By Gideon Arinze…
On Thursday, May 23, 2019, months of scramble for the position of the Vice- Chancellor of Nigeria’s premier University, the University of Nigeria, Nsukka ended when the Pro-Chancellor of the University, Mike Olorunfemi announced that the Governing Council of the institution had appointed Prof. Charlse Arizechukwu Igwe as its new V.C.
Olorunfemi emphasized that the Council had followed a “transparent selection process” after which Igwe emerged winner having scored highest in the selection process to beat other shortlisted candidates for the job.
Igwe who will become the 15th V.C of the University when the five-year tenure of the current V.C, Prof. BenJamin Ozumba ends by June 14th was (is) until his appointment, the Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Administration of the University.
A native Awka in Anambra State, Igwe was said to have joined the services of the University in 1976 as a Soil Survey Assistant and became an Academic Staff of the University in 1991 after which he rose through the ranks to become a professor in 2003.
He was appointed DVC, Administration on April 28, 2016 and was reappointed in 2018. He also represented the University’s Senate in the Governing Council and also served as the Director of the University’s Advancement Centre.
How the contest was won and lost
In January, exactly six months to the expiration of the tenure of Ozumba, the University authority announced that the position of the V.C was vacant. Expectedly, over 60 candidates indicated interest and then, the struggle began.
Among the candidates were principal officers of the University as well as distinguished professors from outside the University. It was obviously going to be a heated contest.
At the end of the first elimination process which was rejected by the governing council, 35 professors made the list. Another round of the elimination process was applied which considered positions held by the aspirants, either as a DVC, Director, Dean of Faculty and years of experience as a professor which must not be less than 15 years, including journals published in International Journals.
With the last hammer of the council, 20 out of the 35 professors were dropped from the list and 15 of them maintained the race. The 15 of them were thereafter interviewed by the council of the University.
Keen observers familiar with the requirements that determine the selection process for VCs were however all but certain that the contest was a five-horse race between professors: Cyprian Onyeji, Charlse Igwe, James Chukwuma Ogbonna, Polycarp Emeka Chigbu and E.O Ezeuwgu.
These five candidates were said to flaunt intimidating resumes spanning years of distinguished academic practice. They have all previously held varying top academic as well as administrative positions, which make their pursuit for the exalted job of the VC in such a reputable University convincing.
At the end of the contest, Igwe was declared winner. But while many expressed excitement with the outcome of the process, insisting that it was a well deserved victory for the new VC, others could not believe their ears. The outcome did not meet their expectations. They were aggrieved.
The demand for an Indigenous V.C continues
Apparently, they aggrieved fellows were indigenes of Nsukka zone which reportedly paraded three candidates among the five front runners.
Months leading to the contest, it will be recalled that the people of Enugu North Senatorial Zone, where the University is located, intensified efforts towards the realization of the appointment of an indigenous VC for the institution.
Rising from a town hall meeting of the zone, members of Nsukka Town Union resolved to be more united in the struggle for an indigenous VC. They noted that ever since the institution was established in 1960, the VC position has continued to elude them in spite of all efforts made in the recent past for the zone to produce an indigenous vice chancellor.
Addressing the people during the meeting, the Special Assistant to the Enugu State Governor on Market Matters, Ezugwu Aniebonam vehemently stated that it was time for Nsukka to produce the next VC of the University as Ozumba winds up his tenure by June this year.
In his words, “Nsukka can’t continue with minor appointments such as security staff and gardener jobs with towering degrees while other citizens from different parts of the country occupy vantage positions in the university which remains the only feasible industry in the zone since 1960”. “We have to go all out to achieve the dreams of having a Nsukka professor as the next vice chancellor of UNN for the first time”.
Ezugwu called on stakeholders in the six local government areas of the zone to join hands in the crusade for the realization of the appointment of an indigenous leader of the University, maintaining that it was high time the zone stopped sitting on the fence.
The governor’s aide urged prominent indigenes of the zone to rise up and draw the attention of the powers that be at the presidency and National Assembly to the plight of Nsukka people with respect to the vice-chancellorship position at UNN.
Sadly, but not completely regrettable, the story is different as a new VC has emerged but not from the Nsukka zone.
Beyond Ethnic considerations
Because the University is a Federal establishment, its appointments are made in a way to reflect Federal Character, on the basis of meritocracy, with no respect for ethnicity. This is also seen in the quota for admission into various programmes of the institution. This can be said to have influenced the decision of the institution’s governing council in its choice of Igwe as VC.
Prior to the appointment of Igwe as VC, the Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Nsukka, Aloysius Agbo, charged the authority of the institution to be guided by quality standard and excellence in its in choice of a successor to the outgoing VC.
His concern was on the need for the institution’s management to shun ethnic sentiments and appoint a credible replacement that would continue on the path of growth and development of the institution in the interest of the country and humanity.
In his words, “he must be result-driven, research- conscious and ready to continue the developmental strides of the institution. He must be ready to maintain the enviable records the university is known for”.
The Ozumba-led administration is praised to have sustained the culture of peace, moral rectitude and academic excellence on the part of students as well as human resources development and improved staff and students’ welfare.
However, he is widely criticized for his inability to tackle headlong, the lingering challenge of decayed infrastructure in the University. There are still uncompleted buildings around the University and the condition in the hostels is better imagined that felt.
Some departments in the University still have the challenge of limited space as the number of students admitted far outweigh the capacity of the class rooms, making learning a little difficult for students.
Now, the contest has been won and lost and it is presumed that Igwe is the best hand for the job. He will be looked upon to not only build on the achievements of the outgoing VC, but also make amends where necessary in order to restore the dignity of man for which the institution was established.
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