written by Bolaji Ogundele
To show his commitment to ushering in the era of electoral uprightness, President Goodluck Jonathan said he would set up a facebook account to create an interface for brilliant contributions from all Nigerians.
President Jonathan, who stated this at the 26th Convocation Ceremony of the University of Port Harcourt on Saturday, also said he had directed the economic team to design programmes for the growth of small businesses.
Dr Jonathan was the Visitor at the convocation ceremony which also witnessed the installation of the second Chancellor of the university in the person of Oba Akran of Badagry, His Majesty, Dr DeWheno Aholu Menu Toyi 1.
Jonathan observed that the first task for all Nigerians is to protect the nation’s nascent democracy, without which the future generation of Nigerians could not boast of a free society.
“The urgent task now is to strengthen and consolidate our young democracy so that tomorrow’s generations could be free to focus on contributing to other compelling matters of human civilisation. When we came into office in May 2007, our commitment was to restore electoral integrity by reforming the electoral guidelines, structures and relevant parts of the constitution dealing with votes.
“I am happy to note that the discourse and demand for free and fair elections are a nationwide current that cannot be stopped. Once again, I commit myself to work with all Nigerians, especially the youths to bring the sad days of electoral malfeasance to an end.
“As we approach the end of this administration, our first task will be to register to vote as soon as the voters register in every ward in our country is opened. Our second task is to vote when the time comes. The connection between voting and the conditions for sustainable development is strong.
“Once we can successfully prevent a few people from determining the outcome of elections, all elected leaders immediately come into the service of the general good”, the president said.
In his goodwill message, the Rivers State governor, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, advocated for the best material to be selected when it comes to the appointment of the next vice chancellor of the university.
He, however, pleaded for forgiveness for those who during a recent protest gave the appointment issue an ethnic and political colouration, saying “the university will go down when we start towing ethnic lines in the choice of vice chancellors”.
In his speech, the outgoing Vice Chancellor of the University of Port Harcourt, Professor Don Baridam, said the university could no longer cope with the difficulties associated with irregular power supply, adding that the mandate to provide quality education, through research and teaching, had become seriously compromised.
The convocation ceremony saw the award of degrees and certificates to 5,918 graduands, while the institution honoured five distinguished Nigerians with honorary doctorate degrees.
Former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Mohammed Uwais (JSC), former governor of Cross River State, Donald Duke, the Managing Director of the World Bank, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who was represented by her father, Professor Chukwuka Okonjo were honoured. Others included the second Vice Chancellor of the institution, Professor S.J. Cookey and Professor Aniezionwu Okoro.
The ceremony was graced by a large number of dignitaries including the governors of Bayelsa, Delta, Akwa Ibom and Cross River. Other dignataries were the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole, ministers, service chiefs, royal fathers as well as the clergy.