While the government has a bigger share of the responsibility of improving education, in Anambra, individuals are making the same contribution in huge measures. David-Chyddy Eleke reports that Chief Ikenna Okafor is one of them
Anambra is said to be one of the states in Nigeria with the richest individuals. These individuals are mostly businesspeople, and even though many see educational development as mainly the government’s responsibility, in Anambra, some have partnered the government to support their communities in education.
Successive administrations in Anambra have always called for the adoption of schools by well-to-do individuals as their way of giving back to society. During the administration of Peter Obi, he travelled to various states of the country and even overseas to solicit partnerships from Anambra indigenes for support to various educational institutions. He capped it by giving back schools to missions to run, paying subventions running into billions because of his belief that such schools were better run when they were under the missions than the government.
Today, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo has continued the same call, preaching his example when he adopted a school in his community, Isuofia, many years ago and has catered for the remuneration of staff of the schools. His pleas seemed to have attracted at least one Anambra philanthropist, Chief Ikenna Okafor, who is today, changing the face of many educational institutions in the state through his NGO, Nzekwuabuo Foundation.
Last month, Okafor, popularly known by his traditional title, Ide Akwaeze, performed the foundation laying ceremony of the UNIZIK Business School (UBS) ultra-modern building. The businessman provided N100 million for the take-off of the building, which, when completed, is expected to provide space for conducive academic interaction and make available classrooms and office space for assistant directors and facilitators of the UNIZIK Business School.
During the foundation laying ceremony, the university community gathered and eulogised Okafor for his gesture. The businessman stated that his action was prompted by the need to promote knowledge, especially in business education which has suffered neglect, emphasising the need for business education to be done with a business mindset.
“It is my wish to propagate knowledge, as knowledge not shared will perish. Business education has been neglected, and many people prefer to choose other professions, which now creates a void as the society now has a lot of persons without business ideas with the hunger and passion for venturing into business,” stated Okafor.
He added, “I have training in business school, and I know what is required to do business, having received training from one of the best schools in the world. I am challenging UBS to develop a curriculum that should be domiciled in our environment, and the UBS should possess the traits and capacity to teach local and practical skills that students can relate to so that when they go outside the shores of our country, they can excel very well. It is my wish to partner UBS as a way of giving back to society, and we will do much more in the university in the future.”
An avid lover of education, Okafor, again in May, donated classroom blocks, hostels, and laboratory, among other things, to some communities in Anambra.
In the Akwaeze community of Anaocha LGA, where he hails from, Okafor recently donated a 250-bed capacity female hostel to Community High School, Akwaeze. In the same school, the foundation renovated classroom blocks, laboratories, library blocks, an e-library, a multipurpose hall, an ICT hub, and a 60KVA diesel-powered generator set to power the entire institution.
The event attracted Soludo, the Bishop of Awka Catholic Diocese, Rt. Rev. Paulinus Ezeokafor, the community ruler, Anaocha LGA chair, and other personalities.
The guests eulogised Okafor and gave testimonies of his philanthropy. Soludo referred to Okafor as a great son of Anambra, who is a blessing not only to the people of Akwaeze but to the state as a whole.
“We are not unaware of what you are doing at Peter University, Achina, which is still under construction. We have come to celebrate you while you are still alive, living a life with purpose,” said the Anambra governor. “We advice that you establish an endowment fund for this foundation so that the good works would outlive you and your generations.”
Soludo further explained, “You are giving back to the people all of the resources and wisdom that God has blessed you with. I use Ide Akwaeze as a point of contact to reach out to other great ndi Anambra. More than 75 per cent of our non-land assets are domiciled outside of the state. We have made the conscious decision to build our homeland in order for it to be livable and prosperous. Anywhere you live outside of the state, you are an economic refugee, and this is one of the reasons I ran for governor of this state.”
The Anambra governor pointed out that he had been encouraging “great men and women of Ndi Anambra” to return to their village and adopt a school since 2010.
“To put my words into action, I went to my village and adopted a primary school, providing free and high-quality education while paying the teachers’ salaries, which has been a rewarding experience for me. I’ve been doing this for over twelve years,” Soludo stressed.
The governor added, “What you’ve done today is long-lasting! You are indeed paying to serve. You have no idea how many destinies you have changed by the children you see here today being moulded. You never know what will become your legacy, but the seeds you plant today will bear fruit tomorrow. Education is the foundation of everything.”
The event, which was an epoch-making one in the community, also witnessed the laying of the groundwork for the male hostel by Soludo, the handing over of the key of a security vehicle to Anaocha LGA chairman for Anaocha Security Group, the inspection of the well-equipped science laboratories, an e-library, a multipurpose hall, an ICT hub, and a 60KVA diesel-powered generator donated by the foundation.
Also, the philanthropist touched the Akpo community in Orumba South LGA by donating a multimillion-naira laboratory and ICT complex to St. Dominic Savio Seminary, Akpo, a faith-based institution. The complex was named Ide Akwaeze Laboratories and ICT Complex and handed over to the Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Ekwulobia, His Eminence Peter Ebere Cardinal Okpaleke, who in turn handed the keys of the building to Very Rev. Fr. Anthony Akabogu, the Rector of the seminary.
At all the events, Okafor always reiterated his love for education and the need to bequeath the coming generation with a solid background in education. At Akwaeze, Okafor said, “This students’ hostel building is being handed over to Anambra State Government today, in continuation of my foundation’s goal of ensuring that we have modern schools, beginning from primary to secondary schools.”
In Akpo, while donating the laboratory and ICT complex, the businessman said, “I was moved to undertake the project because of my conviction that education is the best gift one can give to a child, and if one fails to give education to the younger generation, it will be very easy to manipulate them.”
A successful businessman, technocrat, and entrepreneur, Okafor is the managing director and CEO of Keves Global Leasing Limited, Keves Inn and Suites, and Arthur Services Limited, among others.