‘Denial of accreditation should spur thorough reassessment, wise investment by schools’
Vice Chancellor, Ebonyi State University (EBSU), Abakaliki, Prof. Frank Idike, who met an avalanche of unaccredited academic programmes upon his appointment, says the denial of accreditation by the National Universities Commission (NUC), is a good opportunity for universities’ helmsmen to reevaluate their programmes and introspect. In this interview with UJUNWA ATUEYI, he also urged them to embrace dialogue in order to get the best from their workforce.
Why are most university administrators constantly at loggerheads with staff members?
Approach, dialogue and openness are very crucial in handling and managing people. A university environment harbours people from diverse backgrounds, with unequal understanding. This, every university administrator must realise. I have been in the university system for a very long time. At the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN), I served as head of department, dean of study and deputy vice chancellor. In most of these positions, I interacted with different kinds of people including students. Then, Prof. Chinedu Nebo was my vice chancellor. In those days, once members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) bring up their issues, he would always assign me to attend to them. So, I am experienced in handling ASUU issues.
However, when I came here, I made all staff members to understand that we are all here for one common goal, which is to offer quality teaching to Nigerian students, and engage in groundbreaking researches that would yield dividends to our state and the country, among others. Therefore you cannot place yourself as an administrator in a cocoon. You must relate with the staff unless you have something to hide. In other words, dialogue and openness are key to running a university, besides your lifestyle, integrity and honesty, are also imperative.
So why the switch from UNN to EBSU?
At UNN, I was the deputy vice chancellor and there was nothing attractive in coming to EBSU, apart from the fact that I happen to be from the state. When the governor called me, I told him I am happy and satisfied where I am. I, however, heeded to his call because it came from my governor, else I may not be able to go to my village again, if I had said no!
As a young university, and a state-owned institution, finances weren’t good and things were not moving very well. When I first came, nothing moved the way I expected, leaving me with no option than to do practically everything. I had to write my own memos and do everything. The worst aspect was that I didn’t see that enthusiasm in people. You saw young people with good certificates, but they never showed any determination to grow or to develop themselves. People were only interested in what they would benefit. Nobody saw the place as the place that gives me my monthly income and a major asset of the state, even though most of them were indigenes. That was the scenario I met. Seven years along the line. I begin to feel that my experience here is not a waste. I came here December in 2009 and by the Grace of God, I will retire, November 2017.
How is the attitude of the people now?
Quite a number of them have improved tremendously, and I can easily count up to eight faculty members that are determined and have showed class internationally. One Dr. Uneke has had about five research grants from World Health Organisation (WHO), since I came. He succeeded in attracting a WHO centre to this school based on the result of his research. WHO established four of these centres in four continents, and the one for Africa is housed in Ebonyi State, and that is what makes me very happy.
There is another one Oguji, gunning for associate professorship. But all the three external assessors remarked thus, ‘promote, but sir if you permit me, I suggest that this young man be promoted as a professor,” the first, second and third report.’ All three reports say the same thing. So, I am proud of my faculty members.
There is another lady from Ohaukwu, Prof. Oselebe, she did her PhD at UNN and was the best graduating PhD student then. This lady since I came, there is no year she doesn’t attend international conference at least five times, none sponsored by EBSU. She was always invited, and she has won international laurels. I can count all. When I reflect and see these happenings, I feel good in comparison with what was the case when I just arrived.
What have your accomplishments been so far?
When I came here, the first accreditation academic programmeswas very poor as we had about 11 programmes okayed, 25 interim accreditation, and six denied. Though I was not happy with the outcome, but I accepted it because what we had is what we deserved, and what we got will guide us in the future. What used to happen in some universities, when the National Universities Commission (NUC) visit for accreditation, is that some of these universities would rent staff, buses, and other learning facilities in order to raise their status. It is a very bad practice.
But today and up to 2019, we have 31 academic programmes with full accreditation, and we have 15 academic programmes with full accreditations up to 2020. Right now, we have three denials for which I’m very happy. Once you have interim, full or denied accreditation, it is a good opportunity for administrators to introspect, and not to be sad about it. Accreditation denial should spur you to look into the affected programmes with a view to investing rightly in them.
Is borrowing equipment for accreditation purposes not a criminal act?
It is simply to gain full accreditation status in a misleading way. When I came here, in December 2009… I started hearing different stories about the 2007 accreditation that most people talked about. Within two weeks in office, a chief nursing officer of the state came here crying. She was a member of nursing council and she guaranteed this university. During that accreditation exercise, the team asked her if all the equipment there were ours, and she said yes. So, she came crying because three months after, there was nothing in the laboratory. They were all borrowed.
In fact, not only borrowed, one of the people they borrowed from, also called me that thy have even refused to return what they borrowed. But NUC has put measures in place to regulate those sharp practices. So, these are some of the things that if there is anything I should be happy about, our present accreditation status is a big plus to us.