It is no longer a fact in dispute that the development and survival of any nation lies not in the abundance of natural resources but lies in massive investment in the education of its people and ultimately harnessing the pool of human resources for its technological and economic development.
A classical example is that of Japan, where there is near absence of any natural resources but has successfully built a technological driven economy to attain a first world status in the comity of nations
This is largely due to massive investment in its human capital advancement, Research and Development and many nations have followed suit which Bayelsa State cannot be left behind in this global competition.
Back home in Nigeria, particularly in Bayelsa State, in spite of the abundance of natural resources in oil and gas poverty is still very rife and sadly placed within the unenviable bracket of educationally less developed state.
Shortly after the creation of Bayelsa State in 1996, confronting the educational advancement of the people readily became a cardinal focus. The then pioneer democratically elected government who, took the bull by the horn to establish the state-owned Niger Delta University in year 2000; basically to bridge the yearning gap of educationally disadvantaged status and this has been sustained by successive administrations.
Apart from the need to produce men and women to meet the manpower demands of the state; the university was principally set up to fast track a knowledge driven development process in line with global demands.
To this end, successive vice chancellors and management of the university right from its inception have done their best towards the growth of the institution.
However, in May 17, 2017 when professor Samuel Gowon Edoumiekumo took over as the Acting Vice Chancellor of the Niger Delta University, the appointment was generally applauded by those who have worked closely with him both in the university and the banking circle where he had carved a niche for himself as an astute banker known for his sense of discipline, focused, highly academic, hardworking with uncommon spirit of team work.
A man who has burnt the academic candle, with a double PhD in Economics, fellow and member of several professional bodies among these are Historians Education Development Society of Nigeria and Chartered Economists of Nigeria just to mention but a few.
These are rare qualities of the new leadership which many believe would propel sustained accelerated development in the institution.
Having served the university at various levels with wide range of cognate experiences, he was widely described as a technocrat and academic per excellence who had grown through the rank of the academia.
For example, until his appointment as vice chancellor , Professor Edoumiekumo had served as Head of the Department of Economics in same institution, where he distinguished himself as an epitome of discipline.
Professor Edoumiekumo had also served as Dean of faculty of social sciences, and Deputy Vice Chancellor saddled with sensitive responsibilities of the university senate.
Armed with these experiences in the art of university administration, his remarkable achievements within the one year he served as Acting Vice Chancellor did not come as a surprise to many, given the charisma and dynamism he brought to bear in confronting the myriads of challenges he inherited.
Having earned the confidence reposed in him, one of the critical concerns the Acting vice chancellor quickly identified was the challenges of accreditation of courses in the university.
With the gracious support and the political will wielded by the education friendly governor of the state, Honourable Henry Seriake Dickson, the Professor Samuel Edoumiekumo-led management of the institution was able to secure the accreditation of a number of courses in quick succession.
On assumption of duties, the VC promptly addressed the problem of epileptic power supply, which is a major problem in Nigerian universities. Until his appointment various departments were constrained to using power generating sets which constituted a lot of environmental nuisance and health hazards. Today the university enjoys steady electricity power supply to the admiration of even his ardent critics.
This has earned the confidence of both students and general public in the running of the university as a true citadel of learning.
Another sterling achievement within the one year professor Edoumiekumo acted as the Vice Chancellor is the strong drive at entrenching transparency and all inclusive administration in line with international best practice.
Apart from prompt payment of imprest and overheads to heads of department and units to achieve maximum output of workers; he has also put in place a functional Information Communication Technology ( ICT) which is running in full capacity. By this development, all the unnecessary university charges and cumbersome registration processes have been reduced to the barest level.
In addition to that, an online live stream television has been set up to close the communication gap within the university environment.
Furthermore, worried by the incessant vandalization and stealing of the institution’s property, professor Edoumiekumo swiftly stepped up the security architecture by extending the perimeter fencing of the university, as well as installation of security gadgets in strategic locations around the school.
This has gone a long way to allay the fears and security concerns of both staff and students.
In a related development, the vice chancellor who is fondly called the ‘digital VC’ has left no stone unturned at stamping out cultism and sundry crimes for the purpose of creating the much needed enabling environment for creativity and academic to thrive.
Moreover, one chest beating achievement recorded within the period is the initiative to complement government funding by putting in place measures at shoring up the internal Generation of Revenue ( IGR) of the university.
Besides placing premium on research and development geared towards revenue generation, it has also taken bold steps in establishing and incorporating the first ever Niger Delta University farm in the core areas of fish farming where the Deltaic areas are known for its comparative advantages.
In same vein, the university has secured the running of the state-owned Bayelsa palm and the school – to land projects programme to engage in agro-allied businesses.
In addition to its retinue of inward looking business activities, for the first time the university established its own brand of table water and detergents branded after the university otherwise called the NDU water and detergents.
The university has also completed the process to secure license for the establishment of a Micro Finance Bank to be known as the Niger Delta University Micro Finance Bank.
When the bank eventually becomes functional, it will stimulate business activities and generate revenue to meet the competing funding obligations of the institution.
This is a brilliant demonstration of ingenuity and practical translation of intellectual prowess towards turning around fortunes of the university which the much expected benefits will come in no distance time.
Meanwhile, students admission have been increased from 4,000 to 5,500. This is essentially to reduce the frustrations of millions of admission seekers.
Besides creating cordial relationship with federal government intervention agencies, it has also attracted private donors to the development of the university.
Interestingly, the efforts are yielding positive results as some of whom have endowed chairs with pledges to build a befitting university guest house, while work had already commenced to build a central laboratory in fulfillment of their promises.
Also to mention is the NEEDS Assessment and TETFUND funded projects facilitated by the professor Edoumiekumo led management of the university. When completed these projects will go a long way to provide world-class infrastructure befitting of a university community.
On sporting and recreation, it has provided a volley ball court and lavishly improved on the university football pitch to promote physical fitness, and unity among staff and students.
In the area of promoting students’ unionism, it is salutary to mention that, for the first time in the history of the university, it introduced electronic voting system to enable students freely conduct peaceful and hitch free election of students leaders without undue interference in the process by the university authority which is quite uncommon in students’ unionism in Nigeria universities.
As a veteran of students’ unionism in his undergraduate days, it is the conviction of professor Edomiekumo that promoting such values of unionism is one sure way of entrenching the culture of academic freedom and participatory management of the institution.
Little wonder, these liberal approach to management of the university has earned him several awards accolades and among these are: the pan African servant award by African students union parliament, a positive transformer, new hope and innovative agent award conferred by students of the Niger Delta university and that of distinguished economist award by the department of Economics at the university of Nigeria, Nsukka, just to mention but a few.
As a matter of fact these are no mean administrative and academic achievements coming at a time many universities are contending with paucity of funding and could barely survive.
Popson Tariye, a Public Affairs Analyst writes from Bayelsa State