Emeritus Prof. Andrew Godwin Onokerhoraye @ 70
Emeritus Professor A. G. Onokerhoraye, a man of ideas and vision, the first thing that strikes you about him, is his unparalleled simplicity coupled with humorous nature and infectious laughter that oozes a fullness of life. A warm, welcoming gesture that often puts everyone at ease!
A towering pillar of Academics and Administration, Prof. Onokerhoraye, continually radiates dignity, confidence, maturity and cooperation in any programme he is called upon to pilot both locally and internationally. A versatile Geographer and Social Scientist, acknowledged scholar, prolific author, eminent teacher and researcher, he is an Academic of deep intellectual vision, with profound commitment to the ideals and objective of university mission.
Leadership in organisation means many things to many people. And its quality is determined to a large extent by the nature of the transaction of the institution. For the university system (which is founded principally to seek knowledge, preserve knowledge, and disseminate knowledge), there are certain qualities that are expected to characterise the leadership. These qualities illustrate the psychological environment within which knowledge is sought after, preserved and disseminated from generation to generation.
Prominent among them is open mindedness in debate, consensus in decision-making regularity in consultation, fairness to all in applying rules and regulations, firmness in action and leadership by example, while according respect to academic tradition.
Prof, Onokerhoraye epitomizes these qualities and almost became an institution of academic reference by himself with the best of scholarship. Ask for his research and publications? After the first hundred, who cares to count!
He was appointed Vice Chancellor of University of Benin on a popular vote. At the time he assumed duty in November 1992, the university was in staff unrest, students persistent agitation, and unsatisfactory municipal services. He carried the power without losing his head in it.
Prof. Onokerhoraye’s vice-chancellorship was the era of academic-oriented leadership, firm and characterised by industrial harmony and stability. It was little wonder that most academic professional bodies were, at the time out-bidding themselves to hold their national conferences in University of Benin. In fact, the period was essentially revolutionary in style, practice and vision with great emphasis on advancement in intellectual heights. This academic eloquence reflects among others, in the over 25 Ph.D students he supervised, to say nothing of the number of undergraduate, and more so, as two of his supervisees have become vice chancellors themselves in Nigerian universities while many are professors and yet others in enviable positions in various organisations within and outside the country.
For this highly reputed academic giant, his agenda promised and became action-oriented, democratic-based, achievement motivated and welfare-driven, which he embarked upon with bold steps and focus. His administration was undeniably participatory and flamboyant and did put smile on the faces of vast majority of the members of the University of Benin community, a feature that was an exception within the contemporary Nigerian higher education institution at the time.
In fact, in the last fifteen years, this erudite Professor has been involved in numerous action research projects in collaboration with various international organisations including the European Commission( EU), Rockefeller Foundation, African Development Foundation, World Health Organization (WHO), Catholic Organisation for Relief and Development Aid (CORDAID), Shell Foundation, United States Agency for International Development (USAID), United States Institute of Peace, Carnegie Corporation, MacArthur Foundation, International Development Research Centre (IDRC), Department for International Development of United Kingdom (DFID), Global Health Initiative, Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) and United Nations Development Program (UNDP). Needless to dwell on number of meetings, workshops and conferences relating to research projects within and outside Nigeria.
This necessitated his crisscrossing the globe acquiring and disseminating knowledge in countries such as UK, Netherlands, Germany, USA, Canada, France, India, Turkey, Ghana, Senegal, Kenya, South Africa, Ugandan, Ethiopia, Egypt, Belgium, just to mention a few. This is beside s his long standing position as a consultant to WHO, UNESCO and United Nations, Federal and state governments of Nigeria.
In all these assignments, Prof. Onokerhoraye carries them out with telling effectiveness and efficiency. There is no doubt that this efficiency is what has endeared him to many serious agencies and institutions around the world. He is quietly a Nigeria’s intellectual Ambassador!
Beyond his intellectualism, Prof. Onokerhoraye is a profound man of God, generous and passionate. He gives much of his resources in philanthropy to church and underprivileged others.
As he celebrates his 70 years of life, we join his family, friends, associates and teeming population of well-wishers to say: Happy Birthday to one of Nigeria’s best minds of his generation, to this great intellectual, this recipient of national honor of Officer of Order of the Niger and a Justice of Peace.
Happy many returns!