A former chairman of the National Human Rights Commission, Chidi Odinkalu, on Saturday, emerged winner of this year’s Unity Schools Old Students Association, USOSA, president-general election, with a promise to champion renewed focus on qualitative education for all.
In the election, which held inside the main auditorium of the National Universities Commission headquarters in Abuja, Mr. Odinkalu polled a total number of 269 votes to thump Lawrence Wilbert, a successful telecoms executive and his only challenger in the race, who scored a total of 24 votes.
“For the post of president-general, Lawrence Wilbert from FGC Ugbolawo scored 24 votes. Chidi Odinkalu from FGC Okigwe scored 269 votes,” said Ngozi Oyewole, the chairman of the 3-man electoral committee and an alumnus of Federal Government Girls College, Owerri.
Mr. Odinkalu’s victory highlights his growing popularity amongst not just his contemporaries who believe he has the required charisma to elevate the organisation but many other pro-education advocates who have been following his tenacious campaign for improved education of the underprivileged.
“I have been following Mr. Odinkalu’s selfless service fighting for education of Nigerians in dire straits over the years and I can tell you clearly that he has the glamour and the pedigree to take USOSA to an all-new level,” said Francis Orbii, a product of Federal Government College, Ogbomoso, who voted for Mr. Odinkalu. “Members apathy has made people ask ‘what value does USOSA have?’ but I am hopeful that, with Odinkalu now leading us, the membership will become attractive to all USOSA alumni.”
In his acceptance speech shortly after his victory was announced, Odinkalu said, “USOSA has elected an executive, not a sole administrator,” adding that he will “avoid paralysis by analysis.”
After expressing deep concerns for the current state of USOSA, Mr. Odinkalu went on to outline his policy proposals and how intends to achieve them.
- “We must grow membership. Over the next year, we will look to achieve full coverage of the 104 schools in the USOSA Network
- “We will digitize USOSA’s operations, begin a proper membership database in co-operation with the member alumni groups and have a strategic communications capability that will generate both platform and content over the next year.
- “USOSA has an inbuilt majority of girls’ schools. The safety of our children in the girls’ schools is essential in order to bring out the best in the learners in these schools. We will propose a special advocacy and partnership programme on safety & ethics in our girls schools with clear standards and skills support.
- “To address the state of the Unity Schools, we will propose a new and standing policy partnership with the Federal Ministry of Education with specific deliverables and content. In particular, we will seek to address monitoring of appropriations for the Unity Schools.
- “To define USOSA’s identity as the principal advocate for public education in Nigeria, we will propose to set up within three months an Independent USOSA Commission on the future of public education in Nigeria which will report to the next AGM.
- “We will explore ideas for solidarity with parts of the country where education is under attack from violence, especially the North-East and South-South.
- “We need to offer a deal to our young graduates to get them onto the job ladder. So we will propose a standing USOSA Schools-to-Skills programme (USOSA S2S) to be undertaken in partnership with Alumni groups and partners.
- “To achieve any of these, we will need a more nimble, capable organisation. We would like to propose the establishment of two programme areas in the USOSA Secretariat: a Membership, Outreach and Development Programme and an Education Reform and Advocacy.
- “The former will be self-financing; the latter will be funded from partnerships. Internally, we will need to take another look at our constitution and rules with a view to achieving closer synergies with the member schools. We will explore ideas for how to de-concentrate USOSA by simultaneously kinetising the member alumni. Part of what we will propose here is that the more senior member alumni groups should accept to be twinned with more junior ones,” Mr. Odinkalu said.
Mr. Odinkalu ended his speech by summoning an emergency gathering of the new executive committee of the organisation.
“Tonight, I have requested an emergency meeting of the new executive. We will agree on a programme and budgeting skeleton which will form the foundations for a programme and budget. We will present this programme and budget for consideration and adoption by an emergency meeting of the National Executive Committee of USOSA which we will call in May 2016,” he said.
Mr. Odinkalu further told PREMIUM TIMES his organisation had the wherewithal to reposition Nigeria’s moribund education system by constantly engaging policymakers in the sector.
“USOSA is the most enlightened body of Nigerians that is capable of fighting for education,” Mr. Odinkalu said. “So, we’re not building an alumni network, we’re building a movement for education.”
Speaking with PREMIUM TIMES shortly after the election, Frank Nweke Jr, a former minister of information and national orientation, said the significance of USOSA could not be over emphasised, adding that Mr. Odinkalu’s victory was a call to service for all those privileged to obtain quality education from unity schools.
“This organisation is a very significant organisation,” Mr. Nweke said. “Because I believe that my generation is indebted to Nigeria. We had the benefit of getting the best education money could not buy. I have young children in school because the unity school I attended is not the same as it was 34 years ago. I cannot in good conscience send my children to those schools. Those schools today are dangerous. Those schools today are decrepit. Those schools today do not have the kind of facility that day had decades ago.”
Mr. Nweke, who attended Federal Government College, Maiduguri, further stated that the vision outlined by Mr. Odinkalu reflected the position of a plurality of USOSA members.
“The vision that he has outlined captured the imagine and the expectation of most of us,” Mr. Nweke Jr said. “He didn’t just put things together by himself, he embarked on a wide consultation with members in the course of the campaign to let us know that we have a responsibility as the current crop of leaders to do what needs to be done to salvage this country.”
Other candidates elected unopposed in Saturday’s poll are:
Mohammed Wasagu, FGC Kano- Vice President-General
Salim Ibrahim, FGC Ilorin- Secretary-General
Ibrahim Audu, FGC Enugu- Vice Secretary-General.
Patricia Ofili, FGGC Gboko- Treasurer
Katherine Pam, FGGC Langtang- Publicity Secretary.
Adama Bature, FGGC Kazaure- Assistant Publicity Secretary
Zainab Hassan, FGC Sokoto- Welfare Secretary
Ogunranti Akindele, FGC Ogbomoso- Financial Secretary
Omowunmi Odii, FGGC Benin- Assistant Financial Secretary.
Before the election, new alumni associations were inaugurated. They are: FGGC Bida, FGGC Abaji, FGGC Onitsha, FSTC Rubochi, FGC Ijanikin, FGGC Lejja, FGC Keffi and FGGC Oyo.
The Unity Schools Old Students’ Association is the incorporated trustee of the alumni associations of all the 104 Federal Government Colleges, Federal Government Girls’ Colleges, Kings College, Queens College, Federal Government Boys College, Apo, Federal Science Colleges, Suleja Academy and Federal Science and Technical Colleges in Nigeria.
Past presidents-general of USOSA include Kabir Nuhu-Koko, a director at the Central Bank of Nigeria, and Albert Okumagba, the group managing director of BGL Securities PLC.