Three months after
assumption of office, the Rivers State governor, Chief Nyesom Wike on August 1, 2015, appointed an erudite scholar, Prof. Blessing Chimezie Didia as acting Vice Chancellor of the Rivers State University.he was confirmed Vice Chancellor in 2016. The appointment came at a time when the premier Science and Technology University was in a state of turmoil arising from mal-administrative challenges of the past administration. In the midst of the crisis, many lecturers were sacked by the administration of Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi.
The university witnessed a very bad academic season with the record of experiencing the highest industrial action in the history of universities in the country.
Professor Didia, confronted by the enormous challenges and task of returning the institution to fall in line with the new Rivers vision of Governor Wike, quickly unfolded his administrative road maps in order to regain the lost glory of the former “University of Science and technology, (RSUST), now renamed (Rivers State University (RSU).
In an exclusive interview with The Tide in his office recently, the Vice Chancellor, recounted his experience since he assumed office and expressed gratitude to the State governor for giving him the needed support to return the university to normalcy.
“The task before us was enormous. I came to the university in 2015 when it was engulfed in serious crises and strikes. Every where and anybody who lived in the state as at that time can attest to the condition of things at the State University before my assumption”.
“Luckily for me, the governor who appointed me just took the first shot by inviting all those staff that were sacked, talked with them and resolved to make peace. That move by governor Wike brought the first peace and I have to leverage on it and called for forgiveness, reconciliation and commitment and the staff listened to me and that was how peace returned, and we have our dedication, forgiveness, peace and commitment to duty till today”.
The Vice Chancellor explained that prior to his appointment in the university, only the faculties of Engineering and Sciences had their own buildings while other faculties were either housed in makeshifts or clustered apartments, adding that such situations have changed as seven faculties in the university now have their own well furnished buildings.
He disclosed that his administration engaged both the state government and corporate organisations in the rebuilding process of the university. Today, the university has witnessed tremendous infrastructural development, adding that such approach, paved way for the massive infrastructure and development currently being witnessed in the university.
“Talking about achievements, not by our power, may be the approach we adopted, we appealed to the state government, Tetfund and corporate bodies to come to our aid so that we can regain what we lost within those period”.
“The state government has been quite helpful to the university despite the lean resources within its purview in the midst of many demanding needs of the state. “We were able to achieve all these through the prudent management of fund, applying fund, where necessary. Moreso, the governing council of the institution has been quite forth coming through the approvals of funds that propelled the actualisation of the various projects”.
Apparently, the visible infrastructural development of Prof. Didia across the university has justified the confidence and political trust placed on him by the Chief executive of the state, Chief Nyesom Wike.
Concerned by the state government’s commitment and determination in realising the dreams of having a College of Medical Sciences established in the university, the Vice Chancellor through the instrumentality of the state government, mid-wifed the change of the institution’s name from the former Rivers State University of Science and Technology (RSUST) to the Rivers State University (RSU) with the aim to liberalise the university, so that it can expand its scope and operations to include other disciplines without losing the focus of its core mandate of remaining the leading Science and Technology institution in Nigeria.
The dream of establishing a College of Medicine came to reality under the watch and guide of Prof. Didia.
The College of Medical Sciences has taken off with the admission of 100 pilot students in the departments of Anatomy and physiology for the 2018/2019 academic session.
With the appointment of the provost of the medical school and the employment of both senior and junior lecturers into the college, it is evident that the coast is now clear for the commencement of full-fledged college of medical sciences at the state university.
“The state government is building the faculty for the College of Medical Sciences which will be commissioned in May this year. The university is working in that direction to realise the mandate.
“With hope that the on-going projects will be completed accordingly, we have at the moment four Professors, Jack, Ordu, Jaja and Uriel. Our sons and daughters who are consulting at the BMH have all indicated interests to come over to the school to lecture, so we have enough manpower. When the University of Port Harcourt’s College of medical sciences was established, they did not have enough manpower as we do”.
“We have been up and doing to stand the test of time and we are working to ensure that our university becomes among the best in Africa. Things are slowly picking up in the medical school. The first hurdle we had was to ensure that the Nigerian University Commission (NUC) approved the laboratories and courses, that we have achieved. The law for the establishment of a Teaching Hospital had been approved and what is left now is the appointment of a Medical Director for the Hospital which will be done by the state government. We have admitted hundred students into the College, a good beginning”, said Prof. Didia.
Professor Didia, former Provost of the College of Medical Sciences, University of Port Harcourt observed that the state was lagging behind in the area of raising medical professionals compared to other states due to the absence of a medical college, adding that the state depended much on the admission from the University of Port Harcourt for her students to study medicine and other allied courses.
According to him, UNIPORT is a federal institution that spreads its admission across the country, and that the quota given the state is shared between Rivers and Bayelsa States, adding that the establishment of the College of Medical Sciences would also help to bridge the existing gap in other allied medical sciences that the state has few professionals.
To consolidate on the various achievements and to ensure that graduates of the institution become self-sufficient and create wealth for themselves without depending much on white collar job, Prof. Didia disclosed that efforts were being made to ensure the completion of the Entrepreneurship centre within the university before the end of the year, adding that the centre when completed would train graduates of the institution on skills acquisition and also award certificates.
The Vice Chancellor averred that the Nigerian University Commission (NUC) has also approved seven more disciplines as courses to be offered by the university, adding that the new courses are Anatomy, Sociology, Geology, Biochemistry, Micro Biology and Agric Economics.
The VC opined that his administration desires to make agriculture a major source of revenue to the state and indeed to provide the needed food sufficiency for the state. Prof. Didia said arrangements have been concluded to revamp the Onne Campus which used to house the faculty of Agricultural Sciences, adding that when that is completed, the university will play a major role in achieving food sufficiency to the country as well as boosting the internally generated revenue of the institution.
Worried by the issues of sorting and cultism in the institution, Prof. Didia said his administration is fighting the scourge, hinting that some lecturers had already been placed on suspension, while some matters had been referred to the senate. He said, cultism which used to be rampant in the university before his appointment has now been reduced to the barest minimum.
“Those who lived in the state can say what the situation was, but today such things are no longer happening again. Yes, we can say that those cultists in the society are students but in RSU any student caught indulging in these criminal activities will be shown the way out of the university.
“The university law is there; we have proscribed sorting, selling of handouts. Any lecturer who cannot stand and teach his or her students in the class, he or she is not worthy to be called a lecturer. I am not protecting the lecturers, this sorting is in two phases, sometimes, students pay money to lecturers. My office is open for any student to come and report such issue”, he added.
The Vice Chancellor however used the opportunity to thank the First City Monument Bank (FCMB), SPDC and NDDC for the various projects executed in the campus and also called on corporate bodies, indeed Rivers indigenes, to show interest in the development of education in order to immortalise their names.
Many pundits believed that Prof. Didia’s appointment as the Vice Chancellor of RSU by the state governor in August 2015 was a mere political settlement and compensation and not for service delivery, but the numerous achievements of the Vice Chancellor within this short period in office have proven them wrong.
Amieyeofori Ibim & Amadi Akujobi