts and ideas and uniquely equipped to shift the development paradigm of the university.
As we celebrate 20 years, let us start setting Olympic-height goals with little or no precedents. The leadership must conquer any fear of failure and manage the present from the future—because if we do not properly redefine today in line with the digital age that we are in, our tomorrow would surely be blurred in confusion. The Alumni will have to work with the University Council to develop and sustain Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) so that each member of the university can strive to achieve objectives set by the Council. It is time to change the traditional ways of doing things.
NDU ought to become one massive consultancy outfit to all the oil companies operating in the Niger Delta. To achieve this, appropriate intellectual and the research capacities must be developed. It is not enough to go cap in hand asking for support, create a partnership using your intellectual strength. Be a solution provider. I recall a partnership we consummated when I was at the NDDC with the Rivers State University’s Faculty of Agriculture and Messrs Dilomat Farms and Services for Mushroom production. NDDC and the Faculty of Agriculture provided financial, technical and intellectual support to the company at the time. Such revenue generation ideas and more must come from the Alumni Association to university.
There is no doubt that the current academic standards are good, as already observed. But a lot more needs to be done to improve the capacity of the University and make it attractive locally and internationally. We are a unique people. With the right leadership, we can provide the right environment for Nigerians to have confidence in us. Let your success not be a flash-in-the-pan occurrence or just an exceptional case. It must be systematic. It must be consistent.
Let me conclude by further challenging you to generate fresh development-based ideas—new, revolutionary and disruptive ideas that will push and usher this university into a new era. You must recognise the fact that apart from the state government, the alumni association is the next group, among the NDU stakeholders, that is expected to contribute massively both in ideas and physical development to the growth of the university. This is a task you cannot run away from. So, put on your thinking cap, brainstorm, strategise, and don’t shy away from this responsibility.
The Niger Delta University, located in a region that produces the wealth of this country cannot be hamstrung by funding challenges. But the prospect of facing such a situation is high except we think aright and act correctly. This Alumni Association is in the best position to turn the NDU into the best university in Africa. Set a target, and ensure that by the time NDU clocks 30, the world will come to celebrate you. You can do it. Go ahead and do it. Don’t beg. Invest your ideas.
. Alaibe, former Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission penned this as a Goodwill Message to the Niger Delta University at 20.