It is not often that brains and passion converge. Highly intellectual people are often devoid of visible passion that can rouse and move others. They may be able to perfectly articulate an intellectual argument but rarely do they inspire.
Akpezi Ogbuigwe is an exception. She is intensely intellectual and passionate. For several years, she was the head of Environmental Education and Training in the United Nations Environment Programme. Her unbridled enthusiasm moved her skeletal staff to tireless efforts that vastly enlarged UNEP’s footprints in the environmental education sector.
One of Akpezi’s biggest achievements during her time with UNEP was establishing and developing an unprecedented university project. Known as Mainstreaming Environment and Sustainability in African Universities (MESA), the project revolutionized UNEP’s relationship with universities in the quest for sustainability conscious higher education.
By the time she left UNEP, 80 universities from 30 African countries had already become members of the MESA initiative. This may have been pleasantly surprising to many but to Akpezi, it’s what she expected since she had already seen the power of vision, purpose and faith. A couple of years earlier, she had overseen the production of UNEP’s first ever handbook for journalists, again working with journalists from across the continent in its production.
Before she joined UNEP Akpezi was a Professor of Law at the Rivers State University of Science and Technology in Nigeria. She enjoyed this job a lot because her a golden opportunity to mentor youth in both academics and life skills. What joy!
Mentoring young people is one of the deep joys of her life. It is for this reason that even when she left her teaching job and joined UNEP, she always looked for opportunities to mentor young people. She left a lasting mark in this mentorship endeavor when she initiated the Sustainability Generation project. In a workshop that was held in April 2009, students from all over the world came together to brainstorm about the proactive approach that their generation could take to enhance sustainability in the world.
In her keynote speech at the workshop, she said fervently, ‘step forward and change your world. Ste forward and rekindle the spirit of freedom. Turn the music on and let the world hear the beat of the African drums, the music of the African soul.’
If her heart could be unveiled, these words would be seen coursing through it, for she believes so passionately in the African premise and promise. Indeed, she is a passionate sustainability star who continues to leave indelible green marks in the lives of mentees all over the world.