By Erasmus Ikhide
Igbinedion University Okada (IUO), the foremost Private University in Nigeria has recorded many firsts in the field of academic excellence in sub-saharan Africa. Without a doubt, as one of the first private academic institutions across African sub-region has been leveraging on its mission and vision statement and her principled standard of wholesale and all round education such as academic excellence, innovative approaches to modern education teaching methods, human capacity building, creative research, revenue generation and self-sustainability.
Established in the year 1999 by Sir, Chief Dr. Gabriel Osawaru Igbinedion, the Esama of Benin Kingdom, to pursue excellence in teaching, research and scholarship through the provision of world class facilities and opportunities for education, training and employment to its benefit, the institution has made and still making its mark in every endeavour human. Since 1999, Igbinedion University has continued to champion educational revolution in Higher Education in Nigeria, courtesy of the durable icon of innovation and creativity.
IUO has changed the narrative and dynamics in higher education pedagogy, remaining relevant as a Private University with public interest and cosmopolitan orientation. The modest achievements over the years speak volumes. The university has become the nation’s treasure, providing the engine for social mobility, postulating solutions to critical societal problems including that of unemployment and employability. As a matter of fact, the institution has become a distinguished member of the global family of Ivy League Universities in Africa.
With the over 160 Universities in Nigeria, Igbinedion University Okada stands out from the rest as the First Private University, inspiring innovation and advancing education transformation through the state-of-the-art facilities, incredible digital study environment, robust human capital development and a core of dedicated professional staff. IUO has maintained enrolment from every state, every religion and every group in Nigeria and across Africa and interchange with numerous universities globally. In all, the students have demonstrated that they all have one thing in common – commitment to academic excellence!
One of the uniqueness of the institution’s endowment comes with her Blue-sky graduates. The Blue-sky graduates are not only skilled but future-ready, symbolizing the success story of practical education with measurable societal impact. The unending list of achievements is surmised in the quality of the institution’s products who have become the toast of industries, scholars with distinction in postgraduate schools across the globe and employers’ brides within and outside Nigeria. They have proven consistently that they are not only employable anywhere they are located but are also employers of labour wherever they are found.
As guided by its mission statement “To enhance human advancement, prosperity and public welfare through teaching, research and outreach programmes” IUO has broken numerous records and set the pace consistently in leadership, mentorship, innovative scholarship and cross-pollinating collaborations. The institution has truly married the Town and Gown and created a new pathway of productivity-yielding solutions to national problems and challenges on security, welfare, health, innovation, entrepreneurship, data development, data analysis and many more.
At the last accreditation exercise conducted by the NUC, several programmes that were visited at Igbinedion University Okada were granted Full accreditation status, thus bringing all to a total of 47 programmes offered in the University to full accreditation status. Ditto all professional courses requiring accreditation from regulatory bodies are fully accredited by the relevant regulators.
Some of the news courses include the Medical & Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN), Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN), Pharmacists Council of Nigeria) etc. This has happened in the last two years where the numbers of credited courses of the university dramatically skyrocketed from a paltry of 28 accredited courses to 47 under the stewardship of the workaholic ebullient Vice Chancellor, Prof. Lawrence Ezemonyi.
Interestingly, it is on record that Igbinedion University initiated entrepreneurship as part of its academic programme before the National Universities Commission (NUC) adopted it as mandatory in the Curriculum of Universities in Nigeria. The students of the institution are an epitome of excellence not only in academics but also in entrepreneurship due to the content and structure of their home-grown entrepreneurship and skills acquisition programme, which is mandatory for all students at their 300 level.
IUO’s Entrepreneurship and Skills Acquisition Centre is fully equipped with machines to train students in block moulding, cloth making, hair dressing, make-up, confectioneries, production of toiletries, soap, sanitary items, fish breeding, bee keeping, fashion accessories, driving, among many others.
As a toast to its quest for excellence and innovative consciousness the university sought collaboration with the following professional and regulatory bodies for the training, certification and induction of students of the University into professional practice with Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN), Council of Legal Education (CLE), Pharmacists Council of Nigeria (PCN), Medical Laboratory Science Council of Nigeria (MLSCN), Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN), Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators of Nigeria (ICSAN), Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria (CIBN), Nigerian Institute of Management (NIM).
The University’s MOUs with these aforementioned professional bodies includes induction into professional practice before graduation or at the point of graduation as the case may be. The University also has an established collaborative partnership with various Universities and Institutions of high technical relevance within and outside the Country. These include; The Nigerian Army through the Centre for Contemporary Security Affairs, The Nigerian Prisons Service through the Department of International Relations and Strategic Studies, Robert Bosch Stiftung SCRIPT Foundation through the Mass Communication Department, Institute of Strategic Communication and Development, Keffi, Nasarawa State through the Department of Mass Communication.
Others are National Water Resources Institute of Nigeria through the College of Engineering, Patients Safety Africa (World Health Organization, (WHO) affiliate) through the Patients Safety Institute in the College of Health Sciences, Association of African Universities (AAU), Cisco, Huawei, Mikrotik, Microsoft through our ICT Unit and Department of Computer Science & Information Technology, West African Society of Toxicology through the Departments of Microbiology, Chemistry and School of Basic Medical Sciences, among others, Howard University in the USA on telemedicine and the, University of South Carolina on Global Understanding Course, Lancaster University, United Kingdom.
In accordance with the University’s vision statement “To be a centre of academic excellence through teaching, research and knowledge production in response to contextualized national and global needs”, the University has established strategic Centres of Excellence which are already bearing fruits through research and outreach programmes that encourage applications of knowledge. IUO’s Centres of Excellence are; Buratai Centre for Contemporary Security Affairs, Centre for Presidential Studies, Centre for Climate Change and SDGs, Centre for Leadership and Good Governance, Benin Film Academy, Patients Safety Institute.
The enthusiastic Vice Chancellor who relishes hard work as an embodiment of creativity intoned thus: “the university made it as a matter of policy consciously to undertakes initiatives to enhance its students’ life outside classroom work. “We made it mandatory that IUO students are regularly exposed to debate competitions locally, nationally and internationally”.
The University has maintains a well-groomed debate team whose members are recruited through an annual inter-collegiate debate and quiz competition which forms part of the annual Founders Day celebration. The University’s debate team has over the years won prizes within and outside the country. These include; winner, National Inter-Tertiary Institutions Debate Competition, OAU, Ife, February 2017 by National Debate Society, winner, Impact Africa 4th Inter-Tertiary Institutions debate Competition in Africa, Cotonou, 2016, second and Third Prize Winner, Impact Africa International Public Speaking Contest, Tema, Ghana, 2016.
IUO laurels are not restricted to the shores Nigerian boarders in terms of academic dominance. The students have also distinguished themselves and demonstrated courage in competitions both at national and international level and even won several awards. These include; three time Consecutive Winner of Africa Petrobowl Competition for Petroleum Engineering students, three time Africa’s Representative at the Global Petrobowl Competition for Petroleum Engineers in Qatar 2014, Houston, Texas, USA 2015 and Dubai 2016.
As expected, Igbinedion University places due emphasis on sporting activities as an essential means of recreation for students and even members of staff. The University’s sports unit runs a robust sporting activity schedule that engages male and female students in inter-hall competitions and intercollegiate football competitions.
The sports unit also organizes an inter-community football competition that features football teams from neighbouring rural communities annually. Also, the students enjoy a robust social life on campus especially in the evenings and weekends. Oftentimes, the University organizes or gives approval to students to organize social events which feature notable celebrities in music, arts, drama and movies. This perhaps is responsible for the total absent of cult related activities in and around the campus. It’s not unexpected that Igbinedion University has been adjudged as the most peaceful university in Nigeria.
Most celebratory is the Smart Campus, programmes initiative which has been accredited and the establishment of four ICT Academies that are testimonials of the determination of the institution’s leadership in riding the waves of globalization and technological change. From smart digital board through smart classrooms fitted with modern digital teaching aids, to smart hostel rooms, smart recreation facilities and smart walk ways, IUO is more than determined to be the turnkey of ICT revolution in the academic sector in Nigeria and in sub-sahara Africa. The Ivory Tower currently run a One-ST (155MB) internet broadband Wi-Fi service on campus as infrastructural support to its ICT drive. The four ICT Academies which includes; CISCO Academy, Mikrotik Academy, Huawei Academy and Microsoft Academy are the bulwarks of virtual learning innovation strives in modern education.
It’s to its eternal credit that IUO is the first and only Private University in Nigeria that has been graduating Medical Doctors since 2006 until recently before other private universities could achieve the same feat. Also, the university is the first Private University in Nigeria whose graduate obtained First Class Honours at the Nigerian Law School in 2005. The institution is three times Consecutive Winner of African Petrobowl Competition and represented Africa at the International Petrobowl competition in Qatar 2014, Houston, Texas, USA 2015 and Dubai 2016, respectively. Besides, it is the first and only University in Nigeria to have five of its graduates commissioned into the Nigerian Army in one set, (the Direct Short Service Commission Course 23/2016). Since its debut the university has produced over 16,000 graduates in various fields including; Medicine (above 1,200), Law (above 4,000), Pharmacy (above 500), Nursing (200), Computer Science (above 300), Engineering (above 2,000), Arts and Social Sciences (above 5,000), Business Management Studies (above 1,500) among many others.
The 21 points agenda of Prof. Lawrence Ezemonyi which are encapsulated and subsumed in five basic deliverables have captured the essence of the university. Toppling down from (a) quality education delivery, staff training, infrastructure revamp; (b) internationalization and collaboration of the institution across the globe; (c) research, industrialisation and professionalization inclusiveness; (d) internally generated revenue, self sustainability to entrepreneurship and lastely, (e) ICT smart campus academies and digital literacy signposted the university’s inventive spirit of the vision-bearer and the drivers of the vision alike.
Prof. Lawrence Ikechukwu Ezemonyi, Ph.D, FAS, who was appointed recently as a Fellow of the Nigerian Academy of Science and two times Deputy Vice Chancellor of University of Benin is certain that the only way to attain global academic reckoning amidst hundreds of thousands universities globally is to shatter the age long barriers and myths of restricted knowledge and unhealthy self-censorship.