By Josephine Agbonkhese
The Vice-Chancellor, VC, Imo State University, Professor Victoria Adaobi Obasi, is one of the few women to have ever superintended over a university in Nigeria after Prof Grace Alele Williams of the University of Benin broke that jinx in 1985.
A go-getter, Obasi had served at different times as Commissioner for Education and then Commissioner for Local Government and Rural Development in Imo State. In 2012, she was adjudged ‘Best Commissioner of the Year’ in the state.
The passionate educationist who began her higher education at the prestigious Alvan Ikoku College of Education, Owerri, where she bagged a Certificate in Education, proceeded to the University Of Hull, England, where she obtained a Bachelor’s degree in education in 1984, Master’s in 1985 and a PhD in 1989. While at the University of Hull, her sterling performance earned her the Bursary Award for three consecutive times.
A prolific writer, Obasi has authored several books and articles in different national and international journals.
She is a member of various professional organisations including the Nigeria Academy of Education, NAE; Fellow of the Curriculum Organisation of Nigeria, FCON, and Fellow of the Gender Studies Association of Nigeria, FGSAN. She shares her experiences with AMAZON.
Let us start from the beginning of your tenure as VC up till now. How has it been as a woman superintending over a university?
I came in as Acting Vice-Chancellor and, by the grace of God, was elevated as substantive Vice-Chancellor. I would not be fair to myself if I say I have not encountered challenges. We are living in a man’s world, so, no matter how hard a woman tries to showcase herself in whatever position she occupies, it may seem as if she is not proving her mettle. I have had my ups and downs, but stood as the Rock of Gibraltar because the position I occupy is built on God.
So, it can only be God who has seen me through all the achievements I have accomplished thus far. I have moved the university to an enviable level since I came on board. Cultism has abated on campus. The university is a beehive of construction activities. Staff members receive their salaries as and when due. Promotions are released.
There is job satisfaction among staff members. Students’ complaints are given prompt attention. There is harmony between management, staff members and labour unions on campus while we give our best on corporate social responsibility regardless of our lean resources. To crown it all, we have enjoyed academic and administrative tranquility since I assumed office. If there are challenges, they are minimal as we have individual differences and being human, we will always disagree to agree.
In what other ways will you say your administration has made a major difference in Imo State University?
Management, in conjunction with the Senate of the university, has prepared a new Code of Conduct for staff members of the university to engender maximum input into the system. I am tackling the issue of sorting and sexual harassment and other matters that are detrimental to the goals and objectives the university stands for. Anyone found guilty shall be shown the way out. New faculty complexes are completed while some are nearing completion. When all the complexes are completed, they will raise our carrying capacity and, in addition, change the skyline and ambience of the university.
Already, the university has one of the best Senate Administrative Buildings with a well-spaced and equipped Senate Chamber. TETFund has greatly assisted us on staff development as some of our academic staff members have embarked on studies abroad to upgrade themselves. We have entered into linkage programmes with foreign universities and, in conjunction with the Chinese Embassy, mounted a Chinese Language Learning Centre in our university.
This makes us one of the ten universities in Nigeria running the programme. Staff members of the university have keyed into the Contributory Pension Scheme awaiting government to do the needful by paying the percentage accruable to them to complete the cycle of the Pension Scheme. The founding fathers established the university as non-residential, but that has changed as we can boast of two female hostels built by TETFund and a male hostel courtesy of Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC.
We have quality academic and non-teaching staff members who are working round the clock to achieve the vision and mission of the founding fathers of the university to provide quality education to all who desire and are qualified.
What were the goals you set for yourself upon assumption of office and how much of them have you achieved?
One of our goals is to ensure that there is adequate infrastructure for teaching, learning and research. I want to ensure that during my tenure and beyond, our university is ranked among the best in the world. My resolve is to see that staff members are motivated to put in their best, and to keep the system running and contribute to the making of our institution one of the best.
I want to leave the university better than I met it and, with the type of lieutenants I have, the dream of repositioning our university is what each and every one of them carries like a cross. Our desire is to be the best and turn out the graduates that can compete with their counterparts from top universities anywhere across the world.
Funding is always a big problem in universities. How do you cope?
Funding is crucial to the survival of any university. Dearth of funding impairs day-to-day activities of any university. I implore our financiers to do the needful by releasing funds for teaching, learning and research purposes for which the university is established.
If the university is adequately funded, we will break many grounds in research to strive to be among the Ivy League universities in the world. Entrepreneurs who love education should join in the provision of infrastructure in tertiary institutions.
I need to extol TETFund for their interventions in various universities through the provision of buildings, equipment of laboratories, etc.
Students can sometimes be unruly; what has been your experience with them?
My students are my children. What I wish for my children is also what I wish for them. They should not be lost in the maze of societal challenges like ‘Yahoo Yahoo’, prostitution, cultism, examination misconduct or actions that are inimical to the completion of the programmes that brought them to the university.
The sky should not only be their limit but their launch pad to greater success. They should take their studies seriously and refrain from ‘sorting’ because this is a lazy student’s way of cutting comers to graduate. They should be proud of earning their certificates to complete the mantra of being worthy in learning and in character. Our students should, at all times, remember the motto of Imo State University which is ‘Excellence in Service’ so that at the end of their stay in the university, they will become worthy ambassadors of their alma mater.