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Prof. Zana Akpagu : A Seasoned Administrator With Many Feathers By Inyali Peter

Unical VC, Prof. Zana Akpagu posing with one of his many awards.
While sourcing the internet recently, I stumbled on a quote that gave me insight into many rhetorical questions I've asked myself about the motivation of successful people. The quote, "True stars rise to the top not by chance but through purpose and passion" credited purpose and passion for the rise and fall of any star.

Without purpose, you exist for nothing and anything and when the purpose is defined, you need to be piquantly passionate to get to the zenith of what you desire.

The story of Prof. Zana Akpagu, the 10th Vice Chancellor of the famous University of Calabar can be likened to the quote above. From where he started from to the level he is today, purpose and passion to contribute meaningfully to the development of the society have been his driver.

Unlike some leaders who face out after one of two leadership positions, Prof. Akpagu in the past 19 years has graduated from one leadership position to another. I can't readily remember a year he has stayed without handling at least one leadership position at different levels in the past 19 years.

Leaders don't move from positions to another for the fund of it but because of the nature of their commitment and the integrity of their character in previous positions tested. In all the positions he has occupied, he has stood out taller, bigger and better. His achievements have been legendary and unequivocal.

When some people begin to talk like the first leadership position Prof. Akpagu has held is the current one he occupies as the VC of Unical, I begin to wonder whether they're suffering from hysteria, have lost sense of history or for petty self-interest reasons, they have refused to appreciate the fact that his CV is weightier than what they feed the public with.

For him to have remained this long in leadership saddle means he's doing something good. Leadership is not like the school system where students are asked to repeat classes for poor performance. To move to another stage, some tangible results would sprinkle you up or down. But in his case, he has moved from top to top and has remained and God willing will remain.

The picture of a one traffic leader painted by some of his detractors is very unfortunate and regrettable. He didn't fall from nowhere to where he is today. He is a seasoned administrator with many feathers. Feathers that have kept him flying to the inviable position of a Vice Chancellor.

The "Mr. Project" as he's fondly called is a former Commissioner of Education under Governor Donald Duke. It was under him that the education sector in Cross River State was revitalized.

Also, under Governor Liyel Imoke, he served as a Special Adviser, Intergovernmental Affairs and Special Duties. He was rated as one of the beat brains in that administration until he decided to return to the University environment to purposefully pursue his dream of becoming the pioneer Alumni VC of Unical.

Sequel to his appointment as the VC, he served the University in many capacities. He was former Head of Department, two times Dean of Students' Affairs, a former Dean of the prestigious faculty of Arts and a former Deput Vice Chancellor,  Administration

Akpagu has received award both locally and internally. He was recently decorated by a London based newspaper,  'The Nigerian' as the education Administrator of the year. He is the South South representative of Vice Chancellors in Tetfund Committee, he's the Journalism Magazine most outstanding Nigeria VC. The list is endless.

His Obudu community, recently conferred him with the most coveted chieftaincy title of “Ushikebe 1 of Ipong”. He is to be conferred with another highly revered Chieftaincy title by the Ohong community next month.

Last year, he was honoured with the highest award given to a non northerner by the AREWA Youths Consultative forum. He is also the “Otebeche 1 of Yala” and “Ntufam Ami Ejagam 1” of the Qua nation.

Prof. Akpagu is also a Knight of the Order of Saint Mulumba (KSM) in the Catholic Church and has subscribed to numerous  learned societies including the Association for the Study of Caribbean and African Literature in French (ASCALF), Britain (Vanguard).

The question is, if he was not doing well, how come he has grown from positiona to positions and has attracted recognition from both local and international organizations, churches and the traditional council? If people are claiming he bought his way to all the countless recognitions, then another big question is, is he the richest VC in Nigeria?

Of course, nobody is saying Prof. Akpagu is a perfect leader as perfection is only of God. Nobody is stopping anybody from drawing his attention to some of his mistakes either after all he is a human being and imperfection is as constant as change. But in doing that, sending the right information without the bias is key.

The VC is abreast of the reality that he can't satisfy everybody hence his openness for constructive criticism and divert opinions. Like Herbert Swope said, the formula for failure is trying to please everybody. He is not out to do everything or try to please everybody but to do the right thing in the interest of the majority of the people he leads. It's normal that the "right" things will attract opposition and acceptance but when the opposition becomes defamatory, it becomes another ball game entirely.

Like Roy Bennett opined, "Success is not how high you have climbed, but how you make a positive difference to the world". Prof. Akpagu may not have climbed so highly to the position of a Minister, Governor or President yet but he has distinguished himself as an astute administrator in every given opportunity that should inspire the younger generation and not the contrary.

The strength of his achievement which is today making anti development crusaders to raise army of blackmailer against him is rooted in the depth of his passion to continue leaving indelible mark in the sand of times. Like or hate him, he is a success and not many academics share the same success story with him.

His zero tolerance for indiscipline which may not be a popular leadership quality in this part of the world is part of his character that has driven him thus far. Norman Schwarzkopf once said that Leadership is a potent combination of strategy and character. But if you must be without one, be without the strategy. He has the character!

Leadership according to Warrwn Bennis is the capacity to translate vision into reality; this Prof. Akpagu has done with very terrible effectiveness in all the leadership positions he has occupied. He is a true leader!

Life is a race but if you have a strong purpose in life, you don't have to be pushed. Your passion will drive you there. Prof. Akpagu's passion has driven him to the zenith of his career today therefore people should learn to have passion for their personal improvement more than the zeal to blackmail others.
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