By BEN NWANNE
THE emergence of Prof. Andy Egwunyenga as the seventh substantive Vice Chancellor of Delta State University, DELSU, Abraka on December 1, 2019, elicited immense joy and jubilation among staff, students and other stakeholders of the state owned citadel of higher learning. In fact, the host community of Abraka literally burst into a festive mood as soon as the appointment of the erudite professor was announced.
On his first working day in office, Monday, December 2, 2019, Prof. Egwunyenga decided to officially handover his office and, indeed, the entire university into the hands of God by attending a brief thanksgiving service at St. John’s Chaplaincy at Site 2 of Abraka Campus. Although it was meant to be a private affair, a huge crowd soon besieged the church premises on the solemn occasion, which was clearly an indication of support and encouragement for the new God-ordained administration.
The first working day was also significant because it signposted the high premium which the Prof. Egwunyenga administration places on effective communication. His first outing was lucid and memorable for several reasons. On the Delta State University, Abraka Official Bulletin, he articulated some of the highlights of his administration. Of particular interest to many was his pledge to, among other things, redress genuine cases of injustice for many staff who had issues of injustice with previous administrations. For many observers, such cheery news was akin to the sonorous sound of a sweet music. This was understandably so given that quite a good number of staff were frustrated as a result of official high handedness. Indeed, staff morale was at low ebb and the relationship between the university and its host communities was not particularly rosy as a result of what many described as administrative overheat of the past era.
Prof. Egwunyenga served notice of the expected high quality of his administration at his first Senate on December 11, 2019, when he spelt out his overarching mission and vision to lead, inspire and advance DELSU to be the best State University in the country at the end of his tenure in 2024. Soon afterwards, he put into motion a lot of innovations using the power and opportunities of Information and Communication Technologies, ICTs. Few months later, his efforts yielded great dividends as the global ranking of the University took a geometric leap from its previous 78th position to 38th among universities in Nigeria, and from 18th to seventh among state universities. Expectedly, Prof. Egwunyenga promised to make the university environment aesthetically pleasing in addition to restoring the seemingly lost town and gown harmony by forging a better relationship between the university and its host communities. On this basis, the people-friendly vice chancellor intends to launch an endowment fund to enhance the university’s ability to effectively deliver on its mandate.
Within one year in office, Prof. Egwunyenga is redefining what the relationship between a leader and followers should be as he has continuously taken the frontal lead in all issues of academic and administrative excellence and encouraging others to follow suit. He has demonstrated an uncanny ability to manage men and materials, providing an enlightened and inspiring leadership that encourages staff and students to do their best willingly, without being slave-driven. Indeed, his friendly and professional disposition encourages staff and students to speak their minds without let or hindrance, based on his respect for robust debates in a free market place of ideas where superior ones will eventually emerge. Unlike many administrators of mean repute, who loath opposing views and micro-manage their subordinates, Prof. Egwunyenga is one who maintains a very cordial relationship with all categories of staff and students in the university communities and encourages them to speak when the need arises.
His desire to put the university on the course of moral rectitude has been his driving force, which explains the many committees he empanelled to look into the many cases of injustice, denied promotions, questionable dismissals, unearned promotions and other complaints. His well thought out reasoning is that if people are angry because of injustice, they would not be happy to give their best to their employers.
Unarguably, Prof. Egwunyenga brings to the table a rich experience that is found only among few administrators. Among other high profile appointments and exposures, he was the Rector of the Delta State Polytechnic, Ogwashi-Uku which he turned around. He has the uncanny ability to combine responsible activism with administrative dexterity, and this peculiar trait was replete while he subsisted as the Chairman of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU-DELSU, for five years.
Again, having spent 28 years in the services of the university, Prof. Egwunyenga is familiar with the terrain and enjoys a large following among staff and students as a result of his famed ability to engage people in skilful and meaningful communication. Although he is a scientist (Zoologist), his power of communication could compete favourably with the best in the arts and the social sciences. His wide general knowledge and broad outlook give him an edge in relating with different people. More so, his pan-Nigerian disposition acquired from living and attending schools at different levels in the South, Western and Northern parts of the country makes him “flow” with any person from any part of Nigeria.
In addition to providing exemplary leadership, he has taken practical steps to actualize his mission and vision for the University. Despite the devastating effects of the novel COVID-19 pandemic, the vice chancellor has carried out renovation, beautification and landscaping of Sites 2 and 3 at the main campus in Abraka, including the main entrance gates. He has also embarked on the construction of Agricultural Science Laboratory block, Management Sciences office block and construction of Environmental office all at the University’s main campus.
Apart from the procurement of assorted text books and Journals from TETFUND for the University libraries, his administration has remained undeterred by embarking on many on-going projects, including the construction and furnishing of offices and lecture theatres for the department of Nursing, Faculty of Pharmacy and Faculty of Arts complex, all at the main campus in Abraka. If we could borrow the words of Chinua Achebe to describe the Professor Egwunyenga administration, then certainly “it is morning yet on creation day”.