• Says He Is Proud To Leave Varsity On A Strong Academic Footing
  • Says He Has Trained More Than 50 PhDs At Home And Abroad
  • Describes Aku Uka As A Dependable Father, Patriotic Leader

Professor Abubakar M. Kundiri, a Professor of Soil and Water Management, former Vice-Chancellor of Federal University Dutse, and the current Vice-Chancellor of Federal University Wukari, whose tenure expires on February, 2021, in his valedictory interview with Education Monitor’s Group Editor-in-Chief, Waziri Isa Adam, spoke on wide range of issues related to his stewardship as the Chief Executive Officer of FUWUKARI.
EM: Sir, can you briefly tell us about Federal University, Wukari?
VC: The Federal University Wukari was one of the first set of twelve Universities established by the Federal Government of Nigeria between 2010 and 2011.

It is located along Katsina Ala Road about 2 kilometers from the Wukari town center. Wukari which is the seat of the Aku Uka, the traditional ruler of the Jukun (Kwararafa Kingdom) on the south-western tip of Taraba State, some 200 kilometres from Jalingo, the State capital where the nearest airport is located.

At take-off, the University inherited the facilities of the Wukari Campus of the Taraba State Polytechnic which housed the School of Administration and Business Studies. Adjacent land was allocated to the University to support its expansion, bringing the total land area to 199.25 hectares.

EM: Can you tell us how you met the university when you assumed office? What values can you say you added that makes it what it is today?

VC: When I took over the University, there were no real physical infrastructures that qualify it to be called a University. However, one infrastructure that stood tall in the University was a good road network. The Vice Chancellor that I succeeded, actually invested mainly in the construction of roads, but did not pay attention to building the real physical infrastructures that make up or characterize a University. So, what I told myself and members of my management, was that we must reach out to both government (through TETFund) and major stakeholders in the state that were both at home and in the diaspora, to seek for their support. The Aku Uka played a very wonderful role in mobilizing all the major stakeholders in the state to listen to our demands and to help us address them in the best interest of the community and future generation.

Expectedly, these stakeholders did not disappoint the Aku Uka, because all of them at one time or the other, found time and visited the University at different times to know our demands, particularly our priorities, which they all promised not to rest on their oars, until they helped us solved them – a promise, they truly lived to.

Other problems that we met on ground included lack of any form of accreditation, whether Interim or Full, for all the courses that were offered in the University; violation of due process and lack of observance of appointment and promotion rules and guidelines of Universities, preferential treatment of staff, etc.

EM: what magic did you then apply to weather the storm? I mean what was your secret?

VC: First of all, I have to give thanks to the Almighty Allah who destined my appointment as the Vice Chancellor of Federal University Wukari, where, to be honest with you, were it not for the confidence that I have in Almighty Allah who I know is my protector and sustainer, I would have thrown in the towel due to the heap of challenges that I inherited in the university. This is my first secret.
My second secret is the Aku Uka of Wukari and Commander-in-Chief of the Jukun race, Dr. Shekarau Angyu Masa Ibi II who embraced me as his son, and who also instructed all the sons and daughters of his Chiefdom, that are resident within and outside the Chiefdom to embrace and support me, as their brother. What I came to understand about the Aku Uka, is that many people outside Taraba State seem to know only but little about him, in terms of his influence, unifying character and enormous leadership skills. In fact, he is one amazing leader that I had ever come across in my life, and whose love for his people, Nigeria and Nigerians knows no bounds.

I can recall that when I first reported Wukari about 5 years ago, to assume duty, my first point of call was the Aku Uka’s Palace where I went to pay homage to the Royal Father and to tell him that I was there to present myself to him as a son, seeking for his blessing and guidance, so that I do not derail in discharging my duties in the university which is under his territory, as the paramount royal father in the community and the state at large.

The Aku Uka gave me accommodation where my family and I, stayed for three days. I was treated as a prince while my wife was treated as a princess by this amazing and exemplary royal father.

When I told him that I was going to assume duty in the university, he instructed his palace guards and several other people within and outside the palace to escort me to the university where I was given an unprecedented, heroic and royal welcome.

Because of the Aku Uka’s support, all the political leaders of the state, especially those in the National Assembly accorded us several supports that enable us to turn the university into what it is today – a true and fast emerging ivory tower. I hope you now know the source of my strength. On how I was able to weather the storm?. I started working assiduously with the support of my management team, to see how we could meet all the conditions for accreditation. I am proud to tell you that as I speak with you today, all our Courses at Federal University Wukari have 100% accreditation.

EM: From your narration, we understand, you really enjoyed a smooth sail in these five years, but all the same, you may not lack one challenge that you have faced while running affairs of the university, especially giving the fact that it remains a relatively new institution. Can you share any such experiences with us?

VC: Its natural that any attempt to introduce or entrench sanity, accountability, excellence and due process by anybody in any organization or institution, will be resisted by the beneficiaries of the old and wrong order. In fact, I had my own share of the challenge that I faced as a result of violation of due process and arbitrariness of the administration that I succeeded.

Actually, there were certain things that were done wrongly at the take off of the university and this was because there were no laws regulating its operation. These included wrong or inappropriate staff recruitment. Some of the staff that were recruited were either not university stuffs or were on the verge of retirement especially those that were drawn from the Local Government Councils, Ministries and other institutions such as Colleges of Education, etc.

Some of them were deputy directors at Local Government and who were already approaching the age of 60, were appointed Deputy Registrars in the University. This was strange because for anybody to be a Deputy Registrar in a University, that person must have been trained and rose through the ranks in the University to be able to make the desired impact in the system.

Other Academics who were either Senior Lecturers or Associate Professors in other institutions were employed as Professors without assessment and were placed on the salaries of full Professors.

Another wrong action that I inherited and which we are still battling in the university is employment of different cadre of staff with the same qualifications but were placed on different levels and salary scales. Those that were employed on the request of VIPs from Abuja then, were placed on senior levels. But those that were employed on merit or on the request of community or political leaders in the state were placed on their normal levels, and were made to stagnate on those same levels without promotion for years, whereas the VIP candidates were promoted twice and, in some instances, thrice within a year.

This arbitrary promotion, at a time, almost caused serious upheavals in the university because those that felt it was wrong to employ their colleagues and put them on levels and steps over and above them had to protest, arguing that what goes for the geese, must also go for the gander. This case is still there and we hope to address it soon without causing harm to the system or the community.
Another very serious challenge that we are facing today in the University is the issue of staff with fake certificates. This issue is another one that is still giving me sleepless nights because some of them have risen to senior positions in the university. However, this is a duty that we are already taking concrete measures to address, to purge the university of these bad elements.

EM: As it is today, what is the total Academic Staff strength and Students population of the University?

VC: As at today, we have about 925 Academic staff in the University, the list of which comprises of 31 Professors, 34 Readers, 44 Senior Lecturers, 137 Lecturer I, 106 Lecturer II, 166 Assistant Lecturers and 407 Graduate Assistants. We also have a total number of not less than 7,144 student population in the University.

EM: What were your priorities, when you came on board, in relation to staff development?

No organization can move forward without the necessary staff to drive its functions. This is even more so for educational institutions and particularly a University that societies depend on to transform citizens.

It is for this reason that my priority was not only on recruiting people with the drive to achieve but also to continually support their capacity to further develop and excel in their fields. I am also keen on incentives to encourage the retention of staff because productivity is based on making sure that our staff are happy.

EM: Some Vice Chancellors are often accused of globetrotting in search of collaborations and funding. You were once, also, on the spotlight over this allegation. What is your take on this?

I find that funny, but I do sympathize with people who are in the academia, but hold such ignorant views in this 21st Century.
Every academic is supposed to know that one of the key roles of the Vice-Chancellor of any University is to explore far and wide in seeking resources to develop his institution. In this age, nothing will come to you, if you don’t go out and look for it. Also, internationalization is the key to development of higher education. There is need to share ideas. You need to open yourself to the world. It is for this reason that we are developing diverse partnerships that will enable our staff and students to exchange ideas with colleagues not only within Nigeria but also in other parts of the world. In fact, one of the key legacies that we are working on is that of an institution that is global, where people from other parts of the world can conveniently come to pursue their education and research needs. Can we do this by folding our hands in a globalized environment?

EM: So, how far have you succeeded in this drive?

VC: Given the fact that collaboration has become a global practice in the academic world, we were also able to key into the popular and highly productive initiative. As it is today, we have established collaborations for academic staff development and research with French Government, International Institute for Tropical Agriculture, International Crop Research Institute for Semi-Arid Tropics, University of Sheffield, Institute of Peace, and Morgan State University

EM: Can you share your best moments as the Vice-Chancellor of this University?

VC: I believe that every moment I have had as the Vice-Chancellor of this University is the best moment because it ultimately led to attaining our objectives. Whether pleasant or not, lessons are learnt which lead to a better outcome. I cannot therefore discount anything that is happening in my position as Vice-Chancellor. It has been excellent so far, for I was given the opportunity to provide leadership to a group of people that are keen to share in the ideals of building skills and knowledge generation for national development. I am also loved by the community where I work so that I am considered the first son of the traditional ruler, the Aku Uka of Wukari, His Majesty Dr. Shekarau Angyu Masa Ibi Kuvyon II, who is also the Chairman of the Council of Chiefs, Taraba State.

Furthermore, the support I got from my family, friends, colleagues, senior government officials and of course, regulatory authorities, are quite something to behold. Times I spend with students around the University in my daily walkabout to meet and greet everyone, I used to come across, are excellent moments. It enabled me to link up directly with those that we serve so that their interests are better taken care of.

EM: What can you boast of saying that you are leaving behind as a Legacy?

VC: I am proud to say without mincing words that, come February, 2021, I will be leaving Federal University Wukari as a functional, competitive and academically strong University that can rub its shoulders with any best university in `the world.

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