A university derived from the Latin word universitas (universal or whole) is an institution of higher (or tertiary) education and research which awards academic degrees in various academic disciplines. A university drives the tripodal mission of teaching, research and community service. Universities are about knowledge creation, innovation and dissemination. Therefore, universities are International Centers of Excellence for knowledge creation and dissemination and overall innovation.
To achieve the vision and mission of the Founding Fathers and to remain competitive as a Center of Excellence in the 21st century, a university must develop a proper university culture; be open to new ideas; new opportunities; new challenges; new administrators/managers etc.
Imo State University was established in 1981 through Law No. 4 of the Imo State House of Assembly. With the creation of Abia State from the old Imo State in 1991, the Imo State University was re-located and re-established in Owerri by Governor Evan Enwerem of blessed memory. The re-located institution began academic instruction in the 1992/93 session with Professor T.O.C. Ndubizu from University of Nigeria Nsukka as pioneer Vice-Chancellor and Dr. G.C. Ukaga was pioneer Registrar.
The re-located Imo State University Owerri in her first decade of existence was ranked the 1st/best State University and overall 9th best university in Nigeria. Currently, the release of Nigerian University Ranking by the Nigerian University Commission shows that Imo State University is ranked 16th State University (a drop of 15 places) and 61st (a drop of 52 places) out of 160 recognized Nigerian Universities. Similarly, the 2018 Open Education Resources (OER) ranking of Universities showed that Imo State University was not ranked due to lack of facility for this important institutional performance ranking index. Yet this is a university in the 21st century.
Institutional leadership is key to driving institutional goals and aspirations and most importantly in being competitive in the new knowledge economy that drives capacity building for transformation of nation states. This is why university leadership is open for competition and advertisements for the position of Vice-Chancellors are placed in national and international domain for the best to apply. In addition, Search Teams are set up by the Governing Council to identify candidates from other institutions who fail to apply or express interest on their own.
The need to have experienced, focussed, pro-active and courageous leadership is the basic reason Oxford, Harvard, Cambridge universities and other Ivy League and top-ranked universities will continue to lead in academic excellence and research innovations globally. This is the reason Prof. Cele Onwuliri of blessed memory was drafted from the University of Jos to the Federal University of Technology Owerri. This is the reason Prof. Chinedu Nebo was drafted from the University of Nigeria Nsukka to administer the Federal University Oye-Ekiti as pioneer Vice-Chancellor. This is why Prof. O. Ibidapo-Obe of the University of Lagos was placed in charge of the Alex-Ekwueme Federal University Ndufu Alike in Ebonyi State. This is the reason Prof. Mrs. Eka Braide was drafted from the Cross Rivers State University of Technology (CRUTECH) to begin the Federal University Lafia. This is also the reason Prof. Chinedum Nwajiuba was drafted from the Imo State University Owerri to replace Prof. Ibidaobe as second substantive Vice-Chancellor, in University of Uyo aslo, Prof Akarinyen Essisen was drafted from University of Calaba to replace Prof Morgan Ekpan Ekpo. Many other examples abound.
In instances where University culture is bedevilled by poor leadership, poor vision/focus to innovate, poor research endeavour/lack of innovation in research, crass staff and students indiscipline, extortion and exploitation of students, lack of courage to enforce staff and student discipline etc, a need may arise to seek new leadership to inject fresh air in that system. This is the bane of Imo State University Owerri today. The Academic Staff Union of Universities Imo State University (ASUU IMSU) Branch sees nothing wrong with this. The many Professors who aspire to lead perhaps see nothing wrong with this. It is common knowledge that the Polytechnics and Colleges of Education in the State want their own Chief Lecturers only to lead their institutions for fear of other candidates mostly Professors being appointed to bring desired changes for institutional growth and transformation. ASUU IMSU from grapevine information is toeing this poor line of argument in demanding that only internal candidate should be appointed Vice-Chancellor.
Therefore, for ASUU IMSU Branch to insinuate or suggest that they want an internal candidate to continue to administer the university in her current state implies lack of patriotism to the people of Imo State. It implies they have gotten so comfortable with the deep rot in the system which is beneficial to many of them that they fear the unknown and change of any sort. It implies they lack the competitive and innovative spirit academics are known for worldwide. It implies that they lack knowledge of the process of appointing a Vice-Chancellor. Besides championing the welfare of her members, ASUU as a responsible union should be in the vanguard of ensuring quality leadership at all times. It is sad to say the least for a university that was once ranked the best State University in Nigeria in 1999.
It is notable that Imo State University Owerri has a staff (Prof. Chinedum Nwajiuba) currently serving as Vice-Chancellor in another university in Nigeria (Alex Ekwueme Federal University Ndufu Alike Ikwo). Yet ASUU IMSU is shamefully suggesting that they want an internal person only to be Vice-Chancellor, so that the rot deepens as Imo people count their losses every day. That remains a decision for the Visitor of the University, Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha to deal with.
Even though the leadership of the university is highly lopsided, stakeholders and critical observers are of the view that in all fairness, the next substantive Vice-Chancellor of Imo University Should be sought out from the pool of eminently qualified Imo sons and daughters and not just those in Imo State University as ASUU sadly and currently demands.
BY Mazi Okoro Amadi.