Furore over appointment of VCs for education varsities



IF the unfolding scenario is anything to go by, then all appear set for the newly designated federal universities of education to experience a fairly turbulent start to their journey into their new world.

The new universities of education are Adeyemi College of Education, Ondo State now Adeyemi University of Education; Federal College of Education, Zaria changed to Federal University of Education; Federal College of Education, Kano is now Federal University of Education, Kano, while Alvan Ikoku College of Education, Owerri changed to Alvan Ikoku University of Education, Owerri.

The fifth institution, the Medical Health Sciences College in Otukpo, Benue State, now becomes the Federal University of Health Sciences.

With less than 36 hours to leaving office, former President Goodluck Jonathan approved the appointment of vice chancellors for the four new universities of education as well health sciences varsity.

In the notice of the appointments, which was contained in a statement issued by the Education Ministry in Abuja and signed by Mr. Sul Ya’u Sule, the then Senior Special Assistant, Public Relations and Protocol to erstwhile Education Minister, Ibrahim Shekarau, the vice chancellors were listed as Prof. Martins Aghaji for Federal University of Sciences, Otukpo, Benue and Prof. Richard King for Adeyemi University of Education, Ondo.

Others are Prof. Sadiq Abubakar for Alvan Ikoku University of Education, Owerri, Prof. Victor Awonusi for Federal University of Education, Kano and Prof. Ibrahim Kolo for Federal University of Education, Zaria.

The statement, which stressed that the appointment was with immediate effect, also added that Jonathan had also approved the appointment of Dr. Nnamdi Olebara, then Special Adviser, Media to Shekarau, as member, Governing Council of Alvan Ikoku University of Education, Owerri.

So far, the N500m approved by the Federal Government to each of the four new education varsities as administrative and running costs is yet to be released to them by the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund). The Federal Government had directed TETFund to disburse the approved sum to each of the institutions.

Other teething issues that are bothering the institutions and capable of negatively affecting their smooth take-off include the issue of repealing the old laws that established the colleges of education and putting in place appropriate legislations that will regularise them as universities of education.

The National Universities Commission (NUC) and the National Commission for Colleges of Education are, however, supervising the transition of these institutions to their new status.

All these notwithstanding, a lot of optimism have been expressed that the upgrade of these institutions would attract more Nigerians into the teaching profession with a view to producing first class brains as teachers.

Hardly had the news of the appointment settled down than stakeholders in the respective institutions, including workers and members of the host community began to kick against the appointments of the new helmsmen.

For instance, at the Adeyemi College of Education, workers, students and alumni members who cheered upon hearing the news of the upgrade are now bitter with the appointment of Prof. Richard Peter-King, who is to take over from Prof Olukoya Ogen, the first alumni to be provost of the college.

The Guardian reliably gathered that the alumni members and other interested parties are working tooth and nail to ensure that Peter-King’s appointment is reversed.

National Public Relations Officer (PRO) of the alumni association, Yemi Olugbamigbe, was recently quoted as urging President Mohammadu Buhari to revisit the issue and appoint a vice chancellor with requisite teaching qualification.

“The hasty appointment of vice chancellors for the institutions which already have chief executive officers interviewed and appointed by the same Federal Government is counter-productive and could lead to administrative crisis.

“A period of moratorium is required within which there would be the necessary harmonisation of supervision, programmes, staff cadres etc. And this period of transition should be jointly monitored by the National Universities Commission (NUC) and the National Commission for Colleges of Education (NCCE) while the existing governing council is retained,” he stated.

Olugbamigbe added, “The governing council ought to draw the criteria for the selection of vice chancellors after the period of moratorium and qualified candidates should be made to sit for an interview where only the most suitable should be appointed.”

Peter-King, a zoologist from the University of Uyo, the alumni claims does not have background in education just as they say he has been away from teaching for a lengthy period now.

Peter-King taught at the University of Calabar, Cross River State, as a lecturer and research scientist in 1984 and switched to the University of Uyo, (UNIUYO) when it was established in 1991.

However, the new vice chancellor of Federal University of Education, Zaria, Kaduna State, Prof Mohammed Abdullahi Kolo, has reported at his new duty post. Before now, Kolo was Vice Chancellor, Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida University, Lapai in Niger State.

Head, Public Rations Unit, Hajia Rakiya Sidi, who confirmed that Kolo had reported to work also informed that provost of the institution, Dr. Mukhtar Ibrahim Maccido, will revert to his new designation as deputy vice chancellor.

The same scenario playing out at Adeyemi University of Education in Ondo, appears to also be building up at the Alvan Ikoku College of Education, Owerri, where the workers and students, who trooped out dancing when news of the upgrade filtered in are now wearing mournful looks with the appointment of Prof. Sadiq Zubair Abubakar.

Like in Peter-King’s case, they also view it as a political settlement that they opine may sufficient room for the immediate realization of the aims and objectives of the specialized university.

They are vociferous in their submission that the Provost, Dr Blessing Ijioma, an associate professor, remains the best candidate to steer the institution in its early years.

Asked what basic qualification one must possess to be appointed a vice chancellor in a Nigerian university, immediate past executive secretary of the National Universities Commission (NUC), Prof. Peter Okebukola said, “ The basic qualifications for appointment as a vice-chancellor in a Nigerian university are included in the following list: “A full professor with outstanding academic credentials with proven integrity, high moral standards and impeccable character; possession of managerial and leadership experience within the university system and ability to attract funds to the University; proficiency in the use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) for administration, teaching and research; ability to promote linkages with external bodies (local and international). The candidate “should be in good physical and mental health and be free from any inhibiting health condition.”

On his take over the apparent hurried appointment of vice chancellors for the newly upgraded universities of education, he said, “I believe it is an unhealthy precedent, which government should have avoided. It would have been nice if government did not breach the laws it instituted on the appointment of vice chancellors, which provide for fair competition by candidates who would have applied on the basis of an advertisement and worked through a process of screening, selection and appointment by council.

“I am not sure why the Jonathan administration switched to the stampede mode in the twilight of its tenure with regard to these appointments but perhaps there are political reasons which sadly fail to stand the scrutiny of due process. I am unable to justify the rush since the upgraded colleges were peaceably running their programmes, even degree courses to which their new status accords them.

However, “It is definitely not a problem of the appointees. They are not responsible for the aberrant appointment. By now, they would have received tons of congratulatory letters and attended thanksgiving services as well as receptions by family and friends to “wash” the new appointment. The pay cheque will also jack up fourfold in quantum! Even if the appointment is later annulled, it has gone into their resume.

On what the new government can do to save the situation, he responded, “The new government should do what is right, which is to walk along the path of due process in the appointment of vice chancellors in the Nigerian university system. Those now “illegally” appointed may end up being finally picked through this due process. This should make them proud and more importantly, make the Nigerian university system proud.

On what specific factors should be taken into consideration when appointing a vice chancellor for a specialised university, the former executive secretary said,  “The key factors are as I listed earlier. For any specialised university, the vice chancellor should be a professor in that area of specialisation. It will be grossly aberrant to appoint a professor of education to head a specialised university of law or a professor of human medicine to be vice chancellor of a university of agriculture. In this case for a specialised university of education, a professor of education should be the head. I have heard people say that the vice chancellor of a specialised university can be any professor who can offer managerial leadership. For the Nigerian university system, that is bunkum.”

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