Jostling For Rivers State University VC
The atmosphere at the Rivers State University of Science and Technology, RUST has become a theatre of war. The university recently released the timetable for the selection of a new vice chancellor for the university. The tenure of the present vice chancellor, Professor Barineme Fakae will expire in a couple of months. Apart from the incumbent vice chancellor four other professors are interested in the race. They are Professors Bernard Onuegbu, M J Ahiakwo, Chris Enyinda and N E Lale. All the aspirants have submitted their curriculum vitea to the university’s governing board and are awaiting clearance from the screening committee.
The outgoing vice chancellor will be completing his tenure in three months and is alleged to be lobbying the powers that be in the state to influence his return to the premier university of science and technology. Already the university community is divided on who to support among the five contenders to the plum job.
The outgoing vice chancellor appears not to be enjoying the support of the entire university community because of the running battle he has with all the affiliate unions in the university. Professor Fakae, who was seconded to the university from the state polytechnic Bori by Governor Chibuike Amaechi, does not enjoy best of relationship with the leadership of the Academic Staff Union of University, ASUU, the Non Academic Staff Union, NASU and the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities, SSANU because of his alleged highhandedness. He was said to be autocratic, and his words were law in the university. His closeness to his Ogoni brothers who are in position of authority at both state and federal levels allegedly made him to wield tremendous influence throughout his tenure as vice chancellor of the university.
The vice chancellor was alleged to have converted the university into his private estate which his family members and cronies feast on. He was said to have skyrocketed the cost of the university scratch card, which the students use in checking examination results. This has also pitched him against the students.
Last week, a group that called itself Joint Action Council Congress, JACC, accused the chairman of the university’s governing council, Justice Adolphus Karibi-White of taking sides in the selection of the VC. The group accused the retired justice of supporting the incumbent vice chancellor to return to the university. It called on Justice Karibi-White to resign so as to give way for a transparent selection process.
ASUU leadership is also, accused of taking sides in the selection process of the vice chancellor. Chairman of the union, Felix Igwe was said to have in the recent past made statements suggestive of the fact that the group is not in support of the incumbent VC.
Before his secondment, Professor Barineme Fakae was rector of the Rivers State Polytechnic Bori. He was said to have recorded impressive performance, which made Governor Amaechi to send him to RUST as vice chancellor. He was trained as a veterinary doctor in University of Nigeria, Nsukka with distinction in veterinary public health and jurisprudence. He also obtained a masters degree in veterinary parasitological in 1986 at the same university. In 1993 he obtained a PHD in tropical animal health from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland.
He has served in various capacities both in the petroleum sector and higher institutions, state and federal government parastatals. He was appointed graduate assistant on joining the services of the University of Nigeria in 1993 and rose to the position of associate professor of veterinary parasitological in October 2000 and professor in 2004.
Professor Fakae was appointed consultant parasitologist, University of Nigeria Veterinary Teaching Hospital Nssuka in 1993 and was subsequently made head, department of veterinary parasitological and entomology, a position he occupied between 1995 and 1996.
On his part, Professor Onuegbu was a commissioner of agriculture in Rivers State under Dr Peter Odili. He was appointed the sole administrator of Risompalm, Ubima and later become the dean, faculty of agriculture of the University Science and Technology.
Professor Ahiakwo is a former head of department and director, centre for continuing education. He is currently, the dean, faculty of technical and science education. Professor Chris Enyindah another contender to the vice chancellorship position had all his tertiary education overseas. A graduate of North Dakota University, Fargo and the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Alabama, Enyindah studied transportation and logistics, economics and agricultural business management. He has been teaching and consulting overseas and was said not to have any record of indigenous teaching and working experience.
The Rivers State House of Assembly was recently inundated with petitions on maladministration and financial misappropriate perpetrated by the university authority. The petition is still with the assembly until the recent politics heralding the selection of a new vice chancellor for the university. Professor Fakea is however said to have an upper hand in the race because it is widely believed that he has the backing of the state governor and the chairman of the university’s governing board.