With the smooth transition of power at the Michael Okpara University
of Agriculture, Umudike (MOUAU), Abia State,
Amby Uneze highlights the steady growth of academic excellence and infrastructure development at the institution

For the past one month, series of activities have been ongoing at the
Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike (MOUAU), Abia State in honour of the out-going Vice-Chancellor, Professor Hilary Edeoga. The programmes lined up for his pulling-out ceremony were spurred by the love the entire university community bestowed on him as a man who came, saw and conquered.
The standing ovation given to the out-going and the incoming Vice-
Chancellors, Edeoga and Professor Francis Ogbonnaya Otunta is as a
result of the solid foundation provided by the Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of the university’s Governing Council, Professor Anya O. Anya. Also the university community wants to reciprocate the love, unparalleled achievements, personal relationship and uncommon leadership qualities of Edeoga.
Little wonder, the valedictory lecture organised by the pulling-out
committee, chaired by the Registrar, Dr. Azubike Nwokocha was titled: ‘The Dignity of Labour: Pain or Gain?’ The lecture which was delivered by a renowned clergy, Most Rev. Matthew Hassan Kukah, the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese recently, dwelt on the need for one to strive hard to make a mark while holding public office.

In a nutshell, Edeoga no doubt, for the five years he was vice-chancellor of MOUAU can carry his shoulder high as one who not only transformed the university as a higher institution for excellence but also took it to greater height.
One recalls the observation of members of the senate committee on
education of the last administration about the management of the university.
Notwithstanding the inadequate funding the committee after a tour of facilities at the institution, commended Edeoga for his resourcefulness and running the university effectively without neither the students nor academic and non-academic staff declaring trade disputes or industrial actions against his administration apart from those declared nationally at different times.
A score card released recently by Anya tagged ‘MOUA Score Card’ for the period 2011-date, showed that the university grew three times more than it did prior to 2011. It also stated that the number of academic programmes, which was 43 in 2011, rose to 59 while the number of undergraduates increased from 7,413 for the period under review to its current 20,253 figure.
Similarly, the number of postgraduate students rose from 1,145 in 2011
to 1,945 in 2015 bringing the total number of students on campus from
10,976 in 2011 to 30,602 in 2015.
There were also increases in the number of colleges, as well as teaching
and non-teaching staff. Colleges, which were nine in 2011 increased to
13 in 2015; the number of teaching staff increased from 306 in 2011 to
771 in 2015 and non-teaching staff increased from 876 in 2011 to 1,804
in 2015, bringing the total number of employees to its present 2,675
from the 1,182 in 2011.
According to the scorecard, a total of 94 projects were started, out of which 81 were completed, some already inaugurated, while
others are awaiting inauguration and others at different stages of
completion. Some of the completed projects were internal roads,
library, laboratories, demonstration secondary school and tourism
The projects also include university FM radio station; 10 student
hostels; college blocks; auditoriums; water boreholes; 40 intra-campus
shuttle taxi cabs; five intra-campus coaster buses; two outside
university shuttle buses and university micro-finance bank, among
others, some of which were inaugurated by the former
President/visitor to the university, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan.
Stressing that focusing on a mission pays, Anya attributed the multiplicity of projects to hard work, prudent management, determination, teamwork and zero inclination to corruption.
“Where there is corruption, project execution would not go on and be completed. Why we get TETFund’s backing is because we comply strictly with its policy of commencing projects, completing and accounting for them.”
While decrying the problem of poor funding affecting Nigerian universities over the years, he said “many of the projects we did were funded by agencies of government like the Central Bank, TETFund, Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), among others. TETFund has given us more projects because we are very fast in executing and accounting for them. We also used other means to attract projects. This is made possible when you have a dynamic and resourceful vice-chancellor like we have now.”
Beyond inadequate funding, he said the institution is also faced with the
problem of host communities reselling some of its parcels of land, which compensations had earlier been paid, while some communities do not allow the university free access to develop parts of its plots of land.
Another milestone at the university is the introduction of new
academic courses, including medicine, mass communications, among others, as well as ensuring that it hired appropriate personnel in addition to improving existing facilities or constructing new ones to support the new programmes.
For the promotion of industrial harmony, both academic and non-academic staff got their promotions as at when due and were
sponsored to training and retraining programmes, seminars and workshops within and outside the country.
Within the period under review, 26 academic staff were promoted
professors; 10 associate professors; 126 staff got elevated, 34
appointed head and or acting heads of departments. A total of 77
academic staff benefited from training and development programmes; 237 staff benefited from TETFund-sponsored courses/trainings within
Nigeria and abroad.
Edeoga, who was appointed the fourth substantive vice-chancellor of
the university in 2011 after serving two terms as deputy vice-chancellor, had also served as commissioner for agriculture and natural research, Enugu State (2007-2009); senior research adviser, Shell Petroleum Development Company Nigeria Ltd, Port Harcourt (2006-2007); dean, College of Natural and Applied Science, MOUAU (2009-2011); head,  Department of Biological Science MOUAU (2000-2001); consultant to NDDC on agricultural an environmental issues 2005 to date, among others.
While the current governing council headed by Anya came into being in 2013 with the desire to leave a legacy for quality infrastructure and academic excellence built on trusted and tested individuals, his quest for performance led his council to figure out another achiever and believer of discipline and excellence- Prof. Otunta, former rector of Akanu Ibiam Federal Polytechnic, Afikpo, Ebonyi State; a professor of mathematics. It is on record that Otunta transformed the polytechnic from a ‘glorified secondary school’ to a tertiary institution of repute. The selection process of the fifth substantive vice-chancellor of MOUAU could not have gone smoothly without subterranean horse-trading.
Such things are normal in a sensitive position like the search of a
vice-chancellor of a reputable institution like MOUAU.

Anya used the occasion of the seventh convocation ceremony of the institution recently to bring these facts to light so as to douse the tension the succession struggle had ignited in the university. He said they would have loved the emergence of a new vice-chancellor from the school to succeed Edeoga for continuity sake, but the selection board could not lower the standards in order to satisfy individual aspirations.

Prior to the appointment of Otunta, there was burning ambition
in the institution for an internal candidate to succeed Edeoga.
Giving a vivid account of the selection process in his convocation
address, the pro-chancellor narrated the course of the exercise which
culminated in Otunta’s appointment as the new vice-chancellor.
“There were 32 applicants, but only 17 survived the rigorous short-listing requirements. Although the short-listing is expected to be done by the selection board, the pro-chancellor as chairman preferred that this should be done transparently and should involve the entire council. “Thereafter, the members of the selection board did the actual job of scoring the candidates according to the criteria in the guidelines (for appointment of vice-chancellors and rectors for federal universities and polytechnics).”
In this effort, he said each member of the selection board had to defend his score on each of the candidates and on each of the criteria. It was after this rigorous process that the selection board sent three names as required by the guidelines to the council. The top three scored 79 per cent, 76 per cent and 67 per cent respectively.
“It is pertinent to note that it had been the hope of the council that in the interest of continuity, one of the internal candidates would have emerged. However, the odds were high. While four of the
external candidates hold first class degrees in their various
disciplines, all the four internal candidates hold second class (lower division) degree and none scored above 65 per cent.
“I have given this extensive explanation because all sorts of false
and tendentious claims have been made through text messages and on the internet, I have been told. In reaction to these false and
tendentious claims, highly respectable senior citizens of Abia State
have been misled into less than dignified position on this matter.
“The challenge before us is to build a world-class university in the
state befitting Michael Okpara after whom this university is named and
befitting Nigeria’s foremost scientist, Prof. Eni Njoku, who also is a
citizen of Abia State.”
Anya maintained that “the academic leader of our university must be
one who can inspire our students and professors that he leads. Abia
State deserves no less. We must prepare our staff and students, the
youths of Abia and the aspiring intellectuals of the state. We must not lower the bar to meet individual aspirations or drop the ball in the pursuit of less than excellent and noble goals.
We must continue to produce students who are worthy in character and
learning. If this is so, we cannot expect their teachers to aspire to
lower standards.”
Anya therefore appealed to staff and students to continue to maintain
the dignity of MOUAU and the exemplary decorum for which they were
known. “There can only be one vice-chancellor at a time who must be an outstanding leader of the team, particularly the professoriate. We
must always aim high in this university.”
“The demands for the academic and administrative leader of such a university (as MOUAU) must be on the basis of excellent academic and intellectual pedigree and track record of exceptional performance.
“I am, therefore, happy that the governing council, with the active
cooperation and involvement of the senate has found and appointed a
new vice-chancellor for this university with effect from the first day of
March, 2016. He is an outstanding professor who made first class
at the foundation of his academic career.”

Otunta with his rich background as a former two-time rector of a
federal tertiary institution, was also the Director, Central
Records Processing Unit, Vice-Chancellor’s office, University of Benin
(UNIBEN); Head of Mathematics Department, UNIBEN.

He was also the Executive Editor, Benin Journal of Mathematical Science; Deputy Director of Research, Department of Mathematics and Computer Science, UNIBEN; External Examiner to various universities; Departmental Postgraduate Coordinator, Examinations Officer, Faculty of Science, UNIBEN, among others.
Otunta, who is happily married to Bertha with six children, was born on April 29, 1958. He hails from Amangwu Nkpoghoro Village in Afikpo North Local Government Area, Ebonyi State.
His new position has been described as a call to serve his fatherland again in a higher and more responsive position. His predecessor will not be disappointed because he is sure that the legacies he left behind would be nurtured and improved on.