Professor Julius Amioba Okojie, FAANS, FFAN, FSAN, FASN, and OON former Executive Secretary, National Universities Commission (NUC) has retired from Public Service last week after attaining the age of 70 years.
Delivering a valedictory lecture entitled “A servant is not greater than his master: who wants to be a Vice-Chancellor?” Prof. Okojie pointed out that valedictory lectures were part of university’s rich tradition, as they provided opportunities to harvest and store the thoughts, experiences, observations and remarks of the valedictorians. He said that although they were usually emotional good bye speeches laced with appreciations and reminiscences, they were not tearful goodbyes but solemn occasions.
He equated his retirement to that of a servant who was bowing out but still active, stating that “In academics, a Professor remains a Professor forever. So, this is a temporary goodbye”.
He said that his contact with the university system had shaped his life as an academic and civil servant. “My undergraduate and graduate student years compliment my career experience, but the Vice-Chancellor’s position is a vantage point at the top rung of the ladder, for a critical assessment of the university system. I was Vice-Chancellor twice; FUNAAB (1996-2001) and Bells University of Technology, Ota (2005/2006). These appointments fetched me a rich harvest of the experiences the position offers and influenced my choice of title for this Valedictory Lecture. The Vice-Chancellor is everybody’s servant but nobody’s master”
In the lecture, Prof. Okojie gave an overview of the NUS and the workings of the system in comparison to those in the western world and other well established systems in other climes. He said that despite the challenges in the university system, there were so many areas that the system had advanced in its 70 years of existence.
The lecture also contained some submissions by the distinguished academic, which he said could move the NUS towards global competitiveness. The recommendations included among others, reintroduction of the Higher School Certificate programme in public schools and decolonisation of education in Nigeria.
He said that universities should be encouraged to streamline their activities into the Sustainable Development Goals through research and development endeavours countries that addressed the problems in primary and secondary school education and provided free education up to age 16 were leading in knowledge economy in the world among which were Sweden, Singapore, Norway, Switzerland and Mauritius, the first in in Africa. He also suggested that there should be recognition of top 10 universities in Nigeria by age and ranking as postgraduate universities.
Prof. Okojie called on government to reintroduce federal scholarship for all students in of Agriculture, Education and Medicine based on merit, while bursary and student-loan scheme should be given to other deserving students.
He also suggested the internationalisation of Nigerian universities by act of. the National Assembly, citing that Fulbright, Rhodes and Humboldt fellowships had achieved these for many years and .would encourage staff and students to Nigeria from foreign Countries.
He added that funding of public universities should be based on performance and council members should be selected based on integrity and understanding of the university system as well as ability to attract fund/projects to the system.
On a whole, Prof. Okojie recommended that the NUS should develop value chains for programme, encourage combined degree and certification programmes. He opined Universities of Agriculture should remain under the Federal Ministry of Education and be properly funded and that they should retain and have Colleges of Management Science.
Highpoint of the event was a dinner party organised by FUNAAB in honour the retiring distinguished Professor and astute administrator. A thanksgiving was also held for him at Our Lady, Queen of Nigeria Pro-Cathedral, Garki Abuja.
Prof. Okojie was born on 27th July, 1948 and had his primary and secondary education at Government Primary School, Uromi, Annunciation Catholic College, Irrua and Federal Government College, Warri. In 1969, he was admitted into the University of Ibadan to pursue a degree in Forestry,, where he graduated in 1972 with a Second class upper division. A few years later, he proceeded to the prestigious Yale University USA for his masters’ degree in Forestry. On his return to Nigeria, his quest for greater challenges in academics led him to enrol for a doctorate degree programme at the University of Ibadan in 1978 and was awarded Ph.D in Forestry Resource Management in 1981.
Prof. Okojie’s working career started as a Research Officer at the Forestry Research Institute, Ibadan between 1972 and 1974. He rise as an Academic started in 1978 when he joined the services of the University of Ibadan as Lecturer II and was promoted to Senior Lecturer in 1983 and subsequently rose to the rank of Professor of Forestry Resource Management in 1990.
His Prof. leadership position started as Dean, College of Environmental Resources Management, University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, 1990 – 1994, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, 1994-1995. His leadership qualities also earned him international positions as he was Vice-President, Association of African Universities (AAU), 2001, Member, Board of Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU) 2001 and Vice-Chancellor University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, 1996-2001. He was appointed Chairman, Committee of Vice-Chancellors of Nigeria Federal University in 2001. He joined the services of NUC in 2002 as a Visiting Professor and chaired the Standing Committee on Private University (SCOPU).
His excellent performance in previous university administrative positions, made the Proprietor of Bells University of Technology, Ota found him worthy of appointment as Pioneer Vice-Chancellor of the Institution in July, 2005.,
Prof. Okojie was appointed the Executive Secretary, National Universities Commission, in 2006. He was re-appointed in August 2011 for a second term. He served as the Chief Executive Officer of the Commission for a total period of ten years, It is to his credit that a large number of private universities (63) out of (68) between 2002 and 2016 received the Federal Government’s approval during his tenure as Chairman, SCOPU and Executive Secretary of the Commission.
In recognition of his academic excellence and selfless service to mankind, he was awarded with the national merit award of Officer of the Order of the Niger, OON. Prof Okojie was also a recipient ofaug many national and international awards and academic Fellowships.