Since the advent of university education in the country, only a handful of females have become vice chancellors. For the University of Calabar, the time for Professor florence Banku Obi is now.
Does the notion, “what a man can do, a woman can do better,” apply only in the area of trade, craft and maybe other business transactions, but not leadership positions? It seems so. For not even in academia where many of the philosophies and views about bridging gender gaps emanate from does the notion apply.
Ever since the advent of university education in Nigeria, the system cannot boast of producing up to 15 substantive female vice chancellors, either from the public, faith-based or private institutions. Teaching and learning industry is generally perceived as female-dominated field, but this trend changes within the career trajectories of women as their representation begins to decline in a higher academic environment, and more so at senior management level.
Could this be as a result of choice or circumstances? Is it that the system and the society have no faith in women occupying such positions or is it just fallout of gender inequality? Sadly, there is no statistics on the number of female VCs in the history of Nigerian universities.
Apart from Grace Alele Williams, the first female vice chancellor in Nigeria; Sidi Osho, Peace Babalola, Comfort Ekpo, Fatima Mukhtar, Aize Obayan, Jadesola Akande, Oluwayemisi Obilade and the recently appointed Lilian Salami, who defied the odds in the male dominated environment, the position of VC in our tertiary institutions seems to be strictly reserved for men.
This tradition, however, is not peculiar to Nigeria alone as reports revealed that women are also underrepresented at the topmost level in the United Kingdom’s (UK) higher education system. According to report, in the UK higher education system, less than 15 percent of vice chancellors are women, even when women make up 51 percent of the general population; 50 percent of early career academics and 60 percent of higher education students.
The Governing board of the University of Calabar recently declared the office of the Vice Chancellor vacant, of all the contesting professors, Professor Florence Banku-Obi has the most intimidating credentials as adjudged by the most staff of the University.
A peep into Professor Florence Banku-Obi’s credentials leaves one wondering if any of the contesting professors could match her.
Professor Florence Banku Obi Florence Banku-Obi, the former Deputy Vice-chancellor (Academic) is a mother of four and grandmother of six from Bansan Osokom, Boki Local Government Area of Cross River State, whose successful academic voyage began at the University of Calabar in March 1990 (30 years ago).
She has been a Professor of Special Needs Education for 13 years (Having been made a Full Chair Professor in 2007). Her leadership role in University of Calabar began in 1993 immediately after her return from a Scholarship programme in Jodan Hill College, Glasgow, UK, when as an Assistant Lecturer, she was
appointed Coordinator, World-Wide Fund for Nature/Nigerian Conservation Foundation
(WWF/NCF) funded Schools and Community Education programmes in 1993.
Since then she has served the University as Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic); Dean, Faculty of Education (In fact, she was elected Dean back-to-back, making her the first Professor to have been so elected in the Faculty of Education since the history of the University); Chairperson, University of Calabar International Demonstration School; Deputy Dean, Faculty of Education; Head of Department Environmental Education.
Member, Convocation Committee; Coordinator of Teaching Practice; Deputy Director (On
Campus Programmes of the Centre for Educational Services(CES) Chairperson, CES/ASUU Negotiating Team on CES Programmes; Chairperson UniCAL Housing Loans and Implementation Committee; Examination Officer; Coordinator, Ikom and Ogoja Centres of the then Off-Campus Programmes; Member, University Environmental Sanitation Committee; Member, representing the University on the Cross River State Police Public Relations Committee.
She has been instrumental to the establishments of some new Departments and academic programmes of the University and pioneered the take-off of Affiliation programmes of the University, as approved by the National Universities Commission (NUC).
As a scholar, researcher and mentor, she has over 60 publications to her credit in both local and international peer-reviewed journals, and has authored two books, co-authored one and also authored several chapters in Books.
She has supervised over 30 postgraduate Diploma Projects, 12 Master’s Degree Theses and 8 PhD Dissertations and had so far assessed 13 persons for professorial positions. On 26th February 2020, Prof Florence Obi became the 92nd Inaugural Lecturer of University of Calabar when she enthralled the University and indeed the world with her Inaugural Lecture titled “From Exclusion to Zero Reject: A Road Map to Inclusiveness”.
In terms of community service, Prof. Florence Obi has served as Honourable Commissioner for Women Affairs and Social Development and Member of the Cross River State Executive Council; Board Member of National Universities Commission (the regulatory body for all universities in Nigeria) and pioneer Member of Cross River State Carnival Commission.
Florence is a grass rooter and a community mobilizer. She has served her community in various capacities such as; member of community secondary school management committee, Secretary peace committee, Founder Women Empowerment Coalition, Co-founder Banyinyi Bansan Development Union and Co-initiator, Boki Women World Wide. She is the Vice-President (The first female to be elected as such) of Ochibe Bokyi – The Boki people apex pan-sociocultural organization founded in 1951.
She is very committed to quality university education in Nigeria and has participated in several NUC quality assurance activities such as Institutional Accreditation, Programme Accreditation and Resource Verification.
She is well-travelled and has attended so many academic events both locally and internationally.
She has taught in the first African University of Education, Winneba, Ghana, during which she
served as the Faculty of Education Graduate School Representative and Chairperson of the Faculty Seminar Committee.
She was: UNESCO Visiting Professor at the University of Buea, Cameroon; Visiting Professor (as Erasmus Mundus Exchange Lecturer) at Masaryk University, Brno, Czech Republic; and Visiting Professor at the Ignatius Ajuru University of Education, Port-Harcourt, Rivers State. She has equally attended an eight weeks training programme at the University of Oregon, the USA on Women Leadership and Disability.
Florence has served as External Examiner and assessor to some Nigerian Universities, including the Universities of Ibadan, Lagos and Jos; the University of Nigeria, Nsukka; Federal University of Technology, Akure; Bayero University, Kano and to some foreign Universities, one of which is the University of Education, Winneba, Ghana.
Professor Obi has also served as Managing Editor and Editor for some local and international journals, including the African Journal of Vocational Education of the Department of Vocational and Special Education, University of Calabar, Editorial Board Member of the International Journal of Research, a publication of the Department of Educational Foundation, University of Lagos and the Pioneer, Editor of the African Journal of Special Education (The official journal of the Department of Special Education of the University of Education, Winneba, Ghana).
In terms of membership of learned societies, she is a Fellow and past National President of the National Association for Exceptional Children; Member, International Council for the Education of Children with Visual Impairments; Member, South African Society of Education (SASE); Member, Division of International Special Education and Services (DISES); and Member, Nigerian Academy of
Prof. Obi, who is a serving Professor and Member of Senate in University of Calabar is a recipient of several awards in recognition of her outstanding contributions to the growth of the education sector and society at large.
Aside from her unparalleled accomplishments, outstanding qualifications and displayed
competencies to take the ivory tower to unprecedented greater heights as Vice-Chancellor, it is profoundly germane to also convey that, since its inception in 1975 (about 45 years ago), no woman has superintendent over the affairs of the University of Calabar.
Therefore, in accordance with the advocacy for gender equality, as enshrined in the Sustainable
Development Goal (SDGs) number 5, to which the incumbent Nigeria President is committed to, there is no better time than now, to appoint Professor Florence Banku Obi as the first female Vice-Chancellor of the University of Calabar.