University of Nigeria, UNN@ 64: Host communities demand indigenous Vice-Chancellor

University of Nigeria, UNN@ 64: Host communities demand indigenous Vice-Chancellor...Continue The Full Reading.

University of Nigeria, Nsukka was established in 1960 by Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe
The tenure of the incumbent Vice-Chancellor will expire in May 2024 as installation of the new VC will be done in June 2024
64 years after, Groups , Host communities decry marginalization, demand indigenous Vice-Chancellor

Pressures, speculations and anxiety are currently taking centre stage at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka.

It is yet another selection/election year for the seat of Vice-Chancellor of the varsity.

The Ivory Tower will be marking the 64th anniversary of its existence on October 1, 2024.

WITHIN NIGERIA findings showed that for over two decades now, the seat of the Vice-Chancellor of the first indigenous university in the country has become so much contentious.

The university has two campuses which included Nsukka(mother campus) and Enugu where most of the “key courses” like Medicine &Surgery, Law, Social Sciences like Accountancy, Business Administration and other courses like Radiography and indeed almost all the medical Sciences courses and Teaching Hospital are situated.

However, for over two decades, the host communities which are made up of seven local government areas in the state have continued to clamour for the opportunity for UNN vice Chancellor of Nsukka extraction.

Prof. Charles Igwe, outgoing VC

WITHIN NIGERIA findings showed that the more this clamour gets louder, the more difficult it seems the host communities may not produce the Vice-Chancellor any time soon.

This is largely because the clamour has been largely seen as “parochial” instead of fair treatment it ought to be.

By and large, the tenure of the incumbent Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Charles Igwe will expire in May 2024 and a new Vice-Chancellor is expected to take the mantle of leadership in June.

Our reporter gathered that during the 2019 contest, Prof. Emmanuel Ezugwu, an indigene of the area was said to have defeated other contestants. But how he later lost the seat to the outgoing Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Charles Igwe reminded a mystery.

Prof. Ezugwu who hailed from Opi, Nsukka local government area of Enugu state was said to have recorded tremendous marks and polled surprising votes during the contest. But he was allegedly denied the seat.

List of UNN VCs till date

Dr. George Marion Johnson: 1960 – 1964.
Professor Glen L. Taggart: 1964 – 1966
Professor Eni Njoku: July 1966 – 1967; 1967 – 1970 (Abia Old Imo State)
Professor Herbert C. Kodilinye: 1971 – 1975 (Anambra state)
Professor James O. C. Ezeilo: 1975 – 1978 (Anambra state)

Professor Umaru Shehu: 1978 – 1979 (Borno State)

Professor Frank Nwachukwu Ndili: 1980 – Oct. 1985 (Delta State)

Professor Chimere Ikoku: 1985 – 1992 (Abia Old Imo State)

Professor Oleka K. Udeala:1992 – 1995 (Abia Old Imo State)

Professor Umaru Gomwalk: May 1994 – (appointed as the Sole Administrator) (Plateau State)

Professor Ginigeme Francis Mbanefoh: 1999 – 2004 (Anambra state)

Professor Osita Chinedu Nebo: June 2004 – June 2009 (Enugu State)

Professor Bartho Okolo: 2009 – June 2014 (Enugu State)

Professor Benjamin Chukwuma Ozumba: June 2014–June 2019 (Anambra state)

Professor Charles Arizechukwu Igwe: June 2019–Present (Anambra state)

Groups, individuals clamour for indigenous Vice-Chancellor

Though the present Enugu state has produced two Vice-Chancellors of the institution, none of these Vice-Chancellors are of Nsukka extraction, hence the renewed agitation for the seat.

Dr. Kelvin Nnadi: Indigenous UNN VC will help in Nsukka development

On May 2, 2024, the leadership of Otobo Nsukka Cultural Zone, a scoio-cultural organization made a press release, asking all the indigenes of the host communities to throw their weight towards actualization of UNN indigenous Vice-Chancellor.

In a release signed by the convener of the group, Prince Chibeze Onah and Head of Admin, Mr. Chime Agu and made available to WITHIN NIGERIA, the group stated that it is actually overdue for the host communities to produce UNN Vice-Chancellor.

“We, the leadership and members of Otobo Nsukka Cultural Zone Community Developmental Initiative, a non-governmental organization (NGO), are compelled to bring to your attention a pressing matter that concerns us all.

“The University of Nigeria, Nsukka, founded in 1955 by the visionary Nnamdi Azikiwe, is one of the five most reputed universities in Nigeria, with a rich history, 15 faculties, 102 academic departments, and four campuses.

“However, we note with concern that since its inception, none of the 15 vice-chancellors have hailed from Nsukka Cultural Zone. This is a glaring omission, considering the zone’s significant contributions to the university’s growth and development.

“It is unacceptable that despite having over 100,000 professors, both home and abroad, holding leadership positions, Nsukka Cultural Zone has been overlooked for the vice-chancellor position. In line with our objectives, we urge every living soul in Nsukka Cultural Zone to stand up for our own. It is time for an Nsukka Cultural Zone professor to become the next vice-chancellor of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. We believe this is a matter of justice, equity, and fairness. Enough is enough!”

Emmanuel Jonathan Ikechukwu is an alumnus of the university. In his agitation, he stressed that the seat of the Vice-Chancellor of UNN should as a matter of equity be given to an Nsukka indigene this time around.

According to Mr. Ikechukwu, “the University since it was founded has had a peaceful coexistence with the hospitable community of Nsukka in Enugu State. This has ensured uninterrupted academic calendar in contrast to many Universities that often times have conflicts with their host communities.

Mr. Chineme Agu: We need indigenous UNN VC

“Since the establishment and founding of the University of Nigeria Nsukka, about 64 years ago, no indigene of Nsukka has ever been a VC. Indeed the entire Enugu State has produced only 2 Vice Chancellors; Prof. Chinedu Nebo and Prof. Bartholomew Okolo who are both from Udi Local Government Area.

“The people of Nsukka did not only welcome the emergence of these two Vice Chancellors of UNN from Enugu, but they provided them unequalled support as they piloted the affairs of the University situated in the land of Nsukka.

“The people of Nsukka celebrated this era in the annals of the history of University of Nigeria even though it has always been their wish to also have a taste of occupying the revered seat of the Vice Chancellor of UNN that has existed for close to 64 years. They believed in the Igbo proverb which says that when you celebrate with your neighbour, things to celebrate will also visit your home.

“The present Vice Chancellor of the University, Professor Charles Igwe will be rounding off his tenure in May/June 2024 and a new Vice Chancellor is expected to emerge as the next substantive Vice Chancellor of UNN for another five years.”

Narrating further, Mr. Ikechukwu explained that “the campaign for who will take over from the current Vice Chancellor has since commenced and considering the enormous support the current Vice Chancellor, received from Nsukka people, it is expected that he should recommend one of the over 200 qualified Professors from Nsukka to take over from him.

“Igwe is equally a worthy in-law of Ndi-Enugu and it will be nice of him to break this 64 years old jinx by installing an Nsukka indigene as UNN Vice Chancellor.

“It is on record that the current Vice Chancellor who is from Anambra state took over leadership of UNN from Professor Benjamin C. Ozumba who is also from Anambra state. For the sake of equity and love for brotherhood, the good people of Anambra should support an Nsukka indigene to also lead the University for once. Why are we brothers if we don’t share concern for each other?

“It is important to note that the VC position of Nnamdi Azikiwe University has been occupied by only Anambra people since its creation. So, it will not be out of place for Nsukka people to say that what is good for the goose is also good for the gander. The people of Anambra working in UNN can attest to the fact that Nsukka people are very receptive and hospitable, and will be detrabalized if given the opportunity to occupy the seat of UNN VC.

“This assertion is evident in the life of the current Vice Chancellor, Prof. Charles Igwe, as he is a product of a hospitable Nsukka. His life story is not complete without mentioning Nsukka because he lived all his life in Nsukka.”

Prof. Okwueze: Former DVC, Academics

Lending his voice to the clamour, Dr. Kelvin Nnadi, business entrepreneur told WITHIN NIGERIA that “Federal universities use host communities as criteria for admission and that is the reason many of us here became graduates of UNN.

“Given eminently qualified professors of Nsukka origin it is rather shameful to insinuate that asking to be given a chance to for once head UNN by Nsukka people is asking for mediocrity. It is inclusion and promotion of diversity.

“Those who love equity and inclusion should join Nsukka professors in this clamour to be given a fair chance in the next selection of VC for UNN. They have eminently qualified candidates for the top job and the last VC contest was denied late Prof Ezeugwu who came first on merit consideration due to financial inducement by those who got the slot back to back over the last 10 years.

“To canvass for a slot for the host community in the leadership of UNN since 1960, has merit, has equity and fairness if the current rape, rot, dehumanisation of host community staffers and running of the institution as ivory tower enclave and enclosure with no material impact on the host community is to stop. We the Nsukka people need the support of other people to make this dream a reality. UNN must serve its hosts and others fairly and equitably and the time is now.

Similarly, a former governor of old Enugu State, Dr Okwesilieze Nwodo was a guest at Arise Television’s Morning Show programme on penultimate Wednesday, where he vigorously canvassed the argument.

Dr. Okwy Nwodo: Advocates for indigenous UNN VC

Nwodo, a one-time national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, explained that it was an issue of morality in the selection process of the Vice-Chancellor.

In his words during the program, “I believe that any group of people, anywhere under the sun, who feel that they qualify for something have a right to ask for it.

“Whether they get it or not, they have made their point.”

On the process of electing the next VC, Nwodo said, “you and I know that that campaign is at best, it is a moral issue by people who feel it is in our direction, but that is not the procedure for getting a vice chancellor.

“All that people are trying to do is trying to call attention to a wish of a people after 64 years; they are not going to change the procedures by which the appointment is made.”

WITHIN NIGERIA findings showed that University of Nigeria, Nsukka currently has no governing council. The Visitor, Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi and Minister of Education Prof. Tahir Mamman might be the pressure points for who becomes the next Vice-Chancellor of the first indigenous university in Nigeria.

Summarily, Dr. Kelvin Nnadi, an entrepreneur and an alumnus of the university posited that, “Nsukka has a lot of very qualified Professors to lead UNN at this stage in the history of the university assuming the selection process is very transparent. The clamour for VC from the immediate host communities does not diminish merit based selection but corrects age long discrimination, neglect and marginalisation.

“It is no longer that a merit based process can not lead to that outcome but that the denial of this opportunity, including the position of Registrar since 1960, can only be remedied through an inclusive process or affirmative action program.”

On what the university and indeed the host communities stand to gain from a UNN VC of Nsukka extraction, Dr. Nnadi told WITHIN NIGERIA that it will surely boost both academic and social environment of the university.

“A UNN led by a host community candidate will energetically pursue mutual development of the university and the host community leading to massive infrastructural development overlap. For instance the abandoned water tower in the university can be reactivated to supplement existing water infrastructure in Nsukka for a community-wide water supply in the urban environment.

“Similarly, a lecturers and students village or housing infrastructure can be developed together with the State and Local Governments to enable the host community permanent settle university staff and provide decent accommodation to students.

“Again, such integrated housing project can permanently domicile emeritus professors and retired university staff so that they will continue to contribute to the host community. Thus far, UNN vice chancellors have looked away from the infrastructural development challenges of the immediate host communities which a VC from the host community can begin to cure.

“The R&D in UNN can also be targeted at solving problems in the host community especially in the area of agriculture. More, needs to be done here too and we are optimistic that a UNN VC from the host community can show green light in this proposed hand shake between UNN and the hosts with sufficient enthusiasm.”

WITHIN NIGERIA gathered that the university will be celebrating its 64th anniversary on October 1, 2024 but the host communities have also not produced the Registrar of the institution since its existence in 1960. The highest position any indigene of the host communities has held is the seat of Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Academics in the person of Prof. Malachy Okwueze about a decade ago….Continue The Full Reading.>’.

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