Appointment Of Vice-Chancellors: I Have A dream

The 13th Nigerian Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ibadan would have assumed office on Tuesday, December 1, 2020 but for the enormity of problems that characterised the selection process, leading to the dissolution of the council by the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), the Visitor to the university. With a new council now in place and headed by John Odigie-Oyegun, a seasoned and highly respected politician, a new process is now in place to appoint the right Vice-Chancellor for the university. This time around, the Council must not allow the involvement of any group of persons purporting to support a particular candidate on the grounds of ethnic, religious or political affiliations.

In Nigeria today, we have different types of Vice-Chancellors largely due to interference by various groups during the selection process and the proliferation of universities or should I say ‘glorified secondary schools’ even in remote villages. I was in a state university to see a Vice-Chancellor recently and waited for him for nearly two hours before he finally showed up.

The first question he asked me after greeting him was, “What do you want”? I responded that I would like to see him briefly in his office but he quickly replied that he was tensed up and closed the door to his office behind me! It was a terrible attitude that does not augur well for the Vice-Chancellor and his university particularly when it is borne in mind that it was my very first time of seeing him. The University of Ibadan can do without such Vice-Chancellors who have thrown humility and courtesy into the winds. I really felt very sorry for him because I do not know how he can stand before God to give account of his stewardship after leaving this planet earth. The ways of such Vice-Chancellors are obviously foolish before God who placed them in that position.

A friend of mine had a worse experience and told me why he had to resign his appointment in a university in the North to another in the South despite the fact that he is a highly respected and renowned Professor of Medicine. According to him, the issue of finance came up for discussion during a Senate meeting and suddenly, the Vice-Chancellor, Bursar and Registrar went into a private discussion in the local language to the amazement of members of Senate. The discussion lasted for five minutes before the “three wise men” arrived at a decision on behalf of the Senate! We certainly do not want this type of Vice-Chancellor in the University of Ibadan.

This problem of ethnicity is sadly rooted in our universities making it easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a Professor who is not the ‘son or daughter of the soil’ to be appointed Vice-Chancellor in any Nigerian university today. Our universities have consequently become localised and may be one of the reasons for the non-recognition of Nigerian universities in the world.

However, I have a dream that our universities will someday gain international recognition and the appointment of VCs will then be based purely on academic achievements and appropriate experience by the candidate who will be determined to lift his or her university to a world-class status.

This is when a qualified Nigerian can head any university in any part of the country irrespective of his or her ethnic origin or religion. The University of Ibadan once had Professor Kenneth Onwuka Dike from the Igbo ethnic group (1960 to 1967), Professor Orishejolomi Thomas (1972 to 1975), an Itsekiriman and Professor Tekena Nitonye Tamuno (1975 to 1979) from Rivers State as Vice-Chancellors and they all performed very well. I have a dream that the UI will someday return back to these days of academic excellence. I have a dream that the University of Nigeria, Nsukka will one day appoint a renowned Professor from the Yoruba or Hausa ethnic group as her Vice-Chancellor while Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria will appoint hers from the Igbo or Yoruba ethnic group. This is a characteristic of international universities.

We know about Vice-Chancellors who travel abroad regularly, ignoring academic matters such as Inaugural and Valedictory lectures simply because of their love for estacodes which are usually received in foreign currencies. Such Vice-Chancellors have no interest in the development of any university. I have a dream of a Vice-Chancellor who has been endowed with the wisdom of Solomon and blessed with the character of Joseph and not one who deliberately drains the finances of the university through various channels including contract appointments, unauthorised building constructions, illegal purchases etc. These are thieves and have nothing to offer a university.

I feel very sad to note the dramatic fall in academic standards of the University of Ibadan as evidenced by the world university rankings showing a very strong position of 100th in the sixties and early seventies to the 1,219th position in July 2021 and from first in Africa during the same period to the 18th position in July 2021. She is closely followed by Covenant University, Ota in the 1,326th position in the world and 21st position in Africa.

A closer look at the table of past Vice-Chancellors of the University of Ibadan since its foundation in 1948 shows why no stone should be left unturned in the selection of the best candidate by the University Council as the 13th Nigerian Vice-Chancellor irrespective of ethnic, religious or political affiliations.

Foreign vice-chancellors: Prof Kenneth Mellanby, 1948-1953; Mr J.T. Saunders 1953-1956; Dr J.H. Parry 1956-1960.

Nigerian Vice Chancellors: Prof. Kenneth Onwuka Dike (1960 – 1967); Prof. Thomas Adeoye Lanbo (1968 – 1971); Prof. H. Orishejolomi Thomas (1972 –Nov 30, 1975); Prof. Tekena Nitonye Tamuno (Dec 1, 1975–Nov 30, 1979); Prof. S. Olajuwon Kokumo Olajide, (Dec 1, 1979– Nov 29, 1983); Prof. Ladipo Ayo Banjo (Nov 30, 1983 – Nov 30, 1984 acting); Prof. Alien B.O.O. Oyediran (Dec 01, 1991 – Nov 30, 1995); Prof Omoniyi O. Adewoye (March 25, 1996 –March 24, 2000); Prof. Ayodele O. Falase (Sept 25, 2000 –March 30, 2004); Prof. Olufemi Adebisi Bamiro (March 31, 2004–Nov 30, 2005 acting) (Dec 1, 2005– Nov 30, 2010); Prof. Isaac Folorunso Adewole, (Dec 1, 2010 – Nov 30, 2015); Prof. Abel Idowu Olayinka Dec 1, 2015–Nov 30, 2020);

*1 Prof Oladosu A. Ojengbede, Acting Vice-Chancellor from Dec 01, 1995 to March 24, 1996

*2 Prof O.O. Olorunsogo, Acting Vice-Chancellor from March 25, 2000 to September 24, 2000.

The aspirant for the 13th Nigerian Vice-Chancellorship of the University of Ibadan must be prepared to sincerely address the following issues for posterity:

Determination to return the university to her enviable position in the sixties and early seventies when she was ranked amongst the best 100 universities in the world.

Ensure availability of constant power and clean water supply in the whole university to avert the disruption of research activities, execution of practicals by undergraduate and postgraduate students and storage of some special chemicals and organisms.

To be concluded.

Prof Odiaka, FAS, was a former Dean of Science, University of Ibadan (2007 – 2009) and has just completed his tenure as Head of the Department of Chemistry (2017 – 2021)

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