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UNN VC, Nsukka And Matters Arising

Dr. Daniel Alagbo


As an undergraduate in the prestigious University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN) in the late 90s, I enjoyed my stay there and the hospitality of the host community Nsukka and its environs. I was fulfilled having passed through the university. This is because right from outset, It has been my heart desire to pass through the premier university

   While in the university, I researched and learned a lot about the school and the host community called Nsukka. I realised that Nsukka is a generic name for the people of the six local governments that make up Enugu North Senatorial zone. These are Nsukka and Udenu LGAs where the university is located on large expanse of land donated by the host communities. Others are Igbo Etiti, Igbo-Eze North, Igbo-Eze South and Uzo-Uwani LGAs.

   From these local governments, are renowned academic and non-academic staff working in the university. Some of them have served and are still serving in prominent academic and administrative positions in the university on their own individual  merits.

   I was alarmed and shocked when I learnt in my third year that no indigene of Nsukka extraction and Enugu State has been appointed Vice-Chancellor of the university since its establishment in 1960. This is despite the fact that Enugu North Senatorial zone had produced the finest and professional academics that have worked and still working in UNN and other universities across the country. 

    It is of note that one community in Igbo-Etiti LGA alone has produced about 40 Professors and are still counting. So also other communities in the six local government areas that make up Enugu North Senatorial zone who have over 200 professors and still producing. 

    If this is the case, why haven't the powers-that- be both in the university management and governments found any of the array of prominent Professors from Nsukka worthy of being appointed the Vice-Chancellor of the university, despite the agitation and public outcry of Nsukka people?  What are the sins of the Nsukka people to warrant this obvious marginalization and oppression in a position they are major stakeholders for 64 unbroken years now?

    Were those appointed Vice-Chancellors of the University in the past better and more qualified in character and learning than the retinue of Professors that Nsukka had produced so far? No? What are the criteria for the selection of the VC that no Nsukka Professor has been able to meet for more than six decades now? 

   I was relieved in the early 2000s when Reverend Professor Chinedu Nebo, from ESUT, became the first Enugu State indigene to be appointed Vice- Chancellor of UNN. I became more relieved when Prof. Nebo was succeeded by another Enugu indigene in the person of Prof. Bartho Okolo. 

    My relief emanated from the fact that the jinx  has been broken and will trickle down to appointing the vice-Chancellor of UNN from Nsukka in the interest of fairness, equity and justice. The people of Nsukka I know too well have more than what is required to produce the Vice- Chancellor of UNN on merit. There is no doubt about it, if not that politics seemed to have crippled into the universities, especially in the choice of Vice-Chancellors.

    If not, how can the people of Nsukka with the array of innumerable qualified Professors they have produced for the decades can still be agitating and struggling for their own to be appointed Vice-Chancellor of UNN, when indigenes of the host communities of other federal universities have since been appointed Vice-Chancellors?

    I nearly shed tears watching the first civilian  Governor of Enugu State from Enugu North, Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo, being harassed and bombarded recently with difficult questions by Arise TV presenters as he canvassed for Nsukka person to be appointed Vice-Chancellor more than six decades after the establishment of the University. 

    Eventhough I have my reservations about Nwodo's appearance on live television to talk about it and his unpreparedness, the people of Nsukka both the academic and political class should shun their differences, close ranks and play the politics both in the university and corridors of power and across the divide. They have what it takes to produce the next UNN VC. What is required of them is to play the right politics and follow the right path. What matters most is positive result. 

   The approach and battle must go beyond the zone, and I expect  Enugu State Government to step in firmly and timely to assist Enugu North zone achieve this desire by ensuring a level playing ground as the process for appointment of the next UNN VC begins. Even though the state government and the government at the centre are of different party leanings, a way must be found for some mutual relationships and understanding on this matter. 

  Similarly, findings and investigations have since revealed that the appointment of Federal Universities Vice- Chancellors have become more political than procedural and meritorious. This is especially now that the President is yet to set up the Governing Councils of the Federal Universities and tenure of the Vice-Chancellors will expire the second week of next month (June, 2024).

   If the worrisome news flying around is anything to go by, it is clear that the outgoing Vice-Chancellors of Federal Universities whose tenure will end by June are already scheming and pushing to manipulate the system and install their stooges as Acting Vice-Chancellors, which may possibly pave way for them to emerge substantive VCs later. The situation is not different in UNN. 

   This is why the people of Nsukka should urgently up their game by spreading their tentacles, putting their houses in order in their quest to produce UNN vice chancellor of Nsukka extraction for the first time. It is possible. It goes beyond media frenzy, publicity stunts and  marginalization out cry. It requires commitment, sacrifice, unity, lobbying, constructive and diplomatic engagements at all levels of governments and university environment. 

     The die is cast for Nsukka people and time is of essence. All hands must be on deck. It is my sincere wish and prayer that Nsukka people will get their deserved share and honour of producing UNN VC of Nsukka extraction after more than six decades of the establishment of the University. After all, what is good for the geese is also good for the gander gander. 

Dr. Alagbo a university don writes from Makurdi, Benue State.

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