Peter Eze, writes from Beijing
Universities led by its Senate are traditionally institutions of academia, learning and research. It honours those who have distinguished themselves academically and confers degrees of various kinds and classes with those who have met their rigorous requirements. There is however, a kind of degree that has nothing to do with academics, learning or research; this kind recognizes and honours VALUE. It recognizes the value that the individual has given to his community, nation building and indeed to humanity.
Universities’ degrees are key building blocks of civic regard, they confer on a person distinguished privileges whether awarded based on academic criteria or by Honoriscausa. Noteworthy, is the honorary doctorate degree or in Latin: honoriscausa (“for the sake of the honor”) which is not equivalent to the conventional Doctorate degree which implies mastery of a subject area, but are usually awarded to well accomplished individuals. It is often conferred as a way of honouring a distinguished visitor’s contributions to a specific field or to society in general.
Different universities have different procedures for selecting the distinguished recipients of the award: Some hold high level sessions while others openly canvass for nominations from the university community in a rigorous and confidential process that involves the university senate and its governing council.
The practice of honorarium dates back to the Middle Ages when for various reasons a university might be persuaded, or otherwise see fit, to grant exemption from some or all of the usual statutory requirements for the awarding of a degree.
The earliest honorary degree on record was awarded to Lionel Woodvillein the late 1470s by the University of Oxford. In brief, Woodville, Chancellor of the University of Oxford later became Bishop of Salisbury in 1482.
Come Saturday, December 2, 2017, the prestigious University of Nigeria,Nsukka will recognize the outstanding contributions of distinguished leaders (in business, finance and leadership) by conferring its doctorate degrees on Orji Uzor Kalu, Sultan of Sokoto and Jim Ovia. These awards will be presented at the 47thConvocation ceremonies of the university to be held at the Margaret Ekpo convocation arena.
Orji Uzor kalu, having been previously conferred by four other institutions in the past will by this award increase the count of his honourary doctorate to five which further testifies that he is an all-round success story, an accomplished administrator, politician, businessman, philanthropist, and inspiration to millions of young people.
This award reinforces the excellent track record of Orji Kalu, his extra-ordinary personality, devotion to the advancement of his people and development of Nigeria. Like most honorary degrees it is not intended to reflect approval or disapproval for political views relevant or not relevant to the field for which he is being honored. Any other view would be wrong in principle.
It is Pertinent to state clearly that OUK,a fully established business mogul and a trail blazer before joining politics is not new to the UNN community.
His earliest visit to the school dates back to when he was awarded the Humanitarian Award of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka’s Humanitarian Club.
March 11, 2014, was a memorable day in the history of Department of Economics, UNN. A day OUK honoured the students’ association invitation to deliver a public lecture. Remarkably, he went beyond the lecture to assume a personal responsibility for the welfare of the department and made some promises to the institution. OUK, being a man of his words (the bible says let your yea be your yea and your nay be your nay), made a return visit on the 20th of August of the same year to fulfill his earlier promises.
He fully upgraded the computer and econometric laboratory with branded laptops and desktops. Putting this in perspective, if he were an alumnus it would have been justified. Going beyond sentiments to offer a warm handshake of help to the department at a time it needed to standardize her new computer laboratory in its then new building testifies further of the kind of personality he possesses. Going further, in his belief in the value of education he instituted a prize for the best graduating student in the Economics department. He also did same for the best graduating student in the political science department, faculty of Arts and finally, the overall best student in the university. Each winner is entitled to #250,000. Thankfully, bureaucratic bottlenecks in completing the process of instituting a permanent award has been completed and the university has also confirmed that the first recipients of Orji Uzor Kalu Awards would be smiling home in this year’s award& prize giving day.
Also on May 12, 2017, Kalu honoured an invitation from the Faculty of Arts of the same university. It was at the lecture that Prof. Ike.S. Ndolo described Kalu as “the quintessential, ebullient and enterprising business mogul of superlative brilliance, merit and repute; a prodigious, debonair and profound politician, a business developer of tenacity and endurance, of honesty and courage, of singleness of purpose and steadfastness of conduct, of zest and activity,” as the students and members of the academic community raised a loud applause.
Having honoured several invitations from high profile universities around the world, the latest being at the University of International Business and Economics, Beijing on 27th October, 2017. He could not hide his affection for UNN during his comparative analysis of both universities which share similar history and foundation. OUK believes in the value of ‘giving first’ and that has endeared him to students within and outside the shores of the country. African students in Beijing are still wishing he comes monthly.
The honorary doctorate from UNN is a unique achievement from the great citadel of learning, it would be impolite for anyone to think otherwise. Kalu, a man whose larger than life personality has confused the wise, because as you think you know him, the more you come to understand how intriguing and dynamic he can be.
While Kalu’s profile remains intimidating, his humility and willingness to offer service is an inspiration to many. On the other hand, those who for personal or political reasons see him through the narrow minded lens of envy will someday see reasons for reconsideration.
Overtime , I have questioned the litanies of destructive criticisms and propagandas heaped against him . But a man of his statue and caliber would have detractors who would go the extra mile to smear his brilliant track record. Even some pundits and arm chair quarterbacks know Kalu is outstanding but admittance is pretty difficult for them. Arguments on him has always ended with, “why him all the time? Why is he in every field and sphere? What didn’t he make Abia Dubai of Africa before leaving office? Who recommended his successors?” My finding is just that many that hold false tales about Kalu have no idea about him. They must have heard or read some of the alarming propaganda written or spoken against him and which never cease coming. Others hate him just out of vicious envy and jealousy. Others who know the truth but chose not to accept might as well belong to the class of people who enjoy casting aspersion to the high profile; they just want to see them being ridiculed. A man who has been fought against for well over 14 years,yet his consistency and profile fail to reduce is simply good. Whereas his admirers call him ‘Action Governor’ considering his unforgotten legacies, most Nigerians remember him as the brave and outspoken but too daring governor –who took on the principalities and powers during his tenure as governor and prevailed.
The efforts to demystify him with all sorts of unimaginable stories has continuously increased his winning streak rather than decreasing it. But those that are privileged to know him are conscious of his unquestionable patriotic zeal and uncommon commitment to the emancipation of the downtrodden. He has been betrayed and chastised by many who used his political influence and benevolence to achieve political success. But just like the cat, he has multiple lives. For him, there is no room for complacency and there is a price to pay for every prize that one desires. The more invaluable the prize, the more thorny the price.
I join millions of good willingly people around the world to congratulate him for yet another achievement, men like him are rare.