Winning the Trust and Goodwill of Host Communities
By Edet Okpo
The proclamation and rain of gratitude and encomiums poured on the Rector of Maritime Academy of Nigeria (MAN), Oron, Commodore Duja Effedua, by the high profile leadership of Oron Union were rooted in overwhelming evidence of how fast the thorough-bred retired General and one of the most patriotic Nigerians have turned the nearly forgotten Maritime Academy of Nigeria into a house on the hill that cannot be hidden.
Their commendations, vote of confidence and outburst of satisfaction on the rapid transformation that has taken place in the Academy in just a little above two years, therefore, cannot be an exaggeration; nor can it be over-emphasized in any contemporary discourse of foresight, effective leadership, commitment, high taste and unwavering determination to change a bad situation into a pleasant story worth a thousand plaudits.
The leadership of Oron Union, led by its President-General, Bishop Etim Ante, freely expressed their feelings during a courtesy Call on the Rector and Management Team of the Academy on Monday, March 23, 2020 in the therapeutic convenience of the ultra-modern, multi-purpose, 1000-seat capacity Auditorium of the Academy, one Commodore Duja Effedua’s signature historic edifice.
That meeting could most appropriately be described as a maiden interface of the two critical Stakeholders in the evolution of the Academy since the Rector took over the reins of the Institution on September 6, 2017. The initiative for the symbiotic engagement is therefore highly commendable as it offered both parties to air opinions on how best to move the 42-year-old institution forward for the collective benefit of Nigerians.
The Oron Union Executive Members said they were made to become even more interested in the situation in the Academy by the rapid transformation that the Rector and his team have brought about as well as the unprecedented and pragmatic commitment to the principle of Corporate Citizenship that has swept across critical sectors and demography of the Host Communities. “Today is a great day to me personally and the entire Oron Union Executives in general as it offers us a good ground to interface and dialogue with you on the need for mutual co-existence. Let me use this medium to warmly appreciate the many efforts you have directed towards giving Maritime Academy of Nigeria, Oron, being the only federal presence in our domain, a facelift. We are aware of the cogent disciplinary measures you have introduced to the Academy which are in line with world best practices for maritime schools. We commend your efforts at creating an atmosphere conducive for learning to meet conventional standards and quality for our sons and daughters”.
Apart from extolling the Sterling leadership qualities of Commodore Effedua, the Oron Union made proud references to his breakthroughs in the area of Corporate Social Responsibility, which they confessed they never had or dreamt of in the last four decades.
Bishop Ante mentioned the weekly provision of drums of diesel to the General Hospital Iquita, Oron; donation of desks and seats, computer facilities, and books to schools; purchase of over 300 JAMB forms for indigent students of the communities. Others CSR initiatives, according to the highly excited Bishop, include hosting of seminars and workshops, grading of roads and sponsorship of cultural and sporting events.
Above all, the Oron Union Members said “Academy of today is not the Academy of yesterday in physical outlook, infrastructure, quality of teaching personnel and Cadets, and prospects. We thank the Federal Government for your appointment, based on what you have done in the last two years at the Academy, especially for restoring her lost glory”. However, the Union also sought the Rector’s extension of its CSR to wider areas; more inclusion of the Union in critical areas of the Academy’s physical development, employment, etc.
On his part, the Rector expressed appreciation for the Union’s initiative to meet with him; their expressions of goodwill and commendations as well as adopting him as a full Oron indigene. Taking the special guests down memory, the Rector narrated the displeasure that warranted the setting up of a special fact-finding technical Ministerial Committee by the Minister of Transportation, Rt. Hon. Rotimi Amaechi, to tinker ways on how best to reposition and restructure the Academy, to reclaim the vision of founding fathers.
He disclosed that as a Member of the latter part of that Committee which metamorphosed into the Interim Management Committee, he found himself in vintage and privileged pedestal to see things by himself and knew exactly what needed to be done. According to the Rector, that opportunity informed his holistic agenda for transformation in strong partnership with all strategic stakeholders. “On my arrival at the Academy, I noticed that so many things went wrong; but rather than being overwhelmed or discouraged, the ugly situation however became the source of inspiration I needed to turn things around for the general good of the Academy, Host Communities and all Nigerians for whom the Academy was established. I had a vision and plan which I am prosecuting progressively”.
Commodore Effedua thanked the President-General of Oron Union for reaching out to him and not depending on hearsays. “I commend you for the way you have started. This school has been put on the world map. By the time I resume duty, there were more than 6000 petitions written against me which were all baseless. But I keep doing my work.”
The rector also cautioned them against any possible conspiracy with politicians who are bent on their selfish interests than helping the Academy and their various communities to grow. Although he promised to look into their requests, the Rector however made it clear to the guests that the Academy was not set up to satisfy every of their requests but for the training of seafarers, although he does not undermine the importance of the CSR principle.
He further intimated them on the latest developments and prospective programmes of the Academy, including partnership with international organizations for practical training of the Staff and Cadets, provision of basic training facilities, going after those with fake credentials and ensuring that Cadets from the Academy are trained by his administration to become world-class products as well as making the Academy a regional centre of academic excellence and what it takes to bear the name. “This Academy under my watch is going somewhere. So we don’t need distractions; we need cooperation like what you have done”, he stated.
Without arguments, the evidence says it all. The Academy today is another world of envy for Cadets, maritime experts, governments and stakeholders judged by what the Rector has put on ground. Individuals, corporate institutions, home and international partners, State and National Assemblies, who have visited the Academy in recent times have left with a consensus conclusion “The Rector is a transformer, a pragmatic administrator, with strong eyes for today and tomorrow”. That verdict is incontestable!