By IIKENNA EMEWU
History keeps records of leadership at every moment and tracks the impact it makes on the society.
Of many leaders that have been in charge of the affairs of Nigeria, those that made impacts on the education development of the society seem to leave behind the longest lasting legacies.
So, recently, when the governor of the old Anambra State between 1979 and 1983 had the opportunity to recast the tale of the founding of the old Anambra State university which is one of the oldest and first batch of state universities in Nigeria, it was a moving story that opened the eyes of many.
It was at the 8th Zik Annual lecture, which Nwobodo was the chairman, that he gave an opening speech recalling how he performed the feat as governor.
Addressing the large audience at the event, he narrated that during his days in office, there was a time his state had serious shortfall and pressure for university admission for intending students.
At that time, we found out that the University of Nigeria, Nsukka wasn’t enough to cater to the need of our people.
So, I thought of providing an alternative or additional opportunity by creating another higher institution.
Although it was in my mind to take the step of establishing another university, but I saw it as a very high ambition, being the political son of Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, the Great Zik.
In my dilemma, I had to go consult with Zik, and when I explained myself and my desire and restriction, he was surprised that that I had so great an idea and also not happy that my fear was that it would challenge his status as the founder of the UNN. He willingly gave me his blessings to go ahead with the plan.
From there I set out with a planning committee that later went to the USA, with me leading the team to see and consult with Prof. Kenneth Dike, the great scholar who was the Vice Chancellor of my alma mater university when I was there.
In US, we met and discussed with Prof. Dike where I explained to him my mission. After listening to me, he said I should return to Nigeria while he thinks about a response for me. At that point I told him to think about it then and give me a reply immediately. I explained to him the compelling need for his answer, reminding him that I was his student in Ibadan and now the governor the state he comes from.
Because of my insistence, he had to reply us and accepted to come back home to set up the university. My plan was that the head of the university would be called president and not VC. After accepting, he gave us a time when he would be around to commence work.
As the university came into being, I had planned to model it after the US MIT and then name it university of technology, and the first university in Nigeria to be devoted to technology training.
Multi campus setting
At the take-off, I reasoned that since our intention included localizing the institution, it was proper to bring it closer to the people. That was the reason we had a campus in Awka and Abakaliki in addition to the major campus in Enugu, the capital city. We didn’t think of any campus in Nsukka because UNN was already there.
That way, the university, Anambra State University of Science and Technology was birthed on multi campus setting.
Years later, the old Anambra State was split in two, creating Enugu State at which time the new Anambra State, having no university of its own, elevated the Awka campus of Asutech to an independent university.
Few years after that creation, Ebonyi was carved out of Enugu State and again, the Abakaliki campus that had been in same Enugu State fell within another state, and again the new state converted the campus to a separate independent Ebonyi State University.
In conclusion, that single move is what has resulted into two state universities and a federal university as the Awka campus later renamed after the Great Zik was taken over by the federal government due to the national status of the name it bears – Zik.
The tale underscored one point – that judging by the impact the three universities have made on the people of the South East Nigeria in the three states and by extension all the states, the move for setting up that university was commendable and one of the best ways leadership should impact the people.