*A Dynamic Leader at 47
By Maxim Uzoatu and Collins Azu
Professor Afam Icha-Ituma, Vice-Chancellor of Coal City University, Enugu, Nigeria, turned 47 years on Wednesday, January 5, 2022. He is the second Vice-Chancellor of one of the fastest-rising and globally-focused universities in the country. Professor Afam Icha-Ituma ranks amongst the youngest Vice-Chancellors in Nigeria.
He was born into the noble family of His Excellency, Dr Emmanuel and Lady Theresa Icha Ituma of Ohaukwu Local Government of Ebonyi State. His father was a rare gem and a former Nigerian Ambassador to Australia with concurrent accreditation to New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu and Fiji Island; first Deputy Governor of old Enugu State, Secretary to the Government of (old Anambra State, old Enugu State and the Ebonyi States respectively), among other top government positions. Professor Afam Icha-Ituma, however, decided early in life not to bask in the glory and accomplishments of his father of blessed memory but to carve his name and path through hard work, honesty, courage and humility. Of course, the apple does not fall far from the tree. The young Afam could not avoid the values and virtues of his father in service for the public good with a high level of proven integrity and distinction. As the first son, the personable Afam decided to contribute his quota to nation-building and honour his father through his work to humanity. He earned his B.Sc in Mass Communication from the Enugu State University of Science and Technology (Nigeria), MBA from University of Leicester (UK), PhD in Human Resource Management from Brunel University (UK) and Post Graduate Certificate in Teaching and Learning from Brunel University.
Professor Afam Icha-Ituma has a rich background in academic research, university management and strategic policy advice for governments and national agencies. He is a Visiting Professor of Human Resource Management at the University of Lincoln (UK). He has served as a Visiting Research Fellow at Kingston Business School (UK), and University of Leiden (Netherlands). He has also been a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Research Fellow at the University of London (UK) and at the University of Lisbon (Portugal), Erasmus+ Visiting Professor at the University of Kent (UK), and Linnaeus-Palme Academic Visitor at the University of Gavle (Sweden). He has served as External Examiner at the University of Manchester, University of Northumbria, University of Wales, and Pan-Atlantic University.
He spent many years overseas occupying senior level positions at top British institutions and collaborated with world class scholars in over 30 institutions around the globe. His desire to make a significant difference in his homeland led him to voluntarily resign his position at Bournemouth University and forego for good those lucrative positions and the established life in the United Kingdom to return to Nigeria with his family in 2012. This remarkable decision to voluntarily return to Nigeria contrasts with that of many Nigerian scholars who are leaving the country in droves in search of a better life abroad instead of generating innovative solutions to address the numerous challenges facing the Nigerian university system and to bring it to beneficial functionality, national relevance and global competitiveness.
In 2020, Prof Afam Icha-Ituma was selected after a carefully designed process as the second Vice-Chancellor of Coal City University (CCU) to champion the vision of making CCU a world-class University with Sir Chinedu Ani as Chancellor, Professor Chinedu Nebo as Pro-Chancellor, and Professor Chidiebere Onyia as Chair Strategic Advisory Board. Since his assumption of office as the Vice-Chancellor, he has been creating a community-friendly campus that places students first and foremost in its priorities. The intellectual life of the University has become increasingly vibrant with many academic activities and high quality teaching from well-qualified scholars recruited from top universities both home and abroad. He is leveraging on his extensive international experience and global network to build strategic partnerships with institutions internationally to make Coal City University an internationally competitive institution in Nigeria.
As a quintessential institutional builder and dynamic leader, he has brought in eminent world-class scholars to the campus to nurture the mind and soul of this fast rising university in Africa. He continues to demonstrate that leading from the well of intellectual generosity, kindness and respect can be successful in the Nigerian university system. His leadership style amply proves that great leaders demonstrate achievements, humility, continuous learning, and wise counsel. His strength of character, work ethics, firm roots in industry, transparency, and selfless service to humanity are the kinds of qualities and values that are desperately needed in Nigeria and around the world. He has earned a reputation as a rigorous but fair leader who does not play favourites. He steadfastly welcomes fresh ideas, and appreciates and acknowledges the work of others. His cheerful, friendly, supportive, and approachable demeanour sets him apart from many top chief executive officers.
Professor Afam Icha-Ituma’s credentials prior to becoming Vice-Chancellor includes being Professor of Human Resource Management and Dean of Faculty of Management and Social Sciences, at Alex Ekwueme Federal University, Ndufu-Alike (AE-FUNAI), Nigeria. His career at AE-FUNAI was characterized by many firsts. He was the pioneer Director of Academic Planning; pioneer Director of Information and Communication Technology Unit; pioneer Director of Centre for Entrepreneurship and Employability; pioneer Director Centre for Internationalization, Linkages and Global Ranking; and pioneer Dean Faculty of Education. He was also a member of the University Governing Council. In all of these roles, he made outstanding contributions to the University and has been instrumental in lifting its international reputation.
At such a time when Nigeria needs young, sincere and dynamic leaders to take the country to the next level of technological and intellectual transformation, it is worth celebrating those who have responded to such calls, shouldered heavy responsibilities, and punched far above their weight. Indeed, shouldering enormous responsibility for institutional building in the Nigerian university system with numerous achievements is worth celebrating. He and his wife, Enuma Icha-Ituma, have one daughter and three sons.
It’s indeed a 47th birthday worthy of celebration for the dynamic, visionary and indefatigable Vice-Chancellor, Professor Afam Icha-Ituma, as he leads Coal City University on the path to greatness and becoming a world-class University.
Let’s end on a poetic note that in delivering a lecture entitled Creativity in Modelling the University of the Future at Coal City University in 2021, John Otu, an academe and former editorial board member of Guardian Newspapers, Lagos, penned these words in appreciation of the Vice-Chancellor:
Ramparts of Academe
(for VC Prof Afam Icha-Ituma of CCU)
Sweating over the sterner stuff
To birth a new dawnscape
Orbiting planetary galaxies
To unearth latent life-levers
Poring over tomes of hieroglyphics
To awaken drowsy mindscape
Like a fecund tuft of grass
Academe’s pathway is fluid
It’s host to commonplace ditties
It’s home to queer verses of the eccentric
To keep the forge ablaze always
Is not to gag the multiple offerings
To keep the bride steadily supple
Is to keep the gate open to all suitors.
© John Otu