… Says Professor Charles Igwe, the Vice Chancellor.
The University of Nigeria, Nsukka, UNN , recently celebrated its 60th founder’s day. To give greater insight on the essence of the celebration, Professor Charles Igwe, the Vice Chancellor, spoke in an interview session ,with a group of Journalists, among them, Victor Ugborgu, Associate Editor of Verbatim Magazine. At the interview session, the UNN VC counted his blessings as well as challenges since he assumed office.
Question: The University of Nigeria Nsukka, UNN celebrated its 60th year of existence this year, 2020. Can we get greater insights from you on what transpired and why?
Answer : As you may all know, the university was established on the eve of
Nigeria’s independence in October 1960. That is 60 years ago. We had some lofty plans to honour and celebrate our alumni in different ways. Sadly, we had to shelve these plans because of the COVID-19 pandemic which imposed all sorts of restrictions on gathering of people. To accommodate these restriction, we held a toned down or low-keyed celebration this year. As you can imagine, one of the prices to pay for the age of the University is the problem of ageing and deteriorating infrastructure.
There is also the challenge of inadequacy of spaces due to decades of rapid growth in the number of staff and students. But lack of funds had made it impossible for the university to match this growth in numbers with required upgrade in infrastructure. As a result, the university currently needs additional spaces to serve as classrooms, theatres, laboratories, studios, workshops, offices and student hostels.
Also the roads within the campuses are in urgent need of resurfacing, while some are threatened by erosion. It is on record that the UNN is the only first generation university without a befitting senate building. There is also the daunting problem of power supply. The monthly energy bill of the university currently stands at N70million, which leaves a hole in the pocket of the university.
However, let me bring you up to speed with some of the developments in the university. We have completed and commissioned a-two storey building donated by our alumnus, Engineer Anthony Uzoma Oguike, known as Solomon Oguike Memorial building which will house the proposed Department of Biomedical Engineering.
Also, the new medical centre building at Enugu campus has been completed and put to use. The new building for the department of Archaeology and Tourism has been completed. The construction of a new building being financed by the 1979 class of the Faculty of Engineering, construction work of
The 8-block complex that will offer a total of 12,000 bed space is being built under the Build, Operate and Transfer (BOT) agreement, reached between the university and a private developer, VIAGEM Property and Investment Ltd. If you have visited that place, you should have seen massive construction work going on there and it is not a joke. We are serious with our hostel development and we meant it and they assured us that by this time next year, we might be opening some sections of that hostel.
Also, recently some strategic roads which were in deplorable state were resurfaced at Nsukka and Enugu Campuses through FERMA. On October 8,2020, we performed the ground breaking ceremony of an ultra-modern building donated by the Marcel Ofomata foundation. The building will house our Centre for Entrepreneurial Development and Research.
By the time I finish my tenure in 2024, the UNN will not be the same again. On the power supply issue, we are trying to generate electricity in the campuses. I want to be remembered for developmental projects. There will not be any abandoned or “stranded” project.
Question: One of the things you highlighted much in this interview is about
Infrastructural development. You specifically expressed worry about dilapidation of hostels. Why is there much emphasis in this area?
Answer: I am truly worried about hostels and also about the theatre, library classrooms and offices. This is because when I graduated here in the UNN in 1984, I had in my class about 10 persons that graduated. But in that same class now, we have more than one hundred and something persons in the same class that I was in. In fact then, having up to 10 was a special class to say, but now, we have more than one hundred in that same class, meaning that we have increased more than ten folds.
Question: So how are you going to be addressing these challenges, in view of the fact that schools will be reopening and keeping with the protocols of covid-19?
Answer: Yes, I was the first of the Nigerian universities all over the town, to announce that when the school resumes, we are going to adopt new measures. What are those measures we are going to adopt? : blended Teaching. We are going to utilize our ICT and we are going to make sure that in teaching, when, for those who will be physically present, will be using our new hall , our ECO refectory. You know ECO has east and west wing and we have other refectories that are not utilized, we will make them utilizable and even including that place we did our celebration, it is going to become a classroom, and you saw how we observed covid-19 protocols and that is what we are going to adopt.
Question: It appears the case with the alumni has been resolved, what is the university expecting from the Alumni?
Answer: Yes, you heard us, you even heard the President of the alumni when he said that he was going to build a new alumni association and they have to take their work very seriously. It is the alumni association that sustains most of these universities you hear about overseas. Harvard, Cambridge, Oxford, name them, you have them, and you even heard our Founder’s Day lecturer talk about it loud and clear, how much he pays into the alumni purse every year and I believe that by the time we begin all these, the University of Nigerian will be in for good times.
Question: How would you describe the lecture by Peter Obi, former governor of Anambra state?
Answer: Of course, fantastic. He is a Lion and what do you expect from a Lion?. Who is that person that will say he did not perform in Anambra state as Governor? He performed creditably well. And that is the kind of thing we want to achieve here at the University of Nigeria. We want to leave some marks, some foot prints so that by the time we are leaving, and people will not forget us in a hurry. They will be saying, oh we remember the time of Professor Charles Igwe and how he changed the narrative positively. That is the kind of thing I want to leave as legacy.