I support Igbo presidency with all my heart – Prof Ibe
Professor Gregory Ibe, founder, Gregory University, Uturu, had interaction with Aba based journalists on a visit to the institution, recently, where he expressed his intentions to govern Abia and other issues. GODFREY OFURUM was there for Orient Daily
Kindly tell us more about yourself…
I was a lecturer at the Abia State University and Tansian University. I was the national consultant that developed the curriculum to teach Entrepreneurship Education, as a course in all tertiary institutions in Nigeria. I served (Chief Olusegun) Obasanjo, as his United Nations Consultant and then I came to teach in the university that I also helped to build.
At the age of 21-22, I was the Material and Cost Accountant that built Abia State University, Imo Airport, and the Teaching Hospital in Aba, on Club 25 road.
I have done everything I could for my country, Nigeria and Africa. I have my footprints in countries like Central African Republic and Congo Brazzaville as well as the entire 15 countries of West Africa.
I have been in the system and one thing I succeeded in doing, was to have been in Abuja at the age of 23 and I built the old Secretariat at Garki, former Foreign Affairs. I also worked at the Presidency for long.
Since I was one of the pioneers that built Abuja, something keeps telling me that development comes from that man, who is created by God in every society. So, if you don’t speak about your community or your state, don’t expect anybody from anywhere to talk about it.
I contributed in the development of Abuja. I used to go from one bush to the other and Abuja today is haven in terms of development. Consequently, I will not be alive and allow my community, to remain the same old natural habitat, when I know I can do something.
So, I came here and built this University single-handedly, without any debt in the bank, no collaboration with anybody, except my God almighty. So, I owe nobody. Whatever you see in this university and our teaching hospital, along Enugu-Port Harcourt Expressway and whatever I have done in Umuahia, where all done with God given money. I belong to no society. All I do is to do my job and then God will keep on blessing me.
My target is human capital development. My aim is to develop my hometown and my State. So anybody anywhere, who does not feel that he should develop his home town, village and State, will never have money.
Gregory University, Uturu, has made innovations in building and paints manufacturing; what’s the plan of the institution to commercialise these innovations for the good of society?
Most of our innovations are not miniature. Our soap making machine is from Germany. It is the same machine most soap producing companies in Nigeria and outside use. What we are trying to do is to combine theory with practical. We want to train our students to be ready for today’s work environment.
We also brought in “Decking Plate”, an innovation in decking and bridges. The technology reduces cost of building by 40 percent. You can combine Decking Plate with concrete wall and it will deliver.
It is the same decking plate used in constructing flyovers and the same used in high-rise building of about 1,000 floors. We also have a printing press that will be an envy of most printing houses in the country.
I am a professor of entrepreneurship and I am looking for entrepreneurs, who want to climb on my shoulders to make money for themselves.
So, if somebody tells me today that he wants to run an exercise book or newspaper business, he does not need to have the machine. All he has to do is to come here and sign a memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with us and be busy working.
I create the environment for people to succeed and I want to demystify the eventual scenarios that it is difficult for you to do a business or do this and that. So, I produce all these things for people to understand that it is easy to be done.
It is easy that you can go into business. I simplify all methods, so that you don’t run away, because of the way it is being described.
I designed all the buildings in this compound and supervised each structure, using direct Labour, which means that I am not afraid to confront anything. I make paints, so I don’t buy paints in the market, because some of the paints in the market are substandard.
Paint is a rubberised coating and because people want cheap brands, so some paints makers produce more water-based paints, which is cheap. But, for those who like quality, they buy quality paints that are expensive, but last longer on the walls. People, who want to paint their houses, once in about five years, come here and we produce quality paints for them.
So, when you’re building a house and you ask a painter, you need 40 drums to paint the house and it’s N3,000 per drum and you come to me, I’ll tell you that mine is N7,000 per drum and you’ll need 12 drums, you’ll go and say it’s expensive.
The first paint we produced to paint this university was done in 2009 and we’re repainting now. It means that I have more quality and I teach the younger ones. It gives me joy, because if you leave as an engineer here, you’ll have a better place.
We also tell our guardians and parents, who want to go into business to come here. We produce some samples for the business of paints. So, we create opportunities for commercialisation, but our major plan is to groom young people.
Here, we teach you that it is possible to do whatever thing you ever think. Again, note if you dream and your dream doesn’t scare you, you have not started. So, when you wake up from a dream, you should be like wow! What’s this? Once you dream and get scared of how to achieve that dream, pursue it, because you’ll arrive somewhere.
Don’t be scared of making a move to pursue your dreams. For me, I’ve visualised how Nigeria can be the best and I’ve been pursuing it since I started.
I have been asked to replicate my achievement in Nigeria, across West and Central Africa. I commercialised all these things you see. I train all university technologists and lecturers in that engineering faculty that’s what I do, but if you don’t seek me, I’ll be quiet.
World Bank has sent 1, 500 Abia youths here for us to build their capacity. I discovered that most of them are knowledgeable, but their parents don’t have money to send them to the university.
So, I’ve decided to help 20 of them, by giving them scholarship. In fact, when I was giving the scholarship, I met the Abia scholarship board, led by Elder Empire Kalu and asked them to give me some list from the state government to work with.
Let’s do a small research on what courses that can make tomorrow better for us. All our children are not interested in agriculture, because they feel that agriculture is something that’s super manual.
But agriculture is one of the simplest things to do, because you just take a little thing, add value to it and you make money. It is a daily need. So, if you do need-assessment of what is required to move our economy forward, agriculture and insurance should rank highest.
Soon, there’ll be so much scarcity of money that you must have to value or protect that money in your hands. In times to come, there’ll be need for people to insure all the things they buy. Don’t you buy a fan and after two weeks, the thing gets burnt? If it was insured, you’ll return it to the person you bought it from and get new one. Don’t you buy television today and next thing it blows?
People are going for substandard things! There’s a building here called ‘Iwuanyanwu’. We are putting up that building, because we want to standardise products that are coming from the South East.
We want to standardise shoes made in Aba, if yours is certified, SON will allow you to sell for the whole of Africa. From food and other related things. Today, we’re having series of problems with our internal organs as a result of too many things we eat that aren’t well prepared.
We’ve been taught how to use Ogiri to cook soup. That plant used in making Ogiri is poisonous, because it can kill, if not well fermented. It produces oil, called Castor Oil, the only oil that at no temperature doesn’t change.
The seed is poisonous. Our great grandfathers tasted it and died, so they decided to allow it to go through proper fermentation for about four weeks, to remove the water in the seed, so that they can kill the poisonous content that’s inside.
So, after about three to four weeks, they’ll now pound it and bring out the Ogiri that you’re seeing today.
But, because of commercialisation, women now soak it for one week, grind it with available machines and they sell it to us and we use them to prepare our delicacies, like Ofe Onugbu and the poisonous content that wasn’t removed properly will keep poisoning our bodies and Internal organs, leading to issues like liver, kidney and other problems.
Commercialization has pushed a lot of people trying to meet up with supply to undermine the process of preparation.
Is the University partnering with the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON), on its standardisation programme?
Some of these government agencies are doing the protection of their offices and fail to do the right job. How can the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), have a testing centre, built by Dora Akunyili, and allow it to be abandoned. Lagos laboratory is not effectively working and they want to license everybody in Nigeria, from one small office for all products.
They have an office in Aba that is not functioning effectively. To register to import wine, will take you about N10-12 million. How many young men, who want to deal on wine, can handle that?
If you wait for some of these agencies, like SON, Nigeria will not grow and it’ll restrict our growth towards certifying goods for export. We’ve opened West African Free Trade and the opportunity we have there is high. When I complete building this laboratory, I’ll make them accept here, as a standard point. This place is a University and as that, we’ve got right to go into any venture, to improve the society. We know what we are doing.
Why are you silent on your achievements?
Don’t let people see you coming when you’re undertaking a major project. Nobody saw me coming when I left Abia State University, to build Gregory University. They felt how can a single young man build a university? Ten years down the line, we’re already number one. The Commonwealth just left here today. They sent a representative.
The United Nations (UN) has approved for my university, the first “Transformative Education Centre in Africa”. What I do is that I have a bigger name. There’s always time and season. Today, we’re ready for any showcase. We’re proud of what we have now. We have the best laboratory in Nigeria, well equipped.
Nobody beats us. We run 10 colleges, 62 courses and we’re not even afraid of anybody in Nigeria, because we are solid and ready. We have the best radiology department in Nigeria, we have the best geology department in Nigeria. If anybody tells you he has the best, then the person is joking. I’m consulting for National University Commission (NUC) and I’m doing projects and I’m trying to do best practices. The only thing that is in my brain is best practices. If it’s not right, it’s not right, at all.
Are you fulfilled with your achievements?
I married at 23 years old and God blessed us with sic children and they’re all doing well. In family, I believe I’m fulfilled. My role now is to build these children that their parents sent to me here to do total attitudinal change and rebuild them for tomorrow.
If I continue to do that, I’ll have a place in God’s heart to keep on blessing me. Service to the society is what I’m doing now. If I wanted a profitable business, I’ll not do a university. This is like taking your money, burying somewhere with the expectation that somehow in the next 30-40 years, something will come out of it.
I have idled my money here, $1.2 billion. But I’m grateful to God, because the instructions he gave to me is that whatever He gives me must go back to mankind. I have no regrets in life. I am still studying and still writing books. I want to keep producing people that belong to my school of thought. What we owe God in this life, is to make sure that our enemies get education. It’s very important.
Once your enemy lacks education, there is nothing you plan that will work, because he’ll keep opposing you, ignorantly. If you allow your enemy to get education, his approach will be different, because he’ll start reasoning properly. Again, you can’t allow your community to decay. Help add value to wherever you come from. Love your home and add value to it.
Do you support the agitation for Igbo presidency?
Apart from Ohanaeze Ndi Igbo and Ime Obi, here is home of World Igbo Summit. I support Igbo presidency with all my heart. We did the great debate, where all the ethnic leaders gathered and we explained a lot to them in my keynote address. I was two years old, during the Biafran War. I was denied childhood. I was under the tree with animals, as a child, until the war ended. I’ve told everyone to explain to me why I can’t be Nigerian president or someone from my zone can’t be?
All of you from the South East will know that we deserve this. We will not depend on the president, but it’s all about giving us that enabling environment and sense of belonging.
Do you have political ambition?
I have full intention to govern Abia. I started showing interest in 2011, when I began to inform my leaders. By 2014, our governor then said he’ll follow zoning and I withdrew on December 7, 2014, when we were doing clearance and I supported Abia South. He said you’re still a young man, wait till 2023 and I’ve waited and that’s it. Have I not waited? Am I not from Abia? I’m more than interested because I have something to offer Abia citizens.