Tuesday, December 2, 2014 12:33 pm
By Andrew Aroloye
“This mission will continue, and this light will endure” were the concluding words in Governor Kayode Fayemi’s farewell speech to Ekiti people in October, 2014. When Governor Willy Obiano of Anambra State took over governance from Peter Obi, I wrote an article advising him on the importance of continuity in governance. I noted that politicians are noted for vengeance and abandoning projects hitherto initiated by their predecessors and starting new ones.
Governor Ayo Fayose at a church service in Ado-Ekiti lately said, “I won’t take vengeance, vengeance belongs to God. Be assured, I will be warm to you and I will continue from where Governor Fayemi stopped.” In a plea for continuity in governance, Wale Dens of The Punch said, “In the last decade, a state has had successive confused governments that worked hard to erase any trace of previous governments particularly in its educational policies.” In the same paper of Saturday 25 October 2014, a governorship candidate in Lagos State postulated that come February 2015, Lagos State will have a governor that will continue the great works of his predecessors. The need for continuity in governance is what I am placing before Nigerian politicians. They need to learn a lesson from how this is achieved in universities.
In a university system, one government transits into another with no remarkable difference or ceremony. The ceremonial gown of a preceding vice-chancellor becomes the toga of an in-coming one. The Vice-Chancellor’s lodge does not change or wear a new look. There are usually no changes in the car/driver, domestic and official staff. There is beauty in university administration. That is why I want to use the University of Lagos as my case study.
Globally, a university puts in place quinquennial plans–usually in tranches of five years–to last 25 years. The plans are strictly adhered to. This structured ‘Q’ plans cannot just be changed or abandoned unless there is a new development in technology that could enhance their success. Since the majority of our politicians are products of universities and polytechnics, one therefore expects that they learn from the governance of where they graduated to serve as a guide in administering this country.
I have written many articles since the passage of Prof. Tokunbo Sofoluwe whose immediate predecessors were Prof. Tolu Odugbemi and Prof. Oye Ibidapo-Obe. Their tenures added concrete academic and structural floors on which Tokunbo stood for continuity in governance.
Since Prof. Rahaman Bello was appointed Vice-Chancellor in November, 2012 the ‘continuum’ I am preaching has been on course. I am not taking on the role of NUC for my assessment. I want to state with all fairness that I have been impressed with my findings in celebrating his two years in office.
Shortly after assumption of duty, the issue of the swamp, about half of the entire university land) that had been unclaimed because of the huge cost of sand-filling, the need for upgrading of the green areas, increase in hostel accommodation, recruitment of quality staff to replace retiring and retired officers both in academic and administration, were issues he worked on based on the ‘Q’ Plans of Unilag.
Two years into his administration, therefore, Unilag can tell Nigerians that the mission had continued and the light had continued to glow.
I have observed during the visits to the campuses at Akoka and Idi-Araba that most activities, like record keeping, examinations, administration including prompt payment of salaries and transcript processing, are saved a lot of time through good management of Senate and administrative meetings. Inaugural lectures are delivered within one academic hour, if we are to adopt the words of late Prof. Adesola.
One of the issues of concern to me while still staff of the university was that of large classes. I had this problem while handling Course GEG: 401 in the Faculty of Engineering and EDU: 301 of Faculty of Education. With all the faculties recording large number of students annually, the problem of effective interaction between the lecturers and the students is almost becoming a thing of the past. Also, there is an increase in the number of lecture theatres. I understand too, that there has been in increase in the use of teaching assistants (Research Students) for tutorials in the redistribution and handling of large classes for effectiveness. This is one of the benefits of continuity in governance.
Globally, universities have distinguished functions. I believe this is why Prof. Rahaman Bello has intensified on the improvement of the traditional functions of teaching, certification, research, publication, storage and retrieval of knowledge, and e-media etc. The entire business venture of the university is now under one management board with a CEO as managing director as in any business venture.
The administration is pursuing these programmes with vigour and with the support of the University Council under the leadership of Prof. Jerry Gana. A politician in governance would probably have abandoned all these.
Recently, Unilag with six other Nigerian universities established a Joint Universities Preliminary Examination Board, JUPEB). The idea is to joint operate a single preliminary examination that will admit students into 200 level; Unilag has introduced the BA (Chinese Studies) to complement the European languages of English, French, German, Russian already in place there. Main Nigerian languages are taught too.
Management of human resources and materials is highly essential in governance.
The government on its part has a lot of fault in this area of lackadaisical system of appointing people into office and we as a people, the calibre of people we vote into office. Eric Teniola in an article in The Punch newspaper of 31 October, 2014 with the caption “Gradual Killing of The System” noted that there is nothing in the law or in the procedure of appointments which says anyone with less than two years left to serve, must be appointed head or anyone who is most senior. He narrated, with a simple analogy, how a police or military officer has to retire compulsorily because his junior has been appointed head of such an organisation.
He lamented the number of army generals and police officers trained with the nation’s money over the years with superb cognate experience that this nation has lost within the last decade. A nation with vision cannot be run like that. That article of Eric Teniola makes me sad on the amount of human resource material this nation has lost within a decade. Experience cannot be bought but ‘dead woods’ too, cannot be retained in any system with a future. This is why universities are different.
In the past, a vice-chancellor was appointed for four years in the first instance and another four at renewal, which means such a vice-chancellor served for a maximum of eight years. Now it is for a maximum of five years. Such an officer plans for what he can achieve within the five years in office based on the ‘Q plan’ of the university which may run into one another during his tenure without any noticeable change between moving into one from the other. We have aa Chief Justice in place; there are speculations on who will succeed her and when the appointee too will retire from service even without having been formally appointed. What an awkward system is that? Whoever takes over from Prof. Rahaman Bello sometime in 2017, cannot, I repeat, cannot, just abandon the ‘Q’ plan already in place there. That is the practice globally; our politician should learn from this.
In ending this piece, I would like to allude to the problem of fire outbreaks in the university lately, the students request in reduction of registration and examination fees and strengthening of the security system deserve urgent attention. Work on the new hostels should be intensified. People look forward to seeing those multi-purpose high-rise structures now springing up on the swamp-reclaimed area at Akoka. I appeal to our politicians to adopt the university style of continuity in governance for the development of this great nation. God bless Nigeria.