By NBF News
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The Vice Chancellor of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Prof. Bartho Okolo at the weekend said the institution has continued to live up to its original mandate of producing the manpower needed to build the country 50 years after it was founded.

The vice chancellor who disclosed this at the 40th convocation ceremony for the award of bachelor's degrees and diplomas of the university held at the Margaret Ekpo convocation hall, Nsukka campus, pointed out that many distinguished men and women who earned the degrees and diplomas of the institution over the years had made enormous contributions to the society.

Okolo, therefore, said they were at the convocation to confer a total of 8,443 degrees and diplomas, comprising 7,205 bachelor's degrees and 106 diplomas; 1,122 higher degrees and 169 post-graduate diplomas of the university on graduands with 67 of them coming tops in first class. He told the graduating students that they had shown through the great accomplishment of graduating the tenacity to engage the world and become the global leaders that could bring innovation to all aspects of human existence.

'I stand here as a proud father sharing this great moment with your parents, guardians and mentors who have provided the support that allowed you to reach this milestone. I pray that your dreams are fulfilled, to the glory of God and progress of our nation. Step out gallantly into the larger world armed with the knowledge you have acquired here and the indomitable University of Nigeria spirit.

'Remember, you have earned the same degree with which Mr Mike Okoroafor rose to become the vice-president of Coca-Cola in the United States of America, the same degree with which Chike Mba took to head the Plant Tissue Laboratory at the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna. It is the same degree with which many Nigerians have risen to become very successful at home and in the Diaspora and with which many lions and lionesses have gone on to break academic records abroad.

'I am aware that times have changed and the circumstances may differ, but you need to know that you have what it takes to achieve as much even now. So, do not allow the prevailing socio-economic circumstances to diminish the sense of fulfilment you should feel on your graduation. 'Furthermore, do not be limited in your belief of what you can achieve with your degree. I encourage you to consider the option of being self-employed, using the skills and knowledge acquired from your training in entreprenuership. This way, you can become job creators rather than job seekers,' Prof. Okolo admonished the graduands.

He also told them to always remember that universities and colleges hold a highly privileged place in the society because of a longstanding consensus about the value of education, saying that Nigerians had an almost childlike faith in what formal education could do for them.

'In Nigeria as well as other thriving nations of the world, that faith is based on the conviction that the vitality of the country, its creative and diverse cultural life, its staggeringly inventive economy, and the robustness of its democratic institutions owe much to the quality of its institutions of higher education.

'I must remind you that your certificate is based on two key components -academics and character. As you leave us today, always remember to engage in behaviours that add value to every endeavour you find yourself in the journey of life. Strive to exemplify excellence and allow your actions to speak for you always,' he advised.

He said as he looked into the excited faces of the 2010 graduating class, it was necessary to remind them that they were the envy of their generation, adding that the envy was well justified from almost any metric one may choose. He told them that they are expected to win Nobel prizes in the arts and sciences, make positive impact on the global economy, and compete with and outperform foreign students because of the quality of education they had received from UNN.

'Please remember that for you to be global success stories, you must have broad and long-term vision, to see the context within which you will work and its global connection. 'You must acquire the skills to be able to become part of an effective team in a global arena, and finally to learn how to work, orthogonally and horizontally.

'We expect you to be able to lead globally, in new situations, in other cultures, and to understand and to appreciate differences, and how to take advantage of them to reach new levels of achievement. In other words, you must have multicultural sophistication and intellectual agility,' Okolo advised. Looking at the 50-year-old university, Okolo said though the 40th convocation was another landmark in its astonishing history as the cradle of university education in the country, the institution had paid a great price for its age.

'Our infrastructure was built decades ago to cater for the needs of a few hundred students and a corresponding number of staff. Today, these facilities serve an average of 40,000 students per academic year, and 8000 staff. In their current state, these facilities are either delapidated or simply inadequate to meet the needs of the current population of staff and students.

'UNN needs the support of all its stakeholders to provide the requisite infrastructure for its role as a foremost trainer of the manpower that is keeping our education sector going,' he said, urging the graduands to think carefully about contributing to the continued development of the great university.