Pat Utomi Prize for Students’ Debate on Public Policy 2016 is designed to be an annual debate festival that shall revive and stimulate the fast eroding culture of students’ debates in campuses on government policies, programs and public affairs in Nigeria. Each year, interested students from tertiary institutions in Nigeria shall participate in preliminaries to qualify for the grand finale scheduled to hold every 6th February alongside Prof Patrick Utomi’s birthday commemoration and annual lecture.
During the first quarter of Nigeria’s independence, tertiary institutions were known for great lectures and intellectually stimulating debates among students on different government policies and programs. Our tertiary institutions were known as a source for providing alternate and qualitative views on public affairs which government and social institutions considered in framing policy and program directions. It is therefore no wonder that in 1976, Prof Pat Utomi as a 19 year old 300 level student of the University of Nsukka, in then Old Anambra State of Nigeria, wrote to and invited the late Amb. Joe Garba who was then Nigeria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs to come for a debate in his Campus with students on Nigeria’s Foreign Policy. Indeed Amb. Joe Garba honoured the invitation and flew all the way from Lagos to the University of Nsukka to debate and interact with students! What gave Prof Pat Utomi the confidence to invite the then serving Minister of Foreign Affairs of Nigeria to his school for a debate was because it was an integral part of school and students activities to engage in robust debate on national issues. Today, that culture has been replaced with music and dance competitions, beauty pageants and lotteries. There is indeed a great need to resuscitate that culture of debating and intellectual exchanges among our students to spur a new culture of intellectualism among next generation students and leaders.