Perhaps, there is no better way to honour a man than in the presence of his people. This is what the University of Nigeria has done for the late novelist, Prof. Chinua Achebe. Indeed, six years after his death, the writer’s memory is still evergreen.
The author of Things Fall Apart was the toast at this year’s Distinguished Personality Lecture of Faculty of Arts, University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN). The third in the series, the event held on Thursday, December 12.
Fortunately, his recognition came on a day another distinguished son of his community, Ogidi, Anambra State, Emeka Ken Nwabueze, was honoured as 2019 Arts Man of the Year by the Faculty.
Nwabueze, a former Special Adviser to the U.S. President and the Ajie Okpala Ogidi (first son of Ogidi), was also selected to give the lecture.
Also, as a way of appreciating Achebe’s contributions to humanities, the Faculty built the Chinua Achebe Literary Court and unveiled a burst in his honour at the front of the Faculty building and at the arts theatre complex
The Dean of Arts, Prof Nnanyelugo Okoro, had told guests at the occasion that Achebe was a literary maestro who impacted African literature and would ever be remembered.
He said: “As I speak, the Department of English and Literary Studies of this university has introduced a course entitled, Studies in Achebe, which is solely on the writer’s work. This is the first time in our history that this kind of recognition is being granted to a non-European author. That laudable effort would soon be replicated in other Nigerian universities.”
He added: “To complement the above, we are here proposing for the establishment of Chinua Achebe Study Centre to be domiciled at the University of Nigeria. A professor whose chair would be endowed by an institution, a corporate organisation, a foundation or an individual, as the case may be, would head that Centre.
“Considering Achebe’s stature and his great contributions to global letters, that Centre will attract scholars from all over the world who would be here to impact our students and generate revenue that will be used to develop our dear country. We would need all the help both in the establishment of the centre and in the endowment of the professorial chair.”
It was a moment to relish for the Ogidi people who gathered at the event as Nwabueze commissioned the facilities. He described Achebe as a ‘true son of Ogidi.’
“We are extremely happy with this honour and would do all in our power to ensure that the University did not regret this honour, because Chinua Achebe can never die,” he said.
Speaking as a guest lecturer, Nwabueze, who was President George Bush’s Special Adviser on Science and Technology, said he was ready to partner with the University on Information and Communications Technology (ICT) and Entrepreneurship Studies.
Speaking on the topic, Re-engineering Igbo Apprenticeship Model In An Era of Digital Economy, he noted that the Igbo apprenticeship model was being credited world wide as one of the key factors for the creation of much wealth in South Eastern Nigeria mostly among non university graduates.
“This model is responsible for why there are more billionaires in Southeast Nigeria than any other part of Africa. We can comfortably say that many of today’s billionaires in Southeast Nigeria, business magnets like Chisco, Innoson, Coscharis and many others are products of the apprenticeship model. Igbo apprenticeship is a model that needs to be studied, analysed and innovated to keep up with changes in business environment and technological advancement.”
He said, “Igbo Apprenticeship Model is the most successful, largest and longest running business incubation model ever known to mankind. It is also the longest and perhaps the largest informal venture capitalist system in the world. Here is another face about Igbo Apprenticeship Model that may surprise you. It is the most effective system in the world for reducing mass scaled inequality and for elimination of abject poverty in any society. This system of building wealth surprisingly does not promote extreme capitalism, nor does it support socialism.”
Identifying what he described as current problems with Igbo Apprenticeship Model, he noted that inadequate legal structure was top of the list with current issues of integrity of the legal system in Africa, arguing that it had become largely ineffective due to years of moral decay and acts of sabotage among major stakeholders in the apprenticeship system.
He said there was no effective legal mechanism to sanction violators, adding that the model was unrecognised, broadly informal without a defined vocational profile or framework.
Nwabueze also explained that as a hotelier, he had made a head way in using the Igbo Apprenticeship Model to create employment and a process of digital economy for the benefits of the youth similar to apprenticeship.
He explained, “In my hotel we use a lot of bath soap which we import from China or buy from another company but I discovered that if we set out soap manufacturing firm we can produce the ones we use in our hotel and also sell it in the market, so I engaged five people in business of soap production. They started like apprentice and they are growing to another level where that can add more products in the line.”
He said that the factor that made Igbo apprenticeship model successful was not just the financial gain but equally the need to assist kinsmen, adding, “you cannot re-engineer the Igbo Apprenticeship Model without taking the Nwaobi concept (kindred) into consideration.”
He harped on the need for creativity and innovations in the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) towards getting the wealthy businessmen to act out of the box, stressing, “in a situation where the rich men are rigid and not ready to act out of the box, then there is need create a new concept, I would you give any businessman a favorable concept he will buy into and invest his money right away and that is where creativity and innovations come in.”
Turning to the University, he said: “I have seen what is on ground, the structures, potential and the capacity, and I am highly impressed. I believe together we can do a lot of things in the area of ICT and Entrepreneurship but we have to first and foremost develop the concept that will drive us to bring of the youth and tell the rest of the world that Nigerian youth are not lazy. Yes money and time are needed but the most important value is the concept. It is not about structure nor is building it about concept. Some governors have contacted me that they want to build something like Silicon Valley, but I told them that Silicon Valley is not about building it is about concept.”
Vice Chancellor of the University, represented by the Deputy Vice Chancellor on Academics, Professor James Ogbonna, said the university was fortunate to play host to an illustrious personality like Nwabueze, who has travelled round the world, noting that his capacity and will are highly appreciated by the school.
At the event were traditional rulers of Ogbunike, Majesty Igwe John Umenyiora, that of Atani, His Majesty Igwe Augustine Azuka Ngoddy and that ofObukpa His Majesty Igwe Asadu among others.