“Seest thou a man diligent in his business? He shall stand before Kings, he shall not stand before mean men” Proverbs 22:29.
- We are here today to witness a delightfully auspicious event. This event is the welcome home of our dear son – Prof Chinedum Uzoma Nwajiuba from his gallant tour of duty as the Vice Chancellor of AE-FUNAI (Alex Ekwueme-Federal University Ndufu-Alike, Ebonyi State). I thank the organizers of this event for thoughtfully considering this ceremony as very necessary. What indeed you have done by this ceremony is to trigger a rebirth of our societal values and ethics which above all else are anchored strongly on honesty, hard work and perseverance.
- I am honored to be invited to make a speech on this very important occasion. This invitation as a matter of fact left me speechless and indeed put me into the kind of dilemma which Moses found himself over God ordered task in Exodus 4(1-14). Moses had in exasperation and trepidation declined a similar invitation saying – “No Lord, don’t send me. I have never been a good speaker and I haven’t become one since you began to speak to me. I am a poor speaker, slow and hesitant.” To this, the Lord said to Moses albeit rhetorically – “Who gives man his mouth? Who makes him deaf and dumb? Who gives him his sight or makes him blind? It is I the Lord. No, Go, I will help you speak and I will tell you what to say.”
- I am therefore standing before you today to share in that promise of God to Moses, to confidently speak about the man of the moment, a quintessential academic and Professor, highly regarded and well respected by his peers in the academia, very erudite, restless and fearless in the pursuit and pontification of original ideas in diverse areas, a notable public intellectual, a profound administrator of men and materials, a good son, brother, husband and father, a man with deep respect for tradition and culture and a man focused on history and posterity in the fearless execution of his vision for the greater society.
- Today’s event is indeed very special and necessary; first to congratulate Prof Chinedum Uzoma Nwajiuba for making us proud by his acknowledged steller performance as the Vice Chancellor of AE – FUNAI, second, to thank him for setting a higher standard of service which will henceforth be the beacon and the benchmark for the upcoming generations of Umuezeala Nsu and the entire Nsu, Okigwe, Imo State and Nigeria. The third reason why this occasion is necessary is because this event provides us a profoundly credible opportunity to recover and re-enact the lost standards and moral values of our society. Time was, when what defined our society was the ethically founded accomplishments of our men and women in various areas of endeavors. Such men and women were accorded respect and respectable positions in history for the positive values which they added to the society. Achievements were then accountable, traceable and trackable. Then, we had men and women who were certified educated in learning and character. This was the era in which people, in truth and actions went in pursuit of the proverbial Golden Fleece and greener pastures through the route of education and the careers. Very sadly, what we have today is the nauseating celebration of ego mbute; a situation which is foisting on the society, all manners of young men and women who are at war with the very society they are supposed to protect and move forward as the generation next. These young men and women are deaf to what is said in Proverbs 13:11 that “wealth gotten by vanity shall be diminished but he that gathereth by labor shall increase”. These young men and women are totally blinded to what is written in Hosea 4:18/19 that after drinking much wine and delighting themselves in their prostitution, preferring disgrace to honor, “They will be carried away as by wind and they will be ashamed of their pagan sacrifices”.
- The negatively changing value system in our society should be a thing of serious concern to all of us and therefore a ceremony of this nature provides us an opportunity to proclaim anew the desired ethical direction of our society and to tell our children the choices that are consistent with our societal ethos. Parenting has become endangered in our society. The society’s entire socialization process has floundered. At what point the rain started beating us is uncertain but there is an urgent need to stop the hemorrhaging being caused by the devastating impact from this violent rain. We must reclaim our values and begin to emphasize and celebrate the real essentials in our man and womanhood.
- By this ceremony today, we are all therefore jointly proclaiming in unmistakable terms that Prof Chinedum Uzoma Nwajiuba represents the very best of our society and is indeed, the type of role model that our children should henceforth have and emulate.
WHAT IS IT IN PROF CHINEDUM UZOMA NWAJIUBA?
- Chinedum Uzoma is a sentence which translates to – God leads me through the good path. This name today is a fulfilled prophecy on the bearer for whom we are gathered here today. Nwajiuba is also a sentence that answers the question; Onye ji uba?. Those who wonder what is in a name will find the answer in the Nwajiubas of today. This of course leaves me with the arduous task of deciding which aspect of Chinedum Uzoma Nwajiuba to discuss that will be fresh news to his people. This indeed is a difficult task. For instance, that Chinedum Uzoma Nwajiuba excelled in his educational endeavor and capped it in 1994 with a PhD in Agricultural Economics from University of Hohenheim, Germany and got appointed as a Professor at a young age may not make reverberating news. His father before him did same, travelled to England in the 60s and capped his professional studies with the highly respected qualification of Associate of Chartered Institute of Secretaries and Administrators and rose to a very high position in corporate Administration in Nigeria. Chinedum’s mentor – Prof Martin Ohiaeri Ijere of blessed memory did same, emerging in the late fifties as the first Okigwe man to earn a PhD in Agricultural Economics obtained from University of Freiburg, Germany. There is however a sense in saying that what marks out Chinedum is his tenacious hold to the trajectory set by his mentors and a stubborn pursuit of the best elements in them.
- Thus, just like his dear father Sir J.C Nwajiuba, Chinedum is a reverred Knight of the Anglican Communion and a strong supporter of the growth of the church in Nigeria. Again like his father, Chinedum is a high ranking Chief of Umuezeala Nsu ancient kingdom vested with the rare title of Eze Mmuta Gburugburu. Like his father, his respect for tradition and culture is legendary. Unlike most Nigerian scholars who appear to be more English than the English person, he wears the numerous traditional titles given to him across the kingdoms in Eastern Nigeria with relish. Between Chinedum and his mentor – Prof Martin Ijere, one can almost see the spiritual connection with bare eyes. Both of them did their doctoral studies in Germany. While Prof Martin Ijere recounted his German experience in his book – An African in Germany, Chinedum told his story in his 1997 book – The Unknown Foreigner. The difference of course is that while Prof Martin Ijere showed his anger on German racial profiling by taking a German wife, Chinedum ran back home, followed the footsteps of his father to Mbaise to look for that which God kept for him – Nke Chinyereya; a woman he proudly calls akum. The comparison continues. Prof Martin Ijere showed infinite gratitude to his benefactors and dedicated the Centre for Cooperative Studies he founded at Nsukka to Sonny Dike Odogwu (now late). It is remarkable that over 20 years later, Chinedum was to do a similar thing by honoring Prof Martin Ijere at AE – FUNAI with a building named after him. Those who read the Bible will tell that these developments have intriguing similarity with how the stories in the Old Testament are interlinked with the stories in the New Testament.
- For people that know Chinedum from childhood, he may not be your typical child prodigy and may hardly qualify to be described as a precocious child but the streak of hard work in him remained unmistakable. He in every respect represented the man of whom Socrates said – Man, know thyself. Born in 1964 to Sir and Lady J.C Nwajiuba, he had his silver spoon firmly in his hand. His father’s sprawling country home was one of the most intimidating around us at a time. Despite the evidence of assured future he had, Chinedum grew up like any other normal child, remaining very humble and cognizant of the fact that in him and not in his parents lay the treasure – Nwa ji uba. Same applied to all his siblings. We thank in a special way, Chief (Sir) J. C. Nwajiuba for the values he inculcated in his Children. Within the sociological typology of ascribed and achieved status, Chinedum had an upper class status by ascription but he repudiated it and followed the route of achieved status. That he became a Vice Chancellor of a University in Nigeria never came to us as any surprise. Right from the time he took to academics, he has been angry about the deteriorating state of education in Nigeria and anxiously needed a platform to make an enduring change. In an emotionally laden interview he once granted, he regretted that “Education in Nigeria seemed to have been reduced to a mere certificate seeking adventure” adding that “there are too many unintelligent and ignorant academicians in the universities who prefer to sell empty books than to engage in critical education.” His appointment as the Vice Chancellor of AE-FUNAI was therefore a fitting cap to a desire. We celebrated it with relish more because we knew and were certain that he will use the position to provide transformational leadership and a paradigm shift that will bring glory to the almost docile and highly politicized position of Vice Chancellor in Nigeria. Chinedum never disappointed. He came into the position of VC with unparalleled zest and administrative sagacity. He fired the first salvo most audaciously when in a 2017 interview he declared “I don’t want to be a VC of a backward University in a 21st century Nigeria” and vowed “to ensure that FUNAI is rated amongst the best Universities across the globe”. It was with this restlessness, this tempestuous burst of energy that he approached his task as VC of AE-FUNAI and today, the rest is history.
- We are grateful to His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari for releasing and unleashing unfettered, the lion in Chinedum. AE-FUNAI provided Chinedum the opportunity he needed to set up an impeccable university bureaucracy and an alluring academic tradition that will make that University always stand tall in national and global ranking. Bureaucracy and its concomitant intrigues and politics have been a major burden to University Administration in Nigeria. Of a fact, if Chinedum had been appointed the Vice Chancellor of any of the legacy Federal Universities in Nigeria, we may not have gathered here to celebrate because the maze of politics and intrigues in the system would have distracted him from achieving the great feat he achieved at AE-FUNAI for which we celebrate him today.
- Despite his accomplishments, one thing we cherish most about Chinedum today is that he is a total local man. He is most comfortable in the company of his age mates and village peers. Whenever he is in Umuezeala Nsu, he keeps away the cars and security details as he treks to all kindreds and neighboring towns leaving people to wonder in awe and admiration as to what manner of man is this. However, beneath the simplicity is iron and steel woven together. Behind this simplicity is a man with a legendary appetite for acquisition of knowledge. What else would make a Professor of Agricultural Economics stoop low as it were to do another Masters degree in Development Economics? The answer to this is only known to deep thinkers. Both Agricultural Economics and Development Economics are focused on lifting poor nations out of poverty. However development Economics seeks to understand and shape macro and microeconomic policies and to align the knowledge of it to lifting poor countries out of poverty while Agricultural Economics seeks to optimize the production and distribution of food through application of economic theory. The distinction appears thin though the central issue which evidently drove the erudite Professor to more studies could be the pursuit, use and exploration of intricate micro and macro-economic models to disentangle the maze of policy confusion that keeps Africa down while the entire world moves forward. By opting, at the height of his Professorship, to diversify his studies to Development Economics, Chinedum took to the Socratic dictum – “To move the world, we must move ourselves”. He had to move himself to join in the wider conversation for the redemption of the third world with eminent development economics scholars such as Michael Todaro, Joseph Stiglitz, Armarta Sen, Jeffrey Sachs, Paul Collier, Daron Acemoglu and others. Amongst all these giants, I could trace Chinedum’s trajectory to Paul Collier and Jeffrey Sachs. Jeffrey Sachs in particular is a development economist with a deep interest in environmental protectionism. He is Director of the renowned Earth Institute. His seminal book – The End of Poverty; How We Can Make It Happen In Our Life Time became the activator of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDG). Nigeria failed woefully on these easily achievable millennium development goals. Scholars like Chinedum have no blame in this failure. Chinedum has tried his best advising this country both as a scholar and as a distinguished member of the National Constitutional Conference. Nigerian development experience can exasperate any person. Just like Jeffrey Sachs, Chinedum is also an environmentalist and an activist at that. Prof Chinedum coordinated the Building Nigeria Response to Climatic Change (BNRCC) and indeed was the arrowhead of the special climate change unit of the Federal Ministry of Environment where he spearheaded the development of a national adaptation strategy and plan of action on climate change in Nigeria. He also served part time as Executive Director of Ibadan based Nigerian Environmental Study Action Team (NEST). Chinedum has remained a committed advocate of quality environment and has written most profusely about it. He has at various times taken the Government to task on our poor air quality and effects of greenhouse gas and vehicle emission and took the National Environmental Standards Enforcement Agency(NESREA) to task on the need for comprehensive environment audit, compliance and enforcement of standards. Indeed, in Prof Nwajiuba comes to life another of Socratic dicta that “Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel.” His interventions in journals mark him out not only as an outstanding Professor but as a prophet. Long before the fulani herdsmen gained the notorious traction as killers and bandits distorting and undermining food security in Nigeria, Prof Nwajiuba was active, more as a lone voice initiating critical conversation on food security in Eastern Nigeria. His PhD thesis at the University of Hohenheim in 1994 focused on The Socio – Economic Impact of Cassava Post-Harvest Technologies on Small Holders in Nigeria. He continued in his post-doctoral interventions, to interrogate this issue of food security from multi-dimensional perspectives, especially focusing on the disturbing imminence of global climatic destabilization. When in 2012, he mounted the podium to deliver his inaugural lecture, the topic was a haunting question – Does Agriculture Have a Future in South East Nigeria? We are back to this prophetic poser in 2021 with Northerners threatening to impose food embargo on Southern Nigeria.
Professor Chinedum Uzoma Nwajiuba – Eze Mmuta Gburugburu, you have done well. You have made us smile. You have educated people. You have provided jobs to people in thousands. We congratulate you for your steller performance on your Federal appointment as a Vice Chancellor. We welcome you home to us and to the lovely arm of your wife, our highly admirable Prof Chinyere Nwajiuba who to our delight understands perfectly well that the only way a woman can appreciate and love a hardworking man is to join him in working hard. Chinyere, I congratulate you the most. For both of you really, given the age that is on your side, the reward for hard work is more work. For the rest of us all gathered here, I urge that we listen to and commit to heart and in our actions what is said in Ecclesiastes 9:10 – ” Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might, for there is no work nor device, nor knowledge nor wisdom in the grave whither thou goeth.” May God Almighty continue to lead our Professor, his entire family and all of us through the good path – (Uzoma). Amen.
Paschal Emeka Egerue, M.Sc, MBA, FIIN, FCIB, LL.B (Hons), (Ugomba Ezeala Ancient Kingdom), President, Nsu Elite Congress (NEC), delivered this Lecture at the Ezeala Hall, Umuezeala Nsu Autonomous Community on April 6, 2021 at a Reception in honor of Prof. Nwajiuba who recently completed his tenure as Vice Chancellor of the Alex Ekwueme-Federal University Ndufu-Alike, Ebonyi State, AE-FUNAI .