BENJAMIN CHUKWUMA OZUMBA IS THE VICE CHANCELLOR, UNIVERSITY OF
NIGERIA, UNN, IN NSUKKA. PROF OZUMBA. A REKNOWNED PROFESSOR OF
MEDICINE SPOKE ELABORATLY TO UGONNA ANEJIONU, ASSISTANT EDITOR ON HIS APPOINTMENT, CHALLENGES, ACHIEVEMENTS AND HIS INTEREST IN SCIENCE AND INNOVATION
Verbatim:- How has it been serving as the vice chancellor of Nigeria’s Premier university, the UNN
Ozumba- Thanks a lot. Well it has been a wonderful experience. I thank God so immensely for the opportunity to contribute my own quota to human capacity building and also to national development. I give God the glory for his steadfastness and for giving me the wisdom, strength and ability to do this job, but I tell you, it is really exciting.
Verbatim- You are the 14th substantive vice Chancellor of UNN Prof.
Ozumba- Yes I am the 14th substantive Vice Chancellor of UNN.
Verbatim- How long have you served as the Vice Chancellor Sir.
Ozumba- I have been serving as the Vice Chancellor since 2014
Verbatim- When precisely were you appointed Prof.
Ozumba- I was appointed on the 10th of June, 2014 and I have been serving since then.
Verbatim- Prof. could you tell us some of the major challenges you have encountered since you assumed office considering the intimidating posture of UNN.
Ozumba- Well, I would say we have encountered a lot of challenges but they are expected because I believe challenges offer you the platform to work harder and excel. For instance, one of our major challenges is funds but this instead of daunting us rather strengthens us as it pushes and motivates us to source for funds to run our institution. So I will say that poor finance or short fall in finance which is a veritable sources of success challenges us to succeed. We are not scared of challenges. They rather help us to grow.
Verbatim- Prof could you tell us some of the goals are you chasing as the vice chancellor.
Ozumba- First of all, we intend to reposition the university, ensure an enabling environment, concentrate on both staff and students’’ welfare, increase infrastructural and intellectual growth and make UNN first among equals. We are poised and I will say we have achieved these goals already.
Verbatim- Could you mention some of your major achievement since you assumed office.
Ozumba- Well I have already mentioned some of them like repositioning the university to be able to occupy its rightful place as Nigeria’s premier university and thus command deserved respect in the league of world’s most prominent and powerful universities. We have created an enabling environment for both learning and research, improved staff and students’ welfare and have also increased infrastructural and intellectual growth.
Outside these, we have promoted peace and harmony in the university and have also achieved accreditation for almost all the courses in the university except two that were denied. Also, we have most judiciously managed the university’s resources and have taken UNN back to its status as the best university in Africa. The list is endless.
Verbatim- Prof, sometime in 2015, the UNN hosted the 6th Africa regional conference of Vice Chancellors and deans of Science engineering and technology conference, COVIDSET. We understand that UNN is the first university in Nigeria to host the conference. Could you tell us what prompted the choice of UNN of the Conference in Nigeria.
Ozumba- Well, I think the major reason why UNN was considered to host the conference was because of the repositioning of the institution under my stewardship. UNN has reappeared on the world academic radar from where it disappeared for some time now,. Our achievements since we assumed office have impressed global academic stakeholders and our university has been shining at different global and continental platforms. I think these are the reasons why UNN was chosen to host the conference for the first time in Nigeria and I tell you the Conference was a huge success. It is still being discussed both locally internationally till today.
Verbatim- Sir, do you think there were derivable impacts from the conference on the university?
Ozumba- Yes there are. For instance, the conference offered the international; scholars, participant and other guests the opportunity to see that UNN has been totally transformed and rebranded. That is the first impact of the conference on the university.
Again, the mingling opportunity which the conference offered gave room for a huge brain storming and interactions that have enforced our initiatives and idea. However, I must say the very successful seminar have shown the world what we can do and what we have been able to do so far.
I told you the seminar is still being discussed till tomorrow which I tell you have planted UNN on the minds of world’s academic stakeholders and you will agree with me that this will attract many more benefits and dividends to the university.
Verbatim- Prof, you again stunned Nigeria and Africa by initiating and hosting the first international science and innovation parks workshop ever witnessed in the country. What prompted this initiative sir.
Ozumba- Well, a lot of reasons pushed me to go all out to initiate, organize and host this very first science parks workshop in Nigeria. First, I noticed that there is no single science parks initiative in the entire sub-Sahara Africa, This to me is abnormal and very unfortunate considering the massive benefits of science parks to the society and its economy.
China, Singapore, Sweden and a lot of other countries adopted science parks and we have seen where they are today interims of technology and innovation. I believe we can still get there because I am convinced that excellence can be achieved in Africa if we redirect and rechannel our interests towards science parks and innovation. The crowd of individuals that graced the workshop is a pointer to the fact that Africa is yearning for scientific advancement and I am determined to help advance it in not only Nigeria, but Africa at large.
Verbatim- Are you in partnership with any organization or individuals as regards the workshop.
Ozumba- Yes, our major partners are Ideon science park (ISP) in Sweden and Lundavision AB also in Sweden. Let me remind you that these are very strong rooted organizations that are known beyond Sweden as they have chains of companies linked to them. Their principals and founders were here for the workshop and we intend to use our partnership with them to replicate their accomplishments in Nigeria. They are very willing to partner with us and we will maximize the opportunity. Outside them, we also have companies, banks and institutions that support the UNN’s science parks and innovation ecosystem, plans, policies and programmes. They include Oilserve, HUAWEI, Crestsage, DOZZY Coschais, Development Bank of Nigeria, DBN, Africa Export Import Bank, ASFREXIMBANK and others.
Verbatim- What benefits do you think this initiative will bring to the university and the country by extension.
Ozumba- Oh plenty. First of all, it will bring visibility, power innovations, spur initiatives and will also bring revenue for national development.
The likes of Bill Gets are among the beneficiaries of innovation and I believe we have better stock in Nigeria and Africa. You need to have seen the exhibitions by our student and other innovators during the workshop. Their level of innovation is quite thrilling fascinating and encouraging. Imagine our students getting so creative and innovative as to create other very positive functions for the cellular phones we use to add value to our system. We also saw drones from the innovation of our young lads who have had little or no encouragements. They held the audience spell bound while making their presentations during the exhibition. I am sure they would have said more fascinating things if they were given more time. That is what I am pushing for. I will love to create a platform that will embrace and assimilate innovative minds and I tell you our story will change in no distant time. I am poised and am committed to the task, remember our science park will be commissioned next year and I tell you the result we will record will daze the world. Am very sure of it.
Verbatim- Are there some projects you have undertaken in the university since your appointment.
Ozumba- There are lots of them. Let me start with the most recent, that is the science laboratory technology building that was commissioned by Dr. Ogbonnya Onu, the honorable minister of science and technology. Also recently, the Enugu State governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi Commissioned a 1.6 kilometer asphalt road with drainage on both sides built by Dr. Sam Maduka Onyishi, Chairman of Peace mass Transit. This road links Dr. Oyishi’s Village Umunkanka and the south gate of the university. Before now, some staff and students of the institution that reside on that road went through a lot of hardship because the road was very deplorable and simply impassable. We had to appeal to Dr. Onyishi to intervene and being someone that respects us for what e have been able to achieve in UNN, he obliged us, Today, we have a brand new road and both our staff, students and the villagers are happy.
Before now, we had constructed the Augustine Ojunekwu Avuru geology building among others. I can’t just mention all of them
We only thank God for his blessings upon us and for directing our steps
Verbatim- We understand you enjoy a very cordial relationship with your staff. What is the secret sir.
Ozumba- God does not play dice. The secret is openness. Lay your cards on the table always. Try to carry everyone along. It is very important. Adopt transparency, make yourself accessible to them at all times and always be sincere to them. That way you will enjoy their cooperation to the maximum. Again you must show commitment to their interests and welfare which I will say we are very good at as we have ensured that every staff that is due for promotion has been promoted and we also pay their salaries and other emoluments in full promptly.
We have proved to them that we are their friends and that we are willing to work for the good of the university and everyone. I think they like our posture and do not distract us in anyway. What we rather get is their maximum co-operation and am most grateful to them for offering us the conducive environment we require to function well.
Verbatim- Prof, what quality of students do you intend to give the world.
Ozumba- I just want to give the best students to the world. To some extent, we have achieved this as we conducted two convocations in one year with a hundred and thirty two students graduating from different disciplines with a first class. This you must agree with me is rare. Remember we have strengthened our academic content in addition to motivating our staff result of which we are witnessing today. I as a person have always believed that the best measure of quality is outcome and our outcome has been most impressive. I can authoritatively assure you that we have a lot of Bill Gates in the making in our university. All they require is a good environment and then funding and good policies.
Verbatim- How will you score UNN under your stewardship, Prof
Ozumba- You know I can’t score myself but I believe our achievement is glaring and obvious. The facts are there.
Verbatim- Prof, we observe that the University has been absolutely peaceful and calm with no records of cultism and related violence for some time now. How did you achieve this.
Ozumba- Well when a man of peace is in the saddle, peace flows. I don’t think anyone can give peace without being peaceful. That is the secret.
Verbatim- Does it means you have completely eradicated cultism in the university.
Ozumba- Well, I think we have. We put in place a very good security network in and around the university but above all, we have redirected the minds of the students towards education and innovation. Any other thing to them, outside academic and learning is a distraction and taboo. We have succeeded in this regard as well and that is why we have peace and a non violent environment.
Verbatim- Sir, UNN has always commanded a lot of respect among Universities in the country. Presently it appears the respect has increased under your stewardship. Could you tell us how you will want it to be at the end of your tenure.
Ozumba- Well, I will love UNN to be the best university in Africa and one of the best in the world. We are almost there. Remember we have the best library in Africa and we are still updating it. The morale of our staff has been boosted and the impact is positively felt.
We have almost concluded plans to establish our own independent power plant using coal as the major raw material and have tremendously improved our ICT compliance. We will have no rival here when we finish executing all our programmes. Good things are happening now and I assure you they will continue.
Verbatim- Prof, what will you want to be remembered for after your tenure.
Ozumba- Well, I want to be remembered as one who came, saw and conquered. On the other hand, I will also want to be remembered as an individual that positioned UNN on the path of transformation and global recognition.