Chiemeka ADINDU, Calabar
Newly appointed Vice Chancellor of the University of Calabar, Professor Florence Banku Obi has been urged by the university community to make staff welfare as her top priority if she must succeed. This is coming after Obi emerged as the first female Vice Chancellor of the 45 year old institution of higher learning.
Obi who contested alongside with other 13 Professors including; Joseph Asor, Offiong Offiong, Ndiyo Ayara, Francis Bisong, Patrick Asuquo, Eyong Ubana, Benedict Ita, Anne Asuquo, Stella Effah-Attoe among others was declared winner by the Pro-Chancellor of the University, Senator Nkechi Nwogu after the rigorous process was concluded, receiving her appointment letter thereafter.
Speaking with TNN after the process, senior lecturers of the university who congratulated her for her extraordinary performances during the process said they do not expect anything less from her. They advised her to adopt pragmatic leadership style and ensure she avoids all forms of laxity and indolence to make the university a world class university.
Chairman of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU University of Calabar branch, Dr. Edor J. Edor was optimistic that Obi will attend to the critical areas and needs of the University as a mother. He affirmed that the process was free from acrimony and that the transition to woman leadership is a thing of joy for the University Community.
He said: “It is a thing of joy for us as members of ASUU. The transition process was rancour free, it was free of violence and I think it followed due process. Being a woman, a mother who understands and feels the pain of children when they are in pain it is a thing of joy for us because we expect that whatever our problems are, she will be empathetic with us and whatever things we are undergoing now she will feel the pain with us and she will use her privilege position as a Vice chancellor to address these concerns of welfare.
“We expect primarily from her that she should carry the welfare of the university staff as her priority because if our welfare is compromised, we cannot be at our best in our work. So we expect that she should prioritize our welfare. Pay the back lock of our arrears of our entitlement that the university owes us and ensure that her staff are carried along in the discharge of her duties. We don’t expect anything less from what she propagated during her inaugural lecture earlier this year which was titled: ‘From exclusion to zero-reject: A roadmap to inclusiveness’.
Speaking on the entire process that brought Obi as the Vice Chancellor, Edor said, “The difference between the university community and other environments is that if the process is transparent, as I suppose it was, you will see the other candidates who contested with her congratulating her. You’re not going to see an election petition tribunal as it is PDP and APC and the rest of the political parties. I think there is a spirit of sportsmanship amongst academics in the university”.
Meanwhile, Dean of Faculty of Arts, Prof. Offiong Ani Offiong said in a separate interview said there are high expectations from her as records show that other female Vice Chancellors in other institutions performed very wonderfully. He called on those who contested with her to support her to ensure a successful administration.
“It’s her time; whoever God wants is the person that will be there and I will work with her, that’s the truth. My expectations from her is that she should carry everybody along and just be focused. The University is very vast, a cosmopolitan environment so all she has to do is to carry everybody along. It shouldn’t be a thing of one local government t, one senatorial zone, one state; it’s a federal government thing. I just wish her well.
“Schools that have had female Vice Chancellors seem to be developed. We’ve had a female Vice Chancellor from the University of Benin, we have others who have done well and in Uyo recently, we had a female Vice Chancellor in the University of Uyo and she did well so women have not so far disappointed the university community. We just hope that as she has come she will emulate them and even surpass what they’ve done.
“It was a fierce battle and highly contested, but now the battle has been won and lost, those who lost should come to work together with her. We expect them to assist her to exceed. I just pray they will all support her”, Offiong averred.
Professor Florence Banku Obi, the former Deputy Vice-chancellor (Academic) is from Bansan Osokom, Boki Local Government Area of Cross River State. Her 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.
Professor Obi served as Honourable Commissioner, Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development and Member of Cross River State Executive Council in 2007.
She will take over the mantle of leadership of the University as the 11th substantive Vice Chancellor from the outgoing Vice Chancellor, Prof. Zana Akpagu whose administration as the 10th substantive Vice Chancellor of the University will elapse on December 1, 2020.