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After long wait… stakeholders await UI, LASU VCs

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National Universities Commission building


With the appointment of former All Progressives Congress (APC) leader, Chief John Odigie Oyegun as Chairman, University of Ibadan (UI) Governing Council, expectations are high that the crisis of who becomes substantive Vice Chancellor of the premier institution would be resolved.

The university has been enmeshed in succession crises at the expiration of Prof Idowu Olayinka’s tenure five months ago. The process was declared inconclusive while the National Universities Commission (NUC) directed Senate of the university to appoint an Acting Vice Chancellor to take over affairs of the school.

Prof. Adebola Ekanola, who was Deputy VC (Academics), was subsequently appointed acting VC on December 1 last year. The University Governing Council had adjourned sitting till February 8, to continue with the process of selecting a substantive VC but the meeting was postponed indefinitely by the minister of education, Adamu Adamu, citing petitions against the selection process.  Before then, the minister had suspended the process two times within four months.

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An official of Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) told The Guardian that the process for the appointment of a vice chancellor in public universities should be the statutory responsibility of the Governing Council of each university.

Citing Universities (Miscellaneous Provisions)(Amendment) Act 2003, otherwise called Universities Autonomy Act No. 1, 2007 and Universities (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Amendment) Act 2012, the official insisted that the President is not empowered by law to approve or disapprove the appointment of a VC, while there is no provision as well as for the Minister of Education in the selection process.

Prof Noah Arinze of University of Maiduguri (UNIMAID) said halting a process because of petitions and suspending council meetings indefinitely because the process is compromised is unacceptable.

Arinze said writing petitions during interviews or selection processes is not new in the system and should not be allowed to halt the selection exercise.

He said: “The same thing happened in 2010 in UI when a new VC designate emerged, there were all manner of petitions, but the then Chairman of Council, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN) handled it well. Some ‘Concerned Professors,’ even called for annulment of the entire process a day before the new VC was to resume office. The same thing happened during appointment of the immediate past VC in 2015.  Some people went to court to stop him from assuming office but the attempts failed.

“Petitions should not be the basis for suspending a process.  We should be more concerned about adherence to due process. An indefinite suspension of the council sitting gives impression that the education minister is involved in the selection process, that is why the council should be allowed to do its job.”
 
A former ASUU leader, Dr Thompson John said politicians should not be allowed to destroy higher education, especially public universities.

The ASUU chief said with the inauguration of the new Council chairman, expectations are high that the process would be concluded and a substantive vice chancellor would emerge.

The Joint Action Congress (JAC) of Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) and Non-Academic Staff Union (NASU) of the institution have also called for a fresh selection process as the new Council chairman resumes.

Chairman of SSANU, Wale Akinremi, said the previous processes were fraught with irregularities and urged the new council helmsman to start the process afresh and give all candidates a level playing ground.

IN Lagos State University (LASU), the Visitor, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, had twice rejected recommendations of the Governing Council, instead, he set up a visitation panel to look into the issues.

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When immediate past VC, Prof. Olanrewaju Fagbohun (SAN) was rounding off his tenure, the selection committee, headed by Chairman of Council, Prof. Adebayo Ninalowo, had advertised the position, calling on interested persons to apply. The screening was done and the council made its recommendations to the governor.

However, there was controversy over equating fellowship of professional bodies with doctorate degree, which became a major plank on which critics faulted the first exercise.

When Sanwo-Olu cancelled the first exercise and Prof Oyedamola Oke was elected by Senate of the university as acting VC, the governor gave a marching order to the Council to do another selection process within 45 days. But the controversies have continued. There were those who opposed the manner of the selection process, while others accused the committee of bias. Again, the governor annulled the second exercise and set up a visitation panel to address appointments and other issues at the institution.

The panel, comprising former vice chancellors, seasoned administrators, technocrats and top public servants is headed by Pro-Chancellor of Ekiti State University, Prof Bamitale Omole.

Other members of the panel are former Vice Chancellor, University of Port Harcourt, Joseph Ajienka; a university don, Ayo Olukotun; former Registrar of University of Ibadan, Olujimi Olukoya, former Lagos State Solicitor-General and Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Justice, Lawal Pedro (SAN), and a senior official in the Office of Special Adviser, Education, Funmilola Olajide, who would serve as secretary.
Chairman, Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), LASU, Prof. Ibrahim Bakare, urged Sanwo-Olu to select the best candidate who would not only maintain the peace presently being enjoyed on campus, but also prioritise workers’ welfare and take the institution to enviable heights.

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Prof Bakare said the union would want the governor to give the school the best candidate to continue excellent works of his predecessor.
He said: “Whoever emerged should prioritise welfare and infrastructure. He or she should tap from the knowledge of the past administration. We want to see visionary leadership from who is to be appointed and the person should create a conducive environment for learning and academic excellence.”

A group in the institution, The Liberators, has called on the state government to encourage choice of the best candidate for the position of Vice Chancellor.

The Coordinator, Prof. Adeleke Fakoya, said stakeholders are ready to support a dependable, forthright and honest candidate who would build on the legacies of the past administration.
He urged the state government to pick a candidate based on merit and without recourse to tribe or ethnic bias.

Fakoya said: “We are neutral. We want someone who can take us higher to an enviable position. We don’t want a VC that is divisive. There should be no scapegoats and sacred cows. Whoever comes out tops in the interview should be the next VC. There should be no special consideration for anyone. Selection should not be on account of state of origin or local government. Selection should be devoid of special consideration.”They further urged the governor to replicate what he did in LASPOTECH where the best candidate was picked as Rector.

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