The Rivers State University of Science and Technology, Port Harcourt has been described, in recent times, as the hotbed of crisis. With one and a half years lost to agitations, demonstrations and strikes, the institution cannot be better described.
In the worsening drama of absurd in the nation’s premier University of Science and Technology, the students are the worse -hit. Students have their programmes elongated as a result of the nonsensical industrial actions by the Academic Staff Union of Universities, (ASUU), Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) and Non-Academic Staff Union of Universities (NASUU).
The institution has been drawn to avoidable distractions by both staff and students because of the sweeping reforms embarked upon by the Institution’s Vice Chancellor, Prof. B.B. Fakae.
One controversy that followed Prof. Fakae’s appointment was whether he had the requisite experience to pilot the Rivers State University of Science and Technology, Port Harcourt.
Older professors felt slighted that a younger professor was being appointed to lead the institution. Others felt that due process or procedures were not followed in the appointment of the Professor of Veterinary Medicine by the State government.
But Governor Chibuike Amaechi, who believes in quality service delivery remained focused throughout the period of the crisis. He did not want to give in to cheap blackmail by disgruntled staff and students who were used to the old system.
Speaking with The Weekend Tide, the Vice Chancellor of the Rivers State University of Science and Technology, Port Harcourt, Prof. B.B. Fakae, a Professor of Veterinary Medicine barred his mind on the controversies rocking the institution and reiterated his resolve to take RSUST to greater heights and to the next level of development.
Prof. Fakae said he was committed to reforms, and noted that since he took over the mantle of leadership he had been able stop examination malpractices and checkmated cultism to the barest minimum.
The VC who is also a born-again Christian said he was on a mission to cleanse the school of its negative image and make it a place where people could be proud of.
He remarked that the students of the institution could access their result via the internet, explaining that everything about RSUST could be accessed on the net.
He said the innovations in the school had attracted foreign partnership, and said he would stop at nothing to ensure that institution was at per with world-class Universities.
The Ogoni-born professor showed proof to journalists that his children were not involved in the ICT but noted that those who operated it were given the contract on merit and described them as the best in the country.
On accusation of being autocratic, the professor said only those that were ignorant on how Universities were run could make such frivolous allegations.
He declared that the Senate of the School was the highest decision-making body in the school and noted that it was not a single man affairs since it comprised of all the principal officers of the institution.
He pointed out that the Senate took major decision pertaining to the running of the school and wondered why anybody would impute autocracy or high-handedness by his administration.
The VC enumerated a plethora of his administration’s development efforts and urged all to join hands to build a better RSUST.
Prof. Fakae also told The Weekend Tide that more than N1.26 billion was used to settle the arrears of salary owed staff and hoped that the state government’s gesture would be reciprocated by all the stakeholders of RSUST.
Earlier, the VC had explained that admissions to the institution was based on merit and that the in-take of students had been pruned to make learning worthwhile, and meet acceptable standards elsewhere.
He said the decision to shut the hostels was that of the governing council of the institution, and not his personal decision as rumoured.
This institution once reputed for its academic excellence and commitment to research work has virtually become a theatre of war.
Some persons seem to agree that the glorious days of the Ivory Tower are over but others believe that falling actions and policies are a consequence of reaching its peak.
However, some do not agree that the nation’s premier science-based university has over reached its peak, and attributed the crisis in the institution to a preponderance of indisciplined staff and students.
Speaking with The Weekend Tide, Mr Oguma Anana, a student of Mass Communication at RSUST said the internal rot in the university began a long time ago, and not with the incumbent vice chancellor.
He explained that the problem in RSUST are many and variegated and regretted the governing council and the Senate of the institution had been unable to tackle the problem. “The Senate and Governing Council are indecisive”.
According to him, the present Vice Chancellor of the University, Prof. B. B. Fakae has been at the centre of the controversy.
He accused Prof. Fakae of running the institution like a personal estate. He alleged that Fakae’s son who was in charge of the computerisation of results has messed up the whole thing.
“The computerisation is not working because the VC does not know that there is a difference between the family and one’s job. RSUST has become a huge joke under Fakae. You see when you start giving contracts to your cronies and family members, you are calling for crisis”, he declared.
Mr. Anana noted that the contract for computerisation and that of sanitation at the institution were held by Fakae’s children, and regretted that such acts were allowed to continue in an institution such as the RSUST.
He faulted Fakae’s appointment and noted that it was not in consonance with the laid down rules for the appointment of the vice chancellor of RSUST.
He said it was regrettable that VC’s appointment had been highly politicised, noting that the university was paying dearly for it.
Mr. Anana also stated that the morale of hardworking members of the academia had ebbed as a result of anomalies in the appointment of principal officers of the institution.
“Fakae could be the best brain on campus but as the best brain may not necessarily be the best in administration of men and materials. This is the case of RSUST”, he said.
“The institution’s management does not care about due process. It does not do things the way they should be done. Many principal officers of the institution are often ignored in decision making.
On the achievements of the VC Mr. Anana said “he had been able to stem the incidence of cultism and examination malpractices, which were the cankerworms of the institution”.
He, however, expressed hope that with the way things were going the school would improve.
Also speaking, a former student of the University, Miss Anabel Kanu, said that she was not happy the way the University is being administered.
Miss Kanu, who studied Law at RSUST expressed regrets that the institution was being run autocratically, not democratically.
“One thing I don’t like about the VC is his autocratic method of administration. It is regrettable that the VC takes decision without considering the effect it may have on the students. Consider the decision by the VC to shut the hostels. Many students are suffering seriously because they don’t live in the neighbourhood. It is certainly hectic for most of them”, she stated.
According to her, “the problems of RSUST did not start with the present VC, Fakae has tried a lot to change the face of the school, structurally, academically and otherwise. But the complaint is his tendency for autocracy.
“The principal officers of the school are complaining that he is not carrying them along. Another is that he has been awarding contracts to his cronies and relatives”, she stated.
She noted that the glorious days of RSUST were over, and pointed out the institution had been dogged by crisis.
“Students and parents are beginning to lose confidence in the school. Academic programmes have become unusually elongated because of incessant industrial actions. Sometimes, it is the Senior Staff Union of the institution, it could be Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) or the students themselves. Any how you look at it, it’s pathetic”, the former law student noted.
The student who is in court Chamber’s attachment remarked that government should not fold its hands and watch RSUST go down the drain.
She reminisced on the period when the institution used to be ranked among the best in the country.
“It is regrettable that many things have gone wrong. We cannot fold our hands and watch our almamater plunge into crisis. There must be a conscious effort on the part of government and the school authorities to right the wrongs of yesteryears so that the institution can still forge ahead”.
Barrister Chijoke Agi, an alumnus of the institution said that the degeneration of RSUST wasn’t a sudden one but a gradual process, “but the amazing thing is that those who should have checked it, connived at it”.
The lawyer stated that the present VC was trying and urged the principal officers of the school to support him.
“Prof. Fakae is a disciplined person, that is why he has been able to check insecurity in the institution. He also has been able to check examination malpractices. I think Fakae is doing well and should be allowed to continue”, he stated.
“The problem of RSUST is not Fakae. The rot in the institution has been there before the VC was appointed and it takes a man with the guts of Fakae to bring in dramatic changes in a system that has decayed”, he said.
The lawyer noted that if Prof. B. B. Fakae was allowed to stay, he would transform the institution.
He said that Fakae would take the institution to greater heights.
Also speaking, the secretary, National Coalition of Niger Delta Graduates for Non-Violence, Mr Otugbu John Azunna, noted that Prof. Fakae had achieved greatly as compared with his predecessors.
According to him, the VC has restored peace in the institution. He also said that the VC had made remarkable improvement in terms of infrastructural development, resurfacing of roads and building of new classroom blocks. And above all, he has been identified as one of the proponents of information technology.
Mr. Otugbu said that he had also done very well in the area of academics, and pointed out that he had been able to check examination malpractices.
The alumnus of RSUST, said that the VC has ensured that speedy publication of results had checkmated lecturers from extorting money from students.
He urged the academic staff of the institution to accept the innovations of the VC and support him to achieve the over all transformation of the school.
He advised the students to wake up because the era of academic manipulation has gone with the wind.
Mr Otugbu pointed out that success was only achieved by dint of hardwork and commended the students for their gentle disposition.
Also speaking, Mr Isaiah Dioku, a school teacher, who resides in Port Harcourt said that he was happy with what the VC was doing in the UST, especially his development efforts but explained that he did not support his style of administration. He said that a university should not be run like a personal estate.
According to him, if only Prof. Fakae would carry the principal officers along, he would do well. He noted that what was required of him was to democratise his administration.
“As indigenes of Rivers State, we are obliged to contribute our quota to the state in terms of ideas and other material contributions”, she said.
Mr. Dioku applauded the VC for all his efforts to make RSUST great and urged both staff and students to support the visions of the present administration in the school.
He noted that a house divided against itself would not stand.
Speaking with The Weekend Tide, the Chairman of Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities, Comrade Tamunosisi Tom Ikiri, said that the withheld staff salaries by the state government had been paid and noted that studies had resumed on campus.
He said all was well on campus. However, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) chairperson, Emilia Jaja, who was asked to speak on the state of things, declined comments, stating that she was in a meeting.