Tension, As Alleged Imposition Of New VC Tears UNIZIK Apart

Tension, As Alleged Imposition Of New VC Tears UNIZIK Apart

6th April 2024, NewsOrient
Investigation, News
From Chima Ononye,
Bureau Chief, Enugu

This Is Even As Stakeholders Beg President Bola Ahmed Tinubu To Investigate Outgoing VC, Esimone’s Tenure

There is tension at the Nnamdi Azikiwe University (UNIZIK) in Anambra State, following alleged plans by the outgoing Vice Chancellor, Prof. Charles Esimone, to impose someone as his replacement against the wishes of many in the institution.

NewsOrient reports that Prof Esimone’s five-year tenure will terminate in June, 2024. But there are allegations that an Acting Vice Chancellor has already been lined up to take over from Prof Asimone. It is alleged that the name of the arranged successor is Prof. Joseph Ikechebelu.

Our reporter, who visited the university, gathered that as a result of the development, the institution’s senior lecturers, including the junior ones and non academic staff are currently divided. This has heightened tension in the citadel of learning.

Concerned stakeholders are therefore calling on President Bola Ahmed Tinubu to investigate the gathering storm in Unizik before it becomes too late.

One of the concerned insider, who spoke to NewsOrient said: “The tension here today is because Prof Esimone’s appointment as VC raised the hope and expectations of many at UNIZIK, since many believed that being a Pastor of Deeper Life Church his emergence as the Vice Chancellor would impact on the institution and all stakeholders positively.

“Now almost at the end of his five years tenure, some of us arguably rate him as the worst Vice Chancellor since the inception of the university.

“There are complaints of alleged lopsided appointments, favouritism and monumental fraud in the school,” the source said.

The disappointment in Prof Asimone’s tenure, according to another insider source, draws from the fact that “Prof Asimone came into the plum office with enticing promises. Being a Pastor, we believed him. Five years after, these promises were only fulfilled in the breach. All we hear of today are stories of endless personal material acquisitions.”

Some other officials who spoke with NewsOrient on the ongoing succession battle at UNIZIK also expressed dissatisfaction with the way the whole issue is being allegedly “manipulated.”

For example, our reporter was told that the office of the Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academics), had been vacant since June 2023, a development concerned stakeholders allege is “just to pave way for Prof Ikechebelu and shut out opposition for the position of Vice Chancellor” as Prof Asimone prepares to leave the plum seat.

Commenting on the tension in the school, a very senior staff, who begged for anonymity said: “All I can tell you is that the desperation by Esimone to install Ikechebelu, as his replacement, has brought worry and division amongst lecturers, students and even none academic staff in the institution. There is tension here. Government must do something fast to save the situation.”

NewsOrient recalls that the same tensed up atmosphere played out during the election of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) chairperson, where the Vice Chancellor and his supporters were eventually trounced.

As this new storm gathers over the successor of Prof Asimone as the Vice Chancellor of Nnamdi Azikiwe University, insider sources told NewsOrient in confidence that the anger within is because “many stakeholders feel all is no longer well with UNIZIK.”

So, our source said it would be reasonable for President Bola Ahmed Tinubu to investigate the affairs of the institution now to ascertain the reality of the situation.

According to the source: “It will be helpful to investigate and find out what happened in UNIZIK in the last five years. We hear so many unsettling stories. For example, we hear that UNIZIK may be owing Enugu Electricity Distribution Center (EEDC) a whopping sum of over two billion naira. This is even as some allege that the VC built two private hostels close to the campus even as he allegedly abandoned the projects initiated by the former Vice Chancellor.”

Earlier, the management of the institution had debunked a report on the appointment of next vice chancellor of the university, including the claim that Prof Asimone has a preferred candidate to succeed him.

An official statement on the matter by the Special Adviser on Public Relations and Special Duties to the University’s VC, Dr Emmanuel Ojukwu, described the claims as “fabricated falsehood.”

The statement reads in part: “The attention of Nnamdi Azikiwe University has been drawn to an obvious fabrication and falsehood being currently circulated by fifth columnists and opportunists about the race for the vice chancellorship of unizik.

“In this intentionally fabricated falsehood the fictitious writers concocted figments of their imagination as truth to deceive members of the public.

The university would like to state as follows: The Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, is a Federal University, funded by the Federal Government of Nigeria under the supervision of the Federal Ministry of Education.

“The procedure for who emerges as the Vice Chancellor of Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, is contained in a template clearly outlined and issued by the Federal Ministry of Education,” he said.

These allegations and counter allegations at UNIZIK are pointers to the current level of animosity and distrust in the institution.

It remains to be seen how this would be resolved as Prof Asimone prepares to leave office.

~ NewsOrient