THE MAKING OF HISTORY: BIRTH OF GODFREY OKOYE UNIVERSITY
The idea of establishing a Catholic University by the Catholic Diocese of Enugu was first presented by the Bishop of Enugu (Emeritus), Most Rev. Dr. A. O. Gbuji, to all priests of the diocese. He wanted a university with the name "Cor Unum", a university that could represent the unity of all educational activities of the diocese. In spite of the effort of the bishop to the project take off immediately, it did not. The bishop later discussed his plan with Rev. Fr. Prof. Christian Anieke whom he appointed the provost of the Institute of Ecumenical Education in February 2006. Rev. Fr. Prof. Anieke understood the importance of a university project for the diocese and took the bull by the horn. He assured the bishop that he would use all the resources he had to ensure that he built a university for the diocese.
At a meeting in the Council Chamber of the Institute of Ecumenical Education, Thinkers Corner, Enugu, on 9 November 2009, the convener of the meeting, the Rev. Fr. Professor Christian Anieke, Provost of the Institute, informed the participants that he had applied for a university that should belong to the Catholic Diocese of Enugu. He also assured the members that he would bring all the financial resources needed for a takeoff of the project. Those on the membership list included:
• Very Rev. Fr. Professor Christian Anieke
• Barr. (Mrs.) B. N. Ugwu
• Msgr. Professor Obiora Ike
• Barr. Anthony Mogboh (SAN)
• Professor Christian Nwachukwu Okeke
• Professor Julius Onah
• Arch. C. O. Orji
• Rev. Mother Ifechukwu Udorah, DDL
• Professor Edwin Onyeneje
• Egnr. R. C. Odumodu
• Professor Joseph Ikechukwu Chidobem
• Professor Festus C. Eze
As can be seen, the Planning and Implementation Committee included the clergy, reputable public officers and experienced university administrators, some of who had received training in the National Universities Commission and were well acquainted with the approved guidelines for the establishment of universities in Nigeria. The Committee met several times to brainstorm and agree on the critical issues of the vision, mission, philosophy and objectives of the proposed university and the preparation of the three strategic documents, namely: the Academic Brief, the University Law and the Master Plan. The Planning and Implementation Committee and its sub-committees tackled the assignment not only expeditiously but also with a high degree of commitment which was more or less inspired by the sincerity of purpose demonstrated by the Rev. Fr. Professor Christian Anieke, who provided all the logistics needed for the smooth execution of the sub-committee assignments. Indeed there is always an aura of success and victory surrounding a person of goodwill and so given his sincerity of purpose and support of the PIC, the Committee was ready in record time to invite SCOPU for the first verification visit of the proposed university.
Meanwhile in one of the meetings, Rev. Fr. Prof. Anieke informed the members that Prof. Okojie had urged him and Prof. Onah to name the university after a bishop who had worked in the diocese. They settled for Bishop Okoye, who contributed a lot to the growth of the diocese, including acquiring the land being used as the permanent site of the university. The first name was written as Bishop Okoye Ecumenical University, which was later modified as Godfrey Okoye University (GO University).
The First Verification Visit
That visit took place on June 10, 2008. The Standing Commission on Private Universities (SCOPU) of the National Universities Commission, under the able leadership of Professor O. C. Onwudike, arrived at the Institute of Ecumenical Education, Thinkers Corner, Enugu, to inspect the take-off site of the proposed university as well as its proposed permanent site at Ugwuomu-Nike, twenty kilometers from Enugu. Apart from the members of the Planning and Implementation Committee who were present, the Enugu Catholic Community, the Governing Council of the Institute of Ecumenical Education and members of the Diocesan Curia and priests of the Catholic Diocese of Enugu were all present to receive the august visitors. Present also were the representatives of tertiary institutions in the state and friends of the proposed university from Austria. If physical presence was an accurate reflection of stakeholder interest and people's desire, the Enugu Christian Community had by the quantity and quality of presence on that occasion indicated a strong interest in the proposed university. It was clear from the massive turnout and support that the Enugu Christian Community was out in support of a new approach to university education, where discipline would not be an absurdity but a creed, an approach that would give the youth an opportunity of sound intellectual and spiritual growth, deep-rooted understanding of the unity of knowledge and commitment to the philosophy of dialogue. The outcome of the first visit was good. Indeed the chairman of SCOPU had this to say before their departure: "There is not much to be done in the Academic Brief and the Law. You have to work on the Master Plan. Thank you for welcoming us, taking care of us and showing us around. You can count on us that we will be able to come within the shortest possible time for the second visit, once you have incorporated our agreements and taken care of the Master Plan." Second Verification Visit
The project was very fortunate indeed in having as kin-pins the Chairman of PIC, Professor Julius Onah and Rev. Fr. Professor Christian Anieke whose strong logistic support, display of pastoral care and profoundly illuminating capacity to manage uncertainty kept members of the sub-committees fully alert and well focused enough for things that needed to be done to qualify for the second verification visit. SCOPU arrived (on invitation), on 11 April 2009 for the second verification visit under a new leader, Professor J. D. Amin. The usual large turn-out was there to welcome the team. The Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Enugu, Most Rev. Dr. C. V. C. Onaga, was not only present but also accompanied the team to the proposed permanent site at Ugwuomu-Nike where a lot of work had been done to leave no one in doubt about the sincerity of purpose ad oneness of mind behind the project. The new Chairman of SCOPU and the desk-officers could not conceal their feelings. Indeed at the wrap up session, the Chairman said, "You have worked hard and well. It remains for us to go back and report to the National Universities Commission, whose decision regarding any further action would be communicated to you." As the team departed, hopes rose very high in many quarters.
Positive Action Inspired By The Board of Trustees The Proprietor appointed the following as members of the Board of Trustees for the proposed university:
Professor Joseph Ikechukwu Chidobem – Chairman
Rev. Fr. Professor Christian Anieke – Member Dr. Mrs. Veronica Egonekwu Mogboh – Member
Professor Julius Onuorah Onah – Member
Professor Edwin Onyeneje – Member
Very Rev. Fr. John Nwafor – Member
Monsignor Professor Obiora Ike – Member
Professor Christian Nwachukwu Okeke – Member
The Board inspired several on-the-ground activities designed to enhance the work of the PIC. The activities included the intensification of renovation work on the take-off site of the proposed university, commencement of serious work on the permanent site and undertaking of a study visit to certain private universities West of the Niger by the Chairman of the Board, Professor Joseph Ikechukwu Chidobem, the Provost of the Institute of Ecumenical Education, Rev. Fr. Professor Christian Anieke and Professor Festus C. Eze as member of the PIC. The first private university visited was Cetep City University, Lagos, which took place on Tuesday, October 21, 2009. The second university visited (on Wednesday, 22 October) was Babcock University, Illisham-Remo, Ogun State, a faith-based university founded in 1999. It was in the midst of a most illuminating and productive engagement with the President/Vice Chancellor of the University, Professor J. A. Kayode Makinde and his team which included the Director of Academic Planning, Professor Ademola Tayo and the Professor of Guidance and Counseling (who functioned as Chief of Staff) that the information that the National Executive Council sitting in Abuja had approved Godfrey Okoye University as one of the seven new private universities in Nigeria was delivered to the university. Approval of the University On 27 October 2009, the Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission formally informed the proprietor (the Catholic Bishop of Enugu) that consequent on having satisfied the requirements, Godfrey Okoye University had been accorded provisional approval to take-off as a private University in Nigeria. The terms and conditions of the approval were carefully stated. The proprietor was also invited to the NUC office in Abuja for the formal presentation of the provisional licence on Tuesday, 3 November 2009. Take-Off Arrangements A meeting of the Proprietor and the Board of Trustees was held to appoint the pioneer Vice Chancellor and Registrar. The university later appointed key academic and administrative staff.
Rev. Fr. Prof. Christian C. Anieke – Vice Chancellor
Prof. Festus C. Eze – Registrar
Mr. Fabian N. Ugwu – Bursar
Mrs. Mary Ellen Chijioke – Librarian
Prof. Emmanuel N. Adinna – Dean, Natural and Applied Sciences
Prof. Eugene O. Nwadialor – Dean, Management & Social Sciences
Prof. Richard C. Okafor – Director of General Studies
Rev. Sr. Dr. Mary Gloria C. Njoku – Director of Academic Planning
Prof. Alois Bachinger – Director of ICT
The university then advertised for students who had obtained acceptable scores in the 2009/2010 University Matriculation Examinations, and who would opt to be considered for admission into the 9 academic departments (17 degree programmes) in the approved faculties in the first phase of GO University development. A total of 700 candidates applied. These candidates were screened and 215 were found suitable for admission. The foundation Vice Chancellor, Rev. Fr. Prof. Christian C. Anieke, and the Registrar, Professor Festus C. Eze, visited the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board to formalize the process of admission and to get the candidates formally placed at Godfrey Okoye University (GO University).
Students arrived on Monday, 7 December 2009 and commenced lectures immediately. The Senate was inaugurated on Wednesday, 9 December 2009 to ratify action taken on its behalf and to approve the academic calendar. The Governing Council was inaugurated on Monday, 14 December 2009. The first matriculation exercise, which attracted a large audience including the Special Adviser to the President on Petroleum, representatives of His Excellency, the Governor of Enugu State and representatives of other universities in the geopolitical zone, took place on 13 February 2010.