The story of innovative leadership and indelible achievements at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN),in four years of the administration of Benjamin Chukwuma Ozumba, as Vice Chancellor
BY UGONNA ANEJIONU
He joined the highly celebrated and sought after elite club of top level university administrators on June 10, 2014, as the 14th substantive Vice Chancellor of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka(UNN). By the end of April, 2018, two months to the anniversary of his 4th year in office, his basket of achievements are overflowing. Benjamin ChukwumaOzumba, Professor of Medicine and incumbent Vice Chancellor of UNN is a great achiever, a giant in many respects.
One of the first things he did on assumption of office was to make welfare of staff a priority, to boost morale. By way of implementation he began by offsetting arrears of salaries and paying salaries in full as at when due, and without unnecessary deductions.
He complimented his interest in prompt payment of salaries by looking into the area of staff promotion. He provided a situation where every staff that is due for promotion and had basic requirements is promoted. Newly promoted staff are paid salaries and other emoluments in full as at when due.
He told verbatim that his interest in staff welfare was borne out of a belief that any administrator that wants to succeed must embrace openness, learn to lay his cards on the table, and also learn to accommodate his subjects and their interests. He explained that it is naturally expected of every leader to show commitment to the interests and welfare of staff at all times, and he sees the policy as key to success.
IfeanyichukwuAgbada, Chairman of Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), UNN chapter confirmed to Verbatim that the VC has done well in issues of staff welfare. Agbada who we learnt was involved in a fierce conflict with the immediate past administration of the university,on issues of welfare, described Ozumba as a man of great wisdom and ability for change. He stated that Ozumbahas promoted many staff of the university to higher positions since the inception of his administration and has also expressed a strong determination to promote more who are qualified and possess the necessary requirements. He further described Ozumba as an amiable, social and humane scholar whose open door policy has tremendously boosted the morale of the staff of the university. Agbada added that ‘’Ozumba has simply sanitized the university’’.
Under Ozumba as Vice Chancellor learning environment has also been largely improved. Among policies which he put in place to achieve the feat is waging war against cultism in the two campuses at Nsukka and Enugu. Presently, there is peace and calm in the entire university as cultism and its related violence have been contained. AbubakarRasheed, Executive Secretary, National Universities Commission, attested to this during a visit to the university where he said the university is the most peaceful in the country.
Ozumba told verbatim that he achieved this feat by putting in place a very good security network in and around the university and by redirecting the minds of the students towards education and innovation. He explained that the minds of the students are presently occupied with innovative and academic ideas to the extent that other things outside these become a taboo and distraction to them. He however emphasized that peace flows when a man of peace is in the saddle adding that no one can achieve peace without being peaceful.
As a man of great ideas and vision, Ozumba was able to also attract national global attention to the UNN, as a leading centre of learning and intellectualism, in Africa, few months after he took office as Vice chancellor. He did two convocation ceremonies in one year and paraded with pride,132 first class honours graduates produced by the university from different disciplines. He cited the graduates as pointers to his determination and resolves to produce and give the best from Nigeria to the world.
Like honey that attracts bees the UNN is now the cynosure of all eyes. In 2015, the UNN was the compelling choice for African Vice Chancellors and Deans of Science, Engineering and Technology (COVIDSET) 6th regional conference in Nigeria. It was the first to be held in the country.
Ozumba told verbatim that UNN was considered because of the repositioning of the university under his stewardship. He said the university has again re appeared on the world’s academic radar from where it disappeared for a while, adding that his achievements since assumption of office has obviously impressed global and continental academic stakeholders and thus prompted the choice of UNN for the conference.
The COVIDSET conference impacted much on the university as it offered the international scholars, participants and other guests the opportunity to see that UNN has been totally transformed and rebranded. Again the conference offered mingling opportunities which gave room for huge brainstorming and interactions which Ozumba said have re-enforced their initiatives and ideas.
Verbatim was informed that the huge success of the COVIDSET has brought more honour and respect to both UNN and Ozumba who elaborately planned and prepared for the conference to the admiration of all participants. The Conference is still being discussed internationally and locally till today.
From the 20th to the 23rd of February, 2018, scientists and scholars from various parts of the world again converged at the Princess Alexandra Auditorium, PAA in UNN for the very first international science parks workshop in Nigeria. The theme of the workshop was ‘Science parks and Innovation Ecosystem for national Development’ (SPIE4ND) and it was organized by the University of Nigeria,Nsukka in partnership with the Ideon Science park (ISP), Sweden and Lunda vision AB, Sweden.
Reacting to what prompted the initiative, Ozumba told verbatim that he was pushed to initiate, organize and host the workshop because he had noticed that the entire sub-Sahara Africa has no single science park which he said is abnormal and unfortunate considering the massive benefits derivable form science parks. He listed China, Korea, Japan, Singapore, Sweden and others as countries that achieved great relevance in science and innovation because they adopted science parks and expressed his conviction that such excellence can also be achieved in Africa if stakeholders re-channel or re-directed their interest towards science parks and innovation adding that he is committed to advancing science and innovation in not only Nigeria but Africa at large.
Several papers were presented during the workshop by known stakeholders, scholars and entrepreneurs.The papers include:the Role of universities and the Role of the national Innovation Agency in the innovation Ecosystem by Prof per Eriksson (Professor, Signaling Processing) and former (153rd) Vice Chancellor of Lund university in Sweden. Prof Eriksson was also the first Director General, Swedish Innovation Agency (VINNOVA).
Other lectures include “The effects of science parks on Universities, Companies and the region” by Dr Sven-Thore Holm, who founded the Ideon Science park and Lunda vision, sweden and another on ‘Establishing and managing an ICT start up in Niegria: Experience of a Swedish Entrepreneur’ by Hanna Einarson who has also founded several start up companies in Nigeria.
The Swedish Ambassador to Nigeria MsIngerultvedt delivered a lecture with the topic, “How Sweden Transitioned from a poor nation to a rich nation” while Mr. Robert Keller, a minister counselor, Embassy of Sweden, Abuja delivered a paper captioned “The way forward for the Nigerian Economy”
Dr. Eric Nwangi of the Ministry of Education and technology MOEST Kenya delivered a lecture titled ‘’strengthening science, technology and innovation between Europe and Africa’’, while Dr. Dan AzumiM. Ibrahim, Director General, national office for technology Acquisition and promotion, NOTAP; delivered a lecture on “Intellectual property promotion and protection: Pros and Cons”
Other lectures came from Engr. Umar B. Binder, former DG, NOTAP and current SSG, Adamawa State, Prof Adebayo Olukoshi, Director Africa and West Asia) IDEA, Addis Ababa, Jean Bakole, Dr. Reuben Bamidele of UNIDO, and Prof Emmanuel Nnadozie, the Executive secretary, Africa capacity building foundation, ACBF. Zimbabwe.
Other individuals who rendered mind blowing lectures during the workshop include Dr. OkechukwuEnalamah, Nigeria’s Honourable Minister for industry, Trade and investment, Mr. Jonas Michanek from Ideon science park, Sweden and operating incubator manager, Roar Nigeria Hub UNN, Dr. NkechiOnyeneho of the Harvard university, Boston, USA, EmekaOkwuosa, Chairman Oilserve LTD, Houston USA, Prof F.I Ezema, coordinator, NANO Research Group, UNN and Ike Willie-Nwobu, a senior consultant, in Abuja.
In her good will message for the workshop, MsIngerUltvedt, Swedish ambassador to Nigeria said that knowledge is a crucial factor in economic growth and described invention as new knowledge and innovation as the commercial application of knowledge adding that an innovation ecosystem which is the subject of the workshop connects the different actors to each other.
She linked the above to Alfred Nobel, a Swede and a known inventor, innovator and entrepreneur who lived in the 19th Century. She mentioned that Nobel through his breakthroughs in invention and innovation made a lot of wealth which he donated to rewarding future achievements in natural science and literature which today is referred to as the Nobel Prize.
Ultvedt said Sweden is one of the most innovative countries in the world which she said has positively affected its economy adding that Nigeria has to diversify and de-emphasize its dependence on crude oil. She recognized the fact that Nigeria has a lot of clever people and hoped that government policies should be inspired by discussions at the workshop
In his speech during the workshop, Dr. OgbonnayaOnu, the Honourable Minister for Science and Technology descried Prof Ozumba as a visionary leader who is committed to making sure that students who graduate from UNN will instead of looking for jobs will rather become employers of labour which he said is in line with his ministry’s policy. Onu promised to partner with the Vice Chancellor and support him by sending Directors General in the Ministry to ascertain areas of possible intervention and collaboration with the university. He described science and technology as veritable and important tools needed to drive the economy insisting that no nation can grow without science and technology.
Onu, a scientist with many patents to his name, recognized the availability of crude oil and other mineral resources in Nigeria but added that science and technology must come in to convert them to national utility adding that Singapore which he referred to as one of the smallest countries in the world stunned the world by constructing the best airport in the world which he said has a global significance.
He also added that China even with one fifth of the global population enjoys a robust economy and relevance because of its interest in science and technology. He also added that Nigeria must lead by example by strengthening competitiveness at the international circles insisting that Nigeria must run an innovation driven economy.
Outside the participants from Europe, Asia, USA and Sweden, the workshop was also monitored by the Chief of Army staff, General Buratai who was represented by major General ChikeUde, and the comptroller General of Customs and Excise Col. Hamed Ali who was represented by Sulaiman Mohammed Jubril, who is the comptroller of customs operations in Enugu, Anambra and Ebonyi States.
The workshop also witnessed exhibitions by students of the university and other innovators and was concluded with tours to Roar Nigeria, Lion laptop Asembly line, HAINA and lion Science Park in the university and also tours to archaeological sites and water falls within Nsukka. Over two thousand individuals participated at the workshop.
Ozumba told verbatim that he is interested in Science Parks because they will bring visibility, power innovations, spur initiatives and also bring revenue for national development. He mentioned Bill gates as a direct beneficiary of innovation adding that he believes Nigeria and Africa have a better stock of scientists and innovators that can be harnessed.
He said his ultimate obsession is to create a platform that will embrace and assimilate innovative minds in Nigeria and Africa, a step he said will change the story of Nigeria and Africa positively in no distant time.
Also recently the ultra modern food science and technology block which was completed by Ozumba was commissioned by Dr. OgbonnayaOnu, amidst joy and commendations for his administration. Speaking during the commissioning ceremony, Timothy Okonkwo, a professor and head of department, food science and technology, UNN said that Ozumba is simply unique emphasizing that he has brought so many innovations to the university. Okonkwo who said they started the building with no intention to bother the university management added that Ozumba intervened when they could not finish the project due to cash constraints and partnered with the department to complete it.
ChidimmaAgbata, a third year student of the department told this magazine that the students of the department are very proud of Ozumba who she confirmed has done so well. Agbata said the building has been lying uncompleted for a very long time and expressed her gratitude to Ozumba for finishing the building which she said has added value to their department.
Rice Processing mills, bio-digesters which digest wastes like cow dung etc and convert them to ethane gas for both cooking and lighting, solar driers, pricking machines and others which were produced in the department were exhibited at the Commissioning by the students. Verbatim observed that a brand new asphalt road of about a kilometer has also been constructed to link the department. This is outside the Augustine OjunekwuAvuru geology building among others which were constructed by the administration of Ozumba.
Professor Ozumba’s administration at the UNN has also been involved in road and other infrastructural development. Verbatim witnessed the commissioning of one of the roads a 1.6 kilometer asphalt road with drainage on both sides, by the Executive Governor of Enugu State, IfeanyiUgwuanyi. The road was constructed by Dr. Sam MadukaOnyishi, the chairman and Managing director of peace Mass transit limited, a popular transportation company in Nigeria at the prodding of Ozumba. The road links the south gate of the University and Umunkaka, the village of Maduka.
Speaking during the commissioning ceremony, Maduka said he was encouraged to embark on the road project by the massive achievements of Prof Ozumba who he said has left a lot of legacies of UNN. He said the road is to encourage the vice Chancellor, ameliorate the sufferings of his people, staff and students of the university who ply through the road and also pay back to the university which he said provided him with his business take off fund of a thousand, two hundred naira through purchase of cash crops from his mother, in 1985. Ozumba after the commissioning of the road told verbatim that many more good things will happen in UNN. The ceremony was witnessed by Sen Fidelis Okoro and Pat Emeje, the Executive Chairman ofNsukka Local Government Area.
Testimonies, backed by verifiable evidence exist to show that the UNN which Ozumba has administered for barely four years is different and remarkable in many ways. His core achievements are wide spread.Ozumba focused on creating enabling environment for learning and academic development, adopted open door policy, promoted peace and sincerity and also set out to encourage science and innovation in his quest to reposition the university and make it the first among equals,
Indeed, the story of Ozumba’s successes at the UNN is better told by the many who work with him and whose lives he has touched in one way or the other. Among them is Charles A Igwe, a professor of soil science and Deputy Vice Chancellor, (administration) in the university. Igwe told verbatim that UNN has witnessed tremendous growth under Ozumba and that the UNN before Ozumba, was poorly rated, adding that the university is presently rated the best in Africa, courtesy of Ozumba’s efforts. He explained that almost all the departments in the university have been accredited by the National Universities Commission, NUC, except one or two departments that presently have partial accreditation, adding that the university has never had it better than now.
Igwe described Ozumba as a man of great vision with a wonderful administrative capability to drive an institution like UNN. He added that working with him is just like going through the school of experience as one stands to learn administrative skills, history, humility and so many others under the Vice Chancellor, a man of knowledge who is very close to his God.
James ChukwumaOgbonna, a Professor of Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology and the Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academic ) of the university described Ozumba as a visionary with a very large heart and a wonderful intellectual capability. He said Ozumba has improved the ranking and rating of the university and encouraged academic excellence as he funds intellectual publications in high impact journals and also gives money to the authors as encouragement. He said the vice chancellor has also encouraged many staff of the university to access Tetfund facilities for training and conferences, both locally and internationally.
Ogbonna said one of Ozumba’s selling points is his recognition that no university will survive without science and innovation which he said could be easily described as knowledge economy adding that Ozumba is bent on translating knowledge into tangible goods and services. He listed the university’s agricultural farm which Ozumba revived as another great initiative adding that cows, fish, chicken, snails and others consumed within the university and even outside are products of the university’s modern farm.
Ogbonna added that Ozumba has a big dream for the university and has done so well in the fight against corruption in the university by changing mindsets and also re-orientating the staff. He also said Ozumba in his usual innovative manner has established a student’s evaluation platform where the students of the university now evaluate and rate their lecturers adding that this is presently a major yardstick for promotions. He told this magazine that Ozumba has simply planted the seed of development and growth in the university adding that most of the seeds have already started germinating.
Christopher ChukwudiIgbokwe, a lawyer and the university’s registrar described Ozumba as a man full of dynamism and a multi tasking professor and vice chancellor who has actually revolutionized all aspects of the university through innovation and entrepreneurship. He listed the royal hub, production of the university’s brand of laptops called the “Lion Laptops” and others as results of the innovative and entrepreneurial inclination of the Ozumba administration.
Igbokwe also told verbatim that the laptops were given as souvenirs to eminent personalities that graced the university’s last convention ceremony like the Enugu State governor,IfeanyiUgwuanyi, the Sultan of Sokoto, governor of Sokoto state, AminuTambuwal, Education Minister, AdamuAdamu and others. He further described Ozumba as a vice chancellor on the go and a multiple award winner who defied all odds to establish the very first science park in the country and in the entire sub sahara Africa.
Igbokwe said he can as an alumnus of the university and a well grounded witness confirm that Ozumba has surpassed the achievements of his predecessors from records adding that he is certain that Ozumba will want to push the university beyond the number one position had there been such a position.
He also described him as a team player and bridge builder, a detribalized Nigerian and a very strong supporter of the Nigerian project who is blessed with a large heart for all manner of people across the country.
Igbokwe said his achievements have attracted the attention of both the corporate world and the sultan of Sokoto, who has visited the university twice under Ozumba as a friend of both the vice chancellor and the university and also won a lot of awards from the youths from all ethnicities in Nigeria.
Igbokwe also said his achievements have also endeared him more to the university chancellor and the Ooni of Ife, His Imperial Majesty, Oba AdeyeyeOgunwusi who has remained a close friend of the vice chancellor and also a partner in progress.He said the vice chancellor is a total man whom he is very proud to work with, describing him as a gift to the university, Nigeria and Africa at large.
Jude KenechukwuEdeh, PhD, and Bursar of the university told verbatim that it has been a great experience working under Ozumba who he said taught him a lot as a father, mentor and friend. Edeh said the vice Chancellor gives his staff a free hand to work and deliver results at the appropriate time without any interference adding that he does not condone excuses but rather appreciates and encourages performance.
He said Ozumba has been so frugal in the management of the university’s lean resources which accounts for the very mind blowing and intimidating projects which he has executed in the university to the astonishment of observers. Edeh added that Ozumba’s prudent and efficient management of the university’s resources is remarkable. He listed the construction of roads within the university, water reticulation, purchase of vehicles for principal staff of the university and equipping the hostels as some of the major achievement of the vice chancellor.
He said Ozumba purchased about four thousand units of beds and mattresses’ to replace the old ones that have been in use since the incepting of the university in 1960. Edeh said UNN has been positioned by Ozumba to be a great place in no distant time adding that the university has maintained its lead in both Nigeria and Africa at large insisting that the university will be listed as one of the first 1000 Universities in the world if the tempo is sustained by his successors.
Edeh said UNN has achieved visibility under Ozumba and listed the science park, the tractor project which Ozumba embarked upon in partnership with the Anambra motor manufacturing company, ANAMCO, the ongoing modern piggery project, the snailry, fish pond, poultry and the distant learning programme where people especially those in the Diaspora can learn many courses including Igbo Language online as empirical evidences’ to the Ozumba wonders at UNN. He stated that Ozumba has truly, by his achievements, restored the dignity of man which incidentally is the university’s motto.
ChinweEzeani, a Professor of Library and information science and the university librarian told verbatim that she has cherished working Ozumba. She described the VC as a boss who is approachable and believer in open door policy and a proactive person who enjoys doing things that are not ordinary. Ezeani said Ozumba is not a push over and does not believe in impossibilities as he has an unquenchable desire to tackle all problems in the university adding that the staff of the university have learnt so much under him. She said the Roar hub is one innovation that is yet to be seen elsewhere in the country and praised the Vice Chancellor for creating such a platform where young lads with dreams are arranged, assembled and encouraged towards innovation.
Outside this, she also told verbatim that Ozumba’s magic hand has also touched the university’s library which he has maintained and upgraded. Ezeani said the library took off from ground zero at the inception of Ozumba’s administration and that the library’s intuitional Repository, IR which was made possible by Ozumba on her request is the best in Africa adding that many other universities in the country come to the library to learn their repository skills and style. She explained that the the library presently has 17 data bases that are functional; and even stocks project journals of 2018 and 2019 which are known as ‘early cite’ journals.
Outside this, Ezeani said the students of the university enjoy the ambiance and cozy environment of the library and its facilities which were provided by Ozumba. She told verbatim that there is also a very cozy and conducive section of the library reserved for the lecturers of the university for their research with about sixty desktop work stations that are internet ready in addition to the ICT park with 2000 laptops that are also internet ready for the students and also for Computer Based Tests, CBT, JAMB and others.\
She however hinted that Barth Okolo, the immediate past vice Chancellor of the university started the ICT park and purchased about 1000 pieces of laptops for it until Ozumba came on board, purchased another 1000 laptops and also changed the face of the environment.
Ezeani said the MTN library, another section of the library presently has about 100 computers while the library has an on line public access catalogue from whre people can search and find out what they want to borrow from the library from the comfort of their homes.
ChikelueOfuebe, a Professor of Public administration and Director of the university’s Servicom told verbatim that it has been very exciting and rewarding to work under Ozumba. He described the opportunity to work with Ozumba as eye opening and a wonderful revelation of the potentiality and capacity of Ozumba to transform UNN. Ofuebe described Ozumba’s administration as very expansive in the transformation of the university in terms of managing processes and infrastructural development.
He said the administration of examinations and management of results in the university presently have become so transparent, reliable and expeditious through the massive intrusion of ICT in the whole process. Presently, Ofuebe said examination for large classes of up to 250 students are now done through CBT and results of each exams are released within 24hours. This way, he said , the results can never be altered or tampered with which he said is a development that has ended the era of influencing lecturers to award grades popularly known as “sorting”.
At the moment Ofuebe said Ozumba has banned the sale of handouts and textbooks directly to the students in the university in his desire to eliminate corruption and improve academic quality in the university. He said the students can now buy their text books from anywhere while course outline with very robust information for the students is now necessary in the university.
He also told Verbatim that the Vice Chancellor has been committed to servicom and is also the chairman of servicom committee in the university insisting that he is very proud to serve under Ozumba who he said provides a very conducive atmosphere for his staff to express and demonstrate their capacities and to achieve results.
Ofuebe said that UNN has always ranked first in webometric ranking since Ozumba stepped in adding that his efforts at fighting corruption is highly remarkable. He said that his efforts and his other achievements have won him many honours and awards including a certificate of recognition to the University for efforts made towards reducing corruption vulnerabilities within the university. The certificate was dated 26th July, 2017 and was issued at Lagos by the convention of business integrity, supported by European Union, UNODC, UNDP and others.
OkwunOmeaku, the university’s Public Relations Officer told this magazine that it has been very exciting also working with Ozumba, from the media background to the academic background. He described Ozumba as a very seasoned administrator who he said has taught him a lot and most importantly helped him to appreciate a new dimension to his professional calling. He said it is more exciting when one works for a boss who understands your style and also gives you the platform and encouragement to excel. He described him as a great disciplinarian who is very respectful to both the staff and mankind which accounts for the great respect he commands.
Omeaku said it is very fortune for the university to have a vice chancellor who recognizes the fact that universities are research centers that can develop the country and also that innovation is a way of life and an approach to pulling the country out of the league of second fiddles.
He said Ozumba from all indication is not pleased that the country does not measure up to global scientific standards and as such is striving to put the university on a solid scientific footing through innovation and science as a pathfinder to the nation’s scientific advancement.
Omeaku said Ozumba’s strides have attracted the interest of Sweden, one of the world’s most scientifically developed nations, the Nigeria’s minister of science and technology, Ogbonnaya Onu, who has so far sent over ten directors general from the ministry to the university to explore areas of possible collaboration and intervention and over 400 international companies all of who are ready to partner with the university. He said that UNN is already a reference point for research and science adding that other universities will only play a catch up role.
Omeaku said Ozumba will leave UNN on a higher academic pedestal than he met it and will also make the university a full-fledged university of honours where all the constituencies will be proud of being a part of.
Omeaku who described Ozumba’s relationship with the staff of the university as fantastic, motivational and satisfactory, also described his achievements in accreditation of courses , improvement of academic quality and infrastructure, promotion of the staff and payment of their salaries and emoluments as legacies that must be sustained by successors emphasizing that Ozumba’s only weak point is benovalence.
Zephrinus Njoku, a Professor in the Department of Science Education in the university told verbatim that Ozumba is the best administrator the university has ever had especially as regards staff and students’ welfare
Njoku said the industrial park project which Ozumba is chasing is one of his high points adding that a new UNN will be achieved once the project takes off.
He said UNN has been a trail blazer that has taught other universities and thanked Ozumba for retaining and improving the university’s prime position.
Njoku said the current focus of Ozumba is creativity, science and innovation which he simply defined as repackaging old ideas into new moulds. He hinted that there are many prototypes and things produced in UNN over the years that have been begging for commercialization adding that the industrial park is a good way to start.
Njoku also commended the Vice Chancellor for his visible strides in ICT which he said has improved the university’s band weight, employment of younger hands and brains who he trains both locally and internationally all of which he said has tremendously improved the university’s popularity globally.
He also said his administration has almost concluded plans to establish an independent power plant to generate light in the university and environs using coal as the major raw material adding that the university will be the best in Africa and one the best in the world before the expiration of his tenure.