Professor Austin Anigala and Oasis Magazine (OM) team were in his office recently to talk about his tenure as the Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Academics, Delta State University, Abraka.
According to him, his tenure was challenging, but at the same time fruitful.
Here, he also speaks on some of the achievements recorded under the Peretomode-led administration.
How will you describe your journey as Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Academics, Delta State University, Abraka?
Before I describe it, I think the first thing I should do is thank God for the opportunity given to me to serve in this capacity. I must say that it has been a fruitful experience and quite challenging because anywhere that you intend to initiate a change there is bound to be resistance. But, when persons see the genuineness of your intentions, they fall in line and begin to appreciate it. So, it has been a wonderful experience.
You just talked about trying to initiate a change. Let’s go straight to ask what achievements were recorded during your tenure?
Let me start by appreciating the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Victor F. Peretomode for being a gifted, foresighted, innovative and great leader to be with. Without this kind of boss, there is little or nothing that I would have been able to do. I am excited to have worked under such a Vice-Chancellor. And that has made us achieve a tremendous success in his tenure. Let’s look at the university calendar that will flaunt everywhere. We have being able to reorganize the system in such a way that has made us key into the international calendar. So, now our students come in let’s say October or November and by June the session is ended. Apart from that, I must also commend our staff for being hard working. Initially, some of them were not happy about it. The question was where are you rushing us to? But when the report started coming in, they started appreciating what they have done and likewise commended the management too. For instance, students that graduated last year were able to go for their youth service corps programme with the first batch. For quite some time it has not happened. Our students are excited about it. Indeed, it is one of the greatest achievements so far. Then, let us talk about the staff and students relationship even from management to students. This management has being student and staff friendly and we also have an open door policy. Because of this, it is easy for students to be able to walk into the office of the VC and interact with him and it has also helped us. Another thing also is bringing integrity into the system. Before now, some students who were going through one challenge or the other found it difficult to open up. But, since we came on board they started opening up. But, we made sure that they were coming to tell us the truth and have evidence. Imagine someone raped coming up to tell us. That is because they have trust in us that when such things are reported, management will take it up. Also, staff to staff relationship has being built up. There is no way you can satisfy everybody, but, we have tried as much as it is within our power to pull everybody together. So, if you look at these things, you will know that we have achieved much. Beyond that, we have also recorded tremendous success in the area of infrastructural development. Go to Site III and see what is going on there. Now, we have the Advance Research Centre where anyone who wants to do a research can walk in there and do such. Also, there is the Language laboratory and we are looking forward to another structure that is coming up in the next few weeks that has to do with the Arts Theater structure which was part of the VC’s idea. He went somewhere and saw something and said how can we domesticate it? When the NUC went there, they said it was the best in this area. I must also say that the state government has really helped us in achieving these goals. The state government also has some ongoing building projects to their credits. There, we also have an ultramodern complex as office for professors for those in the Faculty of Education. There are also other things in the offing like the building of a new complex for the Faculty of Arts that has been approved. Also, in Site III, you would find that there is the students’ waiting hall for them to sit, relax and wait for their lectures instead of just loitering around. The building of a state-of-the-art library is ongoing in the same Site III. It has been roofed and will soon be completed. There are still so many other things which have not been completed but will soon be completed.
You have said much about the achievements made by the Peretomode-led administration. What legacy are you leaving behind?
Well, let me put it this way, I would talk about doing things with integrity and being just and fair to all and also ensuring that nobody is oppressed. Also, we encouraged persons to be committed to their work and doing it as their own personal contribution to the development of humanity. These are things that we are leaving behind that we believe others will be able to key into to move the university forward. There is still room for improvement.
Are there a few challenges you faced during your tenure that you would like to highlight?
Like I said, when you try to initiate a change, some persons would misunderstand you. In the process of trying to ensure that there is justice, there are a number of persons that we also dealt with and it did not go down well with some persons too. For instance when someone alters scores, we either dismiss or terminate their appointment. If you harass ladies or extort money from students either for scores or projects and there is evidence, you are shown the way out. In this type of situation you would understand that not everyone can be happy with you. Some persons felt that too many staff members were getting sacked by management. But, we said, no, it is individuals that sack themselves by doing the wrong things. Also, some of those that were dealt with will not go out there to tell people what they did wrong, but rather want to blackmail the system. People don’t like the truth. But this administration has been firm and we take our decisions in the interest of the system and once we know that we are doing that which is right, whether persons appreciated it or not we went ahead to implement.
Are there a few things that you would have loved to do that time did not allow you do?
Yes! One of the few things I would have loved to do was uploading our results in the result engine, so that anybody who is looking for transcript can access the transcript any time, any day. That is one of the major things one could not achieve before handing over. Now, persons come here and apply for their transcripts but they cannot access it. It is not like it started now. You know we had some departments that were burnt in the 90s or gutted during fire incidents. When those affected now come how do they access their results? But, now we are trying to update our systems and we have also told the Exams and Records session to be able to update their systems too so that in the nearest future, if a student comes for his or her transcript they just get it. So, that is one of the things that one was not able to achieve.
How will you respond to the claims of some persons that under this administration, student fellowships were chased out of the campus? Some think with you as DVC Academics, this negative decision should not have been taken?
Well, there is nothing negative there. Let me correct something, we did not ask all the fellowship to leave the campus. What we did was a restructuring. I went to the university and I was a Christian before I went to the university. Then, we had what was called the Christian Union (CU). It was our source of strength. No matter what denomination you belonged to, we were all united. We had a kind of bonding and even till this moment I am still in touch with those who were my fellowship members. Then, we saw ourselves as one and there was discipline. It is not like what you have now. Rubbish has crept into the system. Now, how do you justify this? You have papas and mamas all over the place. And then a fellow student is a papa and another student will be carrying his Bible and every other thing. Some of these fellowship leaders had other students cooking for them. Also, there were all sorts of extortion from fellow students by these fellowships and a high level of indiscipline. Sometimes you will come to the campus when lectures were going on and you will find fellowship meetings holding and disturbing the school environment. For goodness sake it is not a lawless community and that was why we now said, it is better for us to streamline. We then had close to 60 fellowships on campus with some having just 3 to 4 members. There must be days for fellowship and then days for learning. We decided to have just 6 different groups for every fellowship to fit into any. A number of persons threatened us but that did not stop us. The main aim of students here is for them to learn knowledge and character. So, we just restructured and we did not ask fellowships to leave the campus.
So, after this, what is next in your line of academic activities?
The beautiful thing about this is that as an academic when you are done with any position, you go back to lecturing. However, while my tenure lasted I was still lecturing and supervising projects because that is the main reason why one is here. This is secondary.
Some have alleged that the next VC comes from Delta North since Delta Central has had their tenure and Peretomode who occupies that position now is from Delta South. When his tenure ends later this year, would you mind taking over since you come from Delta North?
I am not aware of any zoning formula. The tenure of the present VC will end by November and then the new VC takes over. I am aware that once there is an advert all those persons that are interested would apply and they will go for an interview. It is from there that three persons will be selected based on their performance and sent to the Visitor out of which he will pick one person. I like taking my life one step at a time. Today, I am here by the grace of God and I did not plan or dream that I was going to be here. So, I don’t create problems for myself by beginning to think of positions or whatever. I would rather ask God to guide and direct me. One or two persons have come here to find out from me and I told them let me complete this and be focused now. Later when I am done, if God says I should apply when they advertise, fine, if not, fine.
What if stakeholders force it on you, would you accept?
I won’t accept. That decision to accept can only be determined by God. The reason is this- I know what I have gone through here. So it takes the grace of God to be able to function in this capacity. Not just me, but the VC and DVC Admin. We have had several spiritual attacks and a whole lot of other things. 4 of us started this journey and only two of us are ending it successfully. So, it is by the grace of God. You know what happened to the Provost of Oleh and that of Asaba. I tell people …power belongs to God. He is the one who appoints and picks. But, I can only move at His directives because I know I will have his backing. To that extent this period is to seek God’s face. If He says apply, I will apply. If he says no, then I won’t. It is not a do or die affair. My greatest passion is how to make heaven. Because you can occupy a position and it will take you to hell. There is nothing so big or fantastic about the VC position. I see it as a position of rendering services. So, my question is what do I have to offer there?
Any advice for the person taking over from you?
I have already discussed with the person. I told her to come into this office with the fear of God and to be dependent on the name of the Lord. Her survival is dependent on that. Secondly, make sure that you are true and just to everybody irrespective of where they come from. That is, she must be detribalized. Also, she should also mind the kind of friends she keeps. Some persons claim to be friends but could be envious of the position that you are holding and want to see how to pull you down.
Are you going to miss this office?
Well, as an opportunity to render service, yes. But, I am rejoicing that l have completed my tenure and there is nothing left to be done. I have done what I feel I have being brought in here to do. It is on that level that I am handing over with joy and happiness to the next person coming in.
Do you have any advice for students of this institution?
They should realize first of all that they are students and they should have a focus. One of the challenges we had is that some students will not come and pay their fees. They should be current with the rules and regulations so as to enable them to have a wonderful stay in the school. They need to read wide and also they should behave themselves and work hard so as to attain greater heights. They also should believe in themselves and avoid evil association. Let them have a close relationship with God so that they can be useful to themselves and others also.