ENUGU- Prof Maduebibisi Iwe the Vice-Chancellor, Michael Okpara University of Agriculture Umudike Abia State, says, the tenure of late Dr Michael Okpara the Premier of former Eastern Nigeria Region has remained the golden age of the region.
Iwe said this in Nsukka on Friday during the maiden lecture series instituted by Abia Forum (Abia State people working in University of Nigeria Nsukka) in honour of Okpara.
The lecture titled ” Micheal Okpara and the Call to Selfless Service : Assessing Statesmanship and Political Ethics”.
He said that, in just six years, from January 1960 to January 14, 1966, Okpara as the Premier of the region inspired a revolution that transformed the East from being poorest of the regions to the most vibrant and buoyant in the country.
“During Okpara’s tenure, the region was rated as one of the fastest growing sub-territories of the world both in infrastructural development and other sectors of the economy.
“Okpara’s tenure as the premier of the region has been agreed by all and sundry as the golden age of the East and till today, no government leadership in the region can be compared with him in terms of quality achievements and ethical leadership,” he said.
The VC said that Okpara used agriculture to achieve micro and macro-economic growth of the region, using the platform of the Eastern Nigeria Development Corporation’s (ENDC).
“To establish farm settlements, oil palm, rubber, cocoa, cashew plantations, rice farms, with the inter-cropping of pineapples, banana, plantain, and cassava.
“Majority of infrastructural development and institutions in the region like the University of Nigeria, Nsukka were built and equipped from the proceeds of agriculture.
“Okpara’s administration established Corrugated lron Sheets in Port Harcourt, Asbestos Roofing Sheets, Ceiling Boards and Pipes in Enugu, Metal Door and Window frames in Port Harcourt, Bricks in Umuahia, Rice farms in Abakiliki and Adani among others,” he said.
He described Okpara as “a true statesman, selfless, honest and patriotic leader” who was busy thinking how to statisfy the people without remembering himself.
“Okpara was in government as a premier, minster of agriculture, minster of production as well as Leader of the Legislative Regional Assembly but he did not build or owned a house for himself because his concern was to give good leadership to the people.
“The former minister never owned a house of his own while he was in government but rendered selfless services to the people,
“When the Nigerian Civil War ended, Okpara went into exile in Ireland, before his return from exile in 1979, his close associates, beneficiaries and admirers built a house for him in his village.
“Unfortunately now, majority of politicians in government have fleet of cars, build skyscrapers in their country homes as well as have houses in Abuja and other state capitals of the country,” he said.
In a remark, Prof. Iche Ukpai, Vice-chancellor Evangel University, Akaeze, Ebonyi State, who chaired the occasion, extolled the virtues of Okpara and said that he changed the economic landscape of the Eastern region in six years without any blemish.
“The change of the economic and political landscape of the Eastern region in six years was to Dr. Okpara’s credit, yet his name has till this day never been associated with any form of corruption or bribe.
“He lived a simple life, and ranked in the class of Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, he was a quintessential leader, a physician, Politician per excellence, builder of Gulden Guinea Breweries, Adapalm, Trans-Amadi Industrial Estate, among others.
“Regrettably, now we are overwhelmed by bad leaders, corrupt and selfish men and women without good plans for the people and none has followed Okpara’s selfless style of good leadership,” he said.
Ukpai commended the Abia Forum for starting the lecture series to honour Okpara whom he described as an iconic leader, the region rated then, as one of the world’s fastest-growing economies.
Speaking, Prof. Okechukwu Nwaubani, President Abia Forum Nsukka said that, the forum is a socio-cultural organisation which caters for the interest and welfare of Abia indigenes in UNN and and Enugu Enugu State at large.
“The lecture series is meant to celebrate life and outstanding achievements of Okpara, as a hero, political icon, statesman and one of the finest politician and astute administrator in Nigeria.
“The forum is using this lecture series to immortalise a great Abian and Nigerians who have made significant contributions to national development.,” he said.
The president said explained that, the theme of the lecture would resonate call for visionary, well-focused, purpose-driven, vibrant, dynamic, resourceful leadership in the country.
“No progress can be made in any society without ethical leadership capable of promoting collective sense of unity and peace and in a diverse polity.
“Today’s lecture is therefore very significant to Abia forum and Abia indigenes. It is a tactic of fulfilment of the statutory mandate of the Forum in promoting our collective sense of pride, and identity unity and oneness,
As well as passionate zeal of members of the forum in placing Abia State in its rightful place in UNN and the country in general,” he said.
Nwaubani listed project vehicle and constructing of Abia Unity Building in UNN as some of the needs of the forum.
He expressed appreciation to the guests, university Community and members of the forum for attending the event in their numbers.
In a remark, Prof Charles Igwe, UNN Vice-Chancellor represented by Prof. Pat Okpoko, Deputy Vice-chancellor Administration commend the forum for the lecture series in honour of Okpara.
Igwe said that, nothing would be enough to appreciate the giant developmental strides of Okpara in in the region which UNN was a beneficiary, as proceeds of agriculture during his tenure was used to build UNN.
Earlier in a renark, Chief Uzodinma Okpara, one of the sons of Okpara said who was present during the event, said that the family would continue to be happy on good legacies their father left on the ‘sands of time’.
“We are happy that’s our father left a legacy of integrity, quality infrastructures, selfless leadership and patriotism as premier of the region.
” On behalf of Okpara’s family, I expressed our appreciation to Abia Forum in UNN for instituting this annual lecture series in honour of our late father, Dr Michael Okpara,”Uzodinmma said (NAN)