James Ayatse: The Untold Story of An Achiever
Often times the character content of worthy achievers are gauged chiefly on their contributory roles toward building and uplifting the spheres of not just their immediate communities but the larger society; most times leaving it better than was ever imagined. Such rare personalities at several instances were seen to express deeper convictions, sole concerns and sacrifices over and above the socio- economic and welfare conditions of the people around them than merely promoting inner penchants for self induced pursuits.
These uncommon individuals equally view public positions or engagements as opportunities to be best utilized for the ultimate good of fellow man than occasions solely meant to drive personal aggrandizement, self acquisition, class promotion and exclusivism, and other related pecuniary desires.
This is indeed true of James O Ayatse, Professor of Bio- Chemistry, veteran academic and beyond doubt a persona moved on sheer values, fortitude and spirit of humanism. A seasoned teacher per excellence, scientist and researcher of no little reckoning; indeed a meticulous manager of men and resources braced in best global competitive standing amidst contemporaries in the act of managing the university system across board.
He has over the years served at various times as the Vice Chancellor of two separate Federal Universities and in both instances brought to bear his professional mettle, endearing qualities and public conduct to keep the system flourishing in excellence and brilliance, leaving enduring feats far too wide to be matched.
The almost untainted tract record of service demonstrated by this rare academic czar over the years, particularly within the academic bulwarks of the Nigeria state stands him out today as a model to most aspiring and established managers of institutions of higher learning who daily strive for success.
In 2011, the then President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, in realization of Professor Ayatse’s past successes in administering a similar institution in Benue State- The University of Agriculture , Makurdi and in view of other likely determinant factors would find in Professor James Ayatse the required qualities and worthiness to be appointed as Vice Chancellor in one of the then newly formed Federal Universities; in this case the Federal University, Dutsin – Ma, Katsina State.
With virtually a near-non existent of structural developments and acute shortage of both academic and non academic personnel to adequately kick off its full programmes and existence, Ayatse would not fret at this overwhelming challenges but rather dare into this novel challenge as he did not just courageously overcame the inherent mountain of difficulties but performed extremely well to bring about a facelift in this institution. In a couple of years he unveiled his managerial acumen to effectively chart and later produce an academic citadel that today stands out as the pride of the nation’s learning systems whilst competing on the continental rating.
By 2011 academic activities had effectively commenced. Ayatse as its pioneer Vice Chancellor had displayed the required tools, visions and objective to address the challenges of a virgin institution of this nature. At his breast chest he had desired to first and foremost lay a formidable foundation of a world class university system that would be technologically driven as well as promote and ensure excellence that thrives mainly on the principles of equity, justice, and fairness.
At the close of his enviable tenure, many, including critics would come to terms and realistically justify Ayatse’s earlier position and vision for the institution as it pointedly became glare that indeed these objectives were not just roundly and squarely met but surpassed their imagination too.
It became quite remarkable also that out of the nine universities established across the geo- political zones, the University of Dutsin- Ma became the first to graduate students. It ranked as number one among the new universities. In fact the world ranking of universities placed it among 14th best universities in Nigeria.
Within a relative short span of time, the university expanded its tentacles to cover wider and demanding fields in Social Sciences, Sciences, Arts and Humanities, Education and Agriculture. It equally arrived at the threshold to breaking newer grounds when it introduced Engineering and Technology programmes. While this vibrant Administrator lasted at the helm of affairs, virtually all programmes received NUC accreditation. The Law Faculty, Environmental Sciences and Medicine were in the offing ready to fully take off.
Despite inherent challenges in personnel engagement to adequately run its academic systems as it was typical of fresh universities, the management worked assiduously to close in seeming gaps in this regard as best hands possible were engaged across the Federation to man various fields and effectively run the university’s administration. From the Professorial cadre to Senior lecturers, down to assistant lectures, the management strived to attract the best manpower possible to superintend over its programmes of study even though it was apparently difficult to attract employees especially Senior- cadre employees given seeming dearth in staff housing, university staff school, and other related factors. In the Vice Chancellor’s recruitment agenda, he practically kept close to his words by imbibing his cherished principles of fairness, justice and equity. 56 % of staff recruited were from the North- West geopolitical zone , with Katsina the host State accounting for 45.5%.
In achieving this, he was never unmindful of the comparative advantage his home state would gain from the exercise particularly his kinsmen from Kwande local Government. As such about 12% of such successful employees came from Benue state. It can be argued that there is nothing wrong in identifying with ones kinsmen; his closer ties and roots. It simply means that a man identifies first with his birth place as a point of concern and love for his people. Ayatse held this values dear and ensured that a good number of well qualified Benue –indigent personnel had their fair share in the recruitment, despite other overbearing interests, especially the Dutsin – Ma Community.
Inspite of his well intended, genuinely induced, and concerted efforts made by this forthright Professor and administrator to ensure a fair and open process, several petitions bothering on bias in the recruitment process were levelled against him, but with the needed courage , bravely and confidence of what he was doing, he never deterred. He was invited by the National Assembly to answer on these allegations and when he confronted the Senate Committee with the needed statistics adopted during the recruitment exercise, Ayatse was completely exonerated as the committee became satisfied and gave the exercise a clean bill of health, alluding that the process was not just transparent, competitive and open, but equally met best practices with a high consideration for federal character spread. Many of Ayatse’s critics, some disgruntled lawyers from Katsina inclusive who had earlier taken the latter to court would later bow to reason and agree that indeed the Vice Chancellor meant well for the university and the overall Katsina community in all intent and purposes.
Professor James Ayatse who first appeared on the political scene in 2007 to fly his aspiration as Senator representing Benue – North East Senatorial District would virtually receive aggressive backing, wider acceptability and a roared support base from the people. The reason for this was not farfetched. Ayatse had shown in the past, and at every capacity of public service engagement that he was equal and above his given responsibilities which were mainly driven by genuine service and good for mankind.
Many Benue indigenes would not forget in a hurry his treasured and benign acts of giving the proverbial net for people to fish than merely offering fish to them. As the Vice Chancellor of the University of Agriculture, Makurdi, he left no one in doubt as to his undaunted resolve to bring about overall turnaround of the university. The university had the better lot for his profound policies as infrastructure and academic excellence became household features and boosted significantly while the institution kept advancing on its expansion drive, whilst creating massive employment for many Benue indigenes.
University of Agriculture under Ayatse abhorred indolence on the part of its personnel. Industrial actions were in near absence as the school moved on successfully almost on a non hitch basis. The relationship between management and unions such as ASUU, SSANU, NASU as well as the student community was cordial and robust. Learning conditions were greatly improved paving the way for social and academic lives to thrive conveniently.
To many, it was little wonder that Ayatse would later be appointed as Vice Chancellor to pilot the affairs of one of the newly formed Federal universities established by the last Administration. The appointment received wide accolades from all and sundry particularly the academia who saw to it that it was indeed merited and well deserved. Its significance and essence was marked when his tenure successfully ended in February, 2016, after 5 years in the saddle.
In his usual spirit of humanism and altruism , Ayatse had over the years fought for and ensured that the people, particularly his kinsmen stand supreme in his selfless quest to liberate, empower and make the people take up viable places in the society for their survival and sustenance. He fights for the people, stands with them to take up befitting positions in both public and private undertakings thus earning him the appellation as the grandeur to human capital development and builder for societal growth.
AKOSU EMMANUEL LUBEM
Freelance Journalist and Public Affairs Analyst
Writes from Abuja, Wuse 3 , Off Abidjan Street,
By Tamara Guest House. [email protected] . Text: 07038578549