By Anthony Akaeze/Newswatch
From its modest beginning as a university campus 30 years ago, the Nnamdi Azikiwe University has progressively become a flourishing centre of academic excellence
Few things have helped in enhancing the present cosmopolitan status of Awka, capital of Anambra State. Nnamdi Azikiwe University, which started in 1980 as a campus of the then Anambra State University of Technology, is one of them. The growth of the university campus into a full –fledged centre of academic excellence in 30 years is being celebrated today not only by members of the university’s community but by all indigenes of the state and Nigerians generally.
The University has gradually become the pride of the nation. Its achievements are numerous. Apart from being a regular supplier of skilled manpower to the nation, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, with a population of more than 31,000 students, which includes both regular, diploma and postgraduate students, boasts some of the most modern facilities in Nigeria’s educational system. A student of the university described it as a haven of egg heads, a peaceful campus with uninterrupted academic sessions and every student’s dream.
Nnamdi Azikiwe University occupies a large expanse of land with many modern structures spread across its 502 hectares land space. Although movement to the permanent site began in the early 2000s, the university management finally relocated to the new site in 2005. It says a lot about the passion and determination that has, since 1991, propelled the leaders of the university, from Festus Aghagbo Nwako to Pita Ejiofor to Ilochi Austin Okafor and now Boniface Egboka. As part of efforts to upgrade its status, the Awka campus was later made a full fledged university and renamed Nnamdi Azikiwe University in November 1991. This followed the decision of the then military government to split Anambra State into two – Enugu and Anambra - with Awka becoming the capital of the new Anambra State.
Egboka is the fourth person to occupy the position of vice chancellor of Nnamdi Azikiwe University but his relationship with the citidal is as old as the institution itself. He has been a member of staff of the institution since 1982 when he was drafted to teach there as a senior lecturer, and had witnessed its steady progress. A professor of Environmental Hydrogeology, Egboka was confirmed the vice chancellor in June 2009, after first serving as the acting vice chancellor from May 2008.
With such extensive backgound, few people know Nnamdi Azikiwe University better than the Umuchu born academic. Since assuming the position of vice chancellor, Egboka has worked hard to improve on the achievements of his predecessors and is acknowledged to have made significant contributions to the development of the institution in the area of academic excellence, staff and students welfare and infrastructural development. For example, the university now enjoys full accreditation from the National Universities Commision in 59 academic programmes and also has linkage programmes with institutions such as York University, Toronto, Humber College,Toronto; Florida Atlantic University, Florida,USA, and other collaborative linkages with Namibian, Cuban, Swedish Irish and Polish universities.
That is not all. The Egboka administration has ensured that staff salaries are paid regularly. Staff have also enjoyed privileges such as sponsorships for academic programmes in Nigeria or overseas. They also received loans for undergraduate Continuing Education Programme, CEP, or post graduate studies. The idea is to inspire both the staff and lecturers to aspire to give their best at all times for the benefit of the university students.
Beyond that, the Egboka-led management, mindful of the need to create a conducive academic environment, has been working hard to provide adequate infrastructure and amenities on campus such as hostels, adequate water supply and electricity. As a means to augment the current water supply on campus, the Egboka administration had awarded contract for the sinking of a borehole, in a move to end water shortage and prove wrong the view in some quarters that it is difficult, if not impossible, to strike water beneath the ground upon which the university stands.
The VC is optimistic that the effort would yield fruit in the end. He jocularly informs all that “there will be a water dance” in this university, once water is struck. And, as a means to build more infrastructure to complement the existing ones, the university management has entered into a memorandum of understanding with some private firms and individuals to build more student hostels under the build, operate and transfer scheme.
Given the wide expanse of land within the university environment, Egboka is aware of the challenges of providing adequate infrastructure due to inadequate funds. But he remains undaunted. He acknowledged that the university has, over the years, benefited from the benevolence of some kind hearted Nigerians, who had found it worthy to identify and contribute to the school’s cause, both financially and materially. They include Chidi Anyaegbu of Chisco Transport; Stella Okoli of Emzor, Arthur Eze, an engineer, chief Oranika and Ifeanyi Ubah of Capital Oil and Gas Limited. The VC also commended the efforts and contributions of the chairman and members of the university governing council for their wise counsel and support of his administration in the running of the university.
Ultimately, his wish is to leave the university better than he met it. For someone who is conscious of the verdict of history, Egboka said his ambition was to bequeath a worthy legacy that everyone would be proud to remember with a smile. He wants both the Anambra State and federal governments to come to the aid of the university, to enable it achieve more.