ABSU: Certainly Excellence and Service (Part1) By Ahamefula Israel

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Abia State University emerged in 1981 in the former Imo State under the name of Imo State University, Uturu, Okigwe. The university was established by His Excellency, Sam Mbakwe when he was Governor of old Imo State. Since then, the university has worked its way to take the front seat in the nation’s university education system. Until now, it was inconceivable that, considering the wide gap with first and second generation universities, the institution fondly called ABSU would be able catch up with the universities that came immediately after the independence.

When Abia State University was baptised with a slogan ‘Excellence and Service’, not many people were in tune with the aphorism. A name that was coined by the founding fathers, in view of what the university will be in the nearest feature, have carved a niche of academic excellence that is been sustained over the years. It is instructive to say that Abia State University is the toast of admission seekers into Nigerian Universities.
To be sure, the institution did not attain such a lofty height by accident rather by a consistent hard work of a courageous leadership the citadel of learning enjoyed over time.

Recently, based on the ranking released by 4 International Colleges and Universities (4ICU), an international higher education search engine and directory reviewing accredited universities and colleges in the world, the Year 2018 Edition of the top 100 universities in Nigeria as released by the organization places Abia State University form 93rd to 30th position. This testifies to the fact that the university is indeed Excellent and service oriented! One may be curious to find out what takes the institution to this brutally selective position? The answer is not far-feteched
Abia State University, without any ambiguity, has taken a lead in research, discovery and innovation. As one of the leading universities in Nigeria, ABSU is creating a citadel of learning for the future that thrives on knowledge revolution that is facilitating qualitative development by which insights are adopted, adapted, domesticated and calibrated for optimal national growth and development.

‘Excellence and Service’ as it is fondly called is today the standard by which all other research universities are measured. No university in recent times has ever challenged its position as a leading academic institution in Nigeria for academic excellence, conducive atmosphere for learning and more importantly, for smooth running of academic programmes without fear of interruption.

Today, the university boasts of over 35, 000 students and its fame is still growing at an accelerated or blissing pace.

Instructively, there is much more to Absu’s growing fame; the school has produced a good number of products who have excelled and are still excelling in their various fields of calling such as Academics, Law, Business, Science & Technology Industry and Medicine.

Some of her products are of Nobel-Laureate’s standards, having distinguished themselves in scholarship and have been leaders in their respective chosen careers on the national and international arena.
Those who stepped out to pursue their Postgraduate Studies, researchers and those that are teaching abroad continue to represent the good image of the school in particular and their country in general.

Few among them are: John Abraham Godson,a Polish politician of Nigerian origin, a university teacher and a former Pentecostal minister. He is the first black Polish Member of Parliament and a member of the Civic Platform party; Paschal Eze, an American tourism marketing consultant. Born in Nigeria and having worked as a journalist in Gambia, he currently serves as Vice President for Africa at the Hawaii USA; Uchenna Emelonye, UN high commissioner for human right in Uganda; Emeka Wogu, a two term Labour and productivity minister in Ngieria;etc.

By implication, the university has promoted inter-disciplinary approach to research that has resulted in groundbreaking outcome in Guava Wine, Laboratory Grease,etc.
ABSU has been awarded “the Outstanding State University in Nigeria 2009” prize by a national magazine, The Nigerian Education Times. It is the only public university in Nigeria so recognised and has won the award twice, having been so awarded last year.

It is unsurprising that Prof. Willibroad Dze-Ngwa, Professor of geopolitics and Political theory at University of Yaoundé, Cameroon once described ABSU as a leading Nigerian university which has made its mark on the Nigerian education scene. In yet another testimony to the excellent leadership style of the university, the West African Students Union (WASU), with headquarters in Tema, Accra, Ghana conferred the 2013 West African Leadership Award for Educational Development on the then Deputy Vice-Chancellor Academics, Prof. Ikonne.
It would be out of sync to single out any of ABSU’s many academic departments for its excellence as the school’s principal claim to the first position lies in the fact that it is at or very near the top in nearly every field across the entire spectrum of the sciences and the humanities.

Not only is Absu dominant across a multitude of academic fields in Nigeria, it is also ideally situated to develop a variety of universities, Polytechnics as well as the Colleges of Education and several other research universities within and outside of its shores. This fact equips both students and faculty with endless opportunities for collaborative research.

Absu from inception was fortunate to be endowed with focus-minded people and academics per excellence such as Prof. MJC Echeruo, who kick started the project of celebrating ivory tower from 1981 to 1988.

Prof. G.M Umezurike took over the mantle of leadership of the institution in 1988 and held it till 1993. Prof. S.O Igwe held the baton from 1993 to 1999.

Prof. O.E Ogwo took over in 2000 and continued till September 2005 when Prof. M.A Mkpa stepped in and was there between 2005 to 2010.

Prof. Chibuzo Ogbuagu took over Absu administration in 2010. Sustaining the legacy he met on ground, he bowed out at the expiration of his tenure in 2015 and the university administration had to shop for another competent hand.

In a keenly contested selection process, the Ukwa-Ngwa born Professor of Optometry, Prof. Uchenna Elezer Ikonne emerged tops as the 7th substantive and current Vice Chancellor of the most talked about institution.

Academic Programmes’ Development
With the spirited efforts of these university academic staff and astute administrators, the university grew from three faculties in 1981 to 9, including Agriculture, Humanities and Social Sciences, Education, Environmental Science, Law, Business Administration, Biological and Physical Science, Medicine and the recent Faculty of Engineering studies.

Altogether, there are about 70 academic departments in the existing 9 faculties where undergraduate degree programmes run for 3, 4, 5, or 6 years, depending on entry qualifications and disciplines.
ABSU equally has teaching support units which include the Institute for Continuing Education (ICE), Institute for Computer Studies, Central Workshop and Stores, Biological Garden, Medical Educational Resources Unit, Division of General Studies and Entrepreneur Studies Center.

There are also the Public Units which are, the University Staff Schools, Institute of Education and Educational Technology Centre, Centre for Population Studies and many other outfits that are adding value to knowledge and research activities.
As an academic unit, the Library is actively involved in rendering service to the University and the public. In addition, there are numerous Research Institutes which are mainly a research unit served by academics mainly from Science and Agriculture faculties. Today, ABSU has built a Central Laboratory for Research and Development.

Physical and Infrastructural Development
The university did not only develop in academic fields, it has also developed in its physical status.

The university that started with few building currently has three campus located at Uturu, Umuahia and Aba respectively.

The Uturu Location houses, The University Senate building, Administrative Complex, Medical Center, Postgraduate School, the Main University Library, Institute for Computer Studies (ICS). Lecture halls, two 1000 capacity auditorium, Laboratories, Works yard, Two Conference Centers, etc.
Umuahia Location presently houses the Faculty of Law, Faculty of Agriculture, a mini Library, Canteens and some of the revenue-yielding projects which are under the University Investment.

The Aba Location houses the Faculty of Clinical Medicine, The ongoing faculty of Engineering complex Hostel and other revenue-yielding projects which are under the University Investment.

Each Campus has a Health Centre, Hostel accommodation and other facilities.
Teaching and research
The College of Health Sciences was split in two to widen the scope of study, Basic Medical Science and Clinical Sciences. A man who knows what it is entails to build a revered citadel of learning, Prof Ikonne has continued to invest hugely on training and retraining of staff.

It is instructive to say that all members of staff of the university have benefited in one way or the other via in-house, local, national and international workshops, seminars and conferences.

Other initiatives include the introduction e-administration and a new university web site, upgrading of the internet connectivity on campus with the recent migration from STM 1 to STM 4 and operation of a paperless Senate. More also, the institution which has over 1,000 computers in its CBT center.

With all these remarkable achievements, it is therefore not out of place to say that ABSU is an IT compliant university.
Expansionist policy of Ikonne’s Administration

In its sustained quest for excellence and to widen the scope of career choice for admission seekers, the university Senate, presided over by Prof. Ikonne approved the introduction of new academic programmes with the establishment of a new faculty and the unbundling of some ‘unwieldy’ departments.

While a brand new Faculty of Engineering Sciences, with the full complement of departments was established, four new departments were also introduced in the faculties of Health sciences, Biological and Physical sciences.

Staff Capacity Building
It is on note that Prof. Ikonne’s passion for human capital development in the last 28 months of his administration is unprecedented in the history of the school. More staff members have been sponsored or supported to acquire higher degrees within the last 28 months.
Prof. Ikonne has continued to facilitate international seminar/conferences for staff to expose them to latest information/ideas in the academic world. He also used his link to attract prominent personalities to deliver convocation lectures in the institution.

In 2016 and 2017, the University’s Pre-Convocation lecture was delivered by and Alumnus of the University J.U.K Igwe, SAN, and The Honourable Minister of State for Education Prof. Anthony Awuzie respectively.

It has become a tradition for Ikonne to invite a learned scholar from all works of life to facilitate academic introspection at the university in order to attract grants.
Readily on top of this initiative, Ikonne has been coordinating the research grants attracted to the university by the various researchers judiciously and without fear or favour. The multiplier effect of this has resulted in various research breakthroughs, one of which is the discovery of new Wine Product by Prof. Osita Ugbogu.

Collaboration and Partnership
Ikonne has continued to forge partnerships with outstanding academic and other institutions across the globe to expand student experience and faculty growth.
Absu is at the forefront of relationship-building with partners. These relationships have grown into multidimensional interactions between Absu and its partner institutions abroad.

Infrastructural and Technological Development

No doubt, the university is naturally endowed to accommodate more physical development, with a very big landscape amounting to about 150, 000 hectares.
This God-given asset has equally assisted the university to grow unprecedentedly in terms of physical infrastructural development. Today, the university has grown in its leaps and bound by adding some faculties such as Faculty of Engineering Complex in Aba, Student Hostels, lecture theatres and lecture rooms in Uturu and Umuahia location respectively.
These landmarks would not have been easy to attain if not for the prudent measures put in place in the allocation of the little resources available to the university.

Prof. Ikonne also attracted additional funds to the university as well as improved Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) for the university.
Over the years, the institution had developed a culture of accountability and prudent utilisation of funds. This has endeared the university to the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund).
Multi-functional ID cards
The innovative drive in the university has equally impacted on the means of identification by both staff and students of the university. Professor Ikonne shifted the paradigm from the old order to a new one. The lofty initiative has again spoken well of the ICT-driven society the Vice Chancellor is set to achieve in the system. Today, an ID card in the institution has been calibrated to perform multi-function services to include Automated Teller Machine cards, an access control card as well as its traditional means of identification. To this extent, it is no longer news that the university has stepped up and living in a digitalised era.

Centre for Entrepreneurship Development

Global development is tilted towards where entrepreneurship is increasingly playing a more important role in an economy particularly, in a developing country like Nigeria. Given the huge deficit in the nation’s labour market, Professor Ikonne has succeeded in flagging off a massive Cassava plantation covering about 1,000 hectares of land.

This lofty initiative attracted the interest of the Hon. Commissioner for Agriculture Abia State, Chief Uzo Azubuike, and he was glad to perform the ground breaking ceremony. The plantation will provide training and laboratory facilities for students in the Faculty of Agriculture. At maturation, it would also be a good source of internally generated revenue for the university.
These are in addition to livestock with the hope of producing milk in the University.
To be Continued!

Ahamefula Israel, a Bureaucrat, sent in this piece from uturu,Abia State. Email- anyameleisrael@gmail.com


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