*PROF. CHARLES ESIMONE MARKS ONE YEAR IN OFFICE*
By Franklin Onwubiko
On this day, June 4, 2019, Professor Charles Okechukwu Esimone, FAS assumed office as the 6th substantive Vice-Chancellor of Nnamdi Azikiwe University after the expiration of the tenure of Professor Joseph Eberendu Ahaneku, FAS.
Professor Esimone was on May 14, 2019 appointed the 6th substantive Vice-Chancellor by the Governing Council of the University headed by the late Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of the Council, Alhaji Azeez Oladotun Bello.
Professor Esimone had served as Head of Department, Dean, Faculty of Pharmaceutical sciences and Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic) for two terms and as Special Adviser to Professor Ahaneku on Academic matters, a position he held before his appointment as Vice-Chancellor.
On June 3rd 2019, Professor Esimone in an elaborate ceremony at the University auditorium was handed the baton of leadership to pilot the affairs of this great citadel of learning for 5 years. This was the first of its kind such ceremonious handover was done in the University as his appointment was adjudged the most rancor free Vice-Chancellorship election in the annals of the institution.
Shortly after assuming office, Professor Esimone convened a meeting with all members of staff of the University where he unveiled his vision for the University which he tagged “PROJECT 200” aimed at making Nnamdi Azikiwe University the best University in Nigeria, among the best ten universities in Africa and among the best 200 universities in the world.
This vision statement of the Vice-Chancellor borders on a five-pronged strategy, predicated on the push for Academic Excellence; Productive Public/Community Service; Administrative Reforms; Discipline; and Advancements. This he terms the ACADA/Mission/Vision Strategy, dubbed Project 200.
Armed with the requisite experience having served in various capacities prior to his appointment, the Professor of Biopharmaceutics and Pharmaceutical Microbiology set the ball rolling touching every sector of the strategy aforementioned. The Vice-Chancellor commenced with an interactive session with members of staff at Faculty levels where he detailed his plans for the University and the roles of the staff; reconstituting/repositioning University Committees, decentralization of administrative processes, training of members of staff for utmost productivity.
In Academic, the Vice-Chancellor placed priority on research and mentorship. This has already started yielding fruits as a good number of staff have been attracting research grants from the National Research Fund programme of TETFund, with the recent grants to five (5) academic staff of the University; the largest single TETFund Research grant approval for the University. It is worthy of note that Nnamdi Azikiwe University is one of twelve (12) TETFund Centres of Excellence, two (2) in each geopolitical zone, recently approved by the President.
Just recently, the largest source – neutral abstract and citation database for peer-reviewed literature in the world, ‘Scopus’ listed eight staff of the University among its top five hundred (500) authors in Nigeria. The University’s webometrics ranking has moved from 4047th in the world and 137th in Africa at the inception of this Administration to currently 3803rd in the world, 71st in Africa and 21st in Nigeria.
As part of measures to decentralize administrative processes, Matriculation ceremonies and the Admission Process were done at Faculty level. Inaugural lectures held every three months prior to his assumption of office now holds on monthly basis.
Since assuming office, Professor Esimone embraced ICT and the digitization of most processes in the University. This include switching from manual attendance to digital attendance by members of staff through biometric clock-in system. The digitization of transcripts is almost complete. The last Students Union election which was transparent and rancour-free was conducted through e-election. The installation of CCTV Cameras in all the classrooms and strategic places in the University campuses are ongoing and geared towards enhancing security generally and curbing examination malpractices during examinations.
The Professor Esimone led administration has done well in the areas of infrastructural development and these include Modernization of the Council Chamber to world-class Standard, Creation of a modernized Vice-Chancellor’s Conference Room, Supply of Laboratory Equipment and Furniture to the faculties of Biosciences; Physical Sciences; Pharmaceutical Sciences; and Health Sciences and Technology, remodeling of students’ hostels as self-contained rooms.
Some lofty projects commenced by the Prof. Esimone led administration include Construction of Faculty Building for Faculty of Social Sciences, Construction of Laboratory Building at the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Construction of Departmental Building for the Department of Psychology, Construction of Faculty Building for the Faculty of Education, Wing B, Construction of Departmental Building and Training Centre for the Department of Vocational Education, among others.
Professor Esimone has always believed that with God, all things are possible and this is evident in the review of his strides in the past one year. We remain hopeful and with the contribution of all and sundry, Project 200 will be actualized before the expiration of his tenure in 2024.