By Emeh James, Ogochukwu Isioma
Professor Gregory Ibe is the founder and chancellor of Gregory University, Uturu in Abia State which was in 2019 named the Best Private University in Nigeria Gregory UniversityIgbere TV. In this interview, Ibe speaks on the achievements so far and plans for the institution in the next few years.
Today, Gregory University has been named as one of the fastest growing private universities in Nigeria. How has the journey been so far?
Gregory University, Uturu is a product of hard work; it was carefully planned and did not come out of the blue. We understood the risks, the market, and our competitors. We knew we could compete if we offer the best of products and services. Today, we have moved from three to ten colleges/faculties. We are happy that our programmes are receiving international attention. As we speak, we have expanded MoUs with Russia, Rome etc. We just finished tidying up one with the Business School in Rome. We receive demands for our lecturers in India, United Arab Emirates and some other countries. We have expanded our scope to include a Business School offering consultancy services on Data Sciences to the federal government and its agencies. We are propagating what is not known before.
Currently, we have mapped out a plan and will soon start developing drones in conjunction with a Canadian university. We are researching everyday, and supporting several government agencies on food security. Our university is making tremendous success, we will get there. Our Engineering faculty is making a whole lot of successes in technological developments and the field of transportation. We are currently putting finishing touches on our Teaching Hospital, we believe that in the next three years we would have one of the best hospitals that can compete with any other hospital anywhere in the world.
Prof. Gregory Ibe
We have expanded. We now have Faculty of offering great courses to develop sound teachers that can compete with their counterparts anywhere in the world. In the College of Agriculture, we have a poultry farm with over 250,000 birds including a modern cattle ranch. We are planning on having a cassava processing plant, there is already a pen for snails, rabbits etc.
The World Bank, recently through its program, trained about 2,000 Abia youths from six local governments in different skills. We as an institution offered full scholarships to 90 youths drawn from the 17 local government areas worth worth over N250 million to study Agriculture because that is where the future lies. For those trained Gregory UniversityWorld Bank, most of them are on Agro-based skills, so we intend taking about 65 of them on Internship and full degree placement. We are doing extremely well in our School of Postgraduate. In Engineering, we offer Metrology. Soon, we intend going into the production of WC, wash-hand-basin, etc. We have a lot of play here, we have furniture yards where we produce quality furniture. Everything we use in this institution are produced Gregory Universityus. We have the Engineering Technology. We hope to put our host community, Uturu, on the world map.
How has operating from a ‘remote area’ affected the university?
Our remoteness seem to be our advantage because we are not distracted. All our students are living here on campus and always busy doing what is right. We just added few more courses now…we now have Optometry, Geology, Medical Laboratory Sciences and Pharmacy. We are up and doing and just launched our Alternative Medicine and receiving accolades all over. We are on top of the game and produce scholars here in our university.
Currently, we are repositioning our School of Nursing to belong to the American Nursing and Midwifery body so that once you study here, you can work in America with your degree. We receive positive comments daily from employers of labour commending our products (graduates), and we are proud.
Here, any lecturer who misses class up to three times a semester faces the law and may end up losing his or her job. We ain’t playing here, we don’t sell or promote selling of handouts. We have the SERVICOM to receive complaints and appraise what the lecturers are doing. For me, as a former lecturer both in ABSU and TASUED, I am part of the system and know fully well how it works. I know Gregory University will remain one of the bests in years to come.
Any challenges so far?
Of course there are challenges. As a university in the private sector, no help is coming from anywhere; no grants, no loan. We also know as a growing varsity, if one wants to die quickly, take loans. Hence, we avoid it at all time. We are managing our resources. We address our challenges. The government has been promising, but nobody has shown us any thing. We develop our infrastructures here including the roads.
Also, there is no water here…it is a clay area. So we have to get water daily using our tankers. Recently, we had to drill borehole about six kilometers away from the university and piped it down to the school and gave water to our host communities, four of them actually. We are also planning on drilling more boreholes and channelling the water down to the university hostels. Another challenge is that there is no electricity here, nobody is doing anything to help, not even the Discos; they are not helping matters. We just spent N72 million setting up 3-11 line coming from Isukwuator to Uturu so we can have light. Imagine living on generators and diesel for the past eight years of our existence. Those monies could have been channelled into other ventures…and then the money we spent in adding value to our community Gregory Universityupgrading government’s Amachara hospital into a Teaching Hospital.
We spent over N650 million in doing that. We also built hostels in Umuahia, the federal government graciously approved the FMC there for us to use. Imagine the only support we get from the government is to spend funds upgrading their structures in other to use them, that is why we are now focusing on completing our own Teaching Hospital in earnest.
What is your motivation?
God has been my motivation. All my investments in Nigeria are on – both formal and informal. And that’s my business. I don’t see any other business as good as helping someone who has no knowledge to obtain knowledge. I am merely performing my responsibilities to my community Gregory Universitysetting up this university in Uturu. Right from my childhood, I have always been a teacher; I taught while in secondary school aside being a lecturer in two different universities. Teaching is part of my growth. My father did not go to school so I felt he suffered a whole lot because of that and I had to encourage and educate myself to the university level. I also didn’t want my community and the world to suffer, this is what gave rise to Gregory University, Uturu.
How do you feel about your university being named “Best Private University” in 2019?
First, I want to appreciate Igbere TV for the opportunity given to us, that singular act has spurred and challenged us to do better; it shows Nigerians are watching keenly in what we do. The Award was well received Gregory Universitythe university community. To whom more is given, much is expected. Igbere TV should understand that, inasmuch as we appreciate the award, it is challenging us to do more in the education sector and to move our ladder from the present stage to the high heavens. Sometimes awards might be treated with laxity, but I told my management team to be up and doing because that development alone shows that people are watching us in all we do. This (Gregory university) is a centre where scholars are produced annually, a place where top engineers across the country are being trained.
How would you explain your university producing just four first class graduates in the year 2019?
If you compare today with say 20, 30, 40 years ago when people go to school with high level of moral from their family and being challenged personally, then you’d agree with me that we are doing what is right. Issues facing the youths today are a lot of distractions for all of them. Most students nowadays are not coming into the system (school) with their family or personal values, and they can easily get deceived in their youthfulness. I know of some universities where they give first class to over 200 students yearly, we don’t do that here. My students call me “stingy lecturers” accusing me of inculcating the stringiness on all lecturers. I am not worried, the right thing must be done. Again, we are satisfied. Whoever the University Senate approves as a first class graduate here can compete anywhere, that is because we don’t believe in quantity but quality. Let the scholars improve on themselves and bag first class. Most students already know the class they will graduate with from year two. There is no two ways about it. A good scholar with a good CGPA knows where they belong. We place premium on our first class here in Uturu.
There’s this general perception that a huge return on investment awaits owners of private universities. Is this correct, from your experience?
Talking about Return on Investment in private universities. Personally, whenever I’m privileged to advise those who wish to venture into the business, I always ask them some pertinent questions – 1, Do you have what it takes? 2, Have you ever been part of the (university) process before? If the answer is “No”, I always advise they take up lecturing jobs instead. When I see people planning on investing in education, I mean setting up a private university instead of say hotel, or going into importation or exportation, I will advise the person against it. The Return on Investment is next to zero, it is a work in progress business. Universities ought really not to be for profit making. In fact, the Nigeria University Commission (NUC) will not allow you, they give you license and inspect almost every three years to ascertain the level of infrastructures. I can boastfully say that no other Nigerian agency operates like the NUC, assuming we have any, Nigeria would have been a better place. The NUC come in and check everything including your toilets, etc. They want to ensure you are still maintaining the initial standard that led to your receiving operational licence, including the quality of your lecture and lecturers. The NUC will dictate the number of say cattle or birds to be in your Agric farm, number of tractors etc. So I’m not surprised seeing ASUU complain of decaying infrastructures in public institutions. Most ASUU members usually come around to see what we are doing, they try to compare but end up exposing the decaying infrastructures in public universities, we are always ahead. So when you come to me for advice, I would likely recommend you build a secondary school because you may not cope running a private university on the long run…it’s highly demanding. If you are not prepared for it, you may end up failing because you are expected to keep developing at every phase. You may even end up piling debts in order to keep up, if you don’t know what you are doing.