The massive whirl wind that swept across state universities on Wednesday, June 28 had a catch that did not in any way shock the English speaking regions of the country. Pauline Nalova Lyonga Limunga's tenue as Vice Chancelor of the University has been terminated. Flushed by the same system she fought so hard to protect, news of her promotion to retirement took the social media on a melt down not because of her brilliant academic prowess which makes her a monumental figure amongst the Anglophone intelligencia . But because her time at the "Place to be" was everything but a peaceful one. A reign of strikes after strikes, brutal face off with the student union and her role in fueling the Anglophone crisis are part of her perilous 5 year stay at UB.
Nalova's rise to the position of Vice Chancellor in 2012 was greeted with alot of mixed feelings . On one hand, her fellow Bakweri brethren on campus saw it as a chance to break free from what they lamented as maginalisation from their North Western brothers led by most venerated Prof Vincent P.K Titanji, V.C at the time. Though we cannot independently verify the authenticity of the claims, one could smell an atmosphere of fustration amongst the Fako indegenes who were not comfortable having a man from the North West at an insititution planted in their land. It is even alleged Prof Titanji's inability to handle some pressing crisis situations during his reign was as a result of a carbal mounted by native Bakwerians at the Central Administration to fustrate his actions. But on the other , Nalova was a fine academic breed chosen from within the institution . A University don with sterling qualities as a scholar-researcher, she is known for her no-nonsense approach to academic matters. Within academic circles, Lyonga is recognised as a fine brain – brilliant and articulate. She is said to have drank deeply from the wells of two giants – the intellectual juggernaut Fonlon and the management maestro Prof. Dorothy Njeuma – a combination that should make UB respect the Fonlonian prerequisite that a University, worthy of its name should gravitate around the tripod of a University Library, Bookshop and Printing Press – infrastructure sorely lacking at that time.
The outgoing Vice Chnacellor Titanji told reporters during the handing over ceremoney that , the new VC will face challenges, “they are enormous. But, if she assumes her responsibility and creates an enabling culture and ensures that the challenges are shared, then, she will overcome. In other words, she must put in place a new team with fresh ideas. If she considers the challenges as tasks to be tackled by her alone, then, that will be a clear recipe for failure.” It was evident the words of the outgoing VC were more of an advice, it was a prophesy which like others hinged on time, could not fail to come to fruition.
Barely a year into her mandate, Nalova's "clear receipe for failure" began with a brutal crackdown on the student union, UBSU. A symbol of anglo saxon democracy within the university milleu, UBSU protested against the university's policies. On Wednesday, February 6, 2013 Executive members of the University of Buea Students’ Union, UBSU, called for a strike action. In an eight-point memorandum addressed to the Vice Chancellor, Nalova Lyonga, UBSU demanded that online registration problems in the university be given prompt attention, that on-campus businesses, especially photocopiers, should be reinstated to facilitate the teaching and learning process, that students should be allowed to seat for examination upon part payment of their registration fees of FCFA 25,000, and that various modes of transcripts be respected and made available on time to stop exploitation of students.
According to reports, On day one of the protest, the Vice Chancellor was temporally held hostage by the striking students for over three hours in her car as she made her way into the campus early that morning. Four students were arrested in the process and two released few days later after paying FCFA 700, 000.The UBSU president Ronald Minang, is declared missing and discovered 10 days later on February 21, 2013 in Muea – a locality in Buea Sub-Division in the South west Region- in a pretty bad shape. Mr. Minang says he was kidnapped by unidentified assailants and taken to an unknown destination where he was compelled at gun point to sign some documents related to demonstrations in the university. By refusing to sign the papers calling off the strike, Minang says he was given the beating of his life and released in a degrading health state. Before Minang’s abduction, he posts a notice informing protesting students that the “meeting with the Vice Chancellor … ended in a fiasco. Our VC came and was dictating to us, it was not a dialogue forum anymore.” The VC of the university in response organizes a press conference and refutes claims that she has not been open to dialogue with the students. Recurrent conflicts with the student body finally led to its disollution by the Vice Chnacellor, killing a strong arm of the University governance system.
As external shocks were weighing in on her administration, internal cracks began show up. Stiff disagreements with the lecturers trade union, SYNES charcaterised by stony high handedness was another unpleasant pill for the disgruntled teaching body to take. On many occasions, it was Higher Education boss Jeacque Fame Ndongo who had to make fruitless trips to Buea to dialogue with the lecturers over unpaid research allowances and other dues. Demands that were timidly resolved under her tenue. The open face off with the pioneer Director of the Kumba based Higher Technical Teacher Training ciollege, Prof Joyce Endeley over the running of the school needs no introduction. She is reported to be behind the sacking of Prof Joyce Endeley and the appointment of Prof Agbor Ntui considered by many as a stooge.Meanwhile, she is alleged to have flooded the Central Administration with close aides who were incompetent in their duties. The result has been a scandalous discovery of a racket of fake credential amongst the personel .
But the final nail on her coffin was the disastrous handling of the last student protest which triggered the Anglophone crisis. UB students had on November 28 suffered untold torment, rape and looting in the hands of troops deployed to ‘quell’ a sit-down strike on their campus against obnoxious policies of the Nalova administration. The angry students, protesting for the first time in 3 years were denouncing an extra 10.000FCFA for late registration, the absenc e of a recognised student body as well as transparency in the award of Presidential grants when they were brutally molested by security forces . The heartless forces chased them right to their homes where they suffered untold misery. Okalia instead blamed the disaster on the UB Vice Chancellor, VC, Dr. Nalova Lyonga.The Governor said he was coerced into signing the order to dispatch armed troops to clamp down on the protesting UB students.The Governor was quoted as saying that as a father he could not remain insensitive to the cry of the UB administration, as such he was forced to dispatch troops to the University campus to quell the students’ protest.
Following the strike action of SYNES members, Nalova fruitlessly issued threats to the student and teaching community for them to resume school. Her use of force sharply contrasted with her colleague of the University of Bamenda who employ a more careful approach towards the crisis. Prof Theresa Nji had suspended classes and told students to go home in the heart of the shootings in Bamenda. She openly called on the government to find a favourable ground for dialogue to ensure that lecturers demands are met for them to get back to the classroom. While her docile approach earned her admiration from the English speaking community, demands for Nalova's head on the chopping board flooded social media over her harsh and catastrophic handling of the crisis.
Nalova Lyonga has been swept by the wind from Etoudi . And while the move has been hidden under the vast change in Higher Education personel . Its no doubt a direct response to her failures at the University which has resulted in a thorny issue for the institution and government. She leaves UB with a legacy of pain, hate and anger from the entire university community and the population. Some of her teaching staff are languishing at the Kondengui detention Centre while others are at large simply because they stood against her policies. With little remorse over her back door exit, others want severe measures to be taken against her for attempted man slaughter and violations of fundermental human rights as well as mismanagement of univeristy funds. There is no doubt Nalova Lyonga has fallen on the negative side of the prestigious UB and now stands as the most unpopular VC in the history of the academic jewel.