VCship : Who becomes Unical next 'Mr. Project'?

By Inyali Peter

As the workaholic 10th Vice Chancellor of the University of Calabar, Prof. Zana Akpagu nicknamed "Mr. Project" prepares to bow out in style later this year, as expected in a transition year, many Professors have come out to jostle for the seat.

Some of the names making the headline as people with interest are Prof. Ndem Ayara (Economics) Prof. Joseph Asor (Biological Science); Prof Offiong Offiong (Chemistry); Prof Francis Bisong (Geography) and Prof Florence Obi, (Education).
Others are Prof. Patrick Asuquo (Education Administration); Eyong Ubana (English); Prof Benedict Ita (Chemistry) and  Prof Anne Asuquo (Medical Microbiology).

In a contest such as this, anybody who's qualified is always within his or her right to show interest but as the cliche goes, 'there can only be one Captain on a ship', Unical, in the end would only have one Vice Chancellor whose emergence would not only be determined by the criteria set up by the governing in the advertisement but some salient issues which has ensued Unity and smooth running of the University in the past fifteen years.

One of such issue is zoning. 

So many people have come up with the argument that since it's academic, the conventional zoning which has held sway in secular politics as well as the University shouldn't play a role in deciding who becomes the next Vice Chancellor. Those with this opinion have forgotten that even in the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria, there's something called Federal Character Act. 

The Federal Character Act may not outrightly be called zoning but it seeks to serve the same purpose as zoning; equitable distribution of political offices and projects across the regions and federating units. 

The anti-zoning crusaders have always argued that zoning breeds mediocrity but nothing can be farther than the truth. This is because Nigeria has grown to a level where every single federating unit have competent and qualified people for any kind of office including President. The only problem is that politicians and lead actors who decide who gets what must times only take zoning as the only criterion and not in addition to other criteria like competence, capacity, experience, transparency, accountability etc. It shouldn't only be about zoning, other factors should be considered to ensure the right person is chosen from the favoured zone.

 For Unical, those who are holding out that zoning of the VCship position should continue are not in anyway saying that as a federal University, it should just observe the federal Character act by allowing anybody from the favoured zone to succeed 'Mr. Project' but only arguing that it should be used in addition to other factors that would not undermine the development of the University.

Besides, it's also important to remind those attempting to undermine zoning that, if today they feel zoning shouldn't be in the academic, they should remember that they will be shooting themselves on the foot and also making the efforts of those who fought that the position should remain within the state useless. 
Prof. Zana Akpagu, Unical VC

This is because if they are saying there should be no zoning then they don't have the justification to say that Nigerians of other climes shouldn't have interest for the top job. While they've the right to push their positions, they should also be reminded that the years where the Housas and the Yorubas dominated indigenes in the University can resurface in view of their agitations.

Nevertheless, with the emergence of Prof. Akpagu in 2015 as the first man from Cross River North Senatorial district to be VC, the position has now gone round the three Senatorial districts being that he took over from Prof. James Epoke (Central) who succeeded Prof. Asuquo from the South. With this, it's obvious that the pendulum has naturally swang to the South.

However, they're people who also have opined that since the South have produced more VCs than any other zone in the state, the position should be opened for any zone or even go to another zone completely. Most of the people putting up this argument are of course from the Central who just left the seat five years ago. But as beautiful as the idea seems, if it goes through, it'll break the circle as well as effect the peace and unity the University have been enjoying in the past fifteen years. 

Again, it's absolutely wrong for some Cross Riverians to use the good deed of the South for the state against them. At the time the South produced VCs back to back, it's an open secret that other zones were yet to have Professors who were qualified for the position. What the State did then was to rally round people who had the courage and requisite qualification to send the Yorubas and Housas who dominated the University packing. They didn't offer themselves as Southerners but as Cross Riverians who were deeply concerned that in other Universities, non-indigenes were not allowed to be VC but in Unical, they held sway. This gesture deserves commendation and not the other way round.

It's worthy of note that any attempt to hijack the position from the South may have a boomerang effect. The peace and unity enjoyed in the University is the most important thing and should be held sacred as no development can take place in a hostile environment. Five years is not five hundred years, those with interest from other zones, should wait. The South may be quite now but nobody should take their silence for cowardice because an attempt to take their due would provoke the people to remind everybody that they're the host community.

Without equivocation, the next VC ought to and should go to the South. And even in the South, the Efik which remains the only bloc yet to produce VC should be favoured for the position. This is because all the VCs that have come from the South are either the from Ejagham speaking or Biase. 

The good thing is that of all those who have indicated interest, the only Efik man in the race, Prof. Ndem Ayara's profile and antecedents place him above others. In terms of charisma, competence and capacity to sustain the lofty strides of the incumbent administration where he's serving as a Deputy Vice Chancellor, Academic, he stands taller than everybody.
Prof. Ndem Ayara

Ayara, a former Economic Adviser to the Governor who has  grown through the ranks as a former Head of Department, Sub Dean,  Dean for two terms, Chairman of Committee of Deans and now Deputy Vice Chancellor has shown enormous capacity with impressive records of performance in all the previous positions he has held. He's not just a performer but an uncommon transformer with extraordinary ideas to ensure the University remain on the path of sustainable development.

UNICAL 6334886902074684954

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