Nigeria’s First Ivy-league Institution, Wigwe University, Berths in Rivers State

Donatus Eleko

Nicholas Danjuma lost one-and-a-half years in school to the ASUU strike. He lost half a year to a violent cult clash on campus. When school resumed, he heaved a sigh. Then, ASUU struck again. Out of a four-year course, Danjuma had only had one academic session that lasted three years. His parents had enough by then and decided to send him abroad to complete his studies. It was a tough decision, but Danjuma’s parents were willing to go the whole hog. Then, the dollar exchange rate spiked, with the dollar exchanging for several hundreds of naira. Danjuma was recalled from his overseas education.

Nigerian parents who want a similitude of Ivy League education for their students are willing to go the extra mile overlooking public universities in Nigeria, preferring to send their wards to Ghana, Europe and the United States amid erratic academic sessions resembling a push-and-start jalopy battling years of strikes and cult violence. Caught in the web of the prohibitive cost of education abroad due to the free fall of the naira in foreign exchange, parents are looking for the best alternative to overseas education with high-quality education and a world-class ambient environment superintended by globally-renowned faculty.

They need not look further.

A new university has berthed on the shores of Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation. The new university is based on high-standard teaching quality, established to build a new generation of leaders, entrepreneurs and scientists. The university is like no other because of its financial muscle and staunch backers. When it kicks off in September 2023, it will save Nigeria several billions of naira currently spent on forex for overseas education costs, local union strikes and cult violence. Parents looking at the tertiary education system in Nigeria and wondering how any university can provide their youngsters with the high-quality and world-centric education they crave do not have to look further.

Focusing on changing the landscape of higher education in Nigeria and the West African sub-region, Wigwe University is providing excellent infrastructure with a readiness to provide an Ivy-League education, spending at least $500 million to set up the institution.

On June 9, 2023, the National Universities Commission approved and issued an operational licence to Wigwe University in Isiokpo, Port Harcourt, Rivers State. The Wigwe University embodies Nigeria’s resilience, fearless culture, values, and entrepreneurial spirit. The university believes that the world and Africa, especially, need problem solvers, torchbearers and game-changers who would form part of its learning community to create sustainable solutions for the world. It would have the most conducive environment to do this and to attain their highest potential.

The Group Managing Director of Access Holdings Plc, Herbert Wigwe, is channelling a $500 million investment into the new university strategically focused on cultivating skills essential for Nigeria’s finance and technology sectors. The university’s curricula include management, science, engineering, information technology, and creative arts disciplines. To realise its ambitions, the institution anticipates requiring up to $500 million for scaling within a five-year timeframe.

Wigwe emphasised the university’s hybrid nature, underscoring the role of technology in attaining educational standards on par with prestigious institutions in the US and UK. He dismissed the notion of requiring centuries or vast financial resources, drawing parallels with India’s successful production of developers through a singular facility. To bridge the gap in manpower, Wigwe plans to recruit 30 per cent of the teaching staff from the UK and the US. Wigwe would play an active role in teaching and mentoring, engaging prominent entrepreneurs like billionaire Aliko Dangote, Africa’s richest man. The university aims to enrol 1,400 students in its inaugural year, with a projected increase to 10,000 within the next five years.

Wigwe emphasised the transformative impact of education, asserting that it goes beyond financial considerations, influencing individuals and nations alike. Wigwe University is the culmination of the foremost banker’s lifelong ambition to build an exceptional, world-class, innovative, yet uniquely African institution to grow the next generation of leaders who will change the face of the African continent.

“It is the African gateway to the world of entrepreneurship, technology, innovation, and impact. Herbert Wigwe’s mission, through Wigwe University, is to change the course of Nigeria’s future through committed and world-class faculty and globally relevant and locally impactful curricula taught through novel methods to rival the globe’s most respected universities,” the university states.

To Wigwe, education is expected to make one fearless. It should help students remain focused, unwavering, and fixed firmly on the exhilaration of victory rather than the fear of defeat. He said this was why Wigwe University is focused on delivering education, cultivating Africa’s bold and fearless generation of leaders, innovative thinkers and entrepreneurial sons and daughters. Wigwe University is a beacon of knowledge that would guide the African youth through the realms of academia and profound lessons of existence.

According to Wigwe, the university aims to shape its students into embodiments of fearlessness with mentorship and guidance “so that one day, they shall proudly declare – we are fearless.”

“I cannot change the world overnight. But if I can empower even one youth today, tomorrow, they could join me in empowering others. With time, we could change the world. The truth is that the end to the good we can achieve is nowhere in sight. There’s so much more to conquer. There are more lives to impact and generations to uplift to achieve their full potential,” says the Wigwe University founder. 

He adds, “History will favour the brave, those who knew their limitations only because they had to defy them. History will favour the fearless. We are the African spirit of strength in numbers, teamwork, and collaboration. We symbolise and express the irrepressible human spirit of design thinking. We strive for sustainability and a shared prosperous future for all.”

The vision of Wigwe University is “to ignite Africa’s potential for prosperity, nurture thoughtful, fearless leaders, and become the leading university in Africa,” with a mission “to set a new standard of educational distinction for our continent, students and educators, and nurture the next generation of African leaders as guiding lights for positive impact in a rapidly changing world.”

The university sets a new standard of educational distinction for African students and educators with its distinctively inventive, pragmatic. 

“We believe in a balanced, sustainable lifestyle. From time outdoors to working as a sports team to fostering strong understanding and relationships between peers – our sports and societies offer something for everyone to get involved in,” Wigwe University notes.

It states, “All our programmes are delivered to an international standard in collaboration with key international partners. Our approach puts us in touch with world-leading curricula, joint research and international exchanges and internship programmes.”

Wigwe University’s undergraduate programmes, from degrees to online courses, offer opportunities for “fearless,” inspired, continual learners. The university will start with at least the colleges of art, management and social sciences, engineering, and science and computing. According to the university, the JAMB portal will be opened to purchase registration forms in December 2023. 

Prof. Miles Davis has already been appointed Vice-Chancellor of the soon-to-kick-off ivory tower. Davis has a PhD in human and organisational sciences from George Washington University, an MA in Human Resource Development from Bowie State University and a BA in Communications from Duquesne University. He was the inaugural chair of the Management Science Department at the Harry F. Byrd Jr. School of Business at Shenandoah University. He became the founding director of its Institute for Entrepreneurship, and later, Davis became the dean of the Harry F. Byrd, Jr. School of Business.

Davis is an authority on entrepreneurship whose most recent work focuses on integrity, values and principles in the business world, and faith-based entrepreneurship. He is a member of the Society of Leadership Fellows at St. George’s House (their first non-UK-based member), an organization based out of Windsor Castle in England that brings together world leaders in various fields to analyse contemporary issues. Davis sits on the board of the Amana Mutual Fund Trust. Davis is an awardee of numerous bodies. Most recently, he was named the ‘Portland Business Journal President of the Year’ (the first university president to be so named).

Another personality to keep the institution running is Prof. Nelson Uzoechi-Uzoma Alino, the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Administration/Dean College of Management and Social Science). Before joining Wigwe University, Alino held the esteemed position of William S. Perlroth, Professor of Accounting and Taxation at Quinnipiac University. During his last eight years at Quinnipiac, he was the interim associate dean, department chair, and director of the MSA programme. Alino received several awards and nominations for his teaching and research.

His leadership and dedication to innovation were instrumental in achieving a separate AACSB accreditation for the Accounting Program at Quinnipiac University. He is also responsible for initiating the university’s highly acclaimed Volunteer Income Tax (VITA) programme, a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) in the US, a Fellow Chartered Accountant (FCA) in Nigeria, and a Certified Forensic Accountant (CRFAC®️) in the USA. Dal Didia (Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Academics). 

Before joining Wigwe University, Didia, a professor of Economics and chair of the Department of Economics, Finance, and General Business at Jackson State University, was also a professor and chair of the Department of Economics, School of Arts and Sciences, American University of Nigeria (AUN) Yola. As chair of the AUN Senate Curriculum Committee, Didia led a comprehensive curriculum revision, adding more programmes while streamlining the curricular development process at AUN. Didia has over 30 years of experience in academia.

On the other hand, members of its board of trustees are accomplished individuals from diverse fields. They include Awosika, Mosun Belo-Olusoga, Tokini Peterside-Schwebig, Ajogwu, Dr. Kenneth Ken-Worgu, Olumide Soyombo and Uche Wigwe.

Considering the background and pedigree of its founder, parents would be comfortable taking their children to Wigwe University for the same quality of education that is obtainable anywhere in the world. From his rich background as a leading private sector operator, the students would be exposed to the right industrial training opportunities for them to gain practical knowledge of what they are taught in the classroom, mentorship and exposure to technological tools that would make them compete with their peers in any part of the world.

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