Pongri: Tribute to a colossus of laurels

It is not impossible to identify certain givens in Nigeria’s current effort of nation building and development. The intersection of the academic and policy domains has randomly brought these together under a plethora of concerns, opportunities, challenges as well as achievement. These define the country both at home and beyond.

The effervescent Provost, Adamawa State College of Education Hong, who doubles as the Chairman, Council of Provosts, Colleges of Education, Professor Johnson Haniel Pongri; carved his niche in the heydays as an erudite lecturer at the defunct Adamawa State College of Preliminary Studies Yola, now Adamawa State Polytechnic. This laid the background to his current position as Head of Management of Adamawa State College of Education, Hong in addition to lecturing as guest lecturer in some universities in the country. These have markedly influenced the educational development in Nigeria and other climes on the continent.

And as subject matter, Professor Pongri, to put it mildly, has remained very vast. In all these, we see a radical personae weaving his own version of a storyline that aptly captures and reflects a vision of a strong, united and progressive nation, a Nigeria where every citizen will be proud to be associated with, irrespective of religious, cultural and ethnic affiliations would be either left behind or marginalised.

When he assumed leadership of the college in 2010, Prof Pongri took over the reins of the college’s governance with a defined destination in focus. From the quality of impacting knowledge to students, to the structural development of facilities were not encouraging. Also, the confidence of the academic and non-academy staff of the college had virtually waned. All these were a source of worry to both the state government and indeed the management of the institution.

Buoyed by his strong commitment to the provision of qualitative education, he initiated measures through his diverse contacts, he equipped the college with necessary tools and equipment such as furnishing the lecture halls with collapsible seats in all the lecture halls.

In partnership with the National Commission for Colleges of Education and the Tertiary Education Trust Fund, an e-library was constructed, this is in addition to procurement of computers/computer tables, and microteaching laboratory. Others are new dormitories for male and female students and assorted vehicles for staff and students’ use. Very transparent and noticeable are some of these achievements that his contemporaries in the neighbouring states and indeed the federal government have begun to take keen interest in his exemplary transformation and leadership of human and material resources in transforming the institution to its present enviable state as against when he took over, when the college was mockingly described as a glorified secondary school. College of Education Hong can now confidently be compared with universities in terms of structure and content.

To have a feel of the pulse of one of the academic staff when I visited the institution recently, he said, “Prof Pongri has done everything within the available means to ensure that the college achieves its objectives. So far the college has attained a remarkable  progress within a short period of time under his leadership”.

In all, the college runs 36 courses leading to the award of National Certificate in Education (NCE) prior to its affiliation to the Ahmadu Bello University Zaria as a degree awarding institution. Apart from the rate of examination malpractices that has come to zero level, the volume of entries into public and private universities by products from the college has shot up considerably in the recent past.

It is gratifying to put it on record that the College of Education Hong a couple of years ago leaped to the status of a degree awarding institution.  In fulfilment of requirements for full accreditation for universities and affiliates, academic content, staffing, physical structures including library, funding and employees rating, the C.O.E Hong had all these to qualify it as a degree awarding institution. The college had in 2017 been officially affiliated to the Ahmadu Bello University Zaria to run 12 courses. The courses include B.A Education, B.Sc Education, Arabic Studies, English Language, Geography and Home Economics. Others are P.H.E, Agric Science, Guidance and Counselling, Biology, IRS and CRS, Social Studies and Education.

According to Prof Pongri “the degree programme of the college will supplement the Adamawa State University, Mubi which does not have a faculty of education”.

Whenever I choose to write on Pongri, I find it virtually impossible to sustain a discourse based on a single storyline of narrative. This is basically because of the way he has straddled into multiple facets of our national life as an instructor, academic and administrator par excellence.

The associate professor believes that dialogue and diplomacy, more than any form of expression, is the best attainable tool. This conviction, more than anything else, defines his tenure as the Head of Management at C.O.E Hong, and in handling certain responsibilities assigned to him by virtue of his stewardship in the institution.

Through dint of hard work and dedication, Pongri was appointed by Mr. President and Commander-in-Chief President Muhammadu Buhari as Supervising Chairman representing Committee of Provosts, Colleges of Education in Nigeria on the Board of National Council for Colleges of Education in 2018. Coupled with that huge assignment, Pongri was also appointed as a representative of Provosts of Colleges of Education to serve on the Board of the Teachers Registration Council of Nigeria. In all these, he is charged with the responsibility to oversee the general management, control of finances, properties, appointment and promotions in the aforementioned organisations.

As a testament to his shrewd administrative acumen over the years, many corporate bodies have appreciated him through various awards for his worthy contribution to the development and growth of education in Adamawa state and the country as a whole. Prominent among those bodies is Adamawa State Students Association studying in the Theological College of Northern Nigeria, affiliated to the University of Jos, who recently gave him an award of excellence for effective display of courage, development and foresight in service to humanity.

Wabundani is an Abuja based journalist, and can be reached on email: [email protected]

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