Quality Leadership : In Praise of UNICAL First Alumnus Vice Chancellor By Inyali Peter

Prof. Zana Akpagu, UNICAL VC
The build up to the election of who succeed former University of Calabar (UNICAL) Vice Chancellor, Prof. James Epoke at the expiration of his tenure in late 2015 was stunning for so many reasons.

Firstly, there was sharp division among the power brokers in UNICAL on which senatorial district amongst central, south and north that should produce Epoke successor. While there was no serious contender from the central senatorial district where Epoke comes from, the southern senatorial district fought tooth and nail for the prestigious position.

The interest of the former Commissioner for Education, Prof. Offiong Offiong caused a lot of tension. Some southern forces both in the academics and politics held that power should return to them despite the fact that since the inception of the university, the position of the Vice Chancellor then remained between the central and south.

There was even serious sentiments in the media from people of the southern extract. Just a few journalists from the north and some sympathisers from the central presented the facts before the public that it was the turn of the north to produce the Vice Chancellor being that it was the only senatorial district that was yet to take a shot at the revered position

Back home, there was a strong rumour that the state government favoured a certain Professor from Obudu. It was heavily rumoured that because of the alleged political differences between the Governor and the then popular demand, Prof. Zana Akpagu, the governor was ready to loose the seat to the south than have Zana clinch the position. To achieve this, an unpopular Professor from the Governor's village in Obudu was sponsored to challenge Zana.

The aim was not necessarily for the government "interest" to win but to rather try to stop Zana from winning. This means that whether he wins or not provided Zana doesn't win the election, the election would been a success to the government.

However, just like the holy scripture says only God holds the destiny ofman, so it was as Zana went through the elections and came out victorious. In fact, God paased through an unlikely instrument (UNICAL Alumni) to fulfill his purpose in Prof Zana's life to the glorify of his name and to the shame of those who think that nobody can get into power except through them.

The UNICAL alumni was a lonely voice at some point crying loud that 40 years since the inception of the institution, it was riped for an alumnus of the university to lead the university. Despite all the power play, intrigues and antics of haters, Zana coast home to victory.

The insistence of the university alumni that it was either him (Zana) or nobody may not be unconnected to his outstanding quality leadership he rendered in other positions he held in the institution. Apart from his experiences and outstanding performances as a former Commissioner for Education and two times Special Adviser to the Governor (Not the type we have now), Zana was former Dean of Students' Affairs, Member of Governing Council, Head of Department, Dean of Faculty and deputy Vice Chancellor, administration; a position he held till his appointment as the pioneer alumnus Vice Chancellor.

In all these positions, Zana left a mark that his successors struggled to match. He was and is simply unmatchable. That was why the alumni said that it was either him or nobody.

As a Vice Chancellor, he has taken the school by storm. Within just a year and few months, Zana has renovated almost all the dilapidated infrastructure in the university. The entrance to the university which was far below the status of the university has been given a new look. A look that affirm UNICAL status as modern university and a citadel of learning.

Even the bible says, cleanliness is very next to godliness. The beautiful of UNICAL under Zana has created a different feelings amongst the students. Students are more happy and proud of the university now than ever.

To give the university a new and greenish look, Zana has planted grasses across the university. He has given the university's internal bus service a new look that can only be likened to famous world universities like Oxford, University of Ibadan etc. In fact, the only tourist destination in Cross River now is the university of Calabar. The environment is serene, clean and conducive.

The university quarter located opposite the stadium (Just bedside Transcorp) which was almost abandoned and forgotten has been revived and given a look of a presidential residence.

Under Zana, there's a renewed hope amongst students and staff as discipline has returned to the university. He has held record as the first UNICAL VC in many years that has not lost any student to cult activities on campus.

To show the university that he is a leader that "belongs to nobody but belongs to everybody" according to President Muhammadu Buhari, Zana has sacrificed his friendship with the former bursar Peter Agi when he realised that he was pulling the university backward rather than moving it ahead.

Funny enough, most of the crimes Agi committed were during the previous administration but the former VC for whatever reason decided to sell the soul of the university to Agi who had the powers to do anything anytime at will whether or not it's in accordance with the act that establishes the university.

Today, for showing Agi that the interest of the school was much more than any personal interest of enrichment, he has been rated as the best VC in the history of the university by some staffers. Some senior staff have argued that even if he reversed other good things he has done or fail to do more, the removal of Agi was the best thing that happen to UNICAL and will go down annals of time.

Although some detractors who are bent on destroying his administration and the reputation of the university have caused artificial security challenges in staff quarters, the VC projectively swung to action like a young dynamic Professor that he is and everything has returned to normalcy. Indeed! There's a serious progress, growth and development going on in UNICAL under the purposeful, progressive and focused leadership of Prof. Zana.

In academics, there have been no dull moment too. Under his watch, UNICAL produced twelve first class graduates in a session. All of them were given automatic employment and scholarship for further studies. This has gone a long way to challenge other students that there is no such thing as impossibility if you have the right attitude.

In academics, there is nothing that boost the morale of students more than when they know that they have a management team that will always help them climb the corporate ladder. This is the renewed hope and aspiration Zana's administration has created amongst students.

However, there been have challenges too. Some artificial (Like the security) while some due to poor funding occasioned by the economic  meltdown the nation is facing.

Besides, when you fight corruption, corruption will fight back. For instance, Prof. Zana is facing all manner of blackmail from people who are head bent on destroying UNICAL. Some have blamed him for the 90% salaries staff have been receiving over the past few months. But the reality remains that, it's not just in UNICAL, it is almost all the federal government owned universities. While I feel the pulse of the lecturers especially, it is unfair to point accusing finger at the VC who has little or no powers to address the situation for now.

Again, there was a shocking development last month which left many staff grumbling. The naysayers where quick to blame Zana for 40% deduction in the salary of workers without giving the bursary department the opportunity to explain the powers behind the development. Thank God it was later revealed that the real problem was from the Federal Government that sent subvention that was below the wage bill of the university.

The VC and other principal officers are working round the clock to ensure that the differences in salary is addressed as contained in a memo signed by the school bursar..

Above all, in about one year, the achievements of Prof. Zana in UNICAL are audible to the deaf and very visible to the blind. He's a good a example of how  Vice chancellor should be. He has taken UNICAL as his business. In fact, every university because of what he his done would want to have her alumnus lead as VC.

With Zana, UNICAL has regained her lost glorify and more is yet to come.

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