By Paul Obi
The year 2020 will remain in the annals of history as an unpredictable, turbulent and awesome year. It’s a year historians will crack their brains trying to figure out the origin of its many troubles and even mystique powers, brought about by the Coronavirus pandemic. Beyond the eerie mood of the year, pundits would also be free to tag 2020, the year of women. The year, gender equality advocacy took a turn for the better. In the coastal town of Calabar, where University of Calabar is located, history has also been made with the appointment of the first female vice-chancellor of the ivory tower by the university’s Governing Council after 45 years of its existence.
The pronouncement by the University of Calabar’s Governing Council that it has appointed Prof. Florence Obi as the 11th and first female Vice-Chancellor of the university was received with great aplomb and celebration. Specifically, it was not a mean feat. A peep into the screening and interview conducted for the 11 candidates, indicated that Prof. Obi came top in the exercise. Obi, an educationist by training has ascended the vice-chancellor position upturning history and shattering societal limitations that often obstructed women from rising.
Obi’s trajectory in teaching, public service and university administration comes with full pack experience and the know-how that will assist her to navigate and run the University of Calabar, repositioning the institution to a global one. From being the Dean of Faculty of Education, to Deputy Vice- Chancellor, Commissionerfor Women Affairs in Cross River State and a UNESCO Chief Consultant, she comes into the job as a VC with all the trappings of a good fit and technocrat ready to deliver on day one. With degrees from the Universities of Jos, Calabar; University of Glasgow, United Kingdom, she has the requisite knowledge and capacity to lead the university to its anticipated glory land.
As a bonafide indigene of Boki Local Government Area of Cross River State, Obi will be stepping into the plum post of VC that had been occupied by another Boki erudite scholar, Prof. Kelvin Etta. Not only that, Obi’s appointment will surely be a triumph that even late Boki illustrious sons and daughters like Prof. Sr Theresa Abang- Nigeria’s first Professor of Special Education, Rev. Fr Dr. Nicholas Obi, AIG Dr. Rose Abang Wushishi, Chief Michael Etta Ogon, Chief. M.T. Mbu and others will be applauding her even in their graves.
Beyond that, the onerous task of overseeing University of Calabar is never going to be a tea party or a walk in the park. It comes with great responsibilities that Prof. Obi must painstakingly thread carefully. In an era when vice-chancellors in Nigerian universities move around with some gusto and as demigod, Prof. Obi’s target and agenda should only be fixated on the golden crown. The University of Calabar under her watch should strive to join the league of Universities of Cape Town, Ibadan, Nsukka and Lagos as African best. Given the strategic location of the university, in the Gulf of Guinea, with students from Cameroun, Equatorial Guinea, Central African Republic, the University of Calabar has the potential of becoming a global institution in Strategic Studies, Maritime and many other areas.
There is also the urgency to do away with the comatose university system and embrace new technologies and digitization in the running of the university. The in-coming VC must do everything within her capacity to end the blood-sucking and fatalistic activities of cultists. Within that axis, the quality of girl-child and female education has regrettably been deteriorating. There are fears that in the nearest future, there will no longer be women that have stood the test of time like the late sage, Margaret Ekpo; Late Sen. Rose Oko; Eno Traore, Cecilia Onor, and even the present crop of women leaders like Senator Florence Ita-Giwa, former first ladies, Mrs. Obioma Liyel Imoke, Mrs. Onari Duke, former Head of Sevice of the Federation (HOSF), Winifred Oyo-Ita, current Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Tina Agbor, among others. The gap in girl-child education is one critical area the University of Calabar can explore for improvement so that young girls can tomorrow measure up to the afore-mentioned amazons and women leaders.
Just as the university’s Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of the Governing Council, Senator Nkechi Nwaogu stated during the announcement of the new VC, what is expected of Obi is for her to be “an integrative agent,” bringing to bear her experience and motherly touch to “motivate staff and students.” It is therefore incumbent on her to be a team player in all ramifications. Where others have ran the university as a personal and clannish enterprise, let Obi pursue inclusiveness.
Where others have focused more on peepshow and window-dressing, let her template be altruistic and people-oriented. Where others have been consumed by the paraphernalia of the VC’s office, let her be humble, chasing the stars, glory and networking with the alumni to make the university great.
By this very appointment and feat, University of Calabar and Cross River State appear to be pushing the frontiers of history beyond the scope of ordinary. To say the least, the appointment amounts to a charm offensive against the vagaries of inequality in whatever form and tenor. It fittingly underscores the broad thinking expected in a university environment. More fundamentally, Obi needs to go beyond the grip-and-grin of the appointment and display her astute qualities. The optics of her legacy as the 11th and first female Vice-Chancellor of University of Calabar should be the one that Nostradamus, the great French astrologer would be excavated to document for the benefit of all. Wish you well and may your God guide you. Congratulations!
Obi, a journalist, wrote from Abuja