The Acting Vice Chancellor, University of Africa, Toru-Orua, Prof Barclays Foubiri Ayakoroma has described artiste as an observer of life that mirrors realities to the audience. He said being a seasoned thespian helped him tremendously in his career as culture administrator at both state and national levels before returning to the academia. Prof Ayakoroma was trained as theatre artist at the University of Calabar, University of Ibadan and University of Port Harcourt majoring in directing and film studies.

He observed that as Nigeria is currently passing through very trying times, the roles of theatre become very critical and relevant in proffering lasting solutions to these challenges, especially speaking truth to power.

“Artist is an observer of life and theatre is a slice of life who mirrors realities to his audience. Those attributes of the artiste enabled me to take right decisions at certain times and it helped me tremendously. I look at situations from that perspective and it has not in any way been a minus. My being an artist has always been a plus. Hypothetically, I ask myself, If am in a position like that how will I react, what will I do? And that has always informed my actions,” he said.

He hinted that at the University of Africa, Theatre Art Department has the highest students registration. This development, he said, speaks volume of the acceptance level of theatre at the university. “If you don’t tell your story, nobody will tell it for you. Unfortunately, it is the wrong and negative story people are interested in. As an artist I can still act, write and do other things. Nigerians appreciate whatever you do,” he added.

The former Executive Secretary and CEO, National Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO), who spoke to journalists in Lagos recently, said that he has in the last five months as acting vice chancellor of University of Africa, applied these attributes to steer the affairs of the varsity. He noted that despite the economic hardship, he makes deliberate efforts to improve on the situations in the university, especially staff and students’ welfare.

“In five months that I have been on the saddle, we are trying as much as possible to make sure things move smoothly. Unfortunately, we have challenges of water and light, which am taking care of. First, I approached the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) to request for two generators, academic office space and other couple of things. So far, the NDDC had responded positively to the requests. It is carrying out studies of where to locate the office and also assisting in the completion of the auditorium, which may host the maiden convocation,” he said.


Despite the numbers of tertiary institutions in the state, Prof Ayakoroma said it is a welcome development and not that of rivalry. He stated that there is no form of rivalry between the public and private universities as it is complementary. “If private varsity is not receiving funding from government, then it cannot charge same fees with public varsities. The good thing about private varsities is that their academic calendars are steady,” he added.

This, he said, is one attraction that makes parents to take their children to universities in Togo, Benin and other African countries because there is no disrupted calendar.

However, he identified the university’s unique selling point as the enterprising and enthusiastic lecturers who are ready to give in their best and who know that the university has a promise from the foundation.

On the recent report on fake degrees being issued by schools in Benin, and Togo, said the unsteady academic calendar in our varsities is what drives parents to such schools. “When govt gives proper attention to varsities, there won’t be need for strike. I commend the journalist that did the investigative report. However, some states are beginning to increase subventions to their varsities,” he said.

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Explaining the university’s approach to students’ admission, Prof Ayakoroma said students are encouraged to choose alternative courses to their first choice in order not to waste much time writing JAMB every year. He noted that recent admission data shows that JAMB admits less than 30 percent, leaving 70 percent of the students waiting for next year examination.

“At the University of Africa, we encourage students not to be too rigid in choice of courses to study. Universities are not meant only for indigenes, they are meant for outsiders too. In Bayelsa, we have University of Niger Delta (NDU), University of Africa, Toru Orua and Bayelsa Medical University, which is a specialise university and we have another one that has been approved, Federal of Agriculture, Nembe and Federal University at Otuoke.

Also, there is a private university Hensard University in Toru Orua, owned by former Governor of Bayelsa Senator Seriake Dickson,” Prof Ayakoroma said.

He disclosed that University of Africa will soon hold its maiden convocation of three combined sets. “In terms of student population, after Bayelsa, Rivers and Imo states have the largest students’ population in that order. We have students from 22 states of the federation. In the next few years, the university will be well known. We try to let everybody know that the university is indeed a government university,” he assured.

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