Professor Okojie joins ex African leaders as ABE fellow

Temitope Mustapha,Abuja

The Executive Secretary, National Universities Commission (NUC), Professor Julius A. Okojie has formally been inducted into the Fellowship of the Association of Business Executives (ABE), at a ceremony held in the Institute of Financial Services, University College, London, United Kingdom.

With his investiture, Professor Okojie becomes the first African who is not Head of State and the third African to receive the prestigious ABE Fellowship. Former Head of Nigeria’s Interim Government, Chief Earnest Shonekan, and former Prime Minister of Botswana, were the first Africans to receive the ABE Fellowship.

In his address at the Induction Ceremony, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of ABE, Mr. Gareth Robinson, said that the ABE Board of Governors, last November, approved Professor Okojie’s Fellowship because he had invested his career in developing education in Nigeria. He said that Professor Okojie was a visionary thinker, adding that big thinkers like Professor Okojie were not thinking about the issues of today, but about providing solutions to the problems of tomorrow.

The ABE CEO said that, as a Fellow of ABE, Professor Okojie would be recognised around the world as an Ambassador of a non-profit Organisation, a globally recognised qualification for underdeveloped countries around the world.

He added that the ABE Board had every confidence that giving his pedigree, courage, passion and vision, Professor Okojie would play his ambassadorial role as an ABE Fellow creditably.

According to Mr. Gareth, the ABE is a not-for-profit Organisation that provides entrepreneurial qualifications to underdeveloped countries over the world, through its five key principles of accessibility, affordability and quality assurance. The other two are Flexibility and Global Recognition, all geared towards “enriching the lives of our students and not our shareholders.”

Mr. Gareth revealed that the ABE would be sponsoring a programme in Nigeria, this year, to provide tablets to students in the villages, absolutely free.  The tablets would have the ABE qualifications pre-installed. ABE would also start a Pilot Business Start-up Programme in Nigeria in June to provide short courses.

He further said that he was very impressed by the N30billion package announced by President Buhari’s Administration for Nigeria, with education as a key part of the plan to engage 5,000 unemployed graduates, turn them into teachers and post them to rural areas to provide further education. He said that it was unacceptable “for a country of 173 million people with bountiful resources, the 7th largest population and the 12th largest producer of oil to have 20 million people unemployed and 2 million students chasing, 400,000 graduate spaces.”

Mr. Gareth said that what was needed was for Nigeria to provide, not more degrees, but more work-based qualifications through the revival of vocational education. Producing graduates with a degree was no longer enough as that graduate would no longer walk into a job.  He emphasised that Nigeria needed more entrepreneurs, more people that could help design and develop a middle-class, adding that having more entrepreneurs would provide greater level of wealth for Nigeria and many entrepreneurs would provide more jobs and create greater aspirations for the country.  This, he said, was the reason behind ABE’s heavy investment in Nigeria.

Quality Assurance

In his acceptance speech, Professor Okojie thanked the ABE group for the confidence reposed in him, saying that his Fellowship witnessed a new beginning between Nigeria and the Association.

He said that the NUC would ensure the development of a good Quality Assurance concept for all ABE qualifications in Nigeria and tackle the issue of funding.

Professor Okojie also said that the NUC was looking forward to the development of real Entrepreneurship Centres properly equipped and fully funded. He frowned at the makeshift entrepreneurship centres existing in some Nigerian universities, assuring the ABE that its certification would be fully quality-assured, guaranteed and endorsed by the Commission.

He thanked the Association and Chairman House Committee on Education, the founder of WiniGroup and others for their kind words about him and further thanked members of his family for their support and understanding.

Earlier in a goodwill message, the Chairman House Committee on Tertiary Education and Services, Comrade Aminu Suleiman Fagge, said that he was at the event as a representative of the Nigerian Parliament and not in his personal capacity.

He said that the honour done to Professor Okojie was actually an honour to Nigeria, adding that Professor Okojie was already a prophet honoured at home as he had received various honours and awards, including the national honour of Officer of the Order Of Niger, OON, for his meritorious services to his fatherland.

Comrade Fagge pledged, on behalf of the Nigerian Parliament, to render greater support to the NUC and told the ABE that he would encourage the Nigerian Parliament to explore more avenues to widen cooperation between Nigeria and the Association.

Other highlights of the occasion were presentations made by two Guest Lecturers from two Universities associated with the ABE: the Institute of Financial Services, University College and the University of Law.

In his lecture, Mr. Alex Fraser, the Principal of Institute of Financial Services, University College, said the University traced its existence to 1879 and 20,000 financial services professional study Institute of Financial Services University College qualifications every year.

He said that the Institute of Financial Services University College conducted full-time and part-time modes, via distance and flexible learning.

Ms. Nicola Makanjuola, the legal academic of the University of Law said the Institution, founded in 1876, did not focus on academic research but focused exclusively on practice-based training that gave students access to “our market leading law careers service and legal vacancy database as soon as they accept a place with us”

She said 97% of the Universities’ full-time 2014 LPC students had secured employment within nine months of graduation.

Entrepreneurship Education

In a vote of thanks, the Chairman of WiniGroup, the Nigerian partner of ABE, Mr. Tim Akano, saluted the vision, courage and personal conviction of Professor Julius Okojie which, he said, were the qualities that enabled him to make ground-breaking achievements in so many areas.  He, particularly, singled out Professor Okojie’s successes in the areas of Entrepreneurship Education, IT deployment and increasing access to university education, encouragement of Government to license more private universities and consolidation of the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN) to expand access and bring respect to the certification of NOUN by ensuring that its status was recognised as equal to those of conventional universities.

Mr. Akano said that it was to the credit of Professor Okojie that Entrepreneurship Education was properly defined and instituted in the NUS and that Nigerian universities were now graduating students fully equipped with entrepreneurial skills and duly certified.

Mr. Akano paid glowing tributes to Professor Okojie’s selflessness and boldness which, he said, were the driving forces behind his ground-breaking achievements.

He prayed that Professor Okojie would be able realise his vision of encouraging the Nigerian Government to licence a Private Open University to further increase access, democratise the open education space in Nigeria and break the monopoly of the NOUN to keep them on their toes.

A dinner was also hosted by the ABE in honour of their new Fellow and his entourage, which included his wife, Erelu Christiana Oluremi Okojie, his son, Dr. Ehimen Okojie, wife and two children resident in the UK. Mrs. Ifeanyi Okojie; Deputy Executive Secretary II, Malam Ibrahim Dan’Iya, Director Finance and Accounts, Mr. Sam Onazi; Director Management Support Services, Barr. Victor Onuoha and the Director Speical Duties, Mr. C. J. Maiyaki, Others were the Director, Office of the Executive Secretary, Mrs. Constance Goddy-Nnadi, Director, Student Support Services, Dr. Ruqayyatu Gurin and the Director, Information and Public Relations, Mallam Ibrahim Usman Yakasai.  The Protocol Officer to the Executive Secretary, Mr. Akinlabi Akinola, the Liaison Officer London, Malam Yusuf Kankia and his Assistant, Mrs. Gloria Haruna, were also in attendance.