Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike, is one of the three Universities of Agriculture established by the Federal Government of Nigeria. Two Universities of Agriculture had earlier been established at Abeokuta (Ogun State) and Makurdi (Benue State) in 1988. The Universities of Agriculture are charged with the central mandate and mission of imparting agricultural education in a scientific but practical way, coupled with applied research and such extension services as would assist in achieving national self-sufficiency in food and fibre production in the minimum time while at the same time catalyzing and sustaining rural development.
Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike, came into existence precisely on the 13th day of November, 1992 when the Federal Government of Nigeria promulgated the Federal Universities of Agriculture Decree 1992 (also cited as Decree NQ 48 of 1992). This enabling law culminated in the appointment of the pioneer Governing Council led by Alhaji Mohamma Liman and the first Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Placid Njoku.
The Institution effectively took off on May 3, 1993 when the University admitted its foundational students. At the epoch of the Institution’s history, only Eighty-two (82) students were enrolled to pursue various courses of study. This figure is at great variance with the recent statistics that put the students’ population at about Twenty-seven Thousand, Seven Hundred and Fifty (27,750) undergraduates, Four Thousand, Five Hundred and Ninety- eight (4,598) post graduates and Six Thousand, Seven Hundred and Thirty (6,730) part-time students at the Continuing Education Centre. This brings the total number of Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike students to Thirty-nine Thousand and Seventy-eight (39,078).
What a massive quantum jump.My Administration’s intention is to exceed the horizon of existing academic programmes, coupled with the ever skyrocketing demand for the acquisition of tertiary education, and mostly the nation’s recent focus on agrobusiness as an alternative revenue base of the economy, the students’ population is bound to explode.
Also from the diminutive core members of staff that leant immense support to the then Vice-Chancellor in his pioneering efforts of laying a formidable foundation for the Institution, the University now has a staff strength of Three Thousand and Eighty-two (3,082) as at February 29, 2016. This is made up of Two Thousand, One Hundred and Eighty-four (2,184) non-teaching staff and a teaching staff with about Eighty (80) Professors standing at Eight Hundred and Nineteen (819).
The concept of the University of Agriculture is not restricted to Nigeria. In fact, such Universities are spread all over the world. It has been stated elsewhere that the general concept originated from the “American agrarian philosophy which premised economic development on the farm as a family business”. In Nigeria, the Universities of Agriculture being relatively new are lucky in that they can analyze the faults, weaknesses and strengths of Conventional Universities that offer degrees in Agriculture, and therefore develop objectives which are long-standing and tailored towards the production of better graduates as well as higher/better service to the community as a whole. Agricultural education, before 1988 when the first two Universities of Agriculture were established, was characterized by many weaknesses, viz.:
i) Lack of linkage between Agricultural Education, Research and Production.
ii) Lack of appropriate and more modern agricultural technologies.
iii) Inadequate preparation of undergraduates for self-employment.
iv) Loose linkage between the existing Faculties of Agriculture and Agricultural Research Institutes/Colleges of Agriculture.
v) Uncoordinated system of agricultural human resource development.
vi) Low level extension services from the universities to farmers.
vii) Unsustainable agricultural practices that result in erosion and loss of rare gene pools.
The Universities of Agriculture were therefore established to help provide solutions to these weaknesses. On establishment, the philosophy of the Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike, was tailored towards this end.
Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike, is situated in an axis along the road from Umuahia to Ikot Ekpene. Its location is ten kilometers East of Umuahia, the Abia State Capital. Umudike and other host neighbours are agrarian communities. This brings to fore the role of the University as one specializing in agriculture and related programmes. The University inherited the immovable facilities and properties of former Federal College of Agriculture which has been moved to Ishiagu in Ivo Local Government Area of Ebonyi State. The National Root Crops Research Institute has common boundaries and share facilities with the University.
At inception, there existed a cordial relationship between the University and the host communities. The story is different now. There are reports of some of the host communities illegally reselling parcels of the University land, despite compensation already paid by Government, some communities are also said to be of the habit of not allowing free access to sites where the University’s developmental projects are to be executed. Being careful not
to sound as an optimist, I want to allay your fears by assuring you that my administration would employ all diplomatic ethos to enshrine tranquility through amicable resolution of the issues.