MY OUTSTANDING CONTRIBUTIONS TO NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT
1. TREATMENT OF PATIENTS WITH VESICO-VAGINAL FISTUAL (VVF) AND PIONEERING THE CAMPAIGN FOR SAFE MOTHERHOOD IN NORTHERN NIGERIA.
Not infrequently, girls are given out in marriage at very tender ages in some parts of Nigeria. As a result, such girls may begin childbearing at an age when their pelvic bones are not sufficiently developed to allow for the easy passage of a fully-developed baby. Obstruction may occur in labour and the urinary bladder may get trapped between the bones of the baby’s head and mother’s pelvis and so become devitalized. Tissue death may then occur leading to the sloughing-off of portions of the bladder with the formation of a hole which connects the bladder to the vagina. This hole is known as Vesico-Vaginal Fistula (VVF) and females with this dehumanizing condition leak urine all the time. They are found in many parts of Nigeria, more so, in Northern Nigeria. They are often rejected by society as they have very offensive smell.
From 1975 to 1979, I taught, researched on and practiced Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. In the course of my job at the Teaching Hospital of the University, I encountered and treated several patients with VVF.
In 1979, I transferred my services to the University of Port Harcourt where I was appointed the pioneer Head of the Institution’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. There also, I encountered some patients with VVF. So, I set up a Unit at the Teaching Hospital of the University of Port Harcourt for fistula repair which has thrived till this day.
I can therefore be counted as one of Nigerian medical Professors who has treated some of the highest number of patients with VVF – an aspect of patient care which many doctors loath on account of the offensive smell of the sufferers.
I did not just stop at treating the patients with fistula when I worked in Northern Nigeria. The people needed to be educated on how VVF came about and how it could be avoided. So, working together with Professor Kelsey A. Harrison, an internationally renowned Obstetrician and Gynaecologist, and Una lister, a Briton who served Nigeria meritoriously, we instituted educational programmes to discourage girls from early commencement of childbearing. And so began the precursor of today’s Safe Motherhood Campaign, which is being promoted by the World Health Organization and its specialized agencies like UNICEF and other non-governmental organizations. In appreciation of this and other services to the people of Northern Nigeria while serving as a staff of the Ahmadu Bello University Zaria, the Authorities of the University commended me very highly when they wrote in support of my transfer of service to the University of Port Harcourt in 1979.
2. REACTIVATION OF HEALTH SERVICES AT KEGBARA DERE
As part of my research activities, I established a rural research station at the Health Centre in Kegbara Dere in Ogoni land of Rivers State. This was at a time when the Ogoni people had suffered tremendous losses in men and materials as a result of the immense political upheavals of the early 1990s. The Health Centre, which served as the focal point for Health Care Delivery in that part of the country, was desolate and abandoned. I raised a team from the University which offered a-round-the clock health care, free of charge. I got the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, Liverpool, England, to collaborate with me and to extend support to the Centre. Five persons have obtained their PhDs working in that Centre of which two were staff of the University of Liverpool. Also, the research findings from the Centre have been published in some of the leading medical journals of the world including the LANCET. Additionally, the activities at the Centre spread rapidly and the Centre became the nucleus from which medical services in Ogoni land were reactivated. In appreciation of this selfless service to the Ogoni people of Nigeria, the people of Kegbara Dere of Ogoni, invested me with the chieftaincy title of Mene-na-le of Kegbara Dere which translates as “the Chief that does good”. The Centre now serves as a major academic outpost for the Univeristy of Port Harcourt. It is used in the training of medical students on rural medicine and for community based research.
3. ADVISER TO PRESIDENT SHEHU SHAGARI ON THE FORMATION OF THE INSTITUTE OF OBSTETRICS AND GYNAECOLOGY
One important feature of Nigeria’s health indices is the high maternal mortality rate of about 100/100,000 which successive governments have expressed the desire to reduce. During the Presidency of Alhaji Shehu Shagari, on advise from the Society of Gynaecology and Obstetrics of Nigeria (SOGON), Mr. President accepted that one way of doing this, was to establish an Institute of Obstetrics and Gynaecology in Nigeria, which was to be given the mandate to conduct research into all aspects of the health of women, including those factors that contribute to maternal deaths. A team of ten Obstetricians and Gynaecologists was put together with Professor T. Belo-Osagie as leader, to advise Mr. President on the formation of this Institute. I was one of the ten. The team worked for about nine months and put an excellent report together which was submitted to President Shehu Shagari.
4. NATIONAL SERVICE: ACT OF BRAVERY MILITARY DUTY DURING THE NIGERIAN CIVIL WAR
Without a formal commissioning into the army, I “fought” for the unity of Nigeria during the 30-month long Nigerian Civil war, when I served as a Field Captain (Medical Officer) with the Nigerian Army at the 3 Field Ambulance of 3 Division, Nigerian Army, Port Harcourt, at a time when the former President of the country, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, was General Officer Commanding the 3rd Marine Commando. At the end of the war in January 1970, I was the only Medical Officer with the Federal Nigerian Army at Owerri, which was then serving as the de facto headquarter of the war affected parts of the country. So, the lot of supervising the arrival of various cadres of medical personnel from the war affected zones, naturally fell on me. This establishment of some order among the medical personnel as they emerged from the war affected parts of the Country by me then, was the commencement of the re-establishment of medical services in those parts of the country after the war!
5. VICE-CHANCELLOR, UNIVERSITY OF PORT HARCOURT
I served as Vice-Chancellor of the University of Port Harcourt from July 2000 to July 2005. During that period, the university attained spectacular growth and achievements in all aspects of its operations. I attracted large amount of funds from governments, corporate as well as philanthropic organizations into the University for its development. Additionally, I launched a Silver Jubilee Endowment Fund and wrote personal letters to all the staff of the university (over 3,000) and implored them to make contributions voluntarily. Over 1000 staff responded and contributed handsomely. Academic standards improved as a result of a more business-like posture of Senate. In 1999, before I became the Vice-Chancellor of the University, the Institution was ranked 25th among 36 Federal and State Universities by the National Universities Commission (NUC) “based on the quality of academic programmes”. However, following the November 2002 “accreditation revisitation of programmes with denied accreditation status” exercise, the University was then ranked FIRST along with the University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, after I had served for just two years as its Vice-Chancellor. Furthermore, fake students were de-registered; cultism was drastically reduced and new specialized courses that are critical to the nation’s economy, like those in Gas and Environmental Engineering, were introduced. I established many institutions that endured like the Institute of Petroleum Studies and the Centre for Health and Development, where I am Director till this day and where very active research work is currently going on. Furhtermore, I vastly expanded the opportunities for staff and students to undertake study visits to Universities abroad under Exchange/Linkage Programmes of the University’s Advancement Centre, which was established by me. Problems of utilities, infrastructure and security were tackled vigorously. I secured the hosting rights for the University for the Nigerian Universities Games, NUGA 2004 Games. The university hosted the Games in November and December 2004 in such a remarkable manner, that the 2004 Games are now considered to be the best ever staged in the Nigerian University System. Under my leadership the university constructed a modern Sports village for the Games which is now acclaimed to be the best in the Nigerian University System. The Olympic size swimming pool in the village which is built by the mythra technology is reported to be one of the best ten in the world. The University’s performance in sporting activities during my tenure as Vice-Chancellor was excellent. It ranked first on the medal list at the West African Universities Games which were held in 2003 at Ouaguadougo in Burkina Faso and also first at the NUGA 2004 Games. At the NUGA Games 2000 and 2002 at the Ahmadu Bello University and University of Ibadan respectively, the university placed second on both occasions.
Prior to my substantive appointment in July 2000, I had been appointed Acting Vice-Chancellor on two different occasions by the Federal Government: January 1995 – March 1996 and January 2000 – July 2000. The acting appointments were all made at periods during which the University of Port Harcourt was going through tremendous administrative difficulties. It was felt that I had the administrative capability that would enable me to return the University back to a path of rectitude on both occasions. So, I currently have in my possession, three letters of appointment as Vice-Chancellor of the University of Port Harcourt – two in acting capacities and one in a substantive capacity.
Partly on account of these achievements, my colleagues, Vice-Chancellors of Nigerian Federal Universities, elected me as their Chairman in July 2004 for a period of one year. Subsequently, the Vice-Chancellors of all Universities in Nigeria – Federal, State and Private, also elected me as Chairman in August, 2004 and I served in these capacities for one year. I also served as a member of the Governing Council of the Association of Commonwealth Universities with Headquarters in London. In addition, the National Universities Commission (NUC) picked the Governing Council of the University of Port Harcourt as the best Governing Council for the year 2003 and myself, the Vice-Chancellor of the University, as the second best Vice-Chancellor for the year. Finally, “in recognition of my (your) outstanding virtues and in appreciation of my (your) service to our country, Nigeria”, other than the many commendations from the Governing Council and Senate of the University, the National Universities Commission, as well as the General Public, the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, GCFR, conferred on me the National Honour of Officer of the Order of the Niger (OON) on Thursday 16 December 2004.
Realising the pivotal role of research in national development, I established a Centre for Health and Development in 1995 when I was serving as the Vice-Chancellor of the University, in collaboration with the University of Toronto and the Association of Canadian Colleges and Universities. Even after my retirement, I remained the Principal Investigator of the Centre which I am till this day. With me in that capacity, the Centre has carried out several research works in collaboration with the University of Toronto, Association of African Universities, Clinton Foundation especially in the area of HIV/AIDS. It is therefore not unlikely that the current reduction in prevalence rate of the disease that is being noticed, in Nigeria, may, in part, be due to the application of research findings emanating from the centre
Partly in appreciation of my meritorious services to the University of Port Harcourt, including those as its Vice-Chancellor, the serving Vice-Chancellor, Professor Joseph Ajienka described me as “a gift to the University of Port Harcourt” during my investiture as an Emeritus Professor of the university in April, 2012.
The many other ways in which I have contributed to national development include:.
- As Chairman of the National Hospital, Abuja, I ensured that the hospital established the first ever invitro fertilization (Test Tube baby) unit in a public Health Institution in Nigeria.
- Under my leadership of the Board as its Chairman, the Board of the University of Benin Teaching Hospital and the Hospital Management, in collaboration with the Swedish Government established a Stem Cell Transplant Unit – the first of its kind in sub Saharan Africa. A patient with Sickle Cell Disease has been successfully treated at the Unit.
- As Chairman of the Rivers State Independent Electoral Commission, I conducted credible general (state-wide) elections on two occasions which have enhanced the democratic process in the state, and ipso facto, in the country. Two books emanated from this exercise – Making the Votes Count and Enhancing the Electoral Process which are significant contributions to the existing body of knowledge on the electioneering process in Nigeria and beyond. I received high commendation from the Rivers State Government on the performance of my Commission.
- As Chairman of the Rivers State Economic Advisory Council – the Think Tank of the Rivers State Government, I have led my Council to give advice which have contributed to the good governance for which the Rivers State Government, under His Excellency Chibuike Amaechi is known.
- In June 2011, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) commissioned 19 senior academics in Africa to produce Modules, as gold standards, for recommendation to Universities in Africa for teaching and learning in various disciplines. I am one of the 19 so selected. I wrote Module 15 which addresses the issue of Teaching and Learning in the Medical Sciences. The Module attracted very favourable comments which were posted anonymously on the internet.