Elder Statesman and former Governor of old Anambra State, Senator Chief Dr Jim Ifeanyichukwu Nwobodo has disclosed that he struggled to ensure that the Anambra State University of Technology (ASUTECH), was founded because the people in the old Anambra State were among those discriminated against due to the poverty status of the Wawa people who could not afford University education, particularly after the Nigeria civil war.
Nwobodo said that the in addition to the establishment of the University, he ensured that bursary awards were given to the students to help them succeed in their studies.
He revealed that because of the bursary that he gave, the then Governor Sam Mbakwe of old Imo State, took it up as well to offer bursary to the Imo State students which catalyzed and blossomed tertiary education in the south east.
Nwobodo said that he was happy now because the graduates of such educational establishments and support have become the leaders of Nigeria and have been coming back to him in appreciation for his forecast, 43 years ago.
Nwobodo made the remarks, on Thursday, when the ASUTECH Family Forum presented an Award to him in his country home, Amechi Awkunanaw Enugu, as “a visionary leader who established the first University of Technology in Nigeria, the Anambra State University of Technology (ASUTECH), on the 30th of July, 1980.”
Leader of the ASUTECH family delegation and former Managing Director of Enugu State Water Corporation, Engr. Martins Okwor, said that the Alumni considered it wise to remember the Man who made their youthful dreams come true.
Accompanied by another ASUTECH Alumni-turned Catholic priest, Rev Fr Simon Onyia, Okwor said the award on Nwobodo was a decision reached during their biannual reunion in 2022 at Awka Anambra state.
“This is because there is no time that we discuss about ASUTECH without mentioning you (Nwobodo) or having you in mind. So we said that we may not have much but we can show appreciation in our own little format. I and the late Engr Engr Dons Udeh were nominated to come and do the presentation to you but Udeh died and I had to contact the Reverend Father,” Okwor said.
Responding, the octogenarian, Nwobodo, said that everywhere he went, both within and outside Nigeria, the ASUTECH alumni always besieged him, citing a particular incident in the United States of America where such two Alumni hosted him and his wife.
He disclosed that he has received Four Honourary Doctorate Awards form the universities that emerges as offsprings of ASUTECH. Such Universities, he said, include the Ebonyi State University (EBSU), the Anambra state University, renamed Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University (COOU); the Nnamdi Azikiwe University (Unizik) and the Enugu State University of Science and Technology (ESUT).
Nwobodo said that he was pushed to establish the state universities because some students came to him and told him unpalatable stories in the process of their University studies.
“They told me that they were being profiled as Ndi Wawa, secondly they were not well dressed, thirdly they did not have money and I felt bad and said ok, fine! I decided that whoever that was from Anambra state, that is in a Nigeria University will receive Bursary. It was not much, just N300 per student and they assured me that with the money they can make noise in any University they are. They now had confidence and said they were no longer ashamed of taking part in the civil war because it’s was the war that brought about all these.
“When others now saw what has happened, the Imo student went and met Mbakwe and confronted him, telling him that all the Igbo were part of the war, why would they not receive the bursary as the Anambra people do. Mbakwe called and said, Jim! why did you send boys to come and insult me, and I told him no, that these are boys who some of their parents died during the war, they are not working and they are poor, how do you want them to manage?
“I told Mbakwe that he should just do the same thing as I have done and he agreed. That’s how the bursary went round the south east and it did not deplete government expenses,” Nwobodo narrated.
He went further to recall that the idea of making ASUTECH the first multi campus University in Nigeria came up during his meeting with late Prof Kenneth Dike who who was his Vice Chancellor as a student in the University of Ibadan.
Nwobodo said he consulted the late Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe on making ASUTECH a multi campus University and Zik approved of it, adding that he wanted the students of the University to be proud graduates, adding that he was happy his dream came true.
He urged the ASUTECH Alumni to ensure that they participate in further development of their alma mater such as ESUT, EBSU, Unizik and COOU, disclosing that ESUT has slated November this year to host it’s first founders day celebration.
He asked the ASUTECH alumni to ensure that they participate actively in the Founders day ceremony where he will also be honoured