…..Rolls out plans for Abia
………….Says, I am functional
Abia state gubernatorial aspirant and former Vice Chancellor of the Abia State University, Prof. Uche Ikonne, has defended his tenure as the vice chancellor of the state university, saying that during his tenure, he paid salaries of the university staff and lecturers regularly until Covid 19 disrupted activities in the institution. The same thing he did as rector at the Abia State Polytechnic, Aba, Abia state.
Ikonne also listed three policies he has mapped out for the state if elected governor. They are education, agriculture and development of quality human capital..
In an exclusive interview with selected Nigerian editors and media chiefs, the renowned academic and chairman of Optometrists and Dispensing Opticians Registration in his Umuahia home, Wednesday, said that his tenure at the university was a record yet to be broken.
Ikonne who was appointed Ag. Rector of Abiapoly by former governor Theodore A. Orji was in 2015 appointed the VC of ABSU. He ended his five- year tenure in 2020. Rolling out his achievements at the two institutions, he noted that if he could perform wonders at the Abia Polytechnic and at the ABSU then he would perform better as governor of the state.
Ikonne also reeled out his plans for the state, saying that,”Age does not define the quality of a man. I am functional”.
Ikonne said it was his effort that made ABSU become second best state university in the country having been ranked 93 in Nigerian university ranking in 2015. ABSU ranked 27 by the time he left in 2020.
He noted some new courses he introduced there, new faculty complexes he built, increase in the ABSU internal revenue generation, IGR, funding of researches through TETFUND and how the N3b intervention fund from TETFUND was utilised and how he got the ABSU alumni association to invest in the university.
Ikonne reminded critics how he was appointed VC of the university, saying that based on his sterling performance at Abiapoly, some lecturers of ABSU led by the Deputy Vice Chancellor Academics, came to the polytechnic and asked him to show interest in becoming vice chancellor of the university, which lecturers which Abiapoly refused.
Ikonne recalled that apart from paying regular salaries at the university, he also paid off nine months’ salary arrears at the Abiapoly by getting the state government to intervene. The institution also owed over N2bn loan and was paying monthly interest of about N42m . Through the magnanimity of Governor Okezie Ikpeazu the 2b niara loan arrears was cleared.
Ikonne said he beautified the poly main entrance, devised means of paying salaries frequently, tarred the road from the gate to the campus, built new main gate through the support of SLOT Systems limited, got staff and non teaching staff to do most of the works like welding ,building construction, sculptor etc as direct labour.He enhanced ingenuity in the school and manufactured steel produced and sculptures that were sold to the public. In his words, “we have quality manpower in that school, and I used them to do most of the jobs there in order to reduce cost” . He tackled accreditation problems in the institution and got some courses accredited.
At ABSU, the scholar who studied at Ngwa High school and in the Philippines, with numerous articles and books, said he assumed office at ABSU with a mantra, Our Story Must Change, and developed a vision statement that guided his administration.
He was able to attract the attention of TETFUND which gave the university about N3b intervention fund which he used to establish two extra campuses in the state-Faculty of Engineering and Pharmaceutical Sciences at Aba and Faculty of Law at Umudike, Umuahia. He also built complexes for engineering and public health faculties and a medical centre for the university, an engineering workshop, ICT building, main entrance gate and walkway of the university.
Ikonne went on to say that he introduced new academic programmes such as mechanical engineering, electrical and electronics, computer engineering, ICT, surveying and geo-Informatics and public health. He restarted the inaugural Lecture of the university, stopped sale of handouts, created a portal for easy accessibility for students clearance and payment of fees, got mass transit vehicles and new cars for deans and provosts.
Ikonne went on to say he got full accreditation for faculties of Law, Medical Laboratories and Computer Sciences. His efforts yielded results which made the medical council increase students intake into the Medical Faculty to 120 from 80.
Ikonne said he mandated the university public relations Unit to address any professor that had delivered the University’s Inaugural address as Distinguished Professor as a way of boosting academic excellence and confidence in scholarship. He reminded that he started the ABSU bottled water as a way of increasing the university’s IGR, and secured TETFUND to support foreign research for lecturers.
Ikonne went on to enumerate other of his achievements at Abiapoly including improving the working condition of the polytechnic staff which made the national body of polytechnics honour him with an award. He broke the barrier of non poly teachers assuming Rector office, trained the staff for teachng and non teaching staff to access TETFUND and general empowerment of the staff.
Apart from his intimidating profile, Ikonne said he studied university management and that the university is a “microcosm of the state”. Based on that he said he will perform well as governor.
On his plans for the state, Ikonne said he will adopt the public ,private partnership in running the schools in Abia while he will build a model school in each of the three senatorial zones
On agriculture, Ikonne said he would change the primordial system of farming in the state to a modern one and make it Agric business based on comparative advantage of the state and modernise farm houses to model products housing.