When Garry Ryan Blair reminded leaders that ‘ _one way or the other you’re going to finish. So why not finish strong and make yourself immensely proud of your performance rather than embarrassed by your lack of it’_ , one would have thought that it was too elementary a lesson in management, especially in the ivory tower which bakes knowledge and wisdom. The Yoruba, in their wisdom, also acknowledge the need to end well in every field of human endeavours. Most challenging is people management. However, current happenings in the premier university in Nigeria underscore these assertions. This is of great concern to us in ‘ *The Liberators* ‘, a group of independent minded stakeholders in the country.
We wish to acknowledge the giant strides of the outgoing administration of Prof. Olayinka at the University of Ibadan, Nigeria. It will be an understatement to say that the current VC, Prof. Olayinka came to position of leadership of the premier university with an intimidating academic records and adminitrative experience. He did not only serve as HoD, Dean of the PG School, but also as a Deputy Vice Chancellor, all of which one could assume had sufficiently groomed him for leadership of the University. Prof. Olayinka’s tenure no doubt witnessed unprecedented growth and development. This is evidenced in the establishments and approvals of new departments, faculties, centres and courses, notably the faculty of economics and management, the department of peace and conflict studies amongst many. It should be noted that the university also witnessed more than 119% rise in the number of Professors between 2015 and 2020, being the period of Prof Olayinka’s administration. His tenure also witnessed the increase in population of applicants and those admitted into both undergraduate and post graduate programmes. These are testimonies to the confidence candidates have in the quality of teaching and learning in the university. The most recent achievement during Prof. Olayinka’s tenure is the latest ranking by the Centre of World Universities Ranking
(CWUR) released on 8 June 2020, in which UI was the only Nigerian
University that made the list of the first 30 universities in Africa, ranked in the 13th position on the list, and the best
University in West Africa.This is no mean an achievement worthy of being celebrated.
However, all these achievements are being dwarfed by the on-going unpleasant events in the university which are giving the university negative image. The imbroglio concerning the appointment of a Vice-Chancellor for the University has indeed cast a dark spot on the history and image of the premier university. It has revealed the limitations of the outgoing Vice chancellor whose tenure has been characterised by crises. It has revealed his limitations in the key area of people management. The administration started with a strike and ingloriously ending with a plethora of strikes. SSANU , NASU, etc are all up in arms against an administration that came in with their innocent but overt support. Today, the outgoing VC is being described, by many Professors who supported his emergence, as the worst the University has ever had. What a twist of fate?
It is disheartening to note that never has the University of Ibadan had an acting Vice Chancellor due to its inability to complete a well designed process of transition from one administration to another. Previous appointments of acting VCs were either due to death of incumbent, appointment of incumbent as Minister before the end of his tenure or delay from the Federal Government then to announce an approved name from the list of those sent by the council. Never has a VC selection process witnessed such things as boycott, demonstrations, external interventions, petitions and manipulations like this. It is indeed a show of shame for a place where the pace ought to be set for smooth transition from incumbent to the next administrator to be engulfed in this theatre of absurdity.
Investigations revealed that the out-going Vice-Chancellor has been accused of introducing extraneous factors unknown to the process of selection of Vice-Chancellor in the University. He has been openly accused, with preponderance of evidences, of trying to manipulate the selection process to subvert the process. He has been accused of favouring one of his DVC, Prof. Adebowale, who is believed will continue the era of despotism in an academic environment expected be free and conducive for learning. There is a recent message sent to all his followers in anticipation of the celebration of the victory of this anointed candidate.
The anointed candidate is believed to be favoured to continue the ‘dynasty’ that the outgoing VC is alleged to be building, and to cover up for many financial improprieties allegedly perpetrated by the outgoing VC. The University is alleged to be heavily in debt to suppliers, contractors and even IBEDC. Another pointer to the financial profligacy of the outgoing administration is the insensitivity of the VC to the financial state of the University which has led to several petitions against those concerned with management of the accounts of the University. No wonder the Non-academic staff were against the re-appointment of the Bursar for another term. For instance, the VC was accused of purchasing a Toyota Jeep for himself worth about 50m as part of his ‘take home’ at the expiration of his term. Similar thing was alleged to have played out about a year into the life of the administration when he bought a Jeep worth about N30m then, during an austere period when the non-academic staff were on strike agitating for payment of some little entitlements. The administration was considered insensitive to staff welfare.
Further on human relations, the outgoing VC has been rated poor. He has been accused of treating staff with little respect, and this infact resulted in low self-esteem. Non-academic staff were said to be described by him as ‘second class citizens’. No wonder the high rate of strikes witnessed during his tenure. He surely did not win their hearts. They wanted a good riddance to bad rubbish. So, they justifiably wouldn’t support his choice of candidate for the position of VC in the University.
The students were reportedly not safe from his vituperation too. He never had a good relationship with the students union. The students had a running battle with the VC over the issue of identity card. Some of their leaders were sanctioned for daring to challenge the authority. The various staff unions were equally not spared. He rarely responded to correspondences with the leadership of the unions until things degenerated. Thus strikes became the only option left to deal with such a hostile administration.
The state of infrastructures in the university deteriorated during the period under review. As we write, water and electricity supply have been epileptic, even when there were no strikes. The outgoing VC has achieved very little in this direction, hence much will be expected from the incoming VC. It has been alleged that boreholes were sunk in the residences of those considered loyal to the VC. Many staff were said to have been relieved of their appointments, in some positions, in surreptitious moves to uproot those peceived to oppose the VC’s leadership style. This perhaps accounts for why the people want to break away from anything or anyone that represents the continuity of the leadership style of the outgoing VC in whatever guise.
The outgoing VC has a disrepute for being so temperamental and resentful of opinions contrary to his views on issues. This has denied the University of quality debates and effective actions. It has negated the sayings that variety is the spice of life.
On funding of research works, It was alleged that departments were starved of funds for which forced the staff to ingeniously seek funding else where, and to which the University prides itself as being able to attract external fundings. What a survival strategy to turn your hurts to hallows?
The on-going ‘abiku’ selection process was designed to fail through the meddlesomeness of the VC and the usurpation of the duties of the governing council. Unfortunately the chairman of the council seems to have been recruited and trapped into the politics. The naming of the Distance Learning building after the chairman of the council was considered a bait that has compromised his position, and thus his ability to be unbiased in the selection process for a new VC has become suspect. He has eaten the proverbial ‘fruits of lies’, and can therefore not be trusted to say the truths again. The Chairman has not been steadfast enough. He allowed the out-going VC to hijack and destroy the process – from the manipulated elections to the kangaroo shortlisting of candidates where some candidates were deliberately screened out. No doubt, the process had to be halted, and sanity enforced. What a history for our premier university?
History indeed is being made. A pathetic one at that! The outgoing VC shall be remembered for many innovations. Never has UI created a tense, suspicious and divided environment like now. Academics in the opposing camps are no longer seeing eyeballs to eyeballs. Trust has been eroded, and academic collaborations have collapsed. The University is now more divided along ethno-religious line. People are no longer feeling safe with threats of diabolical and physical attacks. The campus is no longer safe for teaching, research and learning. Academics are no longer treated with respect. The outgoing VC is infamous for always openly disgracing staff. And same traits are believed will be exhibited by his deputy, Prof. Kayode Adebowale, his anointed candidate for VC position. Never will the people want to tread that path again. It is believed that a person lives a similar life to that of his friend.
To us in ‘The Liberators’, the University needs an astute manager with record of financial transparency and discipline. The University needs a blend of schorlaship and skills in people management. The University needs someone who can rescue it from a collosal fall into an abyss. We need someone that all the stakeholders can trust. The University must not be allowed to live only on the glory of the past. Prof. Olayinka indeed harvested the seeds of development sown by past leaders. There is need to begin to sow new seeds. There is need to recreate the UI culture and rebuild the entire system. Indeed there are cracks on the walls. It will take a visionary administrator about at least a year to rescue the sinking ship of the premier University. We shall advise Prof. Olayinka to realize the saying of Ravi Zacharias that ‘ _Beginning well is a momentary thing; finishing well is a lifelong thing_ ‘. His is indeed a ‘ *Poor end to a glorious beginning* . Let’s save UI and make things work again. Let’s bring back our UI.