Senator Jim Ifeanyichukwu Nwobodo, an elder statesman and a former governor of the old Anambra State, has revealed that he fought to see that the Anambra State University of Technology, or ASUTECH, was established because the residents of the old Anambra State were among those who were discriminated against because the Wawa people were poor and could not afford a university education, particularly after the Nigerian civil war.
Nwobodo claimed that in addition to ensuring that the university was founded, he also made sure that bursary awards were given to the students in order to support their academic success.
He said that the bursary he provided inspired the then-Gov. Sam Mbakwe of the former Imo State to grant bursaries to Imo State students, which sparked and grew higher education in the region.
He claimed that the reason he was glad today was that such educational institutions’ alumni and supporters had grown into Nigeria’s leaders and had been returning to thank him for his prediction from 43 years prior.
In his country home, Amechi Awkunanu Enugu, the ASUTECH Family Forum honoured Nwobodo on Thursday for being “a visionary leader who established the first University of Technology in Nigeria, the Anambra State University of Technology (ASUTECH), on the 30th of July 1980.” Nwobodo made the remarks at the ceremony.
The former managing director of Enugu State Water Corporation and leader of the ASUTECH family delegation, Engr. Martins Okwor, stated that the Alumni thought it was important to honour the Man who fulfilled their childhood ambitions.
The decision to grant Nwobodo the honour was made during their yearly reunion in 2022 at Awka, Anambra state, according to Okwor, who was accompanied by another ASUTECH alum who later became a Catholic priest, Rev Fr Simon Onyia.
This is due to the fact that we never bring up ASUTECH or have you (Nwobodo) in mind without doing so. We thus stated that although we may not have much, we can express our gratitude in our own unique way. The late Engr Dons Udeh and I were selected to do the presentation for you, but since Udeh passed away, I had to get in touch with the Reverend Father, Okwor remarked.
The elderly man, Nwobodo, responded by saying that he was constantly pursued by ASUTECH alumni wherever he went, both inside and outside of Nigeria. He specifically mentioned an event in which two Alumni entertained him and his wife in the United States of America.
He mentioned that he has been granted four honorary doctorates by institutions that were born out of ASUTECH. He mentioned the Ebonyi State University (EBSU), Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University (COOU), Nnamdi Azikiwe University (Unizik), and Enugu State University of Science and Technology (ESUT) as examples of such universities.
According to Nwobodo, he was persuaded to build the state institutions when some students approached him and shared unpleasant tales about their university experiences.
They added that they were being identified as Ndi Wawa, that they were not properly clothed, and that they lacked money. I felt awful and responded, “Okay, fine! I made the decision to award bursaries to anyone from the Anambra state who is enrolled in a university in Nigeria. They said they could create noise in any university with the money, even if it was just N300 per student. Because the civil war was the source of all things, they claimed they were no longer embarrassed of their involvement in it.
The Imo student went to meet Mbakwe and questioned him, saying that since all Igbo were involved in the battle, why shouldn’t they receive the scholarship as the Anambra people do. Jim! Mbakwe phoned and said. Why did you send boys to come and attack me, and I responded by telling him that these lads were poor and unemployed, and some of their parents had killed in the war. How do you expect them to survive?
“I suggested to Mbakwe that he simply follow my lead, and he agreed. That’s how the bursary travelled throughout the south-east, and it didn’t increase government costs, according to Nwobodo.
He continued by recalling a conversation he had with the late Prof. Kenneth Dike, who served as his vice chancellor while he was a student at the University of Ibadan, where it was suggested that ASUTECH become the nation’s first multicampus university.
Nwobodo said that he discussed the idea of expanding ASUTECH to many campuses with the late Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, and Zik had given his approval. Zik also expressed a desire for the University’s students to graduate with pride, and Nwobodo expressed happiness that his goal had come true.
He exhorted the ASUTECH Alumni to make sure they get involved in the growth of their alma university through organisations like ESUT, EBSU, Unizik, and COOU. He revealed that ESUT has set November of this year as the date for its inaugural founders day celebration.
He urged the ASUTECH alums to make sure they took part in the Founders Day programme, when he would also get recognition.