Charles Arizechukwu Igwe, Professor of Soil Science and Former Deputy Vice Chancellor (Administration) Takes Over Leadership of the University of Nigeria Nsukka, As Vice Chancellor.
By Ugonna Anejionu
May 23, 2019 was yet another historic day in Nigeria’s premier university, the University of Nigeria in Nsukka, Enugu state. It was the day Charles Arizechukwu Igwe, Professor of Soil Science and two times Deputy Vice Chancellor (administration) was given letter of appointment as the 15th Vice Chancellor of the university.
Igwe took over from Benjamin Chukwuma Ozumba, Professor of Gynaecology whose 5 years tenure as the 14th Vice chancellor of UNN ended in the same month of May.The two major events of the month in UNN were momentous.
Igwe emerged victorious after a keenly contest for the post of VC, with over 71 eminently qualified professors.A thunderous and deafening ovation erupted in the hall as the university registrar, Chris Igbokwe decorated Igwe with a beautifully tailored academic gown of Vice Chancellors and also handed him the university’s seal of authority and other working materials as the Vice Chancellor.
During his inaugural speech on the 14th June at the Magaret Ekpo convocation hall, Igwe recognized the high quality profiles of his co contestants and their indefatigable zeal to succeed which he said made the contest highly competitive. He however extended a hand of fellowship to them especially his erstwhile colleague, Professor James Ogbonna the deputy Vice Chancellor, academic and urged them all to bring their fantastic ideas to the table so as to move the university together to the Promised Land.
While reeling out his plans and programmes, Igwe who described himself as a child of providence said that it is his vision to propel the university to a first class university that is globally competitive in both educational contents and pragmatic delivery of teaching, learning and research outcomes given his diverse experience and sustained international exposure to world class universities, fellowship awards and certification.
Igwe who joined the university services from the lowest rungs of the administrative ladder nearly four decades ago said he has witnessed the finest eras of the university and is poised and determined to ensure that the university is technologically driven, academically robust and also physically alluring. He also said the university under him will promote enterprise and entrepreneurial spirits and will also be made to be a self sustaining jewel of today and the future using the United states ‘land Grants’ model adding that he intends to use an integrated development model anchored on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to push the university to greater heights.
He emphasized that he plans to promote world class academic programmes with pragmatic contents, particularly in agriculture, engineering, science and management without neglecting the strategic place of education, arts and other behavioral sciences in the process adding that the traditional theoretically –oriented teaching methods and curricula will be replaced or upgraded with more pragmatic ones.
He also mentioned that innovative research and development and interface with the industry will be one of the hallmarks of his administration to attract the industry and also get them to support the university.
To be able to keep afloat and meet the severe increasing demands in the university as government funding for universities have continued to diminish by the day, Igwe said he will deploy massive efforts to improve and diversify the university’s funding sources and commended the present efforts to harness and harmonise all internally approved sources of revenue in the university by the university governing council.
He however said that his administration will go beyond government sources and IGR to explore and harness other sources such as endowments, donations, commercialized research outcomes and patents in addition to strengthening the center advancement, develop a data base of the university alumni both at home and in the diaspora and also court donor agencies, foundations, philanthropic and corporate organizations as well as friends of the university and initiate contacts and collaborative fora with them to improve the university’s revenue base and also promised to strengthen the Research Groups (RGs) while more endowed professorial chairs will be established to attract international grants and donations.
Since ICT has become a global phenomenon, Igwe commended the efforts made so far by his predecessor promising that his administration will expand the bandwidth appreciably to make internet access more seamless, introduce intranet and the use of outbox in all facets of the university to ensure a speedy cost effective and accountable service delivery and also employ the use of video conferencing in conducting senate meetings and others involving the three campuses of the university to reduce cost and risks on the highways while ensuring that man- hour is not lost in any circumstance adding that all departments in the institution including the bursary will be fully computerized to ensure due process, accountability and speedy service delivery.
The Vice Chancellor said that his dream university cannot operate optimally without regular power supply which he said has gradually become an enigma in Nigeria and promised to find a sustainable solution to the problem. He commended the efforts of his predecessor on a BIO – ELECTRICITY project, and promised to collaborate with the university’s Centre For Energy Research And Development , the department of physics and astronomy and faculty of engineering to address the challenges which he said has bedeviled the solar energy evolution in Nigeria to augment power supply. He assured that the university under him will attempt to reinvent the wheel by breaking new grounds in electricity provision while exploring the feasibility of other power sources including installing high powered generating plants in different sections of the campus.
Igwe also promised a sustained infrastructural development and supply through Public Private Partnership and also the zeal to attend to ongoing and abandoned projects in the university and in addition enthrone maintenance culture and environmental cleanliness by designating or re designating dedicated organs in this regards emphasizing that the university campus will be well kept and evergreen to enhance its aesthetics. He further emphasized that his regime will run a zero pothole policy in the university campus and also ensure that grasses and lawns will be well kept using the university requisite units and appealed to the workers to have a change of mind set in all spheres. He also pledged to model some of the university outfits particularly the works service unit along enterprise lines, infuse new blood into the workforce, instill discipline in the workers, organize capacity building workshops, ensure that jobs are delivered expeditiously and also redefine their key performance indicators (KPIs) in line with the new spirit to make the unit self sustaining.
He on the other hand pledged to upgrade the university’s medical centre to a modern health facility with cutting edge diagnostic facilities and automated processesto be able to achieve quick service delivery using existing workforce to stem the tide of frequent travels to the state capital by both staff and students of the university for treatments of ailments that could have been handled in the university’s medical center. He also harped on the need to strengthen the university’s consultancy services and enterprise and make them more robust and purposeful and recognized the potentials of agriculture and its products in revenue generation, food security and societal development promising to ensure that efforts are made to revolutionalise agricultural processes and production through public partnerships.
Igwe promised that the welfare of staff and students will be given a top priority by his administration emphasizing that he will promptly pay salaries and allowances, handle promotions in all cadres expeditiously, support staff development through conferences and workshops and also promote dialogue and constructive engagements with staff and students. He however enjoined them to ensure that the university statutes and extant rules guide their general actions at all times and reminded them that they must be partners in the collective efforts to ‘Restore the dignity of man’ through cherishable values of transparency, accountability and respect for people.
Igwe finally poured great encomiums on his predecessor, Prof Ozumba who he said gave him the opportunity to serve under him as deputy Vice Chancellor and commended his leadership foresight and glowing contributions to the growth of the university in his five years stewardship and prayed God to shower him with his choicest blessings.
He also appreciated the university’s past Vice Chancellors, both living and dead for keeping fate and holding the university forth for close to six decades and also thanked his wife, Dr. Mrs Ngozi Igwe who he described as the secret to his success.
Obviously, Igwe’s appointment did not come as a surprise to most people in the university as they see him as the most qualified and positioned being an alumnus and a deputy Vice Chancellor of the university for two terms. Igwe is the first alumnus of the university to become its Vice Chancellor.
Edith Nwosu, a lawyer and professor and the deputy Vice Chancellor of the university’s Enugu campus described Igwe as a very humble man with a passion for results and achievements. Nwosu who is also the chairman of the Igwe inauguration committee said Igwe is a very hardworking man who she said will definitely sustain the tempo and propel the university to greater heights.
Chris Igbokwe, a lawyer and the university’s registrar toldVerbatim that Igwe is a man to trust adding that he knows the nitty gritty of both the job and the university as an alumnus who grew through the ranks. Igbokwe said he is very confident that Igwe will sustain the already existing tempo and will even improve on them as he is an apostle of Prof. Ozumba adding that the university is very safe with him in the saddle.
Charles Ogemdi Ebizie, the university’s deputy registrar also confirmed Igbokwe’s position adding that he has no doubts in his mind that Igwe will deliver.
Ifeanyichukwu Abada, a professor and head of the political science department of the university told Verbatim that no one can doubt the credibility of the university council especially as regards Igwe’s appointment hinting that there was no shortcut in the process as it was very transparent.
Abada said Igwe met all the criteria for appointment adding that everyone in the university is happy that he emerged as they had wished and prayed for insisting that his appointment means continuity of the good works going on in the university.
He said Igwe has been in the university for a long time and thus knows the direction the university is going adding that he is certain he will even surpass the achievements of Ozumba as he has gained a lot of experience under him having been part of the system and leadership of the university.
Abada further described Igwe as very humane and the best candidate for the office adding that he has no excuse for not performing as he has been a defacto Vice Chancellor when his boss, Ozumba was not around.
He however emphasized that the transition was so smooth and decent that none of the 71 contestants have gone to court to challenge Igwe’s appointment adding that there was no discrimination or sentiments during the entire process insisting that all contestants were given a level playing ground.
Zephrinus C. Njoku, a professor in the university’s department of science education told Verbatim that Igwe beat the other contestants based on the university council criteria which were the yardstick.
Njoku said Igwe’s appointment means continuity which is normally beneficial especially when a deputy replaces a boss who he worked harmoniously with. He described Igwe as a great academic, a quiet person and a good man by all standards who know the UNN culture very well adding that he is sure he will hold the ropes well.
Njoku said that the UNN man power equation grew under Ozumba’s regime which Igwe was part of and expressed his confidence that Igwe as one that was involved in the revolution will not rock the boat.
He however advised him to assemble a crack team to help him succeed as he did for Ozumba and also advised him to also bring his co contestants close to him by way of committees and enjoined him to avoid sycophants and charlatans who may distract him from his visions for the university.
He also urged him to concentrate on attracting TETFUND funds for accommodations like his predecessor Ozumba did.
B.I.C Ijioma, a professor and the first student union, (SUG) president of the university during his speech at the inauguration urged Igwe to restore the values that made UNN unique and urged him to tow the lines of Ozumba who endeared himself to the university alumni and the university governing council and also did so well in placing the university on theworld map.
He appealed to him to improve the hostel conditions and also restore sanity in the university alumni which he said has been grossly misled.
Ijioma added that the alumni are making a bold statement that no one can represent them well more than an alumni adding that the former Vice Chancellors did well but cannot do more than an alumni will do.
He appealed to the staff to support Igwe to deliver and also prayed that all parochial sentiments be jettisoned for the university to attain more heights and prominence.
In his own speech, Nduka Eya, first secretary General of the university’s SUG asked all to avoid the ‘PULL HIM DOWN’ syndrome which he said will not augur well for the university. Eya also appealed that all must ensure that the university philosophy remains and urged all hands to be on deck to build the university.
The chancellor of the university, His Imperial Majesty, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Babatunde Ogunwusi, the Ojaja II and Ooni of Ife, the Pro Chancellor and chairman of the university’s governing council, Chief Mike Olorunfemi and the Executive chairman of the Nsukka Local government area Hon Pat Omejeh jnr were all represented at the occasion.
Prince Arthur Eze, Eze na Ukpo, a friend of the university was represented by the Ide of Abba, while the catholic bishop of Nsukka diocese, Bishop Godfrey Onah was also represented by the Vicar General of the diocese and chaplain of the university’s St Peters catholic chaplaincy, Rev. Fr. A.G Nnamani who rendered closing prayers at the occasion.