Prof. Charles Igwe and the prize of honour in UNN

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Honour is a virtue that is no longer in vogue in most modern societies. It is the least talked about of all virtues. In fact it is almost honourable to be dishonest provided the stakes are high and the benefits will fall down heavily. The antithetical and immoral philosophy of the end shall justify the means is widely held as a standard.  All that is important is to have money; nobody cares where the money is coming from. Not so long ago there was dignity in labour but in our present world, making money without honest labour is glorified even by some religious organisations. People with questionable sources of wealth are given awards of recognition and ‘honour’ in the society.

The notion that certain actions will bring shame and stain a man’s reputation is archaic for many people. In cultured and civilised societies, people killed and died to protect their names, families, religions and social status. While it is debatable whether such actions are justifiable, the motive behind them buttresses conviction and the will to remain truthful to one’s value system. Musonius Rufus is quoted to have said, “If you accomplish something good with hard work, the labour passes quickly, but the good endures; if you do something shameful in pursuit of pleasure, the pleasure passes quickly, but the shame endures.”

In our hedonistic Nigerian culture where pleasure rules supreme, it is not uncommon to find leaders who are more interested in primitive accumulation and show of affluence than actually being of service. With a decaying infrastructure and weak social institutions, Nigeria’s wealth has become a curse rather than a blessing. While the wealth of Nigeria would have easily made her a paradise on earth, corruption, embezzlement and mismanagement of public funds has left us in this precarious situation we’ve found ourselves as a nation. The education sector which should have ordinarily formed men of conscience and integrity is not an exception. In all this rot, there are men and women who have distinguished themselves and proved that they are still honourable and would rather die than be caught up in the web of corruption and mismanagement of resources allocated for the common good. For this crop of patriotic Nigerians, honour ranks higher than riches, fame and pleasure.  Under such people, the saying that ‘when the just man rules, the people rejoice’ becomes a guiding principle.  One of such just and honourable man is the current vice-chancellor of University Of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN), Professor Charles Arizechukwu Igwe, and his loyal  management and staff who have been recognised by an international journalism platform, Freelance Journalists Federation (FJF) for  being the best Federal University in terms of judicious utilisation of TETFund interventions funds allocated to it.

It is not by accident that UNN’ has ranked as the best amongst all federal universities in Nigeria. While other beneficiaries prefer to divert the interventions to themselves and their cronies, the workaholic VC of UNN is first and foremost concerned with the welfare of staff and students of UNN. For instance, unlike what happens in other institutions, the relationship between the management of UNN and the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Non-academic Staff Union (NASU) and other unions is very cordial and mutually beneficial.  Not just that he makes sure their educational and research, as well as financial demands are met promptly, Prof Igwe has ensured conducive office accommodations for all staff to facilitate research and teaching. Not only that, professor Igwe has created a flexible system for accessing research funds and grants for academics to enhance their skills in order to  compete with their counterparts elsewhere. Timely, transparent and objective staff promotion has been another area the university has paid premium attention. These and many more are the giant strides of Professor Charles Igwe in staff welfare.

It is on record that UNN has sponsored more staff for PhDs and masters per capita than any other federal University in Nigeria. Special allocations are made for staff development before anything else. This is because the VC has taken it upon himself to ensure that the university is well staffed with qualified and highly trained staff. While most universities prefer sponsoring staff for further studies locally within Nigeria probably so they can feed fat on what is left, Prof. Igwe prefers to expose staff to global standards so that they can come back and be change makers. Similarly, there is always periodic staff recruitment to ensure that no staff is overloaded. That is what you get for appointing someone who is qualified and honourable into a position of authority.

Before the coming of Prof Igwe and his team, UNN had a chronic shortage of student accommodation and an epileptic power supply. Water supply on the campus, especially the hostels, was to say the least abysmal. It is heartwarming to note that within a short period of his administration, UNN students are full of praises for Prof. Igwe because he has revolutionised infrastructure development in the university. One wonders what the past vice chancellors were doing with allocated funds. It is not just in the area of infrastructural development that UNN students are grateful to the VC. Professor Igwe has also revived their once comatose Student Union Government (SUG) and given them a voice to independently and fearlessly speak for the students. This is unlike in some universities where there is always a rift between students and management. Most times those disagreements lead to destruction of lives and property thereby hampering development. This is not the case in UNN’ as staff, students and the management are working as a team, hence the massive level of development.

It is not uncommon to find shabbily done jobs in most federal universities; contracts when awarded at all are given to friends and family members regardless of their competency. Due process in the award of contracts is relegated to the background. In most cases, buildings that have not been occupied require a series of renovations before commissioning because they were badly implemented. Professor Igwe does not give room for quackery in his award of contracts.  It is either a contractor bids and is qualified or he can not be given a contract. No wonder FJF has found him worthy for his honourable conduct and desire to utilise every penny made available for the development of the school in a sincere manner. By this approach, instead of using scarce resources to renovate badly done jobs, professor Igwe initiates new projects immediately funds are released, a feat that has endeared him to the entire UNN community and the funding agency.

Recall that TETFund once cried out that university management and lecturers are using funds meant for research to marry more wives, build houses and acquire chieftaincy titles. Although the allegation was swiftly denied by members of the academia in Nigeria, there were elements of truth in it. Many lecturers collected funds for workshops, seminars, conferences that were never attended and researches that were never done. Prevalent as this trend has become in some universities because honour is no longer tenable, UNN has distinguished itself as the University with high staff productivity. The inventions and patents from UNN’ are a clear testimony of the selfless and committed leadership of the vice- chancellor. The staff and management prioritise research and innovations which is why the university is recognised by FJF in her 2021 assessment of Nigerian federal universities. 

To whom much is given, much is expected. The huge sums of money expended by TETFund in recent times are enough to transform higher education in Nigeria, but the reverse is sadly the case. Other Nigerian universities should, therefore, be challenged by this act of recognition given to UNN for being prudent and transparent in the utilisation of funds allocated to it. This should serve as a wake-up call to the management of other federal universities that there’s a reward for hard work and that honour is more than fame and riches.  If every leader is honourable and sincere in the discharge of duty, Nigeria will be great again and corruption, embezzlement and mismanagement of funds will die a natural death.

…Semaka, the convener of Save Nigeria Movement, writes from Abuja

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