This article sets out to acknowledge and commend the strides made by the pioneer Vice Chancellor of Federal University Wukari, Taraba state. It is a piece that highlights the transformational educational policies of Professor Okogbaa, who has worked true to the motto of the institution that committed to being a students centred and community engaged institution that provides an enabling environment that enhances intellectual growth, a strong commitment to academic excellence, integrity and entrepreneurship. He has additionally laboured towards the university’s commitment to creating new knowledge and using ICT and other enabling technologies to solve practical problems that benefit humanity; preparing our students as well as professionals in our community for ethical leadership; and promoting service to community and enduring sense of global citizenship.
His landmark achievement since his appointment on February 7, 2011 is a testament to Professor Geoffrey Okogbaa’s belief that an educationist is a servant to his own children and that the younger generations deserve the best, particularly at Federal University Wukari where he is the vice chancellor.
Several stakeholders had at some point called for education to be declared an emergency owing to the critical problems besetting access to qualitative tertiary education. The realisation of the direness of the situation has often prompted knee jerking responses that often see institutions established to tackle the problem having to limp through their existence as they struggle to cope with growing without well thought out strategies. In this the Federal University Wukari under the guidance of Professor Okogbaa adopted the realistic approach of midwifing growth in five year phases that span 25 years. With this plan, the faculties, college, school, faculties, departments and programmes of the university at the undergraduate or postgraduate levels would be established in stages covering the 25 years period.
This has apparently set the school on the right course. Already, 29 courses have been accredited by the National Universities Commission (NUC). Along the projected growth trajectory, plans are being perfected for the eventual springing up of new faculties.
For an institution that has barely hit the half decade timeline, Federal University Wukari has taken impressive steps where infrastructural development is concerned. In addition to ongoing world class facilities under construction, the school is the first university to have its internal road network well surfaced.
The other remarkable aspect of these projects is the tenet of accountability and transparency that Professor Okogbaa brought onboard. The project were executed in compliance with extant laws, policies and regulations. This transparent handling of the project no doubts contributed to the value for money that Nigerians have gotten out of the university.
A knock on effect that is glaring is the school administration’s boldness in maintaining an anti-corruption stance that has allowed it declare zero tolerance for examination malpractice. One need only to know what happens in many of our expectedly citadel of learning to know that a school that has declared war on examination malpractices becomes an automatic champion at a time when the quality of graduates they churn out is being interrogated nationally.
Trust the Professor Okogbaa’s concept, zero tolerance for malpractices does not necessarily translated into a hostile students-lecturers relationship, which has been kept strictly in line with professional expectations. It is nothing like the tales of sex for grade scandals plaguing some schools or where people in position of trust rape students they were supposed to help nurture. A natural consequence of course is that there is no room for cultism.
Management and lecturers also relate peacefully amongst themselves with the traditional industrial action very much absent. Same goes for the institution’s relationship with its host community. Superb is the word to describe it. In fact the palace of His Majesty, Dr. Shekarau Angyu Masa ‘Ibi’, the Aku Uka of Wukari, and Chairman of the Taraba State Council of Chiefs, was one of the first port of call for the university’s management team ably led by Professor Okogbaa in 2011. Thus, despite the crisis in Wukari at some point, the school was still running smoothly and the vice chancellor is always on seat.
The above scenario typifies the old old missionary system where schools were created to uplift host communities and neighboring villages and in the long run help to modernize and inculcate in the indigenous people western culture, civilization and better understanding of their culture. Okogbaa and his team today enjoy traditional Jukun delicacies as a way of fostering peaceful co-existence amongst them.
For a school that was established along others in 2010, Professor Geoffrey Okogbaa has shown that the Federal University Wukari is a true trailblazer. He has often times reinstated his commitment to serve as our children’s servant. Professor Geoffrey Okogbaa is indeed a special breed of academic. The story of this university has certainly turned out different for the better under his leadership.
***Philip Agbese, a public affairs commentator and contributed this piece from the United Kingdom.