THE WONDER PERFORMER IN UNICAL

Zana Akpagu, Vice chancellor of the University of Calabar records far reaching accomplishments within four years in office.

By Tobs Agbaegbu

Zana Akpagu, Professor of Modern Languages and 10thVice Chancellor of the University of Calabar, Calabar, was all smiles when the 32nd Convocation ceremony of the tertiary institution of learning ended onApril 13, 2019 at the Abraham Ordia stadium. He had reasons to be happy. The week-long,big event was a huge success.

The Principal officers of the University who also worked hard with the VC as a team had no reason not to be happy .The officers are made up of Sen.(Dr.) Nkechi J.Nwaogu, the Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of Governing Council; Professor Uche C. Amalu, DVC (Academic);Professor (Mrs) Lucky A. Udida, DVC (Administration); Moses O. Abang, Registrar and Secretary to Council;, Mrs Beatrice Igwe, University Bursar and Dr. (Mrs) Nkoyo Edem, University Librarian.  Team work is one principle which is in place in Unical, under the administration of Akpagu. It worked in the 32nd convocation eventwhich kicked off earlier with an interdenominational service, as it has been since Akpagu started.

One outcome of the spirit of cooperation in Unical at present was what was presented to the public with pride. Fifty-one first class graduates was recorded,   among the 9,174 students that graduated from the University.

The Vice-Chancellor of the university said the number of graduating students with first-class degrees was few because “it is difficult to have first class in UNICAL. We want to produce students for the 21st-century market.”

He also said 7,782 students obtained first degrees out of which 2,356 students finished in the second class upper division, 4,532 graduated in the second class lower division, 318 had a third class, while 42 students graduated with pass. Akpagu added that in the higher degree category, 1,074 students obtained the degrees among which 602 obtained Masters, 251 obtained PhDs, and 221 bagged postgraduate diplomas.

The ceremony saw a former military Head of State, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar (rtd.) bag an honorary Doctor of Public Administration, while Dr Cletus Ilomuanya,a traditional ruler from Imo state was awarded an honorary Doctor of Business Administration. A former governor of Cross River State, Dr Clement Ebri, was also awardedhonorary Doctor of Political Science at the occasion. The convocation lecture titled, ‘One Nation, One Destiny: The Way Forward’ was delivered by a former Attorney General of the Federation and Minister for Justice, Godwin Agabi.

Akpagu used the opportunity to commission a number of projects. These include a hostel for Post Graduate students, ICT laboratory, Faculty of Arts, Dental laboratory clinic as well as Faculty of Education Administration block. He also organised an Endowment Fund for the construction of a befitting Medical Centre for staff and students.

There was also a Research Fair and Exhibition,the first of its kind since the inception of the institution. It was a unique program which made it possible for all Departments and Faculties to display what they teach or represent. There was also the reintroduction of the famous Unical Chorale, during the occasion.

Akpagu created a new record with what he has done with convocations in succession. For the first time, Unical conducted in unbroken succession, four convocations in four years. From 1990 till date, there’s no administration that has achieved this milestone. The highest any VC has gone in recent times is two before the expiration of their tenures but how Akpagu has managed to do this yearly, despite the lean finances at his disposal is seen as a miracle of sort.

Interestingly, every convocation that he has donecomes without goodies for UNICAL. During his first convocation in 2016, the University honoured two illustrious sons of Cross River. These were, a former Governor, Donald Duke and Sen. Florence Ita-Giwa.  Both recipients of honorary doctorate degrees turned round to institute endowment fund of N5 million each, for five years.

In the second year, Prof. Akpagu brought some top personalities again to grace the convocation.  One of them is a business tycoon and Chairman of Dozie Group of Companies, Sir Daniel Nwanneka Dozie.

Dozie who was one of those awarded a doctorate degree (Honorary Causa) promised to build an ultramodern building for the faculty of Engineering. The building is currently at advanced stage.

And the third consecutive convocation which was UNICAL’s 31st convocation held last year, Akpagu attracted more top Nigerians. One of them was the then Minority Leader of Senate and former Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Sen. Godswill Akpabio. He (Akpabio),an alumnus and others that came too, made different contributions to the development of UNICAL.

Since Prof. Zana Akpagu emerged as the 10th Vice Chancellor of the University of Calabar, it has been one success story to another. Indeed, the erudite university administrator has broken many records and set new ones.

Records have it that In terms of physical infrastructural development, Prof. Akpagu has completed more projects than any other VC in the history of UNICAL. As at time of going to press,last week, Verbatim learnt that he has embarked on over 30 projects with about 80% completion rate. The remaining 20%are said to be currently at different levels of completion.

Similarly, in terms of curricula expansion, apart from the programmes established at the birth of the University about 43 years ago, Prof. Akpagu has created more marketable programmes than any other VC in recent times. In just three years, he has created four new faculties and many new programmes and department.

The faculties are Pharmacy, Engineering, Environmental Science and Dentistry.

The many programmes include Music, Mass Communication and Digital Media, Fine and Applied Arts, Tourism and Hospitality, Dentistry, Pharmacy, Civil, Electrical, Chemical and Mechanical Engineering, Architecture, Estate Management and Evaluation, Surveying and Geo-informatics, Urban and Regional Planning, Physiotherapy, Food Science and Technology, Criminology and Anti-Corruption Studies.

Akpagu has achieved all these notwithstanding the harsh economic reality of the country. When you consider that he did most of the things at a time Nigeria was faced with one of its worst recession in history, you would have nothing but admiration and respect for him.

Academics from the Northern Senatorial Zone of Cross River State have commended the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Calabar, Professor Zana Akpagu for what they termed his pragmatic leadership style since assuming office three years ago.

In a statement jointly signed by Professor Chris Iklaki and Dr. Oshega Abang, the Chairman and Publicity Director respectively, the university teachers said the Vice Chancellor has, within the time span of his administration, initiated and implemented all the projects contained in the institution’s blue print.

The group highlighted some of Akpagu’s achievements to include “the establishment of new faculties and departments, completion of some abandoned projects and the execution of new projects such as the new medical centre, the solar power projects, and the synergy evolved between the university community with nation states such as Russia, Korea and China.”

The lecturers congratulated the Vice Chancellor for facilitating and encouraging human capacity development and described as unprecedented the harvest of academics in terms of promotion to higher ranks, as well as sponsorship to learned conferences.

“The height so far attained by the university under his watch, especially in the areas of infrastructural development, visibility among his peers in the global academic community and the recognition of his administrative prowess in global ranking is highly commendable.”

While expressing satisfaction with Akpagu’s pragmatic leadership, they called on members of the university community to collaborate with the university administration to enable the Vice Chancellor translate his dreams and vision for the institution into reality.

On account of his numerous achievements, the Paramount Ruler of Boki local government area of Cross River State and his council of Chiefs have earlier, conferred on Akpagu one of the highest chieftaincy titles in Boki nation, Otu Ochikanong Obonghe Mu Boki.

Speaking at the event which held at the Government Secondary School Wula, Boki, Chairman of the occasion, Dr. Pius Tawo said that it was the first time in over 30 years that the Boki nation was honouring someone with chieftaincy title.

Tawo said that although the VC has received many chieftaincy titles in recent times the one from Boki was special because “it’s coming after over 30 years”.

He said that for the entire local government to agree to break the jinx of such a long time shows that Prof. Akpagu has performed exceptionally as a Vice Chancellor and has affected lives of Boki sons and daughters positively.

While calling on the University to partner with Boki for development, he said that there’s no meaningful development that can be achieved in any part of the world without strong partnership with the Universities.

“This Boki traditional title today is very important and significant to us for two reasons; this is the first time in over 30 years that Boki nation is conferring chieftaincy title on anybody. It’s not just like others because it’s only given to someone who has performed exceptionally. It’s also not completely traditional; it’s a combination of tradition and religion.

“There’s a relationship between Universities and development. Boki is very proud of the relationship with Unical. I call on Unical to remain partners for the development of Boki”, he said.

He charged the VC to see the recognition as a call to continue to do more for the University and the Boki nation.

Paramount Ruler of Boki, His Royal Majesty, Otu Fredaline Akendu while performing the coronation said that the event was very symbolic as it brought the entire Boki people together for the first time in a long time.

He said that the Boki council of Chiefs took advantage of the ceremony to address the incessant communal clashes ravaging some communities and have now agreed to live together as brothers and sisters.

“Today is a special day for Boki. Because of one man, Prof. Akpagu, the Boki people have come together as one people and the togetherness shall continue. I want to say that the crisis ravaging some Boki communities have been put to rest because of this function”.

Chairman of the Planning Committee, Prof. Bette Enu who reeled out some achievements of the VC lauded him for his giant strides as well as magnanimity in appointing Boki sons and daughters into sensitive positions in the University.

He said that,“Prof. Akpagu took over a University that was limited in terms of curriculum offers. But in three years, he has been able to establish four faculties”. A 42 years University hadn’t the faculties of Engineering, Pharmacy, Environmental Science and Dentistry which he has all established in three years. The faculty of Dentistry in fact has been rated as the best in the country.

He has also expanded Unical offers by creating six new departments. Outside this, he has embarked on over 30 capital projects; many have been completed while some are in different stages of completion. He is a friend of Boki and has appointed so many of us into sensitive positions “.

Reacting, Prof. Akpagu said that, “I grew up as a young Obudu boy who never knew the difference between Boki and Obudu. I’m happy that today I’ve renewed my bond with Boki because for me this is home coming.

“I want to thank the Paramount Ruler of Boki and his council of Chiefs, my colleagues from Unical and everybody who made this happen. When I assumed office, my first five appointments were all from Boki. At some point people were asking me if I knew what I was doing but I told them that there was no problem surrounding myself with Boki people and today I don’t regret that doing that.

“For us, everything we have done and achieved, the credit goes to God and all of us. We can’t do anything but God. We will continue to explore other opportunities to do more for the University and our people in our remaining years in office”.

To add credence to the international acceptance and recognition of Unical under the leadership of Prof. Akpagu,the Chinese ambassador to Nigeria, Dr. Zhou Pingjian, has expressed intention to enrol as a student into the Institute of African and Asian Studies at the University of Calabar.

Pingjian disclosed this recently at the university’s International Conference Centre where he presented scholarships valued at N100,000.00 each to 47 students of the institution.

The ambassador, who explained that the scholarship programme would be an annual event, noted that being a part of UNICAL will avail him the opportunity to share China’s success story while learning more about Africa.

He further said that the event was to commemorate 47 years of diplomatic relations between Nigeria and China.

On the choice of UNICAL, he said it was based on feasibility and honest leadership, adding that it is among the leading second-generation university in Nigeria.

He said, “The Vice Chancellor wants this programme to be annually, but as Chinese ambassador, I want to give him and the management team one condition — I want to send application to be a member of the Institute of African and Asian Studies of the university.

“We have very good reasons to be here annually. From when this university started in the ’70s, from the records I have, it was founded with only about 800 students, but today, the number has grown to over 40,000. This is just one of the many achievements of this institution.

“The Vice Chancellor knows so much about China and so we chose UNICAL to mark 47 years of Nigeria-China relations because of the honesty of the leadership and its feasibility.

UNICAL is a leading second generation university in Nigeria; so, I’m impressed with the achievements so far.”

Earlier, the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Zana Akpagu, commended the Chinese ambassador for choosing the institution for the event.

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