By Chris Tion
The brisk walk down the aisle of the senate floor, the customary 3 bows before the senators, and indepth answers (bordering on didactic sessions) to questions from the senators, marked the entry of Professor Nicholas Akise Ada into national consciousness during the Senate Ministerial Nominees’ Screening, which held on the 4th of March 2015.
The youthful zest that belies his 61 years and especially his candour are what people who spoke to us about Professor Ada all agreed on. His friend Dr James Abah, a lecturer in the University of Namibia, Rumdo Campus says, “Professor Ada and I go a long way back. What stands him out are his service with dedication, humility and courage. He also has a knack for connecting with young people that’s why as the Dean of Students at Benue State University (2005-2010) the students nicknamed him ‘The People’s Dean’. He also doesn’t keep you guessing on which side he is on any issue. He tells you what he feels and even though we don’t always agree, I respect him a lot for his candour.?
Born on 6th of February 1954 in Shangev-Ya, Adikpo, Kwande Local Government Area, in Benue State, Professor Ada started the pursuit of education at a relatively early age thanks to his parents who in spite of the tumultuous times enrolled him into school. Life in the Tiv speaking areas of the present Benue State about the time of Professor Ada?s early years was a harrowing experience. There were the pre and post independence political violence, which culminated into the infamous Tiv Riots of 1964. Sending children off to school then was one luxury most parents couldn?t afford; self-preservation was uppermost on the parent?s hierarchy of needs. Hear Professor Ada, ?Each time I look back to my early life I cannot but marvel at the sacrifice and chance my parents took in enrolling me into school. Most of my peers then couldn?t attend school because of the political violence that was ravaging Tiv land during this period.?
Professor Ada attended St. Andrew?s Secondary School Adikpo between 1969 and 1973 where he obtained his West African School Certificate (WASC). It was after his WASC that Professor Ada decided to take on education as a career by enrolling into the Jesus College Otukpo between 1974 and 1975 for his Grade II Certificate. After which he attended the College of Education Kastina-Ala where he obtained his Nigeria Certificate in Education (NCE) in Chemistry and Biology.
Between 1981 and 1983 Professor Ada attended Ahmadu Bello University Zaria and earned a B.Ed in Science Education. He obtained his M.Ed in 1989 from the University of Jos. He also attended the King?s College London where he was awarded a Certificate of Integrated Science in 1991. He again returned to the University of Jos, for his Ph.D, which he got in 2004. He capped his academic pursuit with a Masters in Business Administration (MBA) from Benue State University in 2009.
The MBA, seemingly contrastive from the other education related qualifications, caught the eye of Senator Ganiyu Solomon during the Ministerial Screening, and he wanted to know why Professor Ada would go for an MBA after acquiring a Ph.D in Education. This was his response, ?I discovered that after having become a professor if I could not manage myself then it is a problem. And the MBA is an important programme that would enable you to manage resources; both human and non-human. So I did the programme when I was the Dean of Students. It was very painful, but at the end of it, it is quite rewarding. I can now manage myself.?
Professor Ada, the ?People?s Dean?, isn?t only loved by his students, his wife, Mrs Joan Olanike Ada, also expresses so much love for the man she married 35 years ago. She talked effusively about her husband. ?My husband is an exemplary character. His large heart attracted me to him initially and ever since then I still marvel at his capacity to show love not just to his children but to everyone he comes in contact with. As Dean of Students his counseling affected so many students such that hardly any day passes without a message from a former student expressing gratitude for the role he played in shaping his/her life.?
While researching for this article we discovered that a Mass Communication student, Awunah Pius Terwase, was so moved by Professor Ada?s campaign against illiteracy that in April 2014 he wrote an Open Letter, which went viral, to him expressing appreciation. An excerpt from the letter reads:
Dear Sir, before now, getting admission into Benue State University was like to secure a job with CBN or NNPC. Many people can testify that after making it in WAEC, JAMB and the so called aptitude test introduced by the Universities, one still need the assistance of a god father before securing the admission into Benue State University, Makurdi.
Now, due to your (Prof Ada) campaign against illiteracy, people have been getting admission into Benue State University easily, provided he or she is qualified. Even though you are from Kwande Local Government Area of Benue State, you do not limit your campaign or assistance to Kwande people only.
To you Prof Ada, whether somebody is from Otukpo LGA or even outside Benue State, but provided he or she is qualified, you make sure admission is given to such a person.
(You can read the full text of the open letter here http://eaglereporters.com/2014/04/03/an-open-letter-to-profesor-nicholas-ada-the-deputy-vc-benue-state-university/)
A father of six children, Professor Ada is a devout catholic. His second child Rev, Fr. Raji Ada, was ordained a priest in 2013 and currently serves as the Director Projects, Bishop House, Catholic Diocese of Gboko. He credits his priestly calling to the inspiration he got from his father?s charitable disposition. ?I grew up in an atmosphere of love. My parents were so much in love with each other that it rubbed off all of us in the house. That is why our family is such a close-knit unit. My dad?s way of life more than anything else, inspired me to a life of charity that the priesthood is all about. He sacrificed so much for us and people around him that I became fixated with charity?.
An educationist and an avid reader, Professor Ada joined Benue State University in 1992 as Lecturer 1 and rose to become the Deputy Vice Chancellor (Administration). A position he held until January 2015.
His didactic adroitness, agility and intellectual depth wasn?t lost on the senators who confirmed him. On the 18th of March 2015, President Jonathan swore him in as the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs. Asked about the impact his short time (the present government ends May 31st, 2015), as minister would have on the polity, Professor Ada waxed philosophical, ?It is not how long but how well. Government is a continuum, my input at the Federal Executive Council meetings and other interventions will be documented for prosperity.
Article written by Chris Tion;
Editor of online newspaper Benuepage.net. Reach him on Twitter via @xristion
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