New Telegraph

When Goodluck Jonathan hosted his class of ‘UU’81’

Forty years later, they still remain united and together, which is the reason they gathered recently in Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State capital, to celebrate their own – Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, the former President of Nigeria, and to restate their commitment to one another.

 

They were the foundation class of the University of Port Harcourt (Uniport), who gained admission in 1977 with about 300 of them according to one of them. Sadly by the time they were graduating in 1981, about 15 of them had died. But since 1977 they are still trying to remain together and have achieved a lot especially in their alma mater.

 

They were then called ‘Unique Uniport’ which is the reason they still go by the acronym ‘UU81’. The reunion, it was learnt, started from 2016 and up till this year, the set has been waxing stronger and stronger.

 

And so one of their own (Jonathan) decided to host themselves this year with a reunion starting with a cocktail party at his country home at Yenagoa which was followed the next day with a visit to the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board Industrial Park at Emeyal.

 

Thereafter the class went to visit one of their teachers, Professor Ebiegberi Alagoa at his country home at Nembe where they relived the old days at ‘Unique Uniport’. The three-day reunion was later rounded off with a lecture and a dinner where the former president was given an award of excellence for global citizenship.

 

Speaking at the NCDMB Industrial Park Emeyal in Ogbia Local Government Area of Bayelsa State where he led his class on an excursion, Jonathan disclosed his reason for signing the Nigerian Oil and Gas Industry Development Act (NODGID) which gave birth to the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB) was to ensure that at least 80% of the needs of the oil industries are provided locally.

 

The former President commended the management of the board for developing the industrial park, stating that by the time the same centre is built in all the states in Niger Delta, at least 50% of the needs of the oil industry will be met in the country. Jonathan said: “I was determined that for us as a nation to gain from the oil industry, at least 80% of the needs of the industry should be produced in the country.

 

“Oil was also discovered in commercial quantity in China in 1958, two years after they discovered oil in Nigeria by the same Western company but by the year 2000, up to 80% of the components and the needs of the oil industry were produced in China but in Nigeria, if Agip needs one thing, they will go to Italy or France. If it is Shell, they will go to the Netherlands.

 

“So, I was determined that for us as a nation to gain from the oil industry, at least 80% of the needs of the oil industry should be produced in-country and by divine precedence, I became the president, I felt something must be done. “The idea of local content is to ensure that at least 80% of the needs of the industry are produced in this country.”

 

The active Jonathan, who took part in almost all the programmes of the ‘Class of 81’, also speaking at Nembe said that he led members of the 1981 set of the institution on a visit to the pioneer Dean of the Faculty of Humanities to thank him for impacting in their lives, stating that Prof. Alagoa and other lecturers grilled them well and made them better citizens.

 

Jonathan said: “Having grilled us for four years, we said today, since we are meeting in Yenagoa, we have to visit our pioneer Dean of Humanities to appreciate what he did for us while in school.”

 

However, in one of the sessions, the former President had used the occasion of the reunion to urge Nigerian leaders to value the interest of every section of the country in order to build a united Nigeria.

 

Speaking at Opume, the palace of King Amalate Turner, who is also a member of ‘UU81’, Jonathan described the country as being blessed with both human and natural resources which he said can only be enjoyed in a peaceful atmosphere. He advised: “Leaders should focus more on uniting Nigerians. If one society or group of people or tribe is more valued than the other, then there is bound to be disunity and disenchantment from those who feel not being accorded their rightful respect and value.

 

“Those at the national level should think less about their personal interests because doing that will plunge the country into crisis.

 

“I plead with Nigerian leaders to value the interest of every section of the country in order to build a united nation devoid of agitation, disunity and disenchantment adding that human society was organised in groups so every circle, people must unite.

 

“We must see ourselves as one, unit to protect the interest of all of us who are Nigerians and push for a common interest.

 

“Where people are separated and begin to think about their individual interests, then the country will be in crisis.

 

“For us who came from different parts of this country coming together is a symbol of what we expect to happen at the national level. We must unit as Nigerians and work together to advance the interest of this country.”

 

Also on the award, the former president thanked the association for finding him worthy of the award saying that all members of the association deserved one form of award or the other following their various contributions not only to the university but to national unity.

 

He described the ‘Class ‘81’, who started in 1977, as a pacesetter for the institution being the foundation class maintaining that the ‘Class 81’ was and has continued to be a pacesetter class. He said: “Indeed, every member of this class like alumni members of other universities and institutions in Nigeria has contributed to the development of this nation in various ways and so, it’s my belief that all members of the ‘Class ‘81’ of deserves an award.

 

“We were so lucky because during our time, there was no JAMB. You just apply for any university of your choice. So some persons, depending on your financial strength could apply to two and some even three universities. But I was able to apply for just two, Uniport and Nsukka (UNN).

 

But it was Uniport that granted me admission as one of her pioneer students in the school of biological sciences in 1977 and we graduated as pioneers in 1981.

 

“And since after our graduation, 40 years ago, we have been living as brothers and sisters as members of one indivisible family.” Also honoured with the award of excellence was a former Manager, Finance and Budgeting of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Stanley Lawson. Speaking on behalf of other members of ‘UU81’, Oluyori Aguda, the National President of the class, said that Jonathan has been a role model and a worthy example of what was expected of every University of Port Harcourt-bred graduate.

 

He said: “He served Nigeria meritorious  ly and has become a global citizen, a global brand. “Also, Lawson has also been a pillar of this association and has also excelled so well in his chosen career. He single handedly hosted the first reunion of this association in 2017 in Abuja. Indeed both of them were carefully selected for these awards.”

 

Professor Ebiegberi Alagoa, expressing his happiness for their (‘UU81’) visit, had said that he was delighted to receive his former students, who have made names in their various chosen fields.

 

He said: “You are aware that University of Port Harcourt and University of Calabar were the universities that the Federal Government announced together in this part of the world, but the opening of Uniport took place a year after Uncial. “The idea was to train the best workforce, though we came a bit later than our contemporaries but from the year we started, we have been top.”

 

The Vice Chancellor of Uniport, Professor George Owunari, speaking at the lecture, commended the ‘UU81’ class for citing flagship projects in the university. He said: “All the flagship projects you see on campus are courtesy of this Class 81. If you talk about the digitization of our records, it was courtesy of Class 81.

 

“When I looked at all those things, I said even if they are doing this in the USA, I will be present. I wish to tell this Class of 81 that the university is happy with them. They are doing and also to tell other classes including my own class that we have to emulate these pioneers in all that they are doing for the University of Port Harcourt. “I’m here to tell the class 81 that the university they left 40 years ago is still healthy and growing from strength to strength.”

 

Of course, the first Military Governor of the old Rivers State and the Amayanabo of Twon-Brass, King Alfred Diete Spiff narrated how he struggled to get Uniport established. He said that when he was the governor of the state, one of the memos sent by me was a memo to establish Uniport. He said it was not easy but disclosed that at last, he was able to do it

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