Akpagu's Giant Strides in Unical: When Commendation Comes from the President

File picture of Prof. Zana Akpagu with an award from AREWA Youths Consultative Forum

By Inyali Peter

It was in the popular Novel, Animal Farm by George Orwell that the pigs that controlled the government proclaimed that "all animals are equal but some are more equaled". Although, the statement was a comment on the hypocrisy of governments that proclaimed absolute equality of their citizens but gave power and privileges to small elite, the reality of life is that some animals (human being) are indeed more equal than others.

For instance, a statement by a counselor in Nigeria would definitely not carry the same weight as when similar statement is made by a Governor. There's usually additional value attached to statements from highly placed in the society. However, some of this could depend on integrity, stability and consistency etc of the people making the statements.

This means that regardless the social status of some people, if they are perceived as unstable characters by the public, their statements even without the best intentions are usually not taken seriously. In the other hand, statements from people with reputation of unblemished integrity like President Muhammadu Buhari could mean more than just mere spoken words.

This was the case on Saturday April 13th during the 32nd convocation ceremony of the University of Calabar where the President and Commander in-chief of the armed forces, Federal Republic of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari, a leader respected globally for his integrity poured ecumen on the Vice Chancellor of the University, Prof. Zana Akpagu and his management team for their giant strides.

Note that, in the three years reign of Prof. Akpagu as VC, his giant strides in the areas of curricula expansion, infrastructural development, improved staff and students’ welfare, campus beautification etc have attracted commendation from around the globe. The United States, Korea, Germany, Chinese, France, among other countries have visited Unical and rated him very highly.

Akpagu has also won retinue of awards within and outside the country for his sterling performance as VC.

From the traditional council, he has been honored by almost every single tribe in Cross River and some parts of Nigeria including the AREWA Youths Consultative Forum.

While all these commendations are highly revered and appreciated, the commendation from the big fish, the number one citizen of Nigeria, President Buhari has unarguably taken it to another level.

Buhari while delivering his speech as the  Guest of Honour commended Akpagu for being his partner in the fight against anti-corruption and terrorism by being the first University in the country to introduce Anti-Corruption and Ant-Terrorism Studies in the institution.

Recall that his change mantra from 2015 till date has been clothed around the fight against corruption and terrorism. And for the next generation to be completely free of these twin encumbrances, they ought to be properly exposed to the danger of corruption and terrorism.

Although there's no country that's completely free of corruption or crime, but , to curb the menace to barest minimum, the public, especially the youths need to be sensitized on the damage these social vices has done and is doing to the development of the country. Without proper awareness, the next generation may grow to believing that looting public funds or engaging in acts of terrorism are acceptable norms in the society.

Identifying this critical factor, the University last year officially added Anti-Corruption and Anti-Terrorism studies to its ever expanding programme. This of course, has not gone unnoticed as the President himself has lauded the VC and his management team for taking the lead.

He described the development as a very patriotic gesture even as he advised other institutions in the country to take a clue from Unical.

The president, represented by the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Usani Uhuru Usani, said: “I have been informed that your university is the first in the country to introduce anti-corruption and anti-terrorism studies in your General Studies curriculum.

“I commend you for that patriotic initiative and urge others to emulate your example in order to expand our capacity and compliment the efforts of government in the struggle to defeat the twin evil".

Beyond this, Akpagu also earned the President's praises for judiciously using the Tertiary Education Trust Fund, TETfund allocated to the university to transform the University in terms of infrastructure.

At a time that President Buhari is lampooning even his closest allies for misappropriation of public funds, Akpagu instead earned the President's praises for judiciously using public funds to develop the institution.

This is no mean feat, especially as the commendation is coming from a President with reputation for zero tolerance for corruption.

Buhari said that "I also commend management for making judicious use of scarce resources allocated to the institution via TETFUND.

“The projects that have been commissioned as well as other ongoing ones are a testimony of your prudence. Your choice of a solar-power project has shown the direction for solving our institutional power needs in Nigeria and I expect other universities to examine your example for their benefit".

Part of the projects the President Commissioned on Saturday is the 41- year old Faculty of Arts Annex which is currently housing three departments; Mass Communication and Digital Media, Fine and Applied Arts and Music.

Work commenced in the building in 1976 by the first VC of Unical and was abandoned afterwards. Akpagu met the building as an abandoned project as a student in Unical but when he assumed office, he vowed to complete and commission it before leaving, this he fulfilled on Saturday.

Outside this, the President also commissioned the ultramodern Dental Clinic. Unical is about the first university in Nigeria to establish such a well equipped modern dental clinic.

The clinic which was initially built to serve as Laboratory only for Faculty of Dentistry was upgraded to a Clinic when members of the NUC accreditation team in 2018 rated the facility as the best and most equipped dental facility in the country.

Other projects commissioned include Ultramodern ICT Laboratory, Faculty of Education Administrative block, female postgraduate hostel, amongst others.

If anti-corruption czar like President Buhari could commend a public servant in Nigeria for effective use of public funds, then Prof. Akpagu has not just passed integrity test but has cemented his place as one of the best administrators in Nigeria.

By advising other VCs to take a clue from Akpagu on how to use public funds as well as join him in the fight against corruption and terrorism by applying the Unical module in introducing Anti-Corruption and Anti-Terrorism studies, the President has by implication certified Akpagu as a manual not just for VCs but all public office holders in the country.

Like ever, the commendation from the President will only spur Akpagu to do even more even as Nigerians are also expecting President Buhari to reward his good work by giving him more work!

Indeed, President Buhari needs more of Akpagus in other federal institutions, Commissions, parastal, ministeries etc to help him deliver his NEXT LEVEL agenda for Nigerians.

Inyali Peter writes from Calabar.
UNICAL 6565158554243054615

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