The Chairman of Air Peace, Barrister Allen Onyema, has called for an increase in funding for Nigeria’s universities, stressings that Nigerians should be proud of their institutions.
Onyema made this call while inaugurating an imposing guest house named after him at the University of Ibadan(UI) as an alumnus of the institution.
The building was constructed under the auspices of the University of Ibadan Alumni Association (UIAA), which he is a member.
The unveiling took place at a special ceremony organised by the UIAA at the University at the weekend and attended by the Sultan of Sokoto and Chancellor of the University, His Royal Majesty, Alhaji Muhammad Abubakar, Chairman of the University Governing Council, Chief John Odigie, Vice-chancellor of the University and chief host, Professor Kayode Adebowale and the executive members of the UIAA.
He said: “We need to be proud of Nigerian universities. That’s how it was in the good old days. We need to rediscover those days”, he stated.
The Air Peace boss, who was recognised with the Alumnus of the Year Award by the University in 2019, used the medium to plead with the Academic Staff Union of Universities( ASUU), to call off their strike for the sake of the nation and the future of the students.
He said: “It pains me that our children have been at home for several months. For the sake of our nation, which is passing through trying times and for the sake of the wellbeing of our children, ASUU should, please, call off the strike.”
“He said the Federal Government and the Union should reach an amicable decision to end the crisis in the country’s university system.”
Explaining how the Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) suspended its planned shutdown of operations last Sunday, the Air Peace chairman stated that the operators made sacrifices to give room for the government to solve the issue and it had done that. He asked ASUU to take a cue from what the airlines did by sacrificing for the wellbeing of Nigerian students.
He said there is the need for Nigerians to leverage their diversity for national development.
“Nigeria has the potential. Let’s explore this potential. The bigger Nigeria is, the stronger we should be because there’s strength in diversity,” he said.
He implored well-meaning Nigerians to inculcate the culture of giving back to their alma mater and be involved in its development.
Commending the UIAA President, Professor Elsie Adewoye, for her hard work in bringing to fruition the new guest house , Onyema added that people like her should be recognised by Nigerian government. He challenged her to make good use of the influence of personalities like the Sultan and John Odigie to attract more investments to the University.
In her speech, Professor Adewoye, narrated how Onyema emerged as the Alumnus of the Year in 2019, and donated handsomely to the Ransome Kuti Hall where he stayed during his days at the institution.
She said: “As we commission this N110 million project today, my joy knows no bounds. Onyema is simply a blessing to humanity, a blessing to Nigeria, a blessing to UI, and no wonder you were rewarded recently with the National Productivity
Order of Merit Award by President Muhammadu Buhari. Thank you most exceedingly”.
Also speaking, the Sultan of Sokoto, His Royal Majesty, Alhaji Muhammad Abubakar, charged the school management to never let the school down. “Government cannot do it all. We need to come in and help our universities and that’s why what Allen has done is commendable. We’re here to celebrate Allen for this wonderful edifice. Allen, once in a while, come in and see how the guesthouse is doing. Let’s continue to excel and commit ourselves to excellence”, he added.
Similarly, Chief John Odigie, Chairman of the University Governing Council said: “Allen, we’re glad to have you as an alumnus of UI. May God bless you. If we come knocking again, please listen to us as we are already looking at having a new Senate facility”.
He further emphasised that the recurrent crisis in Nigeria’s university system must come to an end.
In the same vein, the Vice-chancellor of UI, Professor Kayode Adebowale, noted that the event was significant in many ways. “Today’s event is significant and outstanding in many ways. A testimony to the generous heart of Allen Onyema. We stand here today to commission a N110million building by a worthy alumnus of this institution. No condition makes a true giver unable to give.
“Barrister Onyema has proven this. Even with the harsh realities of the economy, he has been generous. Today, we are witnesses to his generosity”, he stated. Thanking Onyema for being so outstanding, Adebowale cited how he deployed his aircraft to rescue stranded Nigerians from South Africa in 2019 amidst the xenophobic onslaught and how he offered his aircraft to airlift Nigerians a couple of months back from different European countries, as the Russia-Ukraine war thickened. He also called on Onyema to consider setting up a Centre for Aviation Studies in UI.
The immediate past president of the UIAA, Dr Kemi Emina, also commended Onyema for his consistent support and cooperation.
The Air Peace boss is a proud alumnus of the University of Ibadan where he bagged an LLB Degree and has never ceased to identify with the initiatives and activities of the institution, especially through funding of specific projects. This newly commissioned building, named ‘Allen Onyema Edifice’, is a modern multiple-room guesthouse at the centre of the University.