Havilla University, Ikom as a catalyst for the development of 21st century Nigeria

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By Victor Ndoma-Egba

I am grateful to the Chancellor (Hon Jones Ayuk Tangban) and the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Havilla University, Nde, Ikom for this kind and humbling invitation to me to deliver this lecture at the unveiling of the university. I believe that this is the first ever lecture to be given from outside the university, and that I have been given that honor is highly appreciated.

Audacity and can do spirit

Barack Obama, the 44th President and first black President of the United States of America captivated the world with his book “The Audacity of Hope” which has become a cry for those who dare dream big and his campaign mantra “Yes We Can”, an affirmation that whatever we think is doable. The Audacity of Hope and Yes We Can define the persona of the Founder and Chancellor of this University about whom I will talk a little.

In 1991 or thereabouts (certainly between 1990 and 1992) a young man walked into my office at Number 101 Marian Road, Calabar. He had no previous appointment to see me and I was about going out. Two things immediately struck me. First, how he beat the elaborate protocol in my office at the time to get directly to me and, secondly, how he succeeded in getting my attention without a previous appointment even as I was rushing out for an important appointment. It is not as if he brought me money or business. What do you call that? It is called GRACE.

He introduced himself as a student in the University of Port Harcourt who was about to drop out of school for his inability to pay his fees. I asked how much the fees were, he told me. I brought out my Cheque book and issued him a cheque for that amount, still a total stranger at this point, a cheque without any question. What do you come call this? This is called FAVOUR.

GRACE and FAVOUR have defined my relationship with Jones since then. Even when I have made up my mind to deny him certain requests he has used grace and favour to subdue me.

I was to see Jones again after he graduated. He had worked nowhere but he wanted to contest elections as Councillor. I asked him Councillor for where? To my shock he said Akparabong, my hometown. I said why Akparabong and he said he was from there. Until then all I knew was that he was somewhere from Ikom. Again the cheque book. He went on to win the election and became my Councilor.

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He showed up again to say he wanted to run for the House of Representatives. I thought this was most audacious for a man of his age and experience. In spite of my reservations I again went for my cheque books. He won. When that dispensation was prematurely terminated by military adventurism he showed up again. He was taking his chances, he wanted to relocate to Abuja. Again the cheque book.

I have often wondered why I could never say no to Jones. In my little way therefore I became, against my will, part of his story. He is daring, bold, focused and persistent. Above all Jones’s relationship with God is profound. His story is simply, a summary of how to succeed.

Welcome students and staff

I welcome you the pioneer students of this pioneer citadel of learning. You are not just students who are taking advantage of the opportunities for learning, you are pioneer students and therefore pioneers in every sense of the word. A pioneer means a person (people) who is (are) among the first to explore or settle in a new country or area. A pioneer begins or helps develop something new and prepares the way for others to follow. Pioneers are adventurous, they are driven and keep seeking bigger and better roles, products and experiences. They inspire a team to unchartered territory. They have a spirit called the pioneering spirit which is the willingness to endure hardship in order to explore new places or try out new things. As pioneers you are expected to set the pathways, to develop, introduce, evolve, start, begin , launch, instigate, initiate the traditions and standards that will define Havilla University and set it among the universities of choice not only in Nigeria but globally. You have great responsibilities on your shoulders and you must discharge them with a keen sense of history. You must promote edifying conduct and shun bad behavior. There must be no hint of cultism in this university and you owe yourselves the duty of ensuring that it does not rear its ugly head. Avoid any activity or conduct that you cannot proudly include in your curriculum vitae.

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Moreover, your founder is a man of God and your conduct whether in public or in private must be of the highest ethical standards.

Today should be the beginning of your journey to success. Success is a choice not a happenstance. It is a choice for faith in God, hard work, focus and integrity. It is said that life is the sum total of the choices we make. You must make your choices today and correctly. If you choose convenience, prevarication, slovenliness, carelessness, examination malpractices and cultism you will be condemned to a life of pain tomorrow. On the other hand, if you choose pain, sacrifice, focus, hard work and honesty today, your tomorrow will be glorious.

As you resume in this institution of higher learning it is expected that you have aspirations for your future and that you will work hard towards realizing them. This university has created the environment for you to develop critical and logical thinking and make independent decisions to improve society, not as job seekers but as entrepreneurs, innovators, researchers and world leaders, in other words, job creators. The World Bank estimates that over one billion young people across the globe will be seeking jobs between 2020 and 2030 but less than half of them will find formal jobs. (mercy corps. Org, September 2020). Your challenge therefore will be to create jobs. What I have said to and about the students applies mutatis mutandis to the Staff, academic and non academic, from the Vice Chancellor to the gateman. The future of this university depends even more on you pioneer staff than anyone else.

You too should make it

People assume that because of my parentage and background I was born with a silver spoon in my mouth. Nothing can be farther from the truth. I was born with no spoon in my mouth, not even a wooden one, not to talk of silver one. I was born in Ikom Town, went to St. Martins, Ikom, Government Secondary School, Ikom (GOVISCO) and Mary Knoll College, Okuku, University of Lagos, Nigerian Law School, Lagos and later the University of Calabar for my masters. My trajectory, like that of your founder, is most ordinary. I grew up in Cameron Street in my maternal grandmother’s compound, went to farm, fetched water from the stream, sold at different times, moi moi and cigarettes. At some point I was a taxi driver, freelance journalist and an insurance salesman. I believe that your founder’s antecedents are not much better. The point I am making is that if I could make it from Cameroun Street in Ikom Town, and your founder from Akparabong, you too can. Neither your background nor circumstances can limit you, only your dreams, or the lack of them, can. You have absolutely no excuse not to succeed. You only can choose not to succeed.

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If our Universities, in spite of the stark realities, still educate children for the job market then there is something fundamentally wrong with our educational system and curricula. Universities today should awaken you to the new challenges and opportunities and teach you how to take advantage of the opportunities and face the challenges.For the universities to be able to do this they must themselves adapt to the new order of information, communication and technology otherwise they will be living in the ancient past and unsuited for the future . The challenge of Havillah University will be positioning herself as the University of tomorrow, the university of the future producing graduates for tomorrow’s world and who will compete with their peers all over the world. To achieve this, you have to be creative with your curriculum, how you access fund and who you recruit as staff. Start with standards that will become a culture tomorrow, and tradition. The starting point is punctuality, manners and dressing.

God bless us all.

Being an address presented by Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba, OFR, CON, SAN on the occasion of the unveiling of Havillla University, Nde, Ikom on the 6th of November, 2021

 




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