Professor E. Uche Ikonne took over the mantle of leadership as Vice Chancellor, Abia State University on the 1st day of December, 2015. Many were not in doubt that he was an example of preparation meets opportunity, a phrase attributed to Roman philosopher Seneca.
His stellar antecedents as a Doctor of Optometry and Administrator were assurances to those who have had contact with him and some who would learn about his person, that his appointment was a classical example of what the Legendary Bob Marley succinctly captured, Who that cap fits, let him wear it.
These attributes became clearer when he reeled out his blue print: ‘Our Story Must Change’ to drive Abia State University to an enviable height. He pledged to uphold positive values, follow due process, ensure absolute discipline, transparency and accountability in discharge of duties to guide his administration.
Two years down the lane, it is obvious that Professor Ikonne has kept to his promises as awards and recommendations continue to pour in both within and outside the University community.
Indeed, the last twenty-four months of Prof. Ikonne’s administration have been very eventful as several landmark achievements are being recorded in all spheres of the University’s main mandate: teaching, research and community service which is also the substratum of his “Our Story Must Change Mantra”
In specific terms, he is taking the security, welfare of staff and students very seriously. He is vigorously pursuing excellence in teaching and research; Infrastructural development is receiving the much needed attention; Excellent town and gown relationship is being promoted; Internally generated revenue is being visibly enhanced;Fiscal discipline, transparency and accountability are getting necessary flip.
Under his watch as Vice Chancellor, staff training and retraining continue to attract the administration’s utmost attention while regular payment of staff salaries and promotions has continued to be deservedly earned as at when due.
For the students, he is also doing everything possible to substantially increase the welfare alertness through a dedicated hot line to students; elimination of all forms of extortion of students by unscrupulous staff; liquidation of all sales of handout through the introduction of a very functional book review committee, quality assurance and ethics committee. Also, the academic calendar of the institution now runs full cycle without interruption; lecturers’ capacity to teach the students well is being enhanced while security challenges on the campus are being frontally tackled. This recently earned him an Award as the best performing Vice Chancellor on staff welfare and development in southeast by the Nigerian Political Science Association, as well as a chieftaincy title Okaa Omee 1 of Absu by the Students Union Government of the institution.
Prof. Ikonne has sustained the tradition of heavy investment in human capital development through the massive sponsorship of deserving academic staff members to learned conferences within and outside the country.
Added to this is the judicious use of the various research grants by the University researchers, under his efficient supervision.
Under teaching Research and Leaning, he has:
*Improved the academic content of the university, with the introduction of the new academic programmes namely: Mechanical Engineering, Electrical and Electronics Engineering, Computer Engineering, Information and Communication Technology (ICT), Surveying and Geo-Informatics, Public Health and the recent Anatomy and Physiology.
*Rekindled the moribund inaugural lecture series of the university, by having 16 Inaugural lectures and one special lecture, as against nineteen (19) Lectures in 35 years of the existence of the University (1981-2015).
*Established a robust research-oriented administration with professors leading several research teams.
*Approved and sponsored forty-eight (48) research topics through TETFund to the tune of over Fifty Million Naira.
*Secured full accreditation status for the university by the National Universities Commission (NUC) and other regulatory professional bodies including Law, Medicine and Medical Laboratory.
*Improved the national ranking of the university from 93rd to 53rd just under 24 months and still counting.
*Increased the quota of Admission per session.
Increased the quota of the University for Mobilization of students for the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) Programme.
*Setting up of the university Book House, where all intending printed materials for students receive approval by the Book Review Committee. Each Material, when printed is sold at the Book House at an agreed cost, with the author receiving his/her royalty. This, among other benefits helps to preserve and enhance the prestige of teaching staff.
*Setting up a Quality Assurance & Ethics Committee which acts as the Ombudsman of the University to ensure quality teaching and highly improved service delivery by all categories of staff.
*Improved Academic discipline, prompt online registration of courses and release of student examination results. Students semester results can now be assessed at the comfort of homes online even by their parents.
*Re-Organized the university outreach programmes (Institute for Distance Education (IDEA) and (Sandwich) for greater efficiency and setting up the Institute for Continuing Education (ICE).
For the external Outlook of the University, Professor Ikonne has signed agreement with reputable international academic institutions for collaboration including State University of New York on Optometry training and practice.
On innovations, He initiated the Eminent Persons lectures series of the university which should proffer solutions to the societal problems thereby contributing to the socio- political and economic development of the Nation and the society at large, as well as organized the first Igbo Cultural festival in the university, to give impetus to the promotion of Igbo Culture and Tradition.
On his relationship with the host community (Uturu), He instituted a standing committee, made of staff of the university with territorial interest and indigenes nominated by the host community. This committee is to be proactive on issues of peaceful co-existence between the university and the host community.
In other to increase the internally generated revenue (IGR) of the University through Private Partnership program, he has established linkages and partnership as follows:
*Good seed farms Ltd for the production of ABSU bottled water.
*Clarion Call Incorporated, U.S.A based company for establishment of a Health and fitness center and exposure to Research Sponsoring International Organizations.
*National Mathematical Center, Abuja, for exchange programme in the enhancement of teaching and learning of Mathematical Science, with the ultimate intention of establishing Abia State University as a Zonal Center for the training of Mathematics teachers within the South-East and South-South Zones.
*National Office of Technology and Promotions (NOTAP) under the federal Ministry of Science and Technology and Promotions for workshops on writing of Award winning Research Proposals with ultimate aim of opening an office here ,called Intellectual and Technology Transfer Office (ITTO)
*ETMP, a Malaysian based company for the establishment of Entrepreneurial skills acquisition training programme for our regular students and long term training for the public, with industrial attachment in home country industry. This is in line with State Government programme on Education for Employment. Etc.
For the Infrastructural outlook of the University, he has
*Renovated and refurbished Students Hostels with new foams and bed.
*Renovated and refurbished the University Senate Building, as the offices of the Vice Chancellor and the Deputy Vice Chancellor now wears a corporate look.
* Renovated and refurbished the long abandoned Vice Chancellor’s official Residence: Ebenezer Lodge.
*Renovated the Biochemistry department Laboratory.
*Completed the Aglon Hostel, which was started in 2002 but later abandoned.
*Constructed as well as renovated road network, hostels and classroom buildings in Umuahia location of the university.
*Procured/installed a brand new 65KVA generating set for students hostel in Aba location of the university.
*Established Accounting Laboratory in the Department.
*Connected the university to national electricity power.(National Grid) etc.
And will soon complete the
*Ongoing Renovation and Re-grassing of the University field.
*Ongoing Construction of ultramodern 500 capacity students hostel.
*Ongoing construction of ultramodern 600 capacity hostel in uturu location
*Ongoing Construction of an ultramodern material store house.
*Ongoing construction of Medical Students Hostel, which in nearing completion.
*Ongoing Pathology Laboratory Building, which on completion will provide accommodation for Microbiology, Chemical Pathology, Hematology and Pharmacology and so on.
The institution under the present leadership has embarked on massive procurement of computers to help in automating its library services. This will ensure that the cataloguing facilities are online, and improve the electronic library services. Already, most of the current book stocks are being converted to soft copies to ensure easy accessibility and safety of the documents. With the installation of the Integrated Management System, materials in ABSU library will soon be accessed more easily by students and researchers from any part of the world.
The administration of Prof. Ikonne has gone a little further by establishing poultry, aquaculture and piggery etc to boost agricultural prowess of the University. This is the institutions modest way of ensuring food security in the country.
The administration of Professor E. Uche Ikonne is one the best things that has happened to Abia State University. The revolution that has taken place under his watch no doubt places the institution on the map of world center for academic excellence. By the end of his five years tenure, Abia State University will indeed be the best.