By Leonard Ajokubi
Penultimate week, dignitaries from various parts of Imo State, including the academia, gathered at the Imo State University, Owerri, to celebrate the one year anniversary of the assumption of office of the Acting Vice-Chancellor of the University, Prof. Peter Achunike Akah.
Prof. Akah was appointed the Acting Vice-Chancellor of Imo State University on January 4, 2021, by the Executive Governor of the State, Senator Hope Uzodinma. His appointment came after the expiration of the tenure of the immediate past Vice-Chancellor of the University, Prof. (Mrs.) Adaobi Obasi.
When the news of his appointment filtered into the air, some people in the State felt that he would not perform, following the myriad of issues that were kept hanging. They didn’t know that a wonderful and seasoned administrator was emerging. I can say that they were carried away by mere sentiments, regardless of the fact that men are still ploughing.
Today, the story is different, as the Acting Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Akah, has proved them wrong. He has actually made them understand clearly that he is not only a performer, but a do-gooder by doing what his predecessors could not do. He has recorded remarkable achievements. So far, he has lived above board.
It was observed that the Acting VC, on assumption of office, could not believe what he saw at the IMSU College of Medicine and Health Sciences, Orlu, as a number of the Students were said to have spent over 10 years in the School due to withdrawal of accreditation of the College by the National Universities Commission (NUC) in 2017. To help matters, Prof. Akah took the bull by the horn and made appreciable progress. Within the period under review, the University graduated and inducted 131 Medical Doctors from the College of Medicine and held similar induction ceremonies for Nurses and Doctors of Optometry during the period.
Narrating how he achieved the purpose, Prof. Akah said, “I have been part of the Medical School. When I came in here, the first Students I met were crying. I told them, your problem is over, and I have to bring somebody from outside, Prof. Bond Anyaehie. The University is not paying him ten kobo. It is free service. I said we have a mission. Immediately he came, action started. We have to make some changes.
“Because the Teaching Hospital was in a mess, we have to arrange with the Federal Medical Centre (FMC) to assist us attend to the Students who have stayed for ten or eleven years. We engaged Staff, gave them little motivation and carry them along. That was the magic, and the result is there, and their parents are rejoicing. We have vision and tried to fulfill that vision”.
For re-accreditation of the College of Medicine, the VC said, “We are making everything humanly possible to make the school accredited. The onus now depends on the government. We have given the government what it takes to do that. We have a vision and mission, we are not giving up. We are still praying”.
Aligning with the VC, the Provost, College of Medicine, Prof. Bond Anyaehie, in a media chat, said, “Before I came, Imo State is the only State in the South-East that does not have accredited Medical School. Anambra has 2, and it’s even having the third one; Abia has 2, and it’s equally having the third one, Enugu has 2, Ebonyi has 2, and Imo does not have any. My time here is to re-accredit the School and clear the backlog of Students before I go back to my School, University of Nigeria, Nsukka”.
To actualize this, the VC, Prof. Akah, in December, 2021, ensured that the National University Commission Accreditation team came to accredit the College of Medicine and 42 other programmes in the University. This was revealed by the Vice-Chancellor in his address at the event of the induction and swearing-in ceremony of the 2020/2021 graduands of College of Medicine held at the Imo State University Auditorium in December, 2021.
He said, “For four years now, we have not admitted Students in Medicine and Surgery because we lost National Universities Commission (NUC) accreditation of Medicine and Surgery in 2017. I am happy to announce that few days ago, the National Universities Commission came to our University to accredit our programmes in Medicine and Surgery, and we look forward to a positive result of that accreditation exercise”.
However, it was leant that the easy-going Vice-Chancellor, few months ago, commissioned a Medical Centre that was described as the best in the tertiary institutions in the Country. The University, today, has what is called National Health Insurance Scheme; a programme that one of the Healthcare providers in the State is managing for the University. This simply means that the Students of IMSU will be getting the Healthcare they need as soon as they key into it. The idea of moving from one hospital in the State or the other, will become a thing of the past because there will be adequate drugs and services in the Medical Centre.
Also, the VC, in order to make admission of new students easy and transparent, introduced a portal system in their catchment areas. He has also brought other innovations like the system they are adopting to get into the ICT Super Highway where the students of the institution will see their results through the University portals, that is, Website, where they will pay their fees if someone is registered for the University portal.
The building of a new primary school in the University is another landmark achievement recorded by the Prof. Akah-led administration. He came and saw that flood had ravaged what used to be their primary school, and quickly embarked on building of a new one that younger ones will see a place to stay for learning. This is quite commendable because the previous Vice-Chancellors saw the dilapidated nature of the school and ignored it as if it never mattered.
I cannot mention all the notable achievements of the Acting Vice-Chancellor due to lack of space. But for the records, let me inform you that within the period under review, the University settled the unpaid February 2020 salaries for all members of Staff and also paid many months salary arrears owed many Staff of the University due to complications arising from the government’s Centralized Payment System; took care of the delayed payment of honoraria to Adjunct lecturers; delayed promotion for both members of Staff and non-Academic staff; recovery of five hectares of land given to the University by the State government; lodgment of the University in the Treasury Single Account (TSA).
It is also important to note that under Prof. Akah, the University calendar has been stabilized and admission racketeering is over; and extortion of Students has been reduced drastically in the University.
In line with his promise to take the institution to another level, the VC has succeeded in introducing more programmes, as the University now has professional accreditation for insurance programme. NUC has also given approval to start programmes in Anatomy, Physiology, Chemical Engineering and Petroleum and Gas Engineering. This is interesting and commendable, as it will go a long way to promote the image of the institution.
With these and numerous ones not mentioned, one will quickly understand that the Acting Vice-Chancellor really came to serve. He means well for the University and Imo State at large. This may not be far from the reason the Public Relations Officer (PRO) of the University, Ralph Njokuobi, in a media interaction said, “I want to talk about the administration of the God-given Acting Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Peter Achunike Akah. Since he came on board, he has been making effort to turn around the move the University is engaging on, to get to the ivy league of the Universities in the World. He has brought in a lot of innovations”.
It may also be seen as the reason an erudite scholar and prolific writer, Prof. Isidore Diala, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Academics, in his remarks during the one year anniversary, described Prof. Akah’s appointment as the best that Governor Hope Uzodinma had made so far in his administration.
In his, Dr. T.A.B. Sanusi, Registrar, Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (NDCN), while speaking to Newsmen shortly after the induction/swearing-in ceremony of 2020/2021 session of Medical graduands, said, “I feel happy for Imo State University because the College of Medicine is back to life. The Provost achieved this with the support of the Vice-Chancellor, because there is nothing the Provost can do without the support of the Vice-Chancellor who is the Chief Executive of the University”.
The point is that the Acting Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Akah, has so far, proved his mettle as a seasoned administrator. He has recorded landmark achievements. It is truism, considering the fact that he has brought life to both the College of Medicine and the University at large. The interesting thing is that he was able to achieve this within one year, which simply means that he is prepared to take the institution to a greater height. That is the home truth.