You know, when I went to University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN) people called it ‘National War College II’ because two years before I became vice-chancellor, cultists assassinated the Chief Security Officer of the university. A year before I became vice-chancellor cultists assassinated the dean of the faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences. Occasionally, cultists would seize the entire university, take all the walkie-talkies from the security people and announce that they were now running the university. So calling it ‘National War College’ wasn’t too far-fetched. It was horrible! Any time there was going to be a convocation they send the students packing. So university was essentially closed down for a week or two because of convocation to avoid cultists from disrupting it. It never happened during my regime. But you ask how? I started by studying the entire situation and inviting the governor to assist me.
The governor at that time was Dr. Chimaroke Nnamani and he was very sympathetic because I took this situation to him when people started screaming at me that VCs never get out of their lodges by 6 p.m. They said if I do it, I could be lynched by the students and then I realised that almost every day there was robbery on campus and almost every week there was car snatching on campus. A lot of times, girls were also being raped on campus. So, I pleaded with the governor and he called a security meeting of the state. He invited from the army to police, to mobile police, to civil defense, state Attorney General, and key functionaries and had a meeting in the governor’s Exco Hall and he asked me to say exactly what the problem was and I told him.
He told me to give them time; that the problem would be solved and the governor went to work. Within a few weeks, they were able to apprehend most of these students who were causing trouble only to find out that many of them were not even the bona fide students; and they dealt with them. Some of them didn’t come back to the university, they had to leave that whole environment. But again, I now discovered that more than 70 per cent of the cultists, of the rapists , of the armed robbers and all the miscreants, were people who were not bona fide students but rather they were diploma students. The mandate of the university does not include doing diplomas, it is only something you can attach.
Society never do well were the diploma students are so I had to summon a meeting of Senate, presented all the facts before them and then told them I was going to ban and bar the diploma programmes. Initially, people viewed it with mixed feelings because many people were benefitting from the diploma programme. At that time, they said it was an indication that I was actually insane because the diploma was yielding hundreds of millions of naira to the university and if I stopped it, it meant I wanted to kill the university since the federal government was not even bringing in enough money. But we needed to sanitise the entire system. So stopping the diploma programme alone cut down crime on campus substantially.
The next thing, we found out that the so-called motorcycle operators on campus were the petty thieves, snatching purses from young ladies, especially taking them to bushes and raping them. I also banned Okada operators on campus and that again drastically prune crime down. But we still had a major problem; cultism was still to some extent palpable but there was no obstruction of any activities. We now noticed that students were beginning to become fidgety because many of them were not prepared for university, they bought admission. So, I introduced the Post-UTME and informed the Minister of Education. The next thing was my brother and friend Professor Nwanze of UNIBEN followed suit. There was an uproar, JAMB would not have anything like it and National Assembly would not have anything like it.
National Assembly would send you people with all kinds of scores that are not university material and tell you to admit them otherwise your budget will not be approved. All kinds of things were happening but with that Post-UTME, only bona fide students would come in. So, we now found out that people who scored 300 over 400 in UTME, cannot even get up to 150 in the Post-UTME meaning that people took the exam for them or they cheated. Those were the days. JAMB is much better today; it’s doing a fantastic job and there is always almost a positive correlation today with your Post-UTME scores and your JAMB scores. In those days, there was a near negative correlation in most of the areas. You scored 311 in JAMB and cannot score less than a 100 in Post-UTME.
It shows that it wasn’t your brain that wrote the 311. But today, thankfully, JAMB is doing much better. When we started the Post-UTME, we now started admitting a brand new set of students who were university prepared and university materials. So cultism died at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. Crime died for five years of my stay at UNN, I didn’t lose a single student to cultism and by the grace of God, UNN didn’t join any national strike whether ASUU or NASU or SSANU because I always appealed to the workers and they agreed not to go on strike for five years. That was how we were able to restore the academic calendar that had been distorted completely.
Now, stopping the diploma programme and starting the Post-UTME, were the two major things that killed cultism. Then my policy was zero tolerance for cultism. Very thankfully, I think it was during my tenure or so that the Supreme Court ruled that Senate of the university has the right to award or deny a student a degree. Like in the UN we say ‘you are qualified by learning and character’. So if you are qualified by learning but not by the character you don’t get a degree. If you are qualified by character but not by learning, you don’t get a degree.
The two must marry. So, I wasn’t afraid of litigations. Even before that ruling, I was not afraid of litigations because these people were wicked. They would brutalise human beings, smash people’s heads with axe , bring their brain out and splash it on the floor. That is the kind of animals we had. In fact, at Enugu State University of Technology (ESUT), I saw hell as Dean of Students and eventually as a Deputy Vice-Chancellor. So, I set zero tolerance for cultism. Though thankfully creating an enabling environment and then of course for the first time in 15 years, UNN started operating from the budget and while as Vice Chancellor, every unit, every department, every faculty had budgeted money for operations. It wasn’t so before I came and they stopped when I left. The records are there.
In spite of all these, stopping the diploma programme, starting the Post-UTME, we adjusted the school fees but some people said we increased it. It wasn’t necessary because students were paying all kinds of money; about 10 different fees from departments, faculties and so on. So we did what we called a consolidation and the school fees now ranged between N11,000 to N20,000. The students were complaining that Professor Nebo has killed them and eventually, we published it in the newspapers and the same parents who wanted me crucified because their children had told them that we were charging N80,000, started blaming themselves. The parents got to know that the school fees were N11,500 and the highest was Medicine about N20,000 annual fee for the full session.
We didn’t do anything outrageous. Even for the Post-UTME when others were charging N2,000, N5,000 we started with N500 and while I was there we moved to N1,000. It was National Assembly that said it should now be N2,000 and thank God for such intelligent, wonderful people like the late Senator Uche Chukwumerije who supported us and knew where we were going. Not those who will scrap something they don’t even understand or have a feel. Regrettably, when this government came into being the first thing they did was to scrap the so-called Post-UTME only for them to turn around later to say, let there be Post-UTME again. Thankfully, every university is using that to screen students. Now, integrating school certificate results, which is something we encouraged in those days. We think there is something good happening there.
On sex for marks
I think if people go to record , they would find out I sacked more lecturers than any vice chancellor before me because of that same thing. There was even a day I sacked two lecturers at the same time. That was one of the two days that within a few minutes my phone got jammed with text messages. The two lecturers both of them have PhDs. They have no respect for female students. Their language was cash and carry. Cash, is you pay money while carry is you book a hotel.
And you know the horrible thing, they didn’t care if you were married and in some cases pregnant women. I sacked two of them. There were others that I disciplined or fired. There was one professor I said he should never be given any responsible position ever in the university again because of the atrocities he committed with female students. So, I sacked many lecturers. It’s unfortunate, but it does happen.
About Prof. Chinedu Nebo
Prof. Chinedu Ositadinma Nebo, Ph.D., OON, NPOM serves as Director of Niger Delta Power Holding Company Limited. Prof. Nebo served as the Vice Chancellor of Federal University Oye-Ekiti from February 2011 to February 2013, one of the nine (9) new start-up Federal universities in Nigeria. He served as Vice Chancellor of University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN), from 2004 to 2009, served meritoriously and successfully with several awards to his credit. He is a diversified and