By Sunday Attah
University leadership anywhere in the world is a serious business. Much as it appears good for all intellectuals, but strangely, it is only for the gifted in human resources management. A politician can fail in leadership, but would hardly be noticed. But a university administrator has no such luxury, as his steps and actions are closely monitored from the outset. The internal, ever watchful eyes are not patient and voices go berserk when he goes astray.
Therefore, those who are saddled with the task of the administration of universities are somewhat thrown into the furnace of hellfire, because varsities are one of the most complex human institutions to manage anywhere or in any clime.
This is understandable because varsities vibrate with knowledge; they kick and bubble with wisdom of disparate dimensions. Therefore, to create an impact, a university administrator must necessarily go the proverbial extra mile to ingrain his name in gold. He must demonstrate competence beyond the periphery and justify to his colleagues that he is the embodiment of whatever they signify.
In any university environment, there is a huge reservoir of knowledge, unbowed by the creed of tribe, religion or any other affinity. Any step or action is challenged and on point of sound reasoning. It takes the special grace of God Almighty to market reforms or innovations in any campus, particularly in Nigeria, no matter how good.
The Chief University administrator usually face stiff opposition from three camps- the uncompromising academic staff, insatiable non-academic staff and the large reservoir of restive students. They challenge and question everything under the sun.
But chief university administrators or Vice Chancellors with a knack for excellence pull the strings to make indelible imprints. This has been the positive narratives of the Vice Chancellor (VC) University of Calabar (UniCal), Professor Zana Itinunbe Akpagu . An axiom says, a golden fish has no hiding place. Akpagu has proven that he is one university administrator, who probes himself before others would have a reason to mesmerize him.
Professor Akpagu came on board as UniCal VC at a time the varsity was on its lowest ebb. It was plagued on many fronts. The word progress was not in the vocabulary of the varsity. But in the last two years of his leadership of university, the VC has made loud statements about his competence. He has proved skeptics wrong that UniCal can indeed be a destination for academic excellence and sanity as obtainable in decent climes.
On December 1st, 2015 when Professor Akpagu assumed duties as UniCal chief helmsman, the varsity was a campus plagued by cultism, poor or decayed campus infrastructure, inadequate academic and non-academic staff, exam malpractices, academic plagiarism and all sorts of anti-academic vices. Himself a proud Malabite, Professor Akpagu hit the ground running and vowed to change the story of the university to something enviable. And in 2017 particularly, Akpagu’s vows to change the narrative of the university impacted visibly in every segment of the university.
UniCal now parades new hostels, offices, classrooms, furniture, sports facilities, laboratories and a library constantly refreshed with new books. He has hooked the university to e-learning, with an amazing internet visibility on campus. Infinitely discontented with his own achievements’, Professor Akpagu went further afield to introduce new academic programmes.
He capped it by establishing a Faculty of Engineering and Technology with six departments. To know that UniCal, a second generation university in Nigeria, never had a faculty as important as Engineering and Technology until yesterday, when Akpagu came on board, underscores the extent the university was grossly under-utilized.
To beef up the quality of his teaching staff, Professor Akpagu made it a cardinal policy to retain all first class graduating students of the university in every department. Not leaving anything to chance, his administration has been assisting them to upgrade their academic qualifications to impact better knowledge to humanity. Akpagu practically enlivened UniCal’s alumni office and used it to launch a N10 billion Endowment fund, which he has deployed to the development of the university.
So, what Professor Akpagu conceptualized on his first day in office yielded fruits more abundantly in 2017, as UniCal shifted positively on varsities ranking in Nigeria. UniCal at the moment prides itself as a campus not just conducive for learning, but a citadel of learning that is in constant motion in the expansion of knowledge.
It is on this score that Professor Zana Akapgu has been spotted as best performing VC in Nigeria in 2017 by two separate media platforms, “The Nigerian,” a London-based online news portal and the “Nigeria Print Journalism Magazine,” which have slated him for the conferment of the award of “Best Education Leadership Icon.”
Publisher of “The Nigerian”, Halima Samuel disclosed that the award to Professor Akpagu in the year under review was informed by the choice of Nigerians and the editorial board which keenly monitored his tenure as UniCal VC and impressed by his efforts in changing the fortunes of the university for the better. And somewhat confirming the verdict of “The Nigerian,” by a wider spectrum of Nigerians, the Editor-in-chief of the Print Journalism Magazine, Omo Theodore, also intimated that Professor Akpagu was selected after a painstaking evaluation of his impact on UniCal, especially in the last one year.
Thus, the audience of both media platforms voted Professor Akpagu for the award of the “Best Education Leadership Icon.” The honour is to be conferred on him on August 25th, 2017 at an elaborate ceremony in London, in the United Kingdom.
But most importantly, the verdict by these media stakeholders is the expression of the opinions of Nigerians on Akpagu’s exemplary leadership of UniCal. And as Professor Akpagu, who is profoundly petted on campus by both students and staff as “Mr. Change,” prepares to receive these grandeur awards on UniCal’s success story, together with other eminent Nigerians, his colleagues in other universities are urged to emulate him. Nigeria would only become a great country, when everyone performs his job as excellent as the UniCal Vice Chancellor. Congrats, Mr. Vice Chancellor!
Attah, a public affairs commentator writes from Calabar, Cross River State.