If you have some degree of revolutionary fervour especially when dealing with our peculiar kind of development, one fact you do hold dear is that education is the most effective tool in rolling away backwardness in any environment. This is irrespective of the people who inhabit a particular area or society. For the man who desires change, it tickles the heart when he sees action anywhere in this regard. In Abia State there has been a flurry of activities in Abia State University located at Uturu area of the state. At the centre of it was the choice of a new Vice Chancellor to replace Professor Ikonne, whose two tenures had been exhausted.
Three weeks ago the tussle, and I must add intrigues, surrounding the exercise of finding a successor came to a dramatic end with the state governor, Dr Okezie Ikpeazu, settling for Prof Maxwell Onyebuchi Ogbulu, who before his most deserved elevation was the Deputy Vice Chancellor in charge of administration. In going for Ogbulu the governor defied subterranean pressures to do what many now regard as the right thing.
Our society inspite of pretensions still operates within the modus of a primordial enclave, nearly all of us would want to use power and authority to gather opportunities and privileges to our areas and people around us. Cronyism is a potent threat here; it is a live monster walking on all fours. It was very much alive in choice for a new Vice Chancellor for Abia university. Those who thought their son was incharge felt it was within their right to take in some more privileges no matter how absurd it would appear, it didn’t matter. But to Ikpeazu, it mattered, not just for the sake of equity and good sense of judgment, more in terms of academics, academic excellence and university autonomy.
Gov Ikpeazu dealt with the tendency of moving the goal post when the game is already on, he rightly insisted such untoward tactics should not be allowed to be part of a learning environment. Towards the end of the preceding era, vain attempts were made to create new offices just to further the narrow interest of an emerging hegemony without minding the implications in terms of distortions and drain on lean finances. But from the look of things it would seem the governor was ahead of some elements involved in the scheming. In the choice of Ogbulu it is clear Gov Ikpeazu gave preference to continuity, experience, competence and change. It is a decision that has received widest acclaim from education watchers across the country and the people of the state who are real owners of the institution.
By the choice of Ogbulu, Gov Ikpeazu has used a stone to kill three birds. The first and best is that in Ogbulu the institution has an academic, pure and pure. Ogbulu is a scholar, he would be lost in the terrain of politics. Since graduation he has remained a professional. This should be good news to those in that institution, especially against the knowledge that politics had inflicted some degree of damage on that institution from different dimensions, from award of degrees, to staff recruitment and admission into very high degrees. Ogbulu a non-controversial but very principled man is mostly likely to raise the standards and insist on them.
Politically, the appointment seems to assuage some fears in the Ukwa axis of the state and to give them some sense of balance and belonging. Ogbulu, administratively, is of Ukwa East Local Government Area but in terms clan stock, he is Asa who are the predominant population in Ukwa West area. Going by this arrangement the two areas share greater part of the joy elicited by this appointment.
The bigger challenge facing the new administration is financing. Recently, the institution has had to walk a very tight rope. There has been talk of self-financing. This option as plausible as it may seem must be weighed against what the state wants to achieve through the institution. Is the objective to give sound education to all in the state or is there satisfaction with the number of graduates already produced? Has the institution a role to play in moving the immediate society into the technology age? Answers to these questions would determine government’s reaction on this all important matter. My position is that it is the one place the government should put money into because of its centrality in creating the future we want.
The other would be solely a task for the Vice Chancellor and his team. They must find out what makes a university world class and systematically go in that direction. Beautified environment, infrastructure like internal roads, electricity, water supply, modernized hostels, skill acquisition, world class staffing, security etc. It can be done. What is crucial is vision, and it finds expression one way or the other. The university of it had not already started should begin to think about the production of basic articles for sale to the public.
Water business is potent. Production of bread, soap and sanitizer should be considered, in addition to other possible products. The desire to be solvent at all times is not an out-of-place expectation. There are many things universities elsewhere do which are not being done in our shores. Nothing says it can’t start from Abia State University. In fact, it needs assistance in this direction and business chieftains who dot the state should be able to lock into this direction and see the need to seek partnership with the institution for mutually beneficial relationship.
Again, Governor Ikpeazu deserves commendation for the steps he is taking to reposition the institution. The governing board, under the headship of Senator Adolphus Wabara, is working. Since they came on board, a lot of infrastructural turnarounds have taken place. Also, the appointment that is being widely celebrated would not have been without their stand on sound principles. My advice to the Governor is this: don’t remove your eyes from the institution until the institution is placed on high competitive pedestal.
A way must be found around the question of funding for the institution. Allowing a university earn poor image does it no good; it reduces the standing of her products in the labour market; it could pose huge constraints on graduands when they get the opportunity to step across our borders for things abroad. What is more, that institution is the major source for the supply of high quality manpower to the state, so it is not something to play with. It ought to receive highest quality attention and that is what I demand.