Portents of Ife VC Appointment Saga

Dr. Chris Anyokwu

By Chris Anyokwu

Professor Adebayo Simeon Bamire, a 63-year-old Professor of Agriculture, is the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife Vice Chancellor-designate.  He was the former deputy Vice-Chancellor in charge of academic affairs at OAU.  Bamire was said to have ranked first ahead of a professor of Art and former deputy Vice-Chancellor at the Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH), Ogbomoso, Razaq Kalilu and Kayode Ijadunola, a professor of public health and community medicine and former provost of the OAU’s college of health sciences, who ranked second and third respectively (Premium Times, March 17, 2021).  The selection exercise had begun in December, 2021, which saw a total of 20 applicants taking part in the process.  Hopefully, all other things being equally, Professor Bamire will assume office on 7th June, 2022 as the 12th substantive VC of OAU.  When the news of Professor Bamire being appointed the OAU VC-elect initially broke on social media, it was greeted with what might be described as spontaneous euphoria.  But this bracing feeling of excitement was short-lived as some elements kicked against the development.  For instance, an applicant, Rufus Adedoyin, a professor of physiotherapy, backed by a group of elders and youths of Ile-Ife community under the umbrella of Town and Gown carpeted the entire selection process.  Adedoyin, who has served notice to approach the courts in his single-minded pursuit of justice, is particularly irked by the fact that, Professor Bamire is NOT an Ife indigene whereas he (Adedoyin) is a bona fide Ife son-of-the-soil.  Professor Adedoyin, the native son, has inundated social media with his supposed intimidating curriculum vitae, arguing that Professor Bamire does not come close to his stellar pitch.  Thus, Adedoyin and his equally incensed kinsmen have cited examples of the universities of Ilorin, Jos and, lately, Ibadan who have been administered by indigenes of their host communities.

Obafemi Awolowo University

But the question to ask is: who is Bamire?  Born on January 18, 1959, he hails from Oyan in Odo-Otin Local Government Area of Osun State.  He studied Agricultural Economics at the then University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University), bagged his B.Sc. in 1985, M.Phil in 1992, and PhD in 1999.  He was also Head of Department and later Dean under Professor Bamitade Omole, the university’s 10th VC with whom he had a rather frosty relationship.  This unhealthy industrial environment had created a domino effect, souring internal working relationship among staff.  It was even alleged that Bamire-Omole furore had snowballed into a full-blown Balkanisation of the institution culminating in a fractious and fraught ASUU, OAU chapter.  As hinted above, while the selection process that threw up Bamire as VC-in-waiting has been described by many as fair, balanced and just, some (mostly Ife indigenes) have kicked against it pooh-poohing the process as irregular and seriously flawed.

Professor Adebayo Simeon Bamire

Coming to the defence of their embattled kinsman (Professor Bamire), the “Oyan City Indigenous Forum”, a socio-cultural organisation, has issued a statement, positing that Bamire at root is an Ife son, afterall!  In what the organisation captioned “Justice For Professor Bamire”, the Oyan stalwarts remarked thus: “Tell the confused and ignorant protesters that Adeleru Adepemeji (Epé), the founder of Oyan was a son of Arosin, a descendant of Famodu from Akeran compound, Ile-Ife”.  The Oyan blowback or countervailing narrative has become imperative as a result of the ridiculously jejune extent the motley crowd of Ife protesters have gone in trying to register their displeasure over the Ife VC appointment hallaballoo.  To be sure, there have been blockades of campus gates; protests in and around Ife town and on the OAU campus itself.  But most disturbingly, some ritualists and traditionalists, clad in blood-curdling ritual get-up were seen in front of the iconic Oduduwa Hall, the Senate Building and the equally beautiful Main Library Building, doing some ritual procession accompanied with recondite and weird chants and incantations!  This astounding dans macabre has provoked universal outrage, forcing the umbrella body superintending over African Traditional Religion (ATR) to put out a press release dissociating and distancing itself and its members from the fakes.

Palace of Oloyan of Oyan in Osun State

It is reasonable and fair to say that this issue has assumed something of a moving target and, thus, any commentary made on it will at best be described as provisional and open-ended.  If Professor Adedoyin’s threat to take the matter to court is made good and, given the tardy speed of the mill of justice in these parts, then we all are in for the long haul.  The case is sure to set brother against brother, and, in the end, generate a lot of distemper, or worse.

VC race: Ife indigines invade OAU with charms. The Eagle Online photo


*Watch video of the protest HERE


But come to think of it, the Ife imbroglio is by no means an isolated accident.  Let us look at the antecedents briefly. Premium Times on August 2, 2020 had reported a similar case captioned “Ibadan wants indigenes appointed VC, CMD of UI, UCH”.  Such was the fire and fury created by some non-teaching staff of the University of Ibadan over the possible appointment of a non-indigene as VC that the nation had panicked, envisaging another episode of wetie.  An online source which called itself “Siggy” also reported that the University of Ibadan has never had a Muslim VC.  It claimed that a group under the aegis of Central Council of Ibadan Indigenes (CCII) made this allegation.  This group of Islamic Scholars has stressed that in the 73 years of the institution’s existence, no Muslim professor has been elected VC.  They insisted that a Muslim must emerge VC this time around.  Interestingly, some group of women in the institution also insisted that a female professor must be considered for the position.  ₦airaland Forum, an online source, on Wednesday 23 March, 2022 reported thus: “Benin Indigenes Regrets [sic] New Igbo VC in Uniben.”  The same online source reported: “Ethno-religious cleansing of Federal University Dutsinma, Katsina State”.  It was alleged that after the establishment of 12 new universities by the federal government, government appointed non-indigenes as VCs to all but Dutsinma: “In the case of Federal University Dutsinma, the appointment (of VC) was made straight from Abuja without due process”. Nairaland Forum continued: “It is a calamity that an indigene of Katsina State was made the VC of the Federal University, Dutsinma, Katsina State, unlike the remaining new universities that have non-indigenes as VCs”.

Professor (Mrs) Nnenna Nnannaya Oti

The position of Vice Chancellorship is so highly revered and celebrated in Nigeria that, whenever anyone is so appointed, the event is usually celebrated with pomp and pageantry.  Sometime last year, for instance, Mrs Nnenna Nnannaya Oti emerged as the first female VC of Federal University of Technology, Owerri.  At her inauguration, she had mobilised a huge crowd of colourful singers and dancers to come and fete her elevation.  And the VC danced!  Prof. Nnannaya had broken the internet with her extraordinary dancing, an incident that, at the time, elicited mixed reactions from Nigerians.  But if there was any time, Town and Gown melded and dissolved into one extravagant embrace, that was it!  A university like Lagos State University (LASU) has long served the world notice about its proud provincialism.  In matters of staff recruitment, sabbatical placement, and, of course, appointments and promotions, especially the position of the VC, it’s all a policy of indigenisation.  However, before you rush off condemning LASU, it should be stressed here that LASU is only primus inter pares; other state universities are only a tad better off.


Since the Ife saga broke, everyone has been talking about the point where the rain started beating us as a nation in relation to the politics of VC appointment.  They all cite the infamous story of Eni Njoku, the first VC of UNILAG.  There was a bit of kerfuffle over the Vice-Chancellorship of Prof. Njoku in the early years of our independence.  In JP Clark: A Voyage, Femi Osofisan narrates briefly the events that surrounded the whole saga:

“The University of Lagos (Unilag), now under the vice chancellorship of Saburi Biobaku, was searching for new staff.  Biobaku’s had been a controversial appointment, since he had earlier been scheduled to leave for a similar post in Zambia.  There were not a few people, both on campus and outside, who were rooting for Eni Njoku, his Igbo rival, to take the post” (169).  Clearly as early as the very beginning of the Nigerian project, the seeds of ethnic discord and division were already sown and now they have not only germinated but have grown into forest giants of national doom and destruction.  But why do the indigenes rage?  And why does the office of the VC attract so much controversy and contumely? Is it all about the perks and perquisites of office?  The prestige?


Professor Eni Njoku


Do people see the position as approximating that of the State governor or even the president of the nation? Are kinsmen and women of the lucky VC simply content to bask in the refulgence of the VC’s halo?  Reacting to the swirling gale of the Ife show of shame, Femi Falana, SAN, writes: “The word “university” is derived from the Latin word “universitas” meaning “the whole, total, the universe, the world”.  So the university of Ife (Obafemi Awolowo University) was conceived to be a global centre of learning by the founders.  Regrettably, it is being reduced to a village institution by a visionless ruling elite. In fact, “the son of the soil” syndrome started years back in other parts of the country.  It has just percolated into Ife”.  Falana’s clinical reading of Nigeria’s university culture’s descent into crude and benighted parochialism chimes agreeably with Niyi Osundare’s Valedictory Lecture entitled “The Universe in the University: a scholar-poet’s look from inside out”.  (University of Ibadan, July 26, 2005).

Femi Falana

To be sure, Professor Douglas Anele of the Philosophy Department at UNILAG has this to say on the developing matter: “If we are to tell ourselves the unvarnished truth, we should acknowledge that the horse has virtually bolted out of the stables.  How can you have universities where universal thinking in line with Plato’s Idea of the Good is almost non-existent?  How can you have a university properly so-called when the toxic mix of archaic provincialism and religious superstition is the dominant weltanschauung of an increasing number of academics from the highest to the lowest cadres?  To the best of my knowledge, ASUU has not responded swiftly as it should to condemn the recent bizarre occurrence in Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, nor has the union taken a consistent firm stand against the tiwa ntiwa nativist bandwagon spreading like covid-19 across our universities.  Perhaps a perusal of Ortega y’Gasset’s Mission of the University can help reset willing brains about what the university should be”.  Besides ASUU, which Professor of Philosophy, Douglas Anele, has berated for its apparent complicitous Laissez-faire attitude, we ought to equally ask, what is the NUC doing in all of this?  Has it been so compromised by its default mode of being “politically correct”?  Where is the Visitor to all of these federal universities? Is he not bothered at all?  Why the radio silence or is this also a case of when silence means contempt (to re-echo Sam Omatseye)?  Does the elder feign unconcern and antipathy when the goat is suffering the pains of parturition? Anybody home?  We must understand that we are part of a globalised world of knowledge production, dissemination and consumption.  We cannot afford to be a drag on the rest of the world.  The university idea has been with humanity right from the mists of memory – from Timbuktu and Alexandria to Bologna, Oxford and Cambridge, through Harvard and Howard to Kwazulu-Natal, Cape Coast to Ibadan and Ife.  The originary vision and the motive force of the university as a social institution is the untrammelled pursuit of freedom (read: knowledge).  Hence, faith-based universities and the like are an aberration to the idea of a university.  Truth be told, today’s world is riven by identity politics such as the alt-right movement in the US, the ultra-nationalist, far-right movements in the UK and across continental Europe, France and Hungry in particular, the LGBTQ+ movement, the Black Lives Matter Movement, #metoo movements, and so forth.  Even so, the idea of the university must remain fiercely irreproachable, resolute in its pursuit of its original raison d’ etre; the apotheosis of knowledge.  And only the brightest and the best among humans can guarantee that.  Not ethnic jingoists and clannish rabble-rousers draped in academic gown!


Chris Anyokwu writes from University of Lagos

View Comments (1)

  • Tribalism has eaten deep into every tick and fabric of Nigerians, it wasn't surprising to see educated elites who are supposed to be guardian and upholder of knowledge and truth in a filthy fight for a position that they have legally loss in all ramification.