The VC'S Inaugural Speech

THE INAUGURAL ADDRESS PRESENTED TO THE UNIVERSITY COMMUNITY BY THE VICE CHANCELLOR, MICHAEL OKPARA UNIVERSITY OF AGRICULTURE, UMUDIKE, FRANCIS OGBONNAYA OTUNTA, PHF, FNATE, FIIA,JP.

B.Sc. Industrial Mathematics(First Class Honours) (Benin),1982; M.Sc. Mathematics(Ibadan),1985; Ph.D Mathematics(Ilorin),1991; MNCS, MCPS, MNAMP, MNMS, MMAN, Listed in Nigeria Who is Who in Management Intelligence(2010 Edition).

Professor of Mathematics and Vice-Chancellor, Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike.

 MARCH 01, 2016

 

1.0                    PREAMBLE

1.0.1              With humility and honour, I warmly welcome everyone to this august gathering. I am extremely overwhelmed to stand before a noble assemblage of this nature to give an address as the fifth Vice – Chancellor of Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike. To God be the glory. In a reminiscence, the journey to this possibility started when I saw the advertisement for prospective candidates to apply for the position of Vice Chancellor of Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike. Then, I reflected on my administrative pedigree and considered myself suitable to serve in such capacity. Without hesitation, I submitted the relevant papers, after which I was invited to appear before a high-powered panel of judges who after critical scrutiny of our profiles and personalities, validated my confidence. Actually it was a struggle amongst many very powerful contenders. Naturally, no struggle is ever easy. But I survived above others through God’s providence. On this premise, I most sincerely express my profound gratitude to the Almighty and ever living God who made it possible for the panelists to be fair, just and transparent in the selection process. This day is a reality because of their non-sentimental, impervious and objective judgment.

1.0.2              It is also my pleasure to panegyrize the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, President Muhammadu Buhari; GCFR for his confirmation and consent to the impeccable judgment of the members of council in the selection process. My Administration will remain loyal and do everything germane in the promotion of the change mantra of the Federal Government especially in areas it affects educational policies. In the same vein, the Honourable Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu is fondly appreciated for rising above bureaucratic bottlenecks and ensuring that the result of the panelists was brought to the President’s attention with dispatch.

1.0.3              To give honour to whom honour is due, my heartfelt appreciation also goes to the Chancellor of the University, His Royal Highness, Alhaji Abubakar Shehu Abubakar III, the Emir of Gombe, for his royal elegance and purposeful representations. The Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of Council, Professor Anya O. Anya; FAS NNOM, OFR, and members of his crew are esteemed for being instruments in God’s hands to reshape history through the opportunity given to me to render this peculiar service to mankind, and for providing quality leadership and direction. I also eulogize the immediate past Vice Chancellor, Prof. Hilary Odo Edeoga for his sportsmanship, prudent management, and dedication, who despite the paucity of revenue from the Federal sources, was able to mobilize funds to execute laudable projects and provision of other key facilities that made the Institution to be ranked amongst the fastest growing Federal Universities in the Country. I also doff my cap for the existing Management team for their resourceful and sagacious assistance that made the immediate past Vice Chancellor a pearl of unquantifiable value. The Professors, my colleagues in this knowledge-transfer industry, the entire staff and students, are honourably appreciated for the synergy that has helped to move the Institution to its present enviable height.

 

2.0        HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

2.0.1    I know it may be inexpedient to bore you with details of the historical background of the Institution as most of you have been here since inception but there is an Igbo proverb that says: “He who does not know where rain started beating him, may not know where it stopped”. So, I crave your indulgence for a synoptic presentation as it will guide our policy trusts.

Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike, came into existence precisely on the 13th day of November, 1992 when the Federal Government of Nigeria promulgated the Federal Universities of Agriculture Decree 1992 (also cited as Decree No 48 of 1992). This enabling law culminated in the appointment of the pioneer Governing Council led by Alhaji Mohammad Liman and the first Vice – Chancellor, Prof. Placid Njoku. The Institution effectively took off on May 3, 1993 when the University admitted its foundational students. At the epoch of the Institution’s history, only Eighty-two (82) students were enrolled to pursue various courses of study. This figure is at great variance with the recent statistics that put the students’ population at about Twenty-seven Thousand, Seven Hundred and Fifty (27,750) undergraduates, Four Thousand, Five Hundred and Ninety-eight (4,598) post graduates and Six Thousand, Seven Hundred and Thirty (6,730) part-time students at the Continuing Education Centre. This brings the total number of Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike students to Thirty-nine Thousand and Seventy-eight (39,078). What a massive quantum jump.

My Administration’s intention is to exceed the horizon of existing academic programmes, coupled with the ever skyrocketing demand for the acquisition of tertiary education, and mostly the nation’s recent focus on agrobusiness as an alternative revenue base of the economy, the students’ population is bound to explode. Also from the diminutive core members of staff that leant immense support to the then Vice – Chancellor in his pioneering efforts of laying a formidable foundation for the Institution, the University now has a staff strength of Three Thousand and Eighty-two (3,082) as at February 29, 2016. This is made up of Two Thousand, One Hundred and Eighty-four (2,184) non-teaching staff and a teaching staff with about Eighty (80) Professors standing at Eight Hundred and Nineteen (819).

2.0.2       LOCATION

Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike, is situated in an axis along the road from Umuahia to Ikot Ekpene. Its location is ten kilometers East of Umuahia, the Abia State Capital. Umudike and other host neighbours are agrarian communities. This brings to fore the role of the University as one specializing in agriculture and related programmes. The University inherited the immovable facilities and properties of former Federal College of Agriculture which has been moved to Ishiagu in Ivo Local Government Area of Ebonyi State. The National Root Crops Research Institute has common boundaries and share facilities with the University.

At inception, there existed a cordial relationship between the University and the host communities. The story is different now. There are reports of some of the host communities illegally reselling parcels of the University land, despite compensation already paid by Government, some communities are also said to be of the habit of not allowing free access to sites where the University’s developmental projects are to be executed. Being careful not to sound as an optimist, I want to allay your fears by assuring you that my administration would employ all diplomatic ethos to enshrine tranquility through amicable resolution of the issues.

3.0      VISION AND MISSION

The process adopted by the University thus far, of training its students to become professionally competent and confident graduates with exquisite dexterity, attracted me to seek to become a major stakeholder in the actualization of the noble vision and mission of the University.

3.0.1    VISION

The vision of the University is to be foremost Institution for producing highly-rated graduates in Agriculture, Science and Technology, and to be a vehicle for the primary goals of the National Agricultural Policy of self-sufficiency in food and fibre production. As it is rightly said, a vision is an insight into the future. The vision envisaged now, for it is in tandem with the ideals of the change mantra of the present Federal administration. Agriculture was the mainstay of the nation’s economy in the first Republic. This was before the oil boom. Now due to the downswing of the economy as a result of the depression in oil market, emphasis is being shifted back to agriculture as a major revenue base of the nation. I believe this is achievable. And that brings to front burner, the role our University is to play in actualization of such policy. The success of yester years was achieved without the current technological techniques available in food production. Technologies do not only account for bumper harvest but introduces crop and livestock species with quick growth and early maturity. Technologies come with a range of scientific tools that cannot be manipulated through gained experience or traditional skills but through professionally structured educational processes.

This understanding inspired my career vision to guide Nigerian Education into 21st Century Global Compliance. Thus the vision of Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike, under my leadership can be succinctly put as follows: To be a model University of Agriculture which ranks among the best in the world and is responsive to the creative and innovative abilities of the Nigerian people in food and fibre production.

3.0.2       MISSION

The mission of Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike is to provide high quality practical training for students to become professionally competent and confident persons capable of self-employment to develop environment – friendly and people – sensitive technologies, and to enhance the well-being of people, through extension and other interventions. The Nigerian agrarian practice faces a lot of hiccups through adoption of wrong technologies that are at variance with, and inappropriate to, the Nigerian production environment. Our agricultural research methodologies often fail to build on the practice and experience of the peasants whose problems the research is supposed to alleviate. They do not fully exploit the enormous amount of intellectual capital embedded in our traditional farming skills. A successful result of any agricultural research must have incorporated in the research process, information collected from the traditional small scale farmers whose production system and techniques have a track record of success against environmental vagaries and difficulties. It is to invigorate such ideology that my career mission is to uphold academic excellence and bring about general development of the tertiary institution. The mission of Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike under my watch will therefore be to develop the human mind to be creative, innovative, research oriented, competent in areas of specialization, knowledgeable in entrepreneurship, and dedicated to agricultural service to ensure self-sufficiency in food and fibre production.

4.0          PHILOSOPHY, STRENGTHS AND CHALLENGES

4.0.1       PHILOSOPHY

Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike has remained faithful to its founding philosophy, which is encapsulated in the motto: “Knowledge, Food and Security”, with a clear vision to serve Nigeria and indeed humanity through processes that will result in alleviation of hunger. Any wise nation will do everything possible to avoid the trap of reliance on imported food, and seek to achieve a high degree of self-reliance, if not self-sufficiency in food production. The original philosophy of the University was to contribute to Nigeria’s greatness through self-sufficiency in food and fibre production as disseminated through teaching, research, training and extension, enhanced by properly integrated and coordinated agricultural education; but this perspective quite early assumed a wider focus to embrace proper and deep teaching and research in Engineering Technology, Natural and Applied Sciences, and Management Sciences. The guiding philosophy of the University under my tutelage shall be the propagation of ‘Knowledge, Food and Security’ which is based on hardwork, industry, diligence, innovativeness, discipline, honesty, fairness, equity and scholarship.

4.0.2       STRENGTHS

We shall inject into Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike certain characteristics (strengths) that will make it a distinctive University of Agriculture in Nigeria. These include:

v  Good leadership with effective and efficient administration

v  High quality and variety of academic programmes

v  High quality of academic and non-academic staff

v  Absence of communal and sectarian strife within and around the University community

v  Development and full utilization of the exiting expansive land

v  Encourage the diversity of the University Staff and Students

v  Provision of support services including an in-and-out-patient health centre, good sporting facilities, full banking facilities within the University Campus, and therapeutic centre for staff to “rub off the dust of bit” on campus

v  Expansion of existing facilities

4.0.3       CHALLENGES

  • Despite the existing hostels for students, the former administration embarked on the construction of ten student hostel blocks, each having facilities designed to accommodate about four hundred students. On completion, it means the blocks will accommodate a total number of four thousand students. The sum of all spaces in the available hostels is still a far cry in solving accommodation problem of students based on existing demography. So my administration still has to face the challenge of insufficient students’ accommodation on campus. This usually results to overcrowding which often leads to indiscipline, depression, violence and infact low intake of fresh students by the University.
  • There was plan for a University Radio named “Green FM”. This was to assist in information dissemination about research findings, extension services and innovations. Research results are supposed to be disseminated in a manner and tone the beneficiaries of such results will understand profitable. This would have been a veritable medium to get the immediate environment within the aerial coverage of the station to be properly informed. But as it is now, the radio is not yet on air. This is a setback. This administration will tackle squarely this challenge. The radio will not only soon be on air, but mechanisms would be put in place to address problems of insufficient facilities for internal and external communications in the University.
  • The previous administration attracted a lot of projects funded by the Central Bank of Nigeria, Tertiary Education Trust Fund, Niger Delta Development Commission, and other Federal Government agencies. The exploding population of the staff of the University has made these projects inadequate. So we are still faced with the challenge of insufficient infrastructures of learning and teaching such as lecture theatre, classrooms, laboratories/studios, library facilities and office accommodation.
  • We are not oblivious of the recent industrial actions declared by Unions against the Management of Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike. I want to very humbly invite the Union leaders to note the fact that No war ends in the battle field. All disputes are usually resolved through negotiation, arbitration and eventually reconciliation. Please my dear colleagues, let us meet at the round table to resolve all the differences that seem to exist between Management and all or any Staff or even Students’ Unions. Please let us ensure that we get all these behind us before the end of the month of March 2016. We cannot achieve any of our goals when there is No peace in Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike. I therefore call on all of us ‘citizens’ of Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike to sue for peace and infact perfect peace in Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike today the 1st day of March 2016.

 

5.0           GOALS AND OBJECTIVES

5.0.1       OBJECTIVES

The University’s objectives are very well spelt out to guide any Head to effectively and efficiently achieve the set goals. We shall vigorously pursue these objectives, as outlined in the Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike Academic brief of April 2014 pp 7 -8 viz:

  1. to encourage the advancement of learning and to hold out to all persons without distinction of race, creed, sex or political conviction, the opportunity of acquiring a higher education in Agriculture;
  2. to develop and offer academic and professional programmes leading to the award of diplomas, first degrees, postgraduates research and higher degrees which emphasize planning, technical, maintenance, developmental and adaptive skills in Agriculture, Agricultural Engineering, Engineering Technology and allied professional disciplines with the aim of producing mature persons with capacity to improve on those disciplines and develop new ones, but also to contribute to the scientific transformation of agriculture in Nigeria;
  3. to act as agents and catalysts, through postgraduate training, research and innovation, for the effective and economic utilization, exploitation and conservation of Nigeria’s natural, agricultural, economic and human resources;
  4. to offer to the general population as a form of public service, the results of training and research in agriculture and allied disciplines, and to foster the practical application of those results.;
  5. to establish appropriate relationship with other national and international institutions involved in training, research and development of agriculture;
  6. to identify the agricultural problems and needs of Nigeria, and to find solutions to them within the context of overall national development;
  7. to provide and promote sound basic scientific training as a foundation for the development of agriculture and allied disciplines, taking into account indigenous culture, the need to enhance national unity, the need to vastly increase the adequate preparation of graduates for self-employment in agriculture and allied professions;
  8. to promote and emphasize teaching, research and extension of agricultural knowledge including agricultural extension services and out-reach programmes, in-service training, continuing education, and on-farm adaptive research;
  9. to offer academic programmes in relation to the training of manpower for agriculture in Nigeria;
  10. to organize extension services and outreach programmes for technology transfer;
  11. to organize research relevant to training in agriculture with emphasis on small scale farming;
  12. to establish institutional linkages in other to foster collaboration and integration of training, research and extension activities; and
  13. to undertake any other activities appropriate for Universities of Agriculture.

5.0.2       GOALS

In the next five years, my administration intends to concentrate its energy and resources on the well articulated actions plan tailored after the objectives for the achievement of our set goals, viz:

  1. to create an academic environment which is stimulating and challenging and which is conducive to effective teaching, learning and research;
  2.   to advance the frontiers of teaching, learning and research through an effective and judicious combination of the University programmes;
  3. to enhance staff training and research so as to entrench an enduring research tradition at least in the first instance by staff;
  4. to foster in the student body a sense of community and a new orientation consistent with primary purpose of a standard tertiary institution of producing disciplined, upright, cultured and patriotic citizens;
  5. to promote excellence in Agriculture, Science and Technology to meet the challenges of the global village;
  6. to expand the frontiers of training and service through the promotion of multi-disciplinary approaches in all the colleges;
  7. to strengthen the creative and innovation values and entrepreneurial capacities of all colleges and schools so as to make them more relevant to the national development process;
  8. to promote information and communications technology infrastructures in the University, so as to make them easily accessible to all members of the University community;
  9. to stimulate entrepreneurial competencies in the University; and
  10. to establish a strong, effective and efficient administration.

Our goal will be also to deepen the roots of knowledge in the existing programmes while exploring new areas and initiating the commencement of proposed programmes, like:

(a) Crop Genetics and Breeding;

(b) Irrigation and Water Mangement;

(c) Forest, Food Resources and Agro – Forest

(d) Wood Technology and Forest – based Industries

(e) Brewing and Fermentation Technology;

(f) Veterinary Anatomy

(g) Veterinary Medicine and Surgery

(h) Veterinary Philosophy, and Pharmacology

(i) Veterinary Pathology, Microbiology and Parasitology

(j) Veterinary Public Health and Preventive Medicine.

Furthermore, the observed eight programmes yet to take off out of the earlier thirty-three proposed post graduate programmes, shall form part of our academic projects.

6.0       MY ADMINISTRATIVE STYLE

6.0.1

  1. The Academic structure of Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike is patterned along the College / School / Department format. This is appropriate and will be retained;
  2. My Administration shall maintain the existing organogram of the University, while adopting a committee system in running the affairs of the University. It is my believe that the creative genius of every individual is stirred in issues that stimulate debate which do amount to indept analysis of a matter in a problem-solving exercise, and yield positive solutions;
  3. All officers of the University shall be given free hand to operate at their optimum for the overall achievement of our goals. Through a feedback mechanism, identified problem areas in management’s policies after impact assessment of the policies on both staff and students, are made known to avert crisis;
  4. There will be a weekly meeting of all principal officers to constantly monitor the tempo and review the functioning of all parts of the University;
  5. There shall be an Expanded Management Committee made up of all Principal Officers, Deans and Directors, which will meet at least once in three months to review the performance of the University;
  6. The Directors of Works, Physical Planning, Academic Planning, Information Communication Technology, Health Services and/or other members of the Expanded Management Committee may from time to time be invited to the weekly core Management meetings; and 
  7. Twice every semester, all Heads of Units / Departments will be invited to the meeting of the Expanded Management Committee.

6.0.2       STAFF WELFARE

There is a management philosophy which opines that people tend to follow a leader through whom they perceive their own personal aspirations shall be met. Let me vehemently aver before you all that staff welfare issues would remain fundamental in our symbiotic efforts of nation building and pursuit of attainment of the University goals. Any amongst you here cognizant of my antecedents would attest that I am not a novice in the art of making people happy and comfortable. By experience, I know that comfort provokes a man to give off his best and be more productive in his service delivery. Hence, efforts within the purview of our financial capability would be geared towards ensuring a conducive working atmosphere for the staff to enable each to contribute positively towards our efforts to make the University a world-class Institution. Part of the ideals of the change mantra of the Federal Government has hijacked salary payments through the Treasury Single Account Policy. Based on this, one cannot confidently vouch for a particular pay day for the workforce. But all documentations that would enhance early and quick response would be vigorously pursued on our own part. Also staff appraisals and promotions would be transparently and judiciously performed on and as at when due, without personal bias and any form of victimization. The feedback mechanism created in an appraisal modality would enable an aggrieved staff to notify management of any irregularities or perverted judgment. In the same vein, all qualified staff shall be encouraged to seek higher degrees both internally, and if the embargo being proposed against oversea trainings by the federal government is not feasible, then externally. Staff development through conferences, seminars and workshops shall also be given priority attention by my administration.

6.0.3       STUDENTS’ WELFARE

There is no gainsaying, the fact that students are the most important resources in this our knowledge – transfer industry. There is a public outcry about the declining quality of education in the country. Such outcry is justified. Education is the matrix for national development. It is just a system meant to develop the creative ability of individuals to make them productive and self-reliant. It must be admitted that the range of tools being used in the educational system today is wider and more sophisticated than what was available in the years past. Yet the academic products then were far better. It is people that make a system to work. You are the people. Educational excellence comes through hard work, dedication, self-discipline, respect for others, and obedience to constituted authorities. You are not just here for the acquisition of literacy and numerical efficiency or other skills. Nor are you here to be prepared as employable entities after your sojourn. But you are here to acquire the knowledge that foster values which makes for good citizenship. My administration would within our ability adequately provide the amenities and facilities in the context of global best practices to ensure such dream becomes a reality. We would pattern the scope of the curricular and content of your programmes in tune with established ones to arouse your curiosity about the efficacy of received knowledge, to investigate the efficiency of equipment and operational procedures. Such a system would also give room for you to devise alternative processes and models which can perform at higher levels of efficiency. But these efforts must be reciprocated. There must be a promise on your own part of good conduct, personal integrity, selflessness, zero tolerance to cultism, and all morality that would provide a fertile soil for your advancement. Then Management on her part would ensure there is no hiatus in the academic process to afford each student to graduate within the specified period for his or her course of study.

7.0         STATUTORY AND REGULATORY BODIES

The laws establishing the University recognize the President and Commander – in – Chief of the Armed Forces, Federal Republic of Nigeria, as the visitor to the University. The Federal Ministry of Education, the National Universities Commission (NUC), and the Governing Council, are the supervisory organs of the University.

7.0.1       THE VISITOR

The laws require that the visitor should visit the University once in a while to ensure that the University is run for the public good. We shall ensure that the visitor visits us regularly.  At least during all our convocation ceremonies.

7.0.2       NATIONAL UNIVERSITIES COMMISSION (NUC)

The role of NUC is that of coordinating. NUC regulates the academic standards, harmonizes the academic and physical programmes, prevents unnecessary proliferation of programmes and sensitizes the Management to the needs of the Institution. It is a link between the University and the Government. My administration will ensure a very cordial relationship between Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike and NUC as well as the Federal Ministry of Education.

7.0.3       THE CHANCELLOR

The Chancellor although ceremonial, in relation to the University takes precedence before all other members of the University and when he is present shall preside at all meetings of the congregation held for conferring degrees and all meetings of convocation.

7.0.4       THE PRO-CHANCELLOR AND GOVERNING COUNCIL

This is the most important of the statutory supervisory agencies established by law. My administration will work in tandem with the Governing Council in place. The esteemed value of the Pro – Chancellor and members of the Governing Council will always be appreciated by my administration. In the same manner, my administration shall be totally loyal and responsive to every policy of the Governing Council as this is the only way to ensure the actualization of all our goals.

We shall work with the Governing Council to ensure that issues, such as:

1.      Physical Planning and Development of the University;

2.      Staff and Students Welfare;

3.      Appointments and Promotions;

4.      Staff Discipline;

5.      Financial Management;

6.      Union activities; and

7.      Relationship between the University and the host community as well as the State (Abia) Government; etc are given topmost attention in the next five years.

8.0        CONCLUSION

I discovered that since the University was established as a Federal Institution twenty four years (24 years) ago alongside two other Universities of Agriculture that it is only Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike that has not received her take off grant that would have been used for the provision of amenities and other infrastructural developmental projects, despite the efforts of the previous Vice – Chancellors and Governing Councils. I have not come to promise you eldorado, but I can assure you that my administration will exhaust all efforts within our power to see that the grant is redeemed. Then to build on the pedestal of the previous administrations’ achievements, the lobby for assistance in funding projects by the Tertiary Education Trust Fund, the Central Bank of Nigeria, Niger Delta Development Commission, and other government agencies, would be sustained and surpassed where necessary.

It is my very humble desire to have the eminent Professors of Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike, who also contested for the position I occupy now, join me in the task of lifting Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike to greater heights. Obviously my dear colleagues, you had your definite and very articulate plans for our great University. We can only have one Vice chancellor at a time. Today I put out my fully stretched hands of friendship, seeking your unalloyed cooperation in this five-year assignment.

 May I now rest my oars in this treatise of showcasing my resolve of transforming the University with the aim of leaving it better it is today. With God all things are possible.

I thank you graciously for your audience. May Our Almighty and ever living God bless and be with you all.

 

Thank you very much.

 

Francis Ogbonnaya OTUNTA; Ph.D, PHF, FNATE, FIIA, JP

Professor of Mathematics and Vice-Chancellor,

Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike.