A vice chancellor’s diary – Part 2
By our tradition, approval of all the sessional exam results signifies the official end of session. You felt a sense of relief that the protracted 2016/2017 session had finally ended. Senate had the previously day considered and approved the academic calendar for the following session. A 23-day break was approved so that the academic staff who had been put under tremendous pressure could have some time to recuperate. Some of your deans of faculties had over the past few weeks intimated you about the complaints of their academic staff centred on the stress you in particular and the management, in general. had put them through over the last four months. Meeting over you went back to your office. You performed some chores. Left for home at 9 pm.
Wednesday: You were in the office most of this day. A team from the British American Tobacco Nigeria (BATN) Foundation came visiting. Led by the General Manager, Mrs. Ololade Johnson-Agiri; Project Manager, Mr. Olusegun Adewole and the Executive Assistant, Mrs. Iniomon Chidinma. A Memorandum of Understanding is to be developed and signed immediately. You were particularly proud that both Ololade and Olusegun are Alumni of the University of Ibadan. The objective of the BATN Foundation initiative is to assist our budding agropreneurs who may wish to go into commercial and mechanised farming. Happily, we have many of them in the Faculty of Agriculture, Faculty of Renewable Natural Resources, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Faculty of Technology, Department of Human Nutrition, among others.
Under this partnership, more emphasis would be placed on grounding and deepening the capacity of our undergraduates in commercial agriculture and ensuring that they acquire entrepreneurial skills so that before graduation they would be capable of being employers of labour rather than job seekers, in view of the seemingly saturated job market.
Your very good friend and colleague came to your office expressing worries about the state of health of his dad. He later called you on phone that evening that he had just lost his beloved dad, aged 84. You expressed sympathy.
You had an evening appointment at the Lodge with members of the Union of Campus Journalists. You were happy four of them sauntered in at 7:10 p.m., as against the appointed 7:00 p.m. Useful, heart-to-heart and highly interactive meeting between father and children. After all said and done we are here for the students, in loco parentis. The four boys left at 9:30 p.m.
Thursday: You and your wife had to visit your bereaved friend, who lives just 5 minutes drive away, at 6:15 a.m. The Faculty of Pharmacy was to hold an Oath-Taking/Induction Ceremony this day. The Dean, who has been your close friend and colleague for decades now, had sent an official invitation, to be followed by several gentle reminders. It was important you squeeze in time to be there.
The first major event of the day comprised the opening ceremony of the new Ultra-Modern Faculty of Pharmacy e-Library at 9:30 a.m. We cannot thank the Alumni/Alumnae of the Faculty of Pharmacy enough for their generous support in cash and in kind towards the execution of this facility which can seat 75 users at a time.
From there to the oath taking ceremony at Trenchard Hall.You had to leave half-way into the ceremony to be at another event where a new Private Hostel was to be commissioned. This facility has 328 bed spaces. You felt happy that this is a little way of solving the accommodation problems of your students. You had to chair a meeting of the University Micro-Finance Bank at 3 p.m. The meeting had to be brought forward in order for you to attend some other urgent event outside the campus later that evening. Board meeting over, you joined the rest of management to go to town. You were able to attend the burial ceremony of the deceased, conducted according to Islamic rights at Monatan area of the Ibadan Metropolis. Homage paid, and prayers said for the repose of the deceased, you made your way back to the campus. Returned briefly to the office to clear your desk.
Friday: You woke up at 2:30 a.m. You checked your email only to find that the foreign assessor for one of your professorial promotion candidates had sent in her confidential report to you. You were delighted about this. You made phone calls to your Director of Special Duties and the Deputy Registrar (Establishments – Academic Staff) that one more Assessor’s Report had just come. The director of Special Duties was instructed to see you first thing in the morning at the Lodge to collect a printed copy of the External Assessor’s Report so that enough photocopies could be made for members of the Appointments and Promotions Committee. This particular candidate had applied for promotion with effect from October 1, 2014. It later transpired that he was already getting frustrated with the delay with the final conclusion of his promotion (to the grade of Reader).
A colleague was to be buried that same morning. You were unable to attend the Afternoon of Tributes organised by the Faculty of Science, where you hold a tenured position. You had to attend the Lying-in-State of this your older and amiable friend and much respected colleague at Trenchard Hall at 8:00 a.m. Programme lasted just 1 hour 10 minutes. You requested the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Administration) to represent you at the reception for the visiting team from the Oyo State Office of the Code of Conduct Bureau. As usual with him, he gladly accepted. You had to return to the Lodge for breakfast, realising that the rest of the day was going to be as hectic as ever. So it was not advisable for a man of your age to go to a meeting on an empty stomach.
Breakfast over, you had to go for the Special meeting of the University Appointments and Promotions Committee for Academic Staff. You have had to call two meetings of this same Committee during the nationwide strike by the three Non-Academic Staff Unions on December 21, 2017 and February 2018, respectively. Those meetings were held under less auspicious conditions, and you were nearly physically assaulted by the mob at the December 2017 meeting. Just a digression here. You are a lover of metrics since according to a sound management principle ‘If you cannot measure it, you cannot manage it’. One of the issues you had thought of carefully as a candidate for Vice-Chancellor of your alma mata was to reduce the lag time in processing promotion cases, especially for the Professorial grades which require that for each candidate there must be two assessors from Nigeria and one from outside the shores of the country.
You are ever determined to convene regular meetings of the concerned committee to consider cases of staff promotion for all deserving members of staff. It does no one any credit to delay the promotion of colleagues. Time was ticking. At 9:50 a.m. you had to leave the Lodge for your meeting. Meeting commenced promptly with an opening prayer. You considered some prima facie promotion cases as well as application for Study/Sabbatical Leave and one case of Leave of Absence for your immediate predecessor in office who is currently a Minister of the Federal Republic. You adjourned at 1:20 p.m. for members who had to go for their Friday prayers. You reconvened at 2:10 p.m. to consider the completed Part II Promotion cases to the grade of Reader and Professor.
The Provost of the College of Medicine (represented by his Deputy) and Deans of Faculties took their turns to present the Assessors’ Reports of their candidates.
By 4:15 p.m., you were through with your marathon meeting. The DVC (Academic), recently bereaved, said the closing prayer. Nine new Professors and 3 new Readers. Not a bad outing after all, to God be the glory. You went back to your office to do some work. You decided to call on the phone one of the new professors who was your school mate 48 years ago, and has since then be your family friend. He said he and his wife were already expecting you at their home along Sankore Avenue on the Campus.
You suddenly realised it was time to start the usual ward rounds, which is a much cherished tradition at the University of Ibadan. According to the holy book, you are expected to celebrate with those who are celebrating. Invariably you were only able to visit three of the new professors, all of whom live on the Campus.
You spoke with the other new Professors on phone, stating how happy you were with the high commendations they received from our external assessors. You received a WhatsApp message from one of the new Professors who was currently on Study Leave in the United States of America. Time was now 9:30 pm. Dinner over. You watched some news on CNN and Channels TV! Went to bed , hoping to have a sound sleep. You were woken up at 6: 30 am with a rather loud phone call.
What a week! At all times you have three consolations. First, you remember that where you come from, it is said that hard work does not kill, while laziness is to be abhorred. Second, you remember that your father remained an active, hardworking and successful farmer till age 79 when he no longer had enough energy to trek to and from his farm, some three kilometres away from your ancestral home. And third, you remember that for all it is worth, you applied in writing for this job, with recommendations from three eminent Nigerians and massive support of members of the University community. You cannot but thank the ever good God for strength.
• Saanu wrote from Ibadan.