Former President Goodluck Jonathan was yesterday honoured as the ‘Icon of Democracy’ by Rivers State-owned Ignatius Ajuru University of Education, Port Harcourt, following his worthy contributions towards deepening democracy in Nigeria.
The Pro- Chancellor of the University, King A.M Ikuru, who conducted the investiture at the institution’s 35th/36th Convocation ceremony on Saturday in Port Harcourt, said the award was the first of its kind in the history of the university.
He further described Mr. Jonathan as a true democrat and man of peace who was deeply committed to the growth and development of the country.
His position was corroborated by the University orator, Boma Obi, a professor, commended Mr. Jonathan for handing over power to the opposition, stressing that by that action, the former President set a new benchmark for politicians.
In his response, Mr. Jonathan described the visit as home-coming, being a former lecturer in the institution then known as Rivers State College of Education, before it was upgraded to a full-fledged university.
The former President, who recalled with nostalgia his days in the institution, noted that he enjoyed his days as a lecturer, adding that he has not given up on going back to teaching.
Mr. Jonathan said: “I commend the members of staff of this university for your commitment and great roles in developing our youth. Sometimes I feel like coming to join you again, but I don’t know if the Vice Chancellor will consider me still qualified for the job. I sincerely would have loved to teach for some years before the onset of the natural decline usually associated with the infirmity of old age.
“Let me also say that I had good job satisfaction here, compared to all the other places I have worked. I know that the only major challenge academic staff face is with the reward system, considering the fact that as a nation, we are yet to get to the point where we pay our teachers the wages they deserve.
“However, for all the hindrances teachers face, they derive a fulfilling experience and satisfaction from the special relationship they cultivate with their students. This is because bringing up the young ones is very rewarding in a very distinct manner. The bond, friendship and sense of loyalty is eternal. Even today, the way my former students regard and relate with me is different from the way my fellow politicians relate with me, even those I mentored.”
The former President further commended the University for honouring him and his wife, Patience, saying: “I want to specially thank the Senate of the University for considering my family worthy of double honours, to wit: the conferment of the honour of Icon of Democracy on me and the naming of the new Automated University Library after my wife, Dame Patience Jonathan.
“I always attach so much importance to any recognition coming from home because I strongly believe that no Prize commands higher value than the one given by the beneficiary’s direct constituency.”
Below is the full text of former President Jonathan’s speech:
GOODWILL MESSAGE BY FORMER PRESIDENT OF NIGERIA, HIS EXCELLENCY, DR. GOODLUCK EBELE b JONATHAN, AT THE 35TH/ 36TH CONVOCATION CEREMONY OF IGNATIUS AJURU UNIVERSITY OF EDUCATION, RUMUOLUMENI CAMPUS, PORT HARCOURT, SATURDAY 1ST SEPTEMBER, 2018
I sincerely thank the Governing Council, Senate, Vice Chancellor, Registrar and Management of Ignatius Ajuru University of Education for the invitation to be part of this University’s 35th/36th Convocation ceremony.
2. I am in deed very delighted to be here today. I believe that some of the lecturers and workers may understand why I feel this way. When I got the invitation to be part of this convocation ceremony, and later received the University Management led by the Vice Chancellor Professor Ozo-Mekuri Ndimele, I was seized by an irresistible flush of nostalgia.
3. The reason is not far-fetched. From my employment history, beginning from my first job after I completed secondary school to my last office as the President of our dear country, this institution occupies a special place in my heart. This is because it is where I served the longest, having worked here for ten years, from 1984 to 1994.
4. That is why this visit is like home coming for me. I always recount with joy and pride that I was once a teacher. I am proud to say that it is this University (known then as the Rivers State College of Education, Rumuolumeni), where I served as a Lecturer in the Department of Biology, that gave me that identity.
5. Let me also say that I had good job satisfaction here, compared to all the other places I have worked. I know that the only major challenge academic staff face is with the reward system, considering the fact that as a nation, we are yet to get to the point where we pay our teachers the wages they deserve.
6. However, for all the hindrances teachers face, they derive a fulfilling experience and satisfaction from the special relationship they cultivate with their students. This is because bringing up the young ones is very rewarding in a very distinct manner. The bond, friendship and sense of loyalty is eternal. Even today, the way my former students regard and relate with me is different from the way my fellow politicians relate with me, even those I mentored.
7. I am very pleased and indeed happy that this institution has been upgraded to a full university status. This is however not surprising because the institution worked hard to earn that elevation. I lectured here and knew that the standards were very high for the Nigeria Certificate in Education (NCE) and Bachelor of Education (B.Ed) programmes, then ran under the tutelage of the University of Ibadan.
8. I knew my provost then, Professor S. F. Amakiri, started the advocacy for the college to be upgraded. That was before I left the institution in 1994.
9. I have to thank the Government of Rivers State for upgrading the college to a full university in 2009 when Pastor Rosemond Dienye Green-Osahogulu who was the provost became the Acting Vice Chancellor. She was later confirmed as the substantive pioneer Vice Chancellor.
10. I must confess that although I am returning to a place I once called home, this abode is no longer looking particularly familiar. This is because so much development has taken place since I left here, over two decades ago.
11. I look around today, and I see magnificent office and hostel complexes as well as many amazing structures and imposing edifices.
This is remarkably different from the time I was here when we had only very few structures, with only about three of them as storey buildings. I am told that many of these buildings are holding modern learning equipment, including laboratory amenities as well as state of the art health facilities.
12. I was glad to hear from members of the University management who visited me in Bayelsa, that some of the structures were established as a result of my administration’s strategic programmes, support and funding for educational institutions. I believe that if we did not do that for this University and others across the country, as part of our programmes to improve education and learning, our development agenda for the nation would have been in vain. You will remember that Governor Wike was a part of my team in this endeavour when he was my minister of education.
13. You will recall that as President, I upgraded four federal colleges of education to full universities which I believe were qualified and deserving of the elevation.
14. I have a strong conviction in creating opportunities and expanding the space for the education of our children. That was why I established 12 new conventional universities and two specialized ones; the Marine University in Delta State and the Police Academy in Kano State.
15. My administration’s support for education at all levels is consistent with my belief that we cannot record real progress and development as a nation if we do not robustly invest in education as a way of developing the capacities of our human resources. We tailored our reforms in education to focus on improving quality of learning and expanding access.
16. Whenever leaders make substantial investments in education in any nation, it is to ensure that the country produces the right kind of human resources to drive its economy to the desired end. However, I believe that learning can only be complete if it factors in the place of morals, character and ethical values as essential qualities to be imbibed by our graduates.
17. In a nutshell, when we prescribe quality education for our vibrant teeming youth, as a precondition for making our nation great, it is to be understood that it cannot be attained in isolation of other essential values like honesty, kindness, patriotism, humility and selflessness.
18. I always advise that while school authorities have their sights trained on academic excellence, they should not forget to also focus on character, this nuanced and softer side of learning that is necessary to make university education complete and worthwhile.
19. I commend the members of staff of this university for your commitment and great roles in developing our youth. Sometimes I feel like coming to join you again, but I don’t know if the Vice Chancellor will consider me still qualified for the job. I sincerely would have loved to teach for some years before the onset of the natural decline usually associated with the infirmity of old age.
20. For my great students especially those graduating today, I congratulate you for your successes and express my appreciation to your parents and guardians.
21. Whenever I have the opportunity to address our youth on convocation ground, I always remind the graduands to remember the words of the Vice Chancellor that they have been found “worthy in character and learning”. This clearly shows that character is as important as learning, if not more vital in the scheme of things.
That is why no serious university will award First Class Honours degree to any student notorious for street fights or usually associated with anti-social behaviour like snatching of ballot boxes during elections, no matter how brilliant such student might have been.
22. You all should know that your image is inextricably linked with this institution. By your conduct, you can either promote the image and reputation of this institution or mar it. I charge you today to be the Best Ambassadors of Ignatius Ajuru University of Education.
23. I will not end this remarks without commending the Visitor, Governor Nyesom Wike for his good works and commitment to the growth of this institution and learning generally in Rivers state.
24. His unusual development stride which is being talked about everywhere in the country is no fluke. It is evident in the numerous projects that are either completed or ongoing across the length and breadth of Rivers State. Many people, including those of us who are ‘Port Harcourt Boys’, are happy with Governor Wike for what he has been able to achieve within a short time. I have personally commissioned two of the projects; one in the main Port Harcourt City and the other outside the State Capital.
25. I also congratulate the Vice Chancellor Professor Ndimele and his management staff for their vision and the tact with which they have steered the University in the right direction, turning it into an institution to beat in its class. It is one thing for a committed government to provide the needed resources, it is another thing for those running an institution to commit the funds to good use. Let me also thank you for donating one of yours, Dr. Precious Gbeneol to serve in my government as the Head of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). She did wonderfully well.
26. In closing, I want to specially thank the Senate of the University for considering my family worthy of double honours, to wit: the conferment of the honour of Icon of Democracy on me and the naming of the new Automated University Library after my wife, Dame Patience Jonathan.
27. I always attach so much importance to any recognition coming from home because I strongly believe that no Prize commands higher value than the one given by the beneficiary’s direct constituency.
I also congratulate my fellow awardee Pastor David Ibiyeomie who was honoured as ‘Education Crusader’.
28. Again, thank you for inviting me to this special event.
29. I Thank you all
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