TEXT OF THE SPEECH DELIVERED BY THE VICE-CHANCELLOR OF THE UNIVERSITY OF MEDICAL SCIENCES (UNIMED), PROFESSOR FRIDAY OKONOFUA FAS, AT THE FIRST MATRICULATION AND INAUGURATION CEREMONY OF THE UNIVERSITY
MARCH 12, 2016
It is with great respect and veneration that I welcome all Distinguished Guests to this first Matriculation combined with the formal inauguration ceremony of the University of Medical Sciences. Today is a special day as it signals the official admission of students and the commencement of the University after months of intense preparations, meetings and deliberations. I wish to, in a very special way, thank all those who made this University possible. In particular, I wish to thank the progressive, forward-looking and very dynamic Governor of the State, His Excellency Dr Olusegun Mimiko for his visionary and bold efforts in establishing this first University devoted to the Medical Sciences in the whole of West Africa. Indeed, history will be kind to you, Sir not only for this noble effort, but for the exemplary leadership you have provided in Ondo State, especially in health and educational transformation, which I am aware other States are still battling to study and to emulate.
I also wish to thank those who worked with Mr Governor in efforts to fulfil the aims and objectives of this unique University. I know there are many, but let me particularly mention the noble roles played by the Hon Commissioner for Health, Dr Dayo Adeyanju, the Chairman of the Governing Council, Emeritus Professor OO Akinkugbe and the Osemawe of Ondo Kingdom, His Royal Majesty, Dr Oba Victor Kiladejo. They have been my key advisers and supporters (people I run to when I have a problem) since I took office as Vice-Chancellor. I would also like to mention the Commissioner for Finance and the Commissioner for Education, and indeed, all members of the University’s Governing Council who have always stood like Rocks of Gibraltar behind every effort made by the University. I also wish to most sincerely thank our neighboring institutions, especially the Adeyemi College of Education and NIEPA for the support they continue to provide for the University. Indeed, the Provost of the Adeyemi College of Education, Professor Olukoya Ogen has stood like a veritable adviser and a true Aburo to me - I will forever be grateful to him for being the unspoken Trojan horse behind the University since our inception. I pray that the Almighty Lord will also surely stand by him in his hours of need. Indeed, the University is keeping foundational record of these contributions. When the history of this University is finally written, the names of all contributors at this stage of its infancy will be written in pure gold.
University’s Mission and Vision Statements
As this is the first major event of the University, it is appropriate that we re-state the mission and vision of the University.
The mission of UNIMED is: “To provide exceptional quality and comprehensive health care and integrated education and research in all health-related sciences, to expand access to compassionate and high quality health care for under-served populations, and to lead the scientific pathway for reducing the burden of disease in our areas of operation”. The vision of the University is “to be a thriving medical and health sciences University, locally, nationally and internationally recognized for excellence and innovation in health education and research, and for its ability to translate research findings for the improvement of health in communities with high burden of disease”.
Our principal objective is to establish a 21st century world-class University of excellence in medical research, teaching and service delivery.
Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, I wish to let you know that these mission and vision statements were developed after intense deliberations, and to assure everyone present here today, that we are deeply committed to its actualization. Surely, it will not be business as usual. This University will work assiduously and relentlessly to correct the mistakes that currently bedevil medical education and service delivery in this country. As Vice-Chancellor, I wish to assure you that I will work with utmost patriotism and with deep commitment, transparency and accountability to achieve the best international benchmarks for the University within the shortest period of time.
UNIMED: July 2015 to date
As most of you probably know, the University was given formal recognition and Certificate of Recognition as the 140th Nigerian University by the National Universities Commission (NUC) in April 2015. However, the University did not go into full swing until July 2015. Since then we have made significant progress in all spheres. Not only have we appointed up to 102 Academic and non-teaching staff (including principal officers), we have also firmly organized and put all administrative and academic structures of the University in place.
The Council of the University was inaugurated by Mr Governor, His Excellency, Dr Olusegun Mimiko, CON in December 2015 under the Distinguished Chairmanship of Emeritus Professor OO Akinkugbe FAS, NNOM. Since then, Council has had up to 4 meetings to deliberate on ways to move the University forward. Senate has also been fully constituted and is meeting regularly to plan and drive the academic programs of the University. Indeed, all Committees of Senate and Council have been fully established and are working well in accordance with the edict that established the University. The University is also building its administrative and academic infrastructures at a fast pace never before witnessed for newly established Universities in this country.
One of the major achievements of the University was the approval given to it by the NUC to begin 5 Academic courses – Medicine, Dentistry, Biochemistry, Physiology, and Anatomy – following the visit of a Resource Verification Team from the Commission to the University in December 2015. The Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN) also paid an advisory visit to the University in December 2015, and was impressed with the plans being put in place to establish the Medical and Dental programs of the university. The University has since being pursuing the implementation of the specific recommendations made by the NUC and MDCN teams to strongly establish its Medical and Dental programs.
Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, I am pleased to inform you that the University was able to admit its first set of students in January 2016. This consists of 234 students admitted into various courses in the University. This includes 97 admitted into Medicine (54 at 100 Level and 43 at 200 Level); 36 into Dentistry (21 at 100 Level and 15 at 200 Level); 32 at 100 Level Biochemistry; 34 at 100 Level Anatomy; and 35 at 100 Level Physiology.
Students came into residence on January 10, 2016. They completed their orientation program on January 23, 2016 and began lectures on January 25, 2016. Most of the students have completed their registration formalities, which forms the basis of the matriculation ceremony we are witnessing today.
Matriculation signals the formal admission of the students into the University, without which students would still be regarded as adhoc rather than full-time students. Therefore, this first matriculation ceremony of the University is an important and crucial event which is being taken very seriously by the University. At this ceremony today, the students will be requested to take the Matriculation Oath to indicate their willingness to abide by the rules and regulations of the University.
At this point, let me congratulate the students and their parents and guardians for this phenomenal achievement. I know what it took for you individually to get to this stage, so it must be a thing of joy for all of you to witness today’s event. I wish to assure every parent and guardian that the University will do its very best to protect the students and give them the best living and learning experiences. We as officers and teachers will adopt every student in the University as our ward in the University, and we have resolved to be supportive and protective to them at all time. However, to whom much is given much is expected. We expect the students to respect the rules and regulations of the University, to shun all vices and to be respectful of their elders and all officials of the University. Their books and lectures should be their major focus and pastimes, while we will provide opportunities for extra-curricular engagements and experiences so as to broaden the knowledge of the students.
Clearly, we recognize that in our bid to achieve world-class status, the quality of our students is an important part of the equation. This accounts for the high diligence and importance we have placed on the admission process in this University, and our resolve to support our students at all time to attain the highest level of academic possibilities. On this we are determined not to fail, and to be a classical example to other universities in this country.
Inauguration of the University
We are grateful that today, we are having the opportunity to present the University to the general public. From time to time, the University will organize major events, including distinguished guest lectures that will bring the ethos of the University to the recognition of the wider segment of the society. We are indeed, very grateful that the Executive Secretary of the NUC himself, Professor Julius Okojie has been able to join us to talk to us about the expectations of the NUC and indeed all Nigerians of this University. We are sure to take his words of advice to heart in our desire to propel the University to the world stage.
We are also grateful that several Vice-Chancellors, senior academics and senior professors are able to join us for today’s ceremony. There are several, but let me mention two in particular who have been helping the University in its strategic planning. Professor Peter Okebukola, a Vice-Chancellor emeritus and former Executive Secretary of the NUC, is the special adviser plenipotentiary to me as Vice-Chancellor. He is currently assisting the University with the development of its strategic plan. We are also very grateful to Professor OA Bamiro, former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ibadan, a man for whom I have the highest respect for his integrity, who is our adviser on research development. We thank him for the unwavering and towering support he has continued to give to the University. The two distinguished professors – Professor Okebukola and Professor Bamiro – on their own are current and serving Chairmen and Pro-Chancellors of two Nigerian Universities, and are continually being sought out for on educational matters in this country. We are indeed, very grateful for their presence here today.
University Sustainability Plans
Permit me at this juncture to speak on a subject matter that has been agitating the minds of friends and various stakeholders about the University, for which I have received a number of queries. This is the sustainability of the University in view of the dwindling national and state resources, and the uncertain political climate in the country. Let me first reiterate the answer I have often given to everyone who has expressed this concern. That is: a good idea is a good idea – it is not the lack of money that is the problem with our country, but the lack of great ideas. When you have great ideas, money will come to drive the implementation of the idea, and of course all progressive people will support the idea. The idea of the University of Medical Sciences is one of the most creative and innovative ideas that have taken place in the development of tertiary education, especially the development of medical education in this country. To this end, I am convinced without any single iota of doubt that the University of Medical Sciences has come to stay and will be supported by all Nigerians in perpetuity.
To meet the anticipated challenges in financing, which indeed, ALL Nigerian Universities are facing at the present time, the University of Medical Sciences has established a multi-functional and professional fund-raising office headed by a former professor at the University of Maryland, USA who is now resident with us in Ondo City. To date, the multi-faceted fund-raising efforts of the University have made tremendous progress, and we are hopeful that this will reach its maximum level of development very soon.
Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, this is not to say that government will not play its role in funding the University. We will continue to appeal to the Government – not just the Ondo State Government, but all Governments in the Country - to support this University as this is a truly Nigerian project. Indeed, all governments of this country are going to be invited to join the Friends of UNIMED Trust Fund. Today, all Nigerians need to know that in this first admission process, only 45% of students are from Ondo State – the rest are from about 20 other States spread across the country. About 45% of our students are women, while 55% are men, which speak volumes of the gender non-discriminant value of our admission policy. Our fees are some of the lowest paid by any medical school in this country. So, it’s important that we recognize the social consciousness that has gone into the strategic development of the University, which I believe should propel all patriots everywhere to support the development of the University.
Friends of UNIMED Fund: One of the great fund-raising ideas the University has identified is the Friends of UNIMED Fund (FUF).
At its Meeting of February 18, 2016, the Governing Council of the University decided to establish a “Friends of UNIMED FUND (FUF)” for the purpose of obtaining the resources to grow the University to attain its mission and vision statements. The objectives of the UNIMED FUF are twofold: 1) to build a multitude of friends for the University who will see themselves as joint owners, and therefore be willing to make regular contributions towards the development of the University; and 2) to manage the Fund in a transparent, effective and accountable manner for specific identifiable projects on research, service delivery and development of the University.
The idea is to generate a cohort of friends for the university who will make regular, small and determined financial contributions towards the implementation of specific projects in the University. It is not the size of individual contributions that will matter, but rather the number and consistency of the contributors. The goal of the University is to attract one million faithful friends who will make annual donations of at least one thousand naira (N1000) each. This will amount to about One Billion Naira each year, enough to embark on major developmental projects each year for the University.
This Fund will be formally launched at a later date, but forms are being distributed here today for people to indicate their willingness to be part of this noble process.
Appreciation of Donors:
Let me at this point thank all those who made various donations in cash and in kind to the University over the past months. These include the First Bank, Zenith Bank, High Chief Adeduro, a member of the University’s Governing Council, and Dr Akingba, who is the present Chairman of the Governing Council of OSUSTECH, Okitipupa. Indeed, High Chief Adeduro has not only donated some funds to enable the payment of the School fees of one of our students, he has also donated his entire seating allowance as a member of the University Governing Council as a Trust to assist the University’s future development. We are indeed, very grateful to all our donors, but we hope others will join very soon. Indeed, several people including staff of the University have already started donating to the Friends of UNIMED Fund. They are too numerous to mention here. However, the names of all donors to the University will be published soon in the University’s website very soon. And we will continue to honor them for the efforts they make to the development of the University.
Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, I wish to thank you profusely for finding time to join us today at this maiden event of the University. We wish to assure you of the deep commitment of all principal officers of the University (indeed, my personal commitment) to propel this noble idea of the great people of Ondo State to its highest level of potentiation. To this commitment, we are prayerful that the Almighty Lord will continue to give us wisdom and good health to ensure its full realization to the entire benefit of all Nigerians.
I thank you all for listening.