By Ayanlola Ayanteju
The Campaign for Academic Freedom and Excellence (CAFE) is saddened by the turn of events in the selection process of a Vice Chancellor for Nigerian Premier University, University of Ibadan.
As a stakeholder, we are worried that a simple process has been turned into a war-like and ‘inconclusive’ process which has dragged the image of the University into the mud due to the ignoble act of one man who was desperate to cover up his tracks of poor leadership and bury the carcass of his mis-governance of the university. Stench from the buried carcass of his mismanagement have not only polluted the once safe and healthy environment, it has created a leadership crisis from which the university might be unable to swim out for years to come.
Like many fair minded observers, this group made several releases to warn the then leadership of the University of the grave consequences of manipulating the selection process and introducing strange ideas into the system.
Perhaps it is needless to remind us of some of the allegations against the immediate past administration of Prof. Abel Idowu Olayinka which exited ingloriously as perhaps the most controversial administration in the history of the university. There were several disregards for the rule of law and series of manipulations which dots his administration.
The climax of the poor administrative style of Prof. Olayinka was the meddlesomeness in the choice of a Vice Chancellor for the university. The process was fraught with controversies right from the simple stage of congregation election, which adopted e-voting to technically scheme out perceived opponents, especially the non-academic staff, and this laid the foundation for the eventual protests staged by this category of staff. The kind never witnessed in the history of the University.
The situation was further aggravated by the eventual manipulations of the process to favour those ‘ordained’ to be elected as representatives in the joint council and senate board to screen candidates vying for the position of the VC.
Against all appeals, and despite several petitions with unprecedented evidences against the VC alleging his special interests at imposing a candidate on the community, the University governing council was misled to continuing with a tainted selection process which initially produced, in controversial circumstances, Professors Ayoola (Faculty of Science) and Olapegba (Dept. of Psychology) in order to provide a smooth sail for the ‘anointed’ candidate of the out-gone VC. Petitions were written by aggrieved contestants, but the University governing Council refused to look into those petitions.
Implicating text messages were flying around, yet, the council went on as if it was normal. Many great minds and respected candidates, with proven academic and administrative capabilities, were screened out during the shortlisting. The outgone VC was accused of anointing the current Deputy Vice Chancellor (administration), Prof. Kayode Adebowale, who unfortunately was believed to be a stooge and part of the ‘dynasty’ of Prof. Abel Olayinka.
There were petitions from many groups on campus, notably; The Gaskya Group (TGG), Coalition for Autonomy of Universities in Nigeria (CAUN), The Torch bearers and the Liberators, amongst others, appealing to all stakeholders to rise and condemn the emerging obnoxious trend and take technical note of the dangerous politics playing out on the campus which could plunge the university into an unprecedented calamity. These patriotic groups warned of an implosion. But those warnings were discarded like the proverbial dog that got missing for refusing to heed the hunter’s call.
According to the groups, the administration of Prof Olayinka came in amidst strike by workers and ended with a strike action, one in which his feet was symbolically swept out of the university to mark an end to an inglorious era. The out-gone administration and the Council should be held responsible for this current stalemate.
The Council chairman was consistently misadvised by some members of the council whom investigations revealed have been heavily compromised, and promised positions in the University. The once-vibrant University Senate has been turned into a political party, and decisions taken for political motives.
CAFE therefore sees nothing wrong in the various interventions so far made by the Federal Government to help salvage the situation and redeem the already battered image of the premier University which is far sinking into an abyss. The immediate past administration, no doubt, was responsible for bringing the name of the once enviable University to disrepute through the despotic leadership style of the outgone VC.
We agree that there is need for a good crisis manager who can take the University of Ibadan out of the conundrum of leadership crisis we have plunged into, and restore our lost glory and unity.
We need to stop the current harvest of hates and replace it with transplanting of love by a people manager. The present leadership of the university must consciously and carefully initiate a credible and transparent process that will produce acceptable leadership for the university who will lead us to reclaim the lost glory. A bridge builder.
There is need to avoid planting the seeds of destruction and disunity amongst staff and students. We all must be prepared to safe our university in order to retain its nobility and in tandem with the spirit of our motto: Recte Sapere Fons (For knowledge and sound judgement).
Ayanteju is the Coordinator, Campaign for Academic Freedom and Excellence (CAFE)