A Portrait Of UI’s New Vice Chancellor
However, the enduring consolation is that Adewole’s era will be gleefully remembered in UI. It is an era that the staff members will continue to relish and cherish, given the quality of leadership, the creativity in administration, as well as the populist agenda of the man who made staff welfare the fulcrum of his tenure. Without doubt, Prof. Adewole’s imprints as the 11th VC of Nigeria’s premier university are phenomenal, as he demonstrated outstanding resourcefulness, foresight and dogged determination in his efforts to raise the stakes. He certainly delivers the goods, always putting smiles on the faces of the workers, even in austere times.
Since every beginning must have an end, therefore, the university has activated the process of getting a replacement for “the man of the people”. Traditionally, Adewole’s successor is expected to emerge three months before the expiration of the current tenure. That was a legacy instituted by the Chief Wole Olanipekun-led council, which many universities have copied. The current Council, headed by Dr. Umaru Musa Mustapha is thus saddled with the delicate task of appointing a new VC – a job that is as difficult as grasping the shadow!
Interestingly, immediately the vacancy advert was published, professors from the over 400 that the university parades have started lacing their boots. Those who consider themselves able and capable have started strategising, covertly manoeuvring to get a vantage position. So far, eleven candidates were said to have filed in their applications as at time of putting this write-up together.
Literally, the road to Vice Chancellorship of a university, particularly of Ibadan status, is intellectually tough and rough and rigorous, travelled only by the destined. The job at hand is not meant for just anybody. The job descriptions are as complex and herculean as the institution itself. This is because whoever can govern UI successfully can effortlessly govern Nigeria. Exaggeration unintended. Really? Yes. This is because university system thrives on the tradition of liberal dissent. As a matter of fact, university is a place of dissent and controversy, because that is the dialectics of arriving at the truth. Whoever that is interested in leading that kind of an environment must be as wise as Solomon. S/he must be a specialist in integrative thinking. In other words, the right person for the job must have the capacity to hold two diametrically opposing ideas in his or her head and be able to reconcile them for the situation at hand. Only the brilliant and the bold can dare!
In reality, this advertised position of VC in UI demands much more than what academic qualifications represent. It is a job with almost an endless scope. For instance, students’ demands must be met, workers’ requests must be fairly dealt with, there must be peace on campus, electricity must be available on campus even when it is epileptic or non-existent in town, water must run, salaries and allowances must be paid without which the gates will be locked in protest! As John Updike notes, “a leader is one who, out of madness or goodness volunteers to take upon himself the woes of a people”. The leader that the university requires now is a man or a woman of valour whose courage is that of a cognoscente and illuminati, ready to die for the system.
Leaders are in various classes: drifting, dreaming and decisive. The leader that “the first and the best” university in Nigeria requires now must be a thinker of finest hue. S/he must be above board. Our next Vice Chancellor must be a purveyor of values, morals and manners. The candidate for this exalted position must have an uncanny capacity to dream and dare with readiness to serve without seeking immediate reward.
From the array of fine and fantastic candidates who have put themselves forward for this job, the Dr. Umaru Musa Mustapha-led Council must work very hard to pick the best of the best in the contest. Beyond the stated qualities that Council had sought in the advert, the candidate for this difficult job must be a philosopher, a seer, and a teacher, bringing past experiences to bear on the system. He must as well be a fundraiser.
Council must search for a candidate whose friendliness, like that of Prof. Adewole, draws all like a mystic magnet. The next VC should be able to smile broadly in order to thaw frowning faces. He should be able to sing, dance, crack jokes and laugh heartily. The candidate for this job must know about The Bible, Quran, Torah and Veda. He or she should be able to drink wine, but not to the state of stupor.
Again, it is not out of place to say that the next VC must be a leader with a consuming passion to make a world of difference. He should be able to confront the challenges of the moment with grit and gravitas because the task of a leader is to get his or her people from where they are to where they have not been. Arnold Glascow cannot be wrong when he says, “a good leader takes a little more than his share of the blame, and a little less than his share of the credit”. Our next VC should have capacity to reward good deeds and hard work. He should be ready to accept blame for the mistake made by his officers. The incumbent does that most of the time.
More importantly, the next VC should be able to manage his mood, mind his manner and master his mouth. Indeed, whoever gets this job must be at his best behaviour all the time because people will be looking up to him or her for imitation and inspiration. Anyone eyeing this job must be a master of human psychology with zero tolerance for tardiness.
It goes without saying that this position of UI VC carries a heavy price tag. The occupant must think like a man or woman of action and act like a man or woman of thought. The person must be legacy obsessed, ready to drudge all day long. He should be ready to take many routes less travelled to be able to move the system forward. As Chief Awolowo recommended, while some people will be dancing at various clubs with women of easy virtues, our new VC must be at his table, finding solutions to the myriad of challenges confronting UI.
On a flip side, he must not be a vindictive person who is out to reward his friends and punish his fiends. No. The occupant of this enviable position must not be persecutorial in attitude. In this office, there is no room for the rule of arbitrariness and unpredictable direction. Whoever sits in this office must free himself from parochial encumbrances. The culture of transparency is normative to the university system. This value must be held sacrosanct.
However, in Nigeria, leadership has been variously cited as a major conundrum against national development. Conversely, University of Ibadan has been so lucky with the quality of leaders that has been thrown up. As a macrocosm of Nigeria, a majority of those who have been privileged to govern this university have been excellent in leadership. Their selfless and marvellous leadership styles have contributed significantly to the status and stature of Ibadan. Many of these past leaders gave all to Ibadan.
From Prof. Kenneth Dike who was Ibadan’s first Nigerian Principal and VC from 1960-67, to Prof. T. Adeoye Lambo, Horatio Oritsejolomi Thomas, to Prof. Tekena N. Tamuno, the first alumnus VC who passed on recently, UI has benefitted immensely from these men of substance. Others who equally served UI with passion and faithfulness include Prof. Samson O. Olayide, Prof. Ayo Banjo, Prof. Allen B. Oyediran, Prof. O. A. Ojengbede and Prof. Omoniyi Adewole. Others are Prof. Ayodele Falase, Prof. Olufemi Bamiro and the outgoing VC, Prof. Isaac Folorunso Adewole.
The question now is, who succeeds Prof. Adewole? This is the riddle the Dr. Umaru Musa Mustapha-led Council has to solve. It is indeed a hard nut to crack as the university parades many quality materials. Perhaps, this is where the university community needs serious prayer. Yes, the community needs to pray for God to give us a genuine leader; a leader who will not allow the razzmatazz, glitz and glamour associated with the flittering allure of materialism to erode the more sublime value that the university has instutionalized; a leader who will not place the interest of his concubine above the needs of the university; a leader who will pay workers’ salaries even when government is yet to send subvention; a leader who will carry everyone along without considering his or her ethic background. UI needs to pray for another good leader to emerge.
Sunday Saanu is with the Directorate of Public Communication UI.
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