Perhaps, John Quincy Adams had in mind the likes of Prof. Charles Okechukwu Esimone, Vice Chancellor, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka when he dropped the inimitable quote that said “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”
Renowned leadership Coach, John C Maxwell also towed the same route when he defined a leader as “one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.”
Since he assumed office on 4th June 2019 as the 6th substantive Vice Chancellor of the Awka federal varsity named after the Great Zik of Africa, Prof Charles Esimone has manifested all the true principles and attributes of a good leader and administrator. The university community has been happier and richer for it.
Before applying for the position of Vice-Chancellor, Esimone had served in various facets of the University Administration. From Head of Department, Dean of Faculty, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic) for two terms, Academic Adviser to the Vice Chancellor, Director Confucius Institute and in various Council, Senate and Vice-Chancellor’s Committees.
As a focused and Godly academic from the beginning, the repertoire of experiences garnered from several positions he had occupied all combined, placed him in good stead to articulate a clear perspective of Nnamdi Azikiwe University which he eventually became its Chief Executive at 49.
With no time for frivolities, he hit the ground running immediately having encapsulated his Vision and Mission for the University in a work plan known as ACADA/Mission/Vision Strategy, dubbed Project 200.
With his Project 200 work plan which stands on a five-pronged strategy of Push for Academic Excellence, Productive Public/Community Service, Administrative Reforms, Discipline and Advancements, the face and fortunes of the university has been turned around for good in the last one year of his administration.
Taking the issue of advancement and infrastructure seriously, comprehensive upgrading of laboratories, workshops, classrooms, and offices in the university are ongoing so as not to be left out of the standard set up by the National Universities Commission (NUC).
Within this past one year, following enhanced concerted efforts at promoting research, the University has seen an increased success rate in the number of its staff attracting research grants from the National Research Fund programme of TETFund.
One of the recent gains recorded from the reinvigorated research output of the university is the listing by Scopus , eight staff of the University namely the Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Charles Okechukwu Esimone, fas, Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences; Prof Dominic O. Onukwuli, Faculty of Engineering; Prof. Charles Ejike Chidume, Faculty of Physical Sciences; Dr. George Uchenna Eleje, Faculty of Medicine; Prof. Matthew Chukwudi Menkiti, Faculty of Engineering; Prof. Joseph Ikechebelu, Faculty of Medicine; Prof. Richard Uwakwe, Faculty of Medicine; and Prof. Festus B.C. Okoye, Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, among its top five hundred (500) authors in Nigeria. Their listing derives from the increasing publications of the Unizik academics in high-impact journals.
Scopus is the largest source – neutral abstract and citation database for peer-reviewed literature in the world. It has within its purview the Life Sciences, Social Sciences, Physical Sciences, and Health Sciences.
A good leader is not only honest and transparent; he inspires others to be the best they can be and also encourages them to grow. That is why in Esimone’s administration, there is career progression without lowering of standards or staff victimization.
No wonder, within the past one year of his tenure, there has been accelerated assessment of staff for promotion to the ranks of Professor, and Reader with fifty-nine (59) lecturers promoted to the rank of Reader and forty-five (45) to the rank of Professor.
Appraisals for promotion of other categories of staff have been expeditiously handled too thereby boosting the morale of the workforce in the university.
Facilities at the Basil Oli, Hostel E, Dora Akunyili, Stella Okoli students’ hostels have been remodeled ensuite with separate toilets and beddings while a Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) has been signed with two investors for each to build a five hundred and seventy two (572) capacity students’ hostel under a Build, Operate and Transfer Partnership.
Another MoU has been signed too with another investor, for a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) financed construction and equipping of a specialized Diagnostic Laboratory, within the precincts of the University Medical Centre.
In the Nigerian parlance, there has been an entrenched uncharitable tradition of lack of continuity and abandonment of inherited projects of predecessors by most successors in public offices.
Reason for this ignoble practice by most new bosses ranges from not wanting to share glory with an ex helmsman, and the corrupt practice of awarding fresh contract so that kickbacks and upfront percentage can be collected immediately.
But this ungodly practice is not for somebody like Prof. Esimone. He has not only continued from where his predecessor, Prof. Joseph Ahaneku stopped but is determined to complete all such projects and also make other indelible marks on his own.
Presently in UNIZIK, nine inherited projects ranging from lecture halls, engineering workshops and laboratory buildings have been completed.
Fifteen other inherited projects ranging from Faculty buildings, access roads. Student’s hostels, medical centre, sporting facilities among others are now at advanced stages of completion.
He has also commenced and completed new projects within this one year in office that today at Nnamdi Azikiwe University, the Council Chamber has been modernized to world-class Standard. The Vice-Chancellor’s Conference Room and offices of Principal Officers and some Directors are now wearing a deserved 21st century millennium look.
Laboratory equipments and furniture have been supplied to the Faculties of Biosciences, Physical Sciences, Pharmaceutical Sciences and Health Sciences and Technology even as teaching aids and equipment have been supplied and installed at the Faculty of Agriculture.
Faculties of Environmental Sciences, Education, Arts and Social Sciences have also experienced the Esimone touch in the supplies and installation of Studio equipments and teaching aids too.
Several new projects have commenced in the university thereby turning the institution into a massive construction yard despite funding challenges and the disruptions caused by the raging COVID-19 pandemic.
The Esimone administration is a classical example of where vision met preparedness and it is a manifestation of God’s love for His people that a man of his ilk is in charge even at this inauspicious moment globally. He deserves every support to not only stamp his feet in the annals of history of this great citadel of learning but take it to a greater lofty heights for the benefit of all.
Attah, an alumnus of Nnamdi Azikiwe University, writes from Onitsha, Anambra state via [email protected]