In a season that university professors were being rubbished as pathetic election riggers, it came as a pleasant surprise to me that there’s one university don who could put himself forward as a dean of accountability and proper documentation. Prof Ernest Chukwusoro Igwe served as the Fifth Dean, Faculty of Agriculture, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Anambra State. He set a good example by publishing the book Deanship Memoir which he presented as “Inventory of Activities of My Stewardship as Dean, Faculty of Agriculture (FAG) Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Anambra State from June 10 2019 to June 09, 2021.”
It’s my conviction that all deans and dons and vice-chancellors in Nigeria ought to emulate this idea of setting records straight. The measure should in fact extend to all public servants.
There is the crucial for me to quote Prof Ernest Igwe directly to assure ill-assorted doubters that I am not making things up! The self-effacing Prof Igwe writes: “Some modest strides during my Deanship were: Mapping and Fertility Tests as well as Certificate of Occupancy of 119.2ha of land at Ifite-Ogwari, Annex; Acquisition and Survey of 200ha of lands at Umueje town for FAG; Furnishing of a Guest House for the Technical team at Ifite-Ogwari; refurbishment of two old tractors; provision of three new vehicles and two motorcycles for FAG by the Vice Chancellor; Development of Farming activities as well as preparation of Ifite-Ogwari Annex for National Universities Commission (NUC) Accreditation activities; Engagement of Commercial Farmer Partner for FAG and UNIZIK, and Strengthening of FAG Cooperatives for improved staff welfare. There was also production of FAG TET-Fund Academic and Administrative Building Plan at Ifite-Ogwari campus for all Departments.”
On the academic front, Prof Igwe initiated the institution and production of Faculty Lecture Series for lecturers of the ranks of senior lecturers and above; establishment of International Journal of Agriculture, Food and Biodiversity (IJAFAB); production of quality Postgraduate (M.Sc. and PhD) graduates and planned new academic programmes. FAG workshop co-sponsored with University Women Association was organized.
According to Prof Igwe, “Outdoor sourcing of funds and assistance for FAG resulted in the establishment of JEZCO Food Technology Institute from Chief J.J. Ezeokafor; donation of a Four-Wheel-Drive Massey-Fergusson Tractor to FAG and Rice Thresher to FAG cooperative society from Governor Willie Obiano of Anambra State. We also got one Grass-Cutter House and one Family of grass-cutters (one male and four females) from Chinedu Ubaezuonu of Adazi-enu in Anaocha LGA, Anambra State. Finally, there was one million naira (N1m) from Ifite-Ogwari people.”
“On planned relocation of FAG to Ifite-Ogwari Annex,” Prof Igwe writes, “the adopted phased movement concept of one leg in Awka and one leg in Ifite-Ogwari was adopted. Here, I likened my Deanship to both biblical Moses on one hand and Joshua and Caleb on the other hand. This is because we prepared the movement to Ifite-Ogwari like Moses (Israel). We were practically in Ifite-Ogwari where we established presence such as accommodation, heavy investment in farming activities as well as ready offices for lecturers, non-teaching staff, library, medical, works and others. Also, classrooms, laboratories and studio spaces have been provided for as well as setting-up of machineries for equipping of the offices.”
It is noteworthy that Prof Igwe achieved his multiform successes despite “the change in the mode of election that brought me to power, COVID-19 pandemic, poor finances, internal sabotage attitude of the tractor drivers and some adversarial activities by the academic union in collusion with some academic staff within.”
The Agriculture Faculty is made up of seven Departments, namely: Agricultural Economics and Extension; Animal Science and Technology; Crop Science and Horticulture; Fisheries and Aquaculture; Food Science and Technology; Forestry Resources and Wildlife Management; and Soil Science and Land Resources Management.
Prof Igwe faced threats to his life over the planned relocation to Ifite-Ogwari. About two weeks to the relocation of FAG 400 Level students, a misleading voice message was spread against the vice-chancellor, Prof Charles Esimone, and the dean, Prof Ernest Igwe, that they were sending “students to a place without security where wild animals will devour them.”
Prof Igwe put up a formidable defence of his integrity across all the media to the admiration of all.
The celebration for me is that Prof Ernest Igwe served out his deanship with distinction and on Thursday, April 20, 2023 delivered the 80th Inaugural Lecture of Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka entitled “In-built Quality Controls in Traditional Food Processing, Sociocultural Food Practices and Food Politics: Catalysts or Inhibitors to Traditional Foods Processing Industry in Nigeria?”
Prof Ernest Chukwusoro Igwe has in him the capacity and gumption to make an exemplary vice-chancellor.