Chiemeka ADINDU, Calabar
The administration of Prof. Zana Itiunbe Akpagu, the 10th Vice Chancellor of the University of Calabar is gradually rolling out and the race for his successor is becoming competitive as there are strong contenders who are vying for the position.
With the performance of Akpagu, such as introducing new courses and departments, like Food Science and Technology, Mass Communication, Theatre, Film and Carnival Studies, Dentistry and Dental Science among other courses, the university has created a peculiar niche for itself in many ways. And this even made the race tauter as the University community is looking forward to an improved or at least, a more sustained effort of these legacies already on ground.
Among those contending to replace the incumbent Vice Chancellor, Zana Akpagu, on December 1, 2020, are Professors Joseph Asor (Biological Science), Offiong Offiong (Chemistry), Ndiyo Ayara (Economics), Francis Bisong (Geography) and Florence Obi, (Education) former commissioner for Women Affairs, and former deputy vice chancellor, Academics. Others are Patrick Asuquo (Education Administration), Eyong Ubana (English), Benedict Ita (Chemistry) and Anne Asuquo (Medical Microbiology).
In an interview with one of the notable professors in the university who is the current Dean, Faculty of Arts, Offiong Ani Offiong, TNN gathered that the quest for the 11th vice Chancellor has become a struggle for the one with special grace from the Almighty as all the nine contenders are more than qualified. This is what the Professor of language and communication had to say:
“To be a Vice Chancellor of the University of Calabar, you need to be a very experienced professor and must be a professor from 9 years upwards. And you must have a reputation in terms of publication. You must also have lectured in the university for up to 30 years from when you started. Also, if everything is done accordingly, you must also have been a dean of a faculty; you also need to have been a head of department and must have had track records of successes in terms of writing papers.
“In terms of writing papers, your papers must have been accepted internationally and locally. However, the international papers must be recognized by some leading websites like Google, Thompson Richards among others. In all these, the contenders are qualified. Almost all of them are qualified”.
Offiong who is a permanent member of the University Senate also added that there are other factors apart from academic qualification that must be considered before one is finally appointed as the Vice Chancellor of the University of Calabar. He said: “Before eight years ago, the Vice Chancellor was from the Southern Senatorial District and eight years ago, the Vice Chancellor was from the Central. Then five years after which the current VC is from Northern Cross River.
“So just to have equity and balance we are expecting that it should come back to the southern senatorial district. Now from the Southern Senatorial District there are strong contenders which include Professors Ndiyo Ayara, Patrick Asuquo, Benedict Ita and Offiong Offiong. For Professor Anne Asuquo, she is from the South by marriage and from the Central by birth. That is all things being equal as propounded. But one thing to note is that there is going to be a kind of examination. They will be tested and the first three names will be forwarded.
“So nobody knows how they will perform in this test. So it depends on their performance also. We are hoping that any three that perform well will be given the opportunity. And it is the Visitor that will choose from the three that will be forwarded. There will be a panel that will look at it after the examination and select the eligible three that will be forwarded to council members.
“As of now, it is very difficult and competitive because everybody is qualified. But all will depend on how they perform. So it is neither here nor there, nobody knows, I don’t want to stick my neck on who will or will not but I know that we have strong contenders. Professor Ayara is very eligible if you look at the standing record, Professor Offiong is also good. But if we take away the geographical indices, then all of them will come forward and any of them can pick it up”.
Speaking on the chances of those who have contested before he said, “Prof. Offiong contested with Prof. Epoke (Akpagu’s predecessor) but he was not called because of geographical location. He contested again with Prof. Zana and was also not called probably for the same reason. So this is his third time contesting. Well, we believe that it is God that gives power so if it is his turn to be Vice Chancellor, he is a very trusted person, so he can also become the Vice Chancellor”.
He however stressed that any of them could emerge as the Vice Chancellor as they all have been tested and trusted. He also disclosed that he was brought up for the position just that he is a Professor for seven years and not up to nine years, hoping to contest the next time.
The UNICAL governing council had declared the position of Vice Chancellor vacant and listed 11 conditions for the aspirants, including being an acclaimed scholar and a professor of very high repute, must have published in academic journals that are both of national and international repute, have had a wide range of academic and administrative experience and be on the rank of professor for at least nine years by December 1, 2020, and be able to provide administrative leadership to a well-informed and articulate local academic community.
Others are: To be a fair-minded and dynamic individual with a reputation that is impeccable in dealing with people at all levels, possess requisite and relevant managerial experience to be able to provide leadership to the university, and must not be more than 65 years of age by December 1, 2020. According to the release signed by the Registrar, Amb. Gabriel. O. Egbe on behalf of the Governing Council of the University, the vacancy is with effect from December 1, 2020 when the current VC, Prof. Zana Itiunbe Akpagu would have served his tenure. Below is a summary of the profile of some of the contenders:
Professor Joseph Ele Asor was born in Abi Local Government Area of Cross River State, Nigeria. He is from the Department of Zoology and Environmental Biology. He attended the university of Port-Harcourt, 1980-1984; 1987-1989 and 1993-1995 and obtained the Bachelor of Science (B.sc) degree in Zoology, Master of science (M.sc) degree in Parasitology and a Doctor of philosophy (Ph.d) degree in Parasitology respectively. In his 29 years of public service, he has held the following positions:
– Rector, Cross River State College of Agriculture, 1998-2002.
– Dean, Student Affairs Division University of Calabar, 2006-2011
– Head of Department of Zoology and Environmental Biology, University of Calabar,Calabar 2013-2014.
– Member, Governing council, Cross River State college of Agriculture, 1998-2002.
– Member, Governing council, Cross River University of Technology 2002.
– Member Governing Council, college of education, Akamkpa, 2011-2015.
– Board member, Cross River State community and social development agency-2008 to date.
He is currently the Dean, Faculty of science, University of Calabar. Prof. Asor has published over fifty peer reviewed articles in national and international journals.
Professor Offiong E. Offiong has also served the University system in several capacities including; Sub-Dean , Faculty of Science, Dean Faculty of Science, Dean of Students’ Affairs, Member, Governing Council of the University of Calabar (2000 – 2004), Member, UCISS Governing Board, Member, Central Admission Committee, Member, Centre for Educational Services, Member, University of Calabar Reformation and Implementation Committee, Member, Committee in the development of School of Pharmacy, Unical. Chairman and Zonal Coordinator ASUU, National Vice President ASUU among others.
Between 2007 and 2015, he served as Commissioner for Education, Cross River State. During this period, the Schools across the 18 LGAs witnessed massive infrastructural transformation, the first of its kind. The performance of Cross River State Students in WASCE rose from 22nd position to 7th and 6th in 2012 and 2013 respectively.
His contributions to the establishment of the prestigious Institute of Technology and Management (ITM), Ugep and the reopening of previously closed down State-owned College of Education in Akamkpa speak volume to elucidate his sterling qualities and passion for education and scholarship. He was the Chairman of All States Commissioner of Education in Nigeria from 2009 to 2015. Prof. Offiong served in the Presidential Task Force on Education with the mandate of implementing a transformation agenda in Nigeria education system (2011 – 2014)
Professor Ndem Ayara Ndiyo is a professor of Economics and a Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Calabar from 2015-2007 first term and second term 2017 till date. He is an Economist, He holds a Bachelor of Science (B.Sc), Master of Sciences (M.Sc) and Doctorate (Ph.D) Degrees in Economics. He is also a member of University of Calabar Governing Council 2016 till date. He is a Co-ordinator UNICAL E-Leaning programme from 2016 till date. He has also served as the Chairman, UNICAL Post Graduate E-leaning committee 2018. He is a member of the UNICAL JUPEB Steering committee. 2017 He also bagged Postgraduate diplomas (PGDs) in Education and Environmental Studies.
He has also served in the capacity of a Chairman Canadian University Services Overseas (CUSO) 2013-2015 and he has been an active member from 2013 till date. He has also been a member Board of Trustees 2014 till date. Prof. Ndiyo is a life member of the Nigerian Economic Society (NES) and a two-team executive Council Member of the ancient professional body. He is also a member of the Royal Society of Academy (RSA). He was a Manager of the European Union Micro-project Programme (EU-MPP) in the Niger Delta Region, and a Former Co-ordinator of the World Bank governance and Capacity Building Project in Nigeria, among others. He is currently serving as the Economic adviser to the Governor of Cross River State and a cabinet member of the State Executive Council. Prof Ndiyo has also authored other popular books including Fundamentals of Research in Behavioral Sciences and Humanities, several journal articles, book chapters and conference/seminar papers within and outside Africa.
Professor Florence Banku Obi, the former Deputy Vice-chancellor (Academic) is 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.
Professor Benedict Iserom Ita joined the services of the University of Calabar in October 1990 as a Graduate Assistant after acquiring a B. Sc degree in Chemistry in 1989 and completing the compulsory NYSC assignment in September 1990. In 1994 he obtained a M.Sc degree in Physical Chemistry and in 2000 became the first Ph. D graduate in Physical Chemistry. Benedict Ita also rose through the ranks of Academics to become the first Professor of Physical / Theoretical Chemistry in 2010 in the University of Calabar. His researches span the areas of Corrosion/Electrochemistry, Nanomaterials and Applications, Partial Differential Equations, Relativistic and non – Relativistic Quantum Mechanical Equations.
Professor Anne Ebri Asuquo as a professor of Medical Microbiology was set in 1993 when she obtained a PhD degree in Infection from the University of Birmingham, England. Her passion for research in infectious diseases and antimicrobial agents was ignited in the antimicrobial group (ARG) under the supervision of Professor Laura Piddock. Her primary research expertise is in antimicrobial agent’s uptake into bacteria. However, she has chosen the focus area of Mycobacteriology in order to contribute to the knowledge and manpower requirements for effective control and subsequent elimination of tuberculosis as a public health problem.
Apart from being actively involved in teaching, she takes her mentorship role seriously as it affords her opportunity to impact young people. She has supervised many MSc and PhD student’s research projects in the areas of tuberculosis, antimicrobial agents and other infectious diseases. Her work in active case finding of tuberculosis in collaboration with NNPC/Mobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited was the first of its kind in Nigeria. Her contribution to university life has spanned over 10 years through involvement in administration at different levels and serving on important committees.