Edwin Clarke Establishes Private University Of Technology
Barely 24 hours after the media was awash with report that ex-militant leader of the Niger Delta Volunteer Peoples Force, Alhaji Asari Dokubo has established a private university, another Niger Delta kinsman and leader of the Ijaw nation, Chief Edwin Clark has announced he is also setting up a private university.
Clarke who spoke in an interview to explain the setting up of the university said it is his way of giving back to the society and a legacy he wants to leave behind and be remembered for.
The Commissioner for Education under the Brig. Samuel Ogbemudia administration in the old Bendel State, says modalities for take-off of the university in January 2014 are being worked out with the National Universities Commission, as a parting gift and legacy to humanity.
What is the motivation for setting up a university at the age of 86?
I really want to give something back to society knowing that God may call me home any day. When I was 85 last year, it came to my mind that I should do something by way of leaving a legacy behind, such that after it has pleased God to take me home, there would be something for many Nigerians to still use and remember me for. It is better than building estates, which have split many families. I am even trying to reconcile many families, which have been set apart as a result of the sharing family estates left behind by their parents. Some are in court and there is no end in sight despite interventions by elders. There is a case of a brother and a sister of the same parents, who are already at the Supreme Court over their father’s property. So, I feel that it is better to learn from those experiences that one should have legacies that their children will be proud of and be of benefit to other Nigerians.
So I thought about it and came to the conclusion that leaving a legacy in the education sector would be the best thing for me to do. I also remember that when I was young, I taught as a pupil-teacher; that was in 1947. I remember that I wanted to go to Government College, Ughelli, like my brothers and when we went before the officials- made up of S. U. Etuk, Mr. Joe Irukwu, who was then the Senior Education Officer for the Delta, and Anthony Enahoro, at the panel for the Government College Warri, they said I was too old to be admitted and I was therefore rejected for my younger brother, Ambassador B. A. Clark, who was Nigeria’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations and Prof J.P. Clark. They went to Government College, Ughelli. So I was told to go to Abraka Government Teachers’ College and, when I got there, they said I was too young to be enrolled. So, I had to go and teach as pupil-teacher in 1949. I later became headmaster of schools. Thereafter, I went to Great Britain to study Law. So, when I returned in 1965, I started practice and was appointed by the then Col. Samuel Ogbemudia in 1968 as the Commissioner for Education. I was very interested in education and I started working to improve the situation for the interest of our people. At that time, there was only one grammar school and one teacher training college in the whole western Ijaw. My governor was very understanding and, through his effort and mine, we established ten more grammar schools in the area and others in some of the parts that are now in Bayelsa State.
Thereafter, we proposed that girls should be given scholarship right from secondary school to the university level. We did the same for the boys. So, I can tell you that I have been following education from my youth. Unfortunately, we are still disadvantaged educationally and we need to do something to change the sad situation. There have been many private universities going on in the country and none has come to our area apart from the Bayelsa State University. The Ijaw has no university. That is why the idea of establishing a first class private university of technology in my hometown of Kiagbodo came to my mind. If it pleases God for me to still be alive, I would be happy to see Nigerians from all walks of life coming to study in my hometown and that is my desire to promote national unity and cohesion. The other side of it is that the University of Benin, which I assisted in founding when I was a commissioner under Ogbemudia, was meant to produce technologists and scientists for the nation. All this shows that I have been thinking of science and technology and I believe that I should set up a university of technology with the help of my associates and friends. I have a foundation known as Chief Edwin Clark Foundation and I am going to be the proprietor of the university. The trustees are men of integrity drawn from all parts of Nigeria. So it is never too late to set up the university and, when I die, others are there to run it for the sake of humanity.
Who is going to provide the funds for the university to make the required impact you have talked about?
Funding can never be a problem for the university, given the fact that it is what has been on the drawing board for some time. I had looked at it before coming to the stage. I have consulted widely and I don’t think that money would be a problem because of the huge goodwill that I have established over the years and the high level of consultation with credible individuals and experts in the field. People from all over the world will certainly support me. Even if I am gone, the trustees would raise the necessary funding to get the institution running. We are starting with two faculties-Applied and Social Sciences. Some of the buildings are already up. When I said that I wanted to start, some of my boys in the Niger Delta voluntarily sent me materials-truck loads of cement, rods and sand-to get the work started. Some of them even go there to drop materials without my knowledge. And we are going to launch the fund for the university under the name of the EK Clark Foundation on October 21. I am inviting all men of goodwill, including Mr. President, who is expected to serve as the Special Guest of Honour and my old boss, Gen. Yakubu Gowon, who has agreed to chair the occasion, a renowned personality from the United States of America, the legendary Rev. Jesse Jackson, who is to deliver the keynote address, and some other prominent Nigerians who are my friends and who believe in what I am doing and in one Nigeria. It is not a one-day thing and so money can never be a problem. It will be done little by little.
When will the first set of students start classes there?
Immediately we get the go-ahead from the National Universities Commission, we will fling our doors open to the first set of students. We have applied and paid all the prescribed fees and some of the NUC officials have been going to the site to see that we have done. Once the launching has been done and we get the green light, we hope to start in January 2014. I want to see the first set of students and personally welcome them to my village and give them my blessing as a lover and promoter of education in Nigeria.
Do you think that you will have the required human capital to run such a specialised institution given the high level of brain drain to other parts of the world?
First of all, charity, they say, begins at home. I have been making contacts and the people are available for the job. To start with, the University of Benin, which I helped to set up, has agreed to be part of the preparation for my own university. UNIBEN has set up an eight-man committee of professors to liaise with the upcoming university to see what they can do to make the new one a success. We will depend on them and others to make it work. We have also gone abroad to seek help for the new institution. We have made contacts with the Chicago State University to supply us with some of the technological things we require. We will soon sign a memorandum of understanding with the institution and others around the world for the strengthening of the new university.
What is the name of the university and what target have you set for it?
We have put all the things required by the NUC in place. First, we have met the three mandatory requirements put up by the NUC. One, we have the master plan, we have acquired over 124 hectares of land in my hometown and the buildings are going on, we have provided an academic brief for ten years and the law governing the university. These three documents have already been submitted to the NUC. I personally went there because of my interest and they were surprised to see me with other key officials of the EK Clark Foundation. They were happy to see us. With regard to the name of the university, the first thing that came to my mind was Niger Delta University but it was rejected by the NUC on the grounds that there was already the Niger Delta University in Wilberforce Island, Bayelsa State. I was advised to choose another name. They even suggested to me that given my numerous contributions to education, the new university could be named after me. I reluctantly accepted that the university be named after me and that is why it is called, named and addressed as Edwin Clark University of Technology, Kiagbodo.
So what targets have you set for the university?
I may not be around in the next ten years but I have a dream that whether I am around or not, the university will make its mark in the world. I am certain that all will be well with it. That is my dream and hope. Nigerians will one day be proud of the setting up of the university and through it remember that there was a man like Chief EK Clark. That is my wish and expectation whether I am alive or not.
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