There was jubilation at the Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike (MOUAU) on Thursday as enthusiastic lecturers, students and staff celebrated Prof Val Ekechukwu for scoring the highest point in the interview conducted by the Vice Chancellorship Selection Board to replace the outgoing Vice Chancellor, Prof Francis Otunta.
The final interview which lasted for two days involved about 30 candidates out of which Prof Ekechukwu came first position by scoring 88.93 points ahead of Prof Maduebibisi Iwe and Prof Philipa Ojimelukwe, who scored 82.35 points and 69.67 points respectively.
Ekechukwu, a Professor of Mechanical Engineering (specializing in Applied Energy), obtained his doctorate degree from the Cranfield University, United Kingdom in 1988. He was Director, Research and Innovation and later of ICT of NUC between 2007 and 2015; Dean, Faculty of Engineering, University of Nigeria, Nsukka (2018-2020); Fellow, Institute of Chartered Chemists of Nigeria (FICCON); Fellow, Solar Energy Society of Nigeria (FSESN); Fellow, Renewable and Alternative Energy Society of Nigeria (RAESON); and a Registered Engineer with the Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN).
He has been a professor of Applied Solar Energy since 2001 in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, UNN, where he was employed as Graduate (Research) Assistant in its Energy Research Centre in 1983. Since 1998, Prof Ekechukwu has been a member of the UNN Senate as well as member, Board of School of Post-graduate Studies of the University of Nigeria Nsukka for several years.
A widely travelled academic administrator, Ekechukwu has been a recipient of very prestigious academic fellowships, including Fulbright Senior Research Scholar Grant at the foremost Solar Energy Laboratory, University of Wisconsin, Madison USA; Alexander von Humboldt (AvH) Foundation Fellowship at University at Karlsruha, Germany; South-South Research Fellowship of the Third World Academy of Science (TWAS), Italy and Costa Rica, and Regular Associate of the International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP) Trieste, Italy (2000 – 2008).
A member of the screening committee, who did not want his names to be mentioned disclosed to newsmen that ab initio one of the candidates (names withheld) was not qualified to run for the vice chancellorship position because he did not meet up with the criteria listed in the advertisement, including not being mentioned in the Thompson Reuters Journals high impact rating.
The source also stated that the leader of the screening committee, Prof Victor Ndirika was influenced by external forces to shortlist the said candidate among the 30 that appeared for the final interview for the obvious fact that he was part of the lingering issues that had foot-dragged the development of the university under the outgoing administration.
“We need a neutral person who would come and clean up the mess. Even if it takes the new person six months or more to put things right, we will be happy. At least the many court cases lingering and stunting the development of the university would be cleaned up and fresh air would be brought to the institution”, the source stated.
It was also gathered that some thugs were hired to disrupt the Council deliberations on Thursday December 10, where the appointment of a new Vice Chancellor was to be ratified.
The thugs were allegedly paid certain sums of money at the University guest house by the head of a nearby tertiary institution to disrupt the Council meeting, claiming that only an Abia indigene would be acceptable to them as Vice Chancellor. The action of the unrelenting hoodlums even after they were addressed by the Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of the Council, Rt. Honourable Lawal Zayyana to allow Council conclude the meeting was to no avail, forcing the Council to abruptly suspend further deliberations.
However, sources within the university further hinted that Michael Okpara University of Agriculture is a Federal University which the Vice Chancellor could emerge from any part of the country.