Patience Jonathan, Nigerian First Lady, and Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Minister of Finance, were on Saturday awarded honorary doctorate degrees of the Delta State University, Abraka.
Receiving her degree, Mrs. Jonathan, who was represented by Zainab Maina, the Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development, thanked the Delta Government and the university authorities for the gesture.
The First Lady is currently hospitalised in a German hospital, where she is being treated for ruptured appendicitis. Some Nigerians describe as “odd” a situation where a cabinet minister, instead of one of her aides, represents Mrs. Jonathan (who has no known constitutional role in government) at functions.
Mrs. Jonathan however said through Mrs Maina the award was an evidence of friendliness and support for her efforts and pledged to support the state in the task of building the university.
She dedicated the award to Nigerian women, and said that the award would strengthen her commitment to Nigerian women through her non-governmental organisation and other services.
She said that with the training from the university the graduating students would help to build the country, and reduce the challenges currently facing it.
“Let me assure you that this award has further strengthened my commitment to give the Nigerian women and you the basic knowledge through my NGO, the Women for Change and Development Initiative.
“Let me on behalf of my co-awardees thank the Governor and the university authorities for the awards. I promise to be an ambassador of the university,” the First Lady said.
In her response Mrs Okonjo-Iweala thanked the governor, the university authorities and the students for the honour and donated N1 million and N500,000 for the best students of post graduate class and undergraduate respectively.
“I like to announce a prize of N1 million for the best graduate Doctoral Thesis in Economics, and N500,000 for the best under graduate from the Department of Economics.
“The doctoral thesis will be in honour of my father, His Royal Majesty, Prof. Chukwuka Okonjo, the Obi of Ogwashi-Ukwu and the undergraduate prize in honour of my mother, Prof. Kamnene Okonjo.
“And I will like to start with the 2012 graduating class,’’ the minister said.
The State Governor, Emmanuel Uduaghan, congratulated the graduating students and thanked the honorary awardees for promising to further strengthen the state scholarship programmes.
He said that the petroleum subsidy funds accruing to the state would be employed in the development of four main sectors, education, agriculture, micro-credit and transportation.
He pledged to complete all ongoing projects in the educational sector in the state, and said that human capital development was the state’s focal point.
“As we also know that as part of our human capital development, we have awarded scholarship to 82 first class graduate each receiving N5 million a year and we have approved another 52 first class graduates for scholarship.
“This will bring the total number to 134 first class graduates,’’ he said.
He appealed for external support to enable the state build new infrastructure for the university.
The governor thanked labour unions in the the university for their understanding and cooperation and released a cheque of N150 million out of the N200 million to the university’s chapter of the Academic Staff Union of the University for car loans.
According to the governor, the remaining part of the loan will be accommodated in 2013 budget.
Dr. Uduaghan enjoined the people to help the government and the security agencies in intelligent gathering in order to check kidnapping and other associated crimes in the state.
Earlier, Prof. Eric Arubaye, Vice-Chancellor of the University, said that the university graduated 15,483 students in the sixth convocation in 2007.
In this 7th convocation ceremony, we are graduating 30,598 students from the 2006 and 2007 sessions to the 2010 and 2011 sessions,” the vice-chancellor said.
He said that the university had decided to honour the duo of Jonathan and Okonjo-Iweala with a honorary Doctor of Political Science and honorary Doctor of Philosophy of the university respectively for their contributions to the country.