UNIBADAN: Why merit should define race for vice chancellorship

By Muyiwa Adeyemi (Head South West Bureau) |   09 August 2020   |   4:14 am  

University of Ibadan gate. Inset is the Vice Chnacellor, Prof. Olayinka

The contest for the successor of the outgoing Vice Chancellor of the University of Ibadan (UI), Prof Abel Idowu Olayinka has assumed a worrisome dimension because of ethnic and religious cards being played up by stakeholders.

Sources in the university said the succession process in the 72-year-old university had never been this petty. The concern is that rather than academic and administrative issues dominating the debate, primordial sentiments have become the order as the race intensifies within the university community.

Apart from the ethnic and religious sentiments, there is also a Faculty-war among different Faculties. The Faculty of Social Sciences is leaving no stone unturned in its bid to produce the next Vice Chancellor. Scholars in the Faculty claim that it remains the only Faculty never to have produced a Vice Chancellor since 1948 when the university was established. They argue that the system and powers that be had always favoured the Faculty of Arts and the College of Medicine.

But that jinx was broken by a former VC of the institution, Professor Oluwafemi Bamiro of the Faculty of Technology and the outgoing VC, Prof. Olayinka from the Faculty of Sciences.

It is not a surprise that the plum job is being keenly contested, considering the prestige the university, with over 500 Professors, has earned and the enviable achievements of the outgoing VC.

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Various innovations introduced by Prof. Olayinka that enhanced academic and research work in the University rank him among the best Vice Chancellors ever produced by the institution. Many believe that Olayinka will leave the office by November this year as a proud man.

In the last six years, UI has held the honour of being the first university in Nigeria and the best using the Webometrics ranking of Nigerian universities. Indeed, in the world ranking, no Nigerian university came before UI.

It was gathered that no fewer than 12 Professors had applied for the job before the closure of submission of applications on July 9, this year. The Registrar of the University, Olubunmi O. Faluyi had, in a statement, said that, “any candidate that do not submit his or her application on July 9, 2020, would not have the opportunity to do so again until 2025, when the position will be vacant once again.”

Apart from the Professors that have submitted their applications, a Search Team has been raised by the university to search for competent Professors in any University and encourage such persons to apply for the job.

Only last week Wednesday, the congregation held its election through a seamless electronic voting (E-voting) system. The Congregation Representatives election is crucial to the emergence of the new Vice Chancellor, as the body elected two representatives in council, who will join others to determine the next Vice chancellor.

At the close of voting, the Senate held a special Senate/congregation meeting via Zoom, where the results were announced by the institution’s Registrar, Olubunmi Faluyi, flanked by the Vice Chancellor, Professor Abel Idowu Olayinka and other principal officers.

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Also, the Senate would this month elect two representatives that will join the two representatives elected by the congregation and the Chairman of the Governing Council, Nde Joshua Mutka Waklek, to finally score the applicants.

Before then, it was gathered that the Governing Council would have met to screen the applicants, choose six among the 12 and present the shortlisted aspirants to the panel to be chaired by the Chairman of the Governing Council. A representative of the Federal Character Commission (FCC) and that of the federal government will observe the final screening to ensure due process is followed.

A source said the good thing about the exercise is that the decision of the panel is final. He said, “Once the panel chooses the best candidate, it is final. It is not like what obtained in the past when three names will be forwarded to the President to choose one. The new process is in conformity with the university autonomy we have been clamouring for.”

Some of the applicants include: the Deputy Vice Chancellor (Admin), Professor Kayode Oyebode Adebowale of the Department of Chemistry, Faculty of Science; Former Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academic), Professor Adeyinka Abideen Aderinto; Former Dean, Faculty of Arts, Professor Remi Raji-Oyelade of the Department of English.

Prof  Olayinka

Others are former Dean, Faculty of Law, Professor Oluyemisi Adefunke Bamgbose, SAN; Provost of College of Medicine, Professor Emiola Oluwabunmi Olapade-Olaopa; immediate past Chief Medical Director (CMD), University College Hospital (UCH), Professor Temitope Alonge and Professor George Olusegun Ademowo of the Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics, Faculty of Basic Medical Science.

A Professor Emeritus in the university said all the applicants are competent and qualified to head the university but regretted the ethnic and religious sentiments that have dominated the campaign.

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Indeed, some socio-political pressure groups in the host community including Central Council of Ibadan Indigenes (CCII) and Ibadan Pillars have taken the campaign beyond the university community, intensifying campaigns that an Ibadan indigene should occupy the exalted office.

To them, Ilesha in Osun state has produced four Vice Chancellors of the school located in Ibadan while Ekiti and Ondo states dominate headship of the University College Hospital (UCH).

The CCII President General, Chief Adeyemi Soladoye, in a statement, said, “The University of Ibadan is 72 years old and has produced 14 Nigerian Vice Chancellors between 1960 and today. But inexcusably, no Ibadan man has ever emerged as the Vice-Chancellor.” Giving the breakdown, he said, “Out of the 14 serving and former Nigerian VCs of the university, (including Acting), 10 are of Yoruba descent – seven, Ijesha (Osun State); two, Ijebu (Ogun State) and one, Offa (Kwara State). The other four – from Prof. Kenneth Dike to Prof. Tekena Tamuno – were from non-Yoruba part of Nigeria.

“A further analysis of the record shows that the occupancy of the position of Vice-Chancellor of U1 in the past 41 years (since the exit of Prof. Tekena Tamuno in 1979) and emergence of Prof. S. O. Olayide – an Obokun-Ijesha man (Osun State), the Ijesha people have occupied the position for 24 years – 1979-1983, 1995-2005 and 2010-2020; Ijebu (Ogun State) for 12 years and Offa (Kwara State) for 4 years.

“We wish to draw the attention of the Federal Government and Nigerians to the fact that this neglect is not for absence of qualified Ibadan indigenes within the UI system or in nation’s the academic circle.

“In the days of only one Deputy Vice-Chancellor in the top management cadre of U.I, Prof. Olusola Akinyele (an Ibadan Professor of Mathematics) was to take over from Prof. Ayo Banjo in 1991 but by sudden twist of military and political fiat, the opportunity eluded Ibadanland. Prof. Akinyele’s frustration and disappointment reached such a depressing level that the erudite Professor relocated overseas and never came back since then. In 1995, Prof. Wole Akinboade of Veterinary Medicine, another Ibadan man, contested and again, it was opportunity lost. In nearby Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife (OAU), Prof. Ayobami Salami, another Ibadan man and the Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Academics (the No. 2 position in the OAU hierarchy) was a frontrunner in the race for the Vice-Chancellorship of OAU in 2017. Alas, it was again the ‘Akinyele treatment’. Thanks to the late Gov. Abiola Ajimobi, who threw in a lifeline in appointing Prof. Ayobami Salami as the Vice-Chancellor of the state-created Technical University, which prevented another ‘Akinyele Experience.’

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“Now, the tenure of the current amiable and friendly Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Olayinka will expire in November 2020. In the race to replace him are 10 erudite Professors out of whom are these four sons of Ibadanland, presented in order of when we gave birth to them: Professor (Mogaji) Remi Raji-Oyelade (Former Dean, Faculty of Arts); Professor Kayode Adebowale (current DVC, Admin); Professor Emiola Olapade-Olaopa (College of Medicine) and Professor Kolapo Hamzat (Neurological Physiotherapy Department).

“It is important that we advise decision-makers in this race to be wary of campus political jobbers, as we hereby confirm that all the four candidates are bonafide Ibadan indigenes and the CCII or the Olubadan of Ibadanland has no anointed candidate among them. Our singular goal is to see that UI Academic Community appoints that Ibadan man known to be best suited for the job with a view to taking the institution to Harvard, Oxford or Cambridge level. In fact, we have some other eminently qualified Ibadan indigenes currently in Deputy Vice-Chancellorship positions, who opted to defer their ambitions this time around solely to enable the University System throw-up the best Ibadan candidate in the current race.”

For the Ibadan Pillars, the group specifically stated that it would not accept a non-indigene as the VC of the school.

President of the group, Asiwaju Nurudeen Akinade noted that Ibadan would not be the first city to make such demand. “There is no first generation University in Nigeria that has not produced an indigenous VC of host community origin. This continuous denial is not only insultive and absurd; it is also an act of insensitivity on the part of the Federal government and University Community.

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But the Coalition for Autonomy of Universities in Nigeria (CAUN) has described as worrisome, the introduction of strange factors, besides academic records and administrative capabilities, into the University contest for VC position.

In a statement by its coordinator, Tunde Olaoluwa, the group lamented that the university system, known for its strong, scientific and ethical processes of selection or appointment of Vice Chancellors, has now been corrupted for other pecuniary purposes other than seeking academic transformation of the institution for growth and development.

CAUN, which consists of Alumni of Nigerian Universities, said it could not watch the gradual erosion of the tradition and autonomy of the University through introduction of extraneous factors like ethnicity, religion, political affiliations, godfatherism and influence of external parties into the contest for VC position in UI.

It noted that the ugly trend was capable of destroying the university’s enviable tradition, which politicians are often advised to emulate. “What the University of Ibadan, whose catchment area is the whole federation, requires is a well groomed university administrator, who has an excellent knowledge of the system, the host community and the people. He should be someone with international connection to attract funding and recognition to the university. One who has a vision for a university that will really be autonomous in the sense of funding, introduction of new academic programmes and strengthening the existing ones to make them contribute to national development.”

Some scholars in the institution have also condemned the slant the contest has taken, saying that it is ridiculous to reduce an academic position to a tribal and religious contest.

According to them, the University may be on the path of doom if stakeholders allow these factors to determine the emergence of the next Vice Chancellor, adding that scholarship and objective criteria should define selection of the new Vice Chancellor.

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A professor, who pleaded anonymity, said, “This is not good for this institution. This is an academic environment. UI belongs to the Federal Government and Nigerians, and anybody qualified can aspire, irrespective of the tribe he or she comes from, whether West, East, North or South, to be the VC.”

Another lecturer described the development as ugly, adding that all the contestants were meritoriously qualified without any consideration to religion and tribe.

She said, “First, those you mentioned are ably qualify. They are more than qualified. Their CVs are intimidating and any of them have what it takes to win the position on merit. These are great scholars.”

Speaking on the threat of Ibadan group not to support a non-indigene VC, a retired Professor in the school said, “The position of some groups in Ibadan is a sad commentary on how politics and ethnicisation of fundamentals in Nigeria has crept into academic environment. Their position reminds one of what happened in 2003, the ‘Omo wa ni, eje o se’ saga, that led to one of the crises that truncated the second republic.

“We never knew that the contest for the office of the VC will degenerate to this level, and if allowed, they will not only want Ibadan person but somebody from their compound in Beyerunka or Gege, or Foko. Thank God, those that will choose the next VC cannot be that naïve to consider all these sentiments that should not be heard in any descent society.”

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