By T.Tser Vanger
It has almost been established as a tradition that when someone is appointed or gets elevated into office, especially an exalted office as a successor to a previous occupant, such a new appointee is always said to be “stepping into big sized shoes that are difficult to fill.”
However, Emeritus Professor Shima Gyoh, a retired Federal Permanent Secretary and academic, once ruminated over this anecdote and gave what may be termed an apt equipoise of the old cliché.
According to him, each time someone is appointed or elevated into such an office, his advice to such a one is: “throw those shoes out through the window and start work in your own (pair of) shoes.”
Although the new Vice-Chancellor of Benue State University, Makurdi, Professor Tor Joe Iorapuu , was not there when the then Provost of the College of Health Sciences of BSU made this disclosure about four years ago, he (Tor Iorapuu) enacted a verbal scene which gave a bite to the admonishment by Emeritus Professor Gyoh.
This was in the Senate Chambers of the University in Makurdi on Monday, 2nd November, 2020 when he received formally the handover notes from his immediate predecessor, Professor Msugh Moses Kembe, following the latter’s end of 5-year tenure.
After receiving the handover notes and listening to the speech by his immediate predecessor, it was his turn to respond. He then went down memory lane by reminding his audience, made up mostly of Principal Officers and Senate Members of the University, mostly Professors, that the founder of the University, Late Rev. Fr. Moses Orshio Adasu, (Benue State Governor 1991-1993) had neither children nor a wife yet it was he who laid the foundation of the University. He therefore stressed the need to preserve the University as the late Rev. Fr. Adasu’s legacy.
To Buttress his argument on the need for all staff to render service “to the system and not to me”, he informed his audience how he, even as a senior academic who had been in the service of the University of Jos since 1989, had one of his children schooling in Benue State University. It is not doubtful that this kind of message resonated well with his audience.
This must be so because earlier on Thursday, 29th October, 2020, during a Valedictory Dinner in honour of the outgoing Vice-Chancellor, Professor Msugh Moses Kembe, Professor Iorapuu had, after a brief but rhetorical speech, ended by admonishing everyone at the event to ‘go home, take a moment and walk round your compound barefooted to appreciate the emptiness of life.” This he said while stressing the need for staff of the University to render conscious service without expecting too much and yet obtaining satisfactory compensation for their input.
It was the same kind of message that the Vice-Chancellor had for drivers of the University’ Stakeholders Forum, a forum made up of Parents/Staff and influential leaders of thought and whose views and actions are capable of impacting the University positively.
The Forum has as its Chairperson, Chef Mrs. Keziah Agundu, a former Chairman of Ushongo Local Government area who along with her Exco Members had paid him a familiarization visit at his private residence in Makurdi.
After listening to the Chairperson’s explanation of the origin and mission of the Forum, Professor Iorapuu, apparently impressed, said: “Even if this forum was not in existence, I would have established one because of my belief in participatory governance.”
He also disclosed that participatory or shared leadership was pertinent because it motivates everyone to assume ownership of a project and therefore “they are ready to defend it.”
On his mission and vision for Benue State University as the 6th Vice-Chancellor in the 28 years of the University, Iorapuu, a Professor of Social Theatre and Transformative Change, has no illusion that the task is a piece of cake.
“As I accept the onerous task of becoming the sixth Vice-Chancellor of this University, I am aware that our Universities are operating in very challenging times”, he stated during the handover ceremony.
That his assumption of duty as the sixth Vice-Chancellor of the University came when Public Universities in Nigeria (BSU inclusive) have shut down academic activities for over seven months courtesy of COVID-19 complexities and industrial unrest of Unions on campus brings this point home. In the circumstance, it may be very difficult for the new Vice-Chancellor to have a smooth take off of his administration of the university as money for the day-to-day running of the university comes mainly from the payments by students.
None of the previous Vice-Chancellors of the University had the onerous challenge of assuming office when the university had been closed or shut down for this long. It therefore means that if Professor Tor Iorapuu succeeds in directing the affairs of Benue State University in the next five years, one can safely say that on coming into office, he did not meet any of his predecessors’ shoes. This is so because none of his predecessors began their terms of office when the University was on shut down for this long.
But who is Professor Tor Iorapuu?
Born as Joe Tor Iorapuu in Aliade, Gwer East Local Government area of Benue State in 1962, he attended the famous Government College, Katsina-Ala, the College of Education, Katsina-Ala and the University of Jos where he peaked his academic attainments with a PhD and got promoted steadily to the rank of Professor in 2011 after lecturing in the University for over three decades.
A perusal of his 24 page resume leaves one in no doubt that the Academic, Administrator and Activist has equipped himself with all it takes to be the next Leader of a 21st century citadel of learning.
A multitalented person that he is, Iorapuu has for almost two decades, engaged in community service and activism using an NGO he founded, Youth Adolescence, Reflection and Action Centre (YARAC) to mobilize resources for worthy causes, especially for promotion of peace.
For his active involvement and contributions to the propagation of peace, endurance and hope as espoused by Roman Catholic Christianity, he was inducted into the order of Knight of St. Murumba (KSM).
He has presented over fifty Public Lectures in universities and other institutions of higher learning on diverse topics ranging from academics, community mobilization, good governance and consultancy, all of which activities have taken him on travels to more than 15 countries in different continents, thus making him a cosmopolitan citizen of Nigeria.
In august, 2019 he took up a sabbatical appointment with the Benue State University, Makurdi. In the twilight of his sabbatical with the University, the Vacancy for the office of the Vice-Chancellor was advertised as that of the then incumbent, Professor Msugh Moses Kembe was to end in October, 2020.
Professor Iorapuu, known for taking brave decisions, took a plunge by putting in his application.
The race begun with a total of twenty six Professors who applied for the job initially. In a rigorous interview process that lasted for one week, Professor Iorapuu emerged top and was recommended by the Governing Council of the University which forwarded his name to the Visitor of the University, Governor Samuel Ortom, for appointment.
According to the Chairman of Governing Council, Professor Zacharys Gundu, all the applicants were subjected to a computer-based Test, otherwise, Criteria Cognitive Aptitude.
The process continued with oral interviews and panel discussions, all of which he delivered excellently. It was such excellent performance in all the indices set by the panelists that impressed the members to shortlist him as No.1 of the three names forwarded to the Governor of Benue State, Samuel Ortom, also the Visitor of the University. Thus it was that on the 22nd October, 2020, Governor Samuel Ortom announced him as the 6th Vice-Chancellor of Benue State University, Makurdi.

T. Tser Vanger is the Information/Public Relations Officer, Benue State University, Makurdi

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