By Chiejina Patrick
Universities all over the world areacclaimed as centers of excellence where the best brains congregate to nurtureand refine the best in individuals. It is an environment where supreme logicreigns and rules, a place where ideas are generated continually to advance thecourse of research and proffer solutions to the myriads of problems bedevilingthe society.
Once upon a time in May 2003 at Nnamdi Azikiwe University , Awka Nigeria , thereemerged a vice chancellor from the Anambra North Senatorial zone of the state. Diminutive in stature, he is vicious,vindictive and cantankerous in nature. He ruled with iron fist and operatedlike the ‘Lord of the Manor’.
His actions were so haughty that barely some months in office, the visitationpanel constituted by the federal government of Nigeria to look into the affairsof Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka between 1999-2003 described him as a despot.
In the words of the panel chairedby Dr. F.D Mishelia as reflected in Terms of Reference of findings/observationsand recommendation section 11.02 published in page 35 of the white paper, thepanel said: “ The vice chancellor shouldrealize the enormity of responsibilities he owes to the university and the Nationand should stop acting ‘god’. He carries himself like a despot and intimidatesthe staff and students with his imagined academic and professional prowess”
But rather than applying brakes andtaking a U-turn in this attitude, the man turned into another tiger. Not onlywere students summarily expelled without fair hearing, school fees werearbitrarily increased to the extent that students had to embark on a violentdemonstration. Lecturers were hounded like rabbits and no one dares to talkelse you are finished.
The situation was so bad that the universitycommunity like the Israelites continually cried out to God to save them fromthe hands of Pharaoh in Egypt .
By the time the second visitationpanel headed by Prof. Albert. A. Ilemobade returned to UNIZIK in February 2011,they not only harped again on the man’s dictatorial attitude but discoveredmonumental fraud perpetrated by the Ilochi administration and consequently gavea damming verdict that the former vice chancellor should be prosecuted.
As stated in the white paper page 24, section4.5, 1.3 it noted thus: “the panel foundthat although Prof. Ilochi’s successes are no mean achievements, nevertheless,they were achieved at great cost to the system. Ilochi went about the implementation of hisagenda in a manner reminiscent of a sole administrator, his method of solvingproblem intimidated and struck fear in people, both staff and studentsand appears to be “the end justifies the means” principle. Page 25 of the whitepaper noted again : “As a result of the methods adopted by Prof. Ilochi toprosecute his agenda, the university campus environment changed from an opensystem of contention and ferment of ideas to one where most academics and administratorsbecame on lookers under a climate pervaded by the “culture of silence”
(iii)“During Prof. Ilochi’s administration, the Registrar’s position became amusical chair with the appointment of three Acting Registrars in succession betweenDecember 2002 and 2006 thus destabilizing the Registry”
On good financial management, the panelwhite paper noted in page 26 thus: “itwas Prof. Ilochi who introduced the issue of investing in Abuja Hospital to thecouncil through the F and GPC, a project on which the university has alreadyinvested N85 million without evidence of any progress nor documentary supportfor the funds so invested. Presently, the Abuja land has been lost and there is no discernible evidence of progress. How theuniversity could have been trapped in a commercial enterprise that smells fraudneeds to be unraveled”
But on June 4 2009, a paradigmshift occurred at Nnamdi Azikiwe University following the confirmation of a Professor of Environmental
Hydrogeology, Boniface Egboka asthe 4th substantive vice chancellor of the institution. Uponassumption of office, Egboka described his vision of the university as a “fullydeveloped conventional and an emerging world class international universitythat will be well mobilized and exposed to effective and purposeful teaching,practice and research that will be highly respected and subscribed to both inher undergraduate and post graduate programmes within the country and outside,in any part of the globe”.
Prof. went about doing well that within thelast three years in office, the university has not only been peaceful but hascontinued to excel in academic and infrastructural development. Some of the results were the fact that Unizikbecame the second most subscribed university in the 2012 unified tertiaryexamination in Nigeria .
Unlike the tenure of hispredecessor, Egboka introduced participatory and humane style of leadership. Embracing a student first philosophy, variousstudents victimized through arbitrary expulsion had their cases reviewed whilestaff members who were unjustly being treated like slaves were given anothersense of belonging.
He ensured that ongoing projects embarked byhis predecessor were not abandoned but rather completed while he embarks on newprojects with vigor and commitment.
Unfortunately, his greatest undoingtoday has been that he dared to free himself from the clutches of hispredecessor who not only wanted to use him as a puppet but also wants to makesure that “he must not outshine me”.
Presently, the predecessor has lined up hisarmy of lieutenants who now fire all kinds of petitions alleging corruptpractices against Egboka left, right and centre.
Egboka’s positive performance hasturned out to be a curse as his traducers has chosen to do everything possibleto not only frustrate him but to disgrace him from office.
But Egboka in his characteristic mannerhas maintained absolute faith in God and continues to say that instead of thepost of vice chancellorship to change him from being a humane leader, he will ratherchange the vice chancellorship position for people to know that public officeis all about service.
Regrettably, the culture of impunityin Nigeria has made people who are supposed to be in jail for their atrocitiesstill use their ill gotten wealth to not only cause trouble but ensure that theinnocent suffer for their own shortcomings.
This is the time for the federalgovernment of Nigeria to implement to the details, the recommendation of the visitation panels toUNIZIK Awka between 1999-2003 and 2004-2010.
As for those who want to destabilize thepeace and stable academic calendar of the great university named after thegreat Zik of Africa simply for selfish reasons and to gratify the inordinatedesires of their paymaster, I can only tell them to remember that God is theultimate decider of man’s destiny.
Give peace a chance and wait for yourturn.
ExecutiveDirector,Educationfor justice International.
28Okpalauba Close,Awka, Anambra State