By Folorunso Fatai Adisa
When a former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Benjamin Disraeli, said “A University should be a place of light, of liberty, and of learning,” many Nigerian academics were absent. As confirmed by the current kerfuffle over the emergence of the Vice-Chancellor, Federal University of Technology Akure (FUTA), at the moment, it would be appropriate to conclude that some elements within FUTA missed the occasion where Disraeli thundered the aforementioned statement.
Like Americans and Black people world over recently celebrated the historic emergence of the first female Black woman ever to serve on the Supreme Court, Ketanji Brown Jackson, FUTA also has a reason to celebrate the excellence of an astute academic and consummate administrator, who also emerged the first female Vice-Chancellor of the institution, Prof. Adenike Temidayo Oladiji. According to new reports, on Thursday, May 12, 2022, the Governing Council of the Federal University of Technology Akure announced the appointment of Professor (Mrs) Adenike Temidayo Oladiji of the Department of Biochemistry, University of Ilorin as the eighth substantive Vice-Chancellor of the University.
As read in a statement issued by the Registrar and Secretary to the council, Richard Arifalo, “At the commencement of the process, the Council shortlisted 20 candidates out of the 27 male and two female candidates that applied for the position for interview at the close of application for the post. 19 candidates were interviewed with one of the shortlisted candidates failing to show up. At the end of the interview the Joint Council and Senate Selection Board recommended three candidates for appointment in line with extant regulations governing the process. Because of the closeness of the score of the three recommended candidates, a difference of 0.1%, Council decided to put it to vote and Professor Oladiji came out tops, hence her appointment.” He continued that, “Under extant laws, appointment of Vice Chancellors of Universities is domiciled with the Governing Council of Universities which, on the advice of an internal selection committee, has the power to choose from any of the three best candidates submitted to it.” Consequently, Prof Adenike Temidayo Oladiji is one of the best three candidates and she emerged the Vice-Chancellor on the strength of the unanimous decision of the Governing Council. A commendable effort geared toward the respect for TRANSPARENCY, PROCESS, and the UNIVERSITY LAW.
Contrarily, in the Vanguard newspaper of Friday, May 20, 2022, the aggrieved voices of some people under the umbrella term of “the Concerned Members of Senate”, with a false relation to ASUU, surfaced where they alleged that “ the selection process of the first female Vice-Chancellor was fraught with fraud and lacks transparency.” In their statement all indicators pointed toward their fighting for the person whom they claimed emerged the first position in the process and was “dropped for Prof Oladiji..,” a close event to the politics of indigenization that recently played out in the Obafemi Awolowo University VC saga.
Successively, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Federal University of Technology Akure (FUTA) branch, has dissociated itself from the aforementioned statement. According to the union’s chairperson, Prof. Oluyinka Awopetu, and Secretary, Dr. E. Rasaki, the purported rejection of the new VC was misleading. They said: These publications, largely titled ‘FUTA VC: ASUU kicks, says appointment fraught with fraud, lacks transparency,’ never originated from ASUU-FUTA secretariat.” “The said publication was signed, according to the reports, by two professors who are not members of the executive of ASUU FUTA branch. The two have no rights, neither were they authorised, nor have the capacity to speak for and on behalf of the ASUU FUTA branch.“ Consequently, they declared that members of the union and the public should disregard the statement in its entity as it is not the position of ASUU-FUTA.
It is noteworthy that in the appointment of the Vice-Chancellor of a university, the politics of indigenization either as a native of the state where the institution is located or as a don in the institution should be totally avoided. Rather, such appointments should consider both academic and administrative merits that are steeped in the exemplary confluence of competence, conviction, and character as commendably done by the FUTA Governing Council. Wherever the trio of character, academic and administrative excellence is present progress and development effortlessly surface. As displayed by Oladiji’s academic and administrative antecedents, it is fitting that she has emerged as the FUTA VC.
The renegade attitude of the “Concerned Members of Senate” is fast becoming the norm in Nigerian Universities. If the emergence of the Vice-Chancellor is not predicated on “caucus/ clique”, it would be on the tribe or religion. Pathetically, as long as a caucus, religion, emotion, community interest, and ethnicity begin to play the leading roles in the selection of Vice-Chancellors and the administration of a citadel of learning, excellence, and quality education will be crippled and sent to Golgotha.
That a University is a shelter of excellence for thought and a laboratory of intellect for the larger society condemns the attitude displayed by the “Concerned Members of Senate” as it is divisive at best and progress stalling at worst. A university is a “universal city”, a mini universe that reaches out to the public or the entire humanity. It is a place where you positively pick up life-enriching and enhancing values too. As academics make the university, along with others, it goes without saying that they are meant to contribute to society and benefit humanity through engagement. Part of this engagement is what is called “community service” in their tripartite mandate, including teaching and research. This means that academics as a profession is not about self but about others. It is about humanity and development. If it is true that academics as a profession is about service, then no one should be bothered about the caucus, tribe, and tongue of who becomes the Vice-Chancellor of academia as long as the person is eminently qualified.
Considering Prof Oladiji’s prodigious academic pedigree and vast contribution to scholarship— as a redoubtable researcher with over 100 publications in reputable national and international journals— and the many competitive research grants, awards, and fellowships she has won, I believe she would be a great asset to the prestigious FUTA and attract more local and international opportunities to the institution.
It would be instructive to close this piece on the instruction of Thomas Friedman in his The World is Flat (2005) where he posited that “change is hardest on those caught by surprise. Change is hardest on those who have difficulty changing too. But change is natural; change is not new; change is important.” I align with Friedman’s thoughts that change is difficult, natural, important, and inevitable. Change has surfaced in the selection of Vice-Chancellor at the Federal University of Technology, Akure. All these attitudes of denigration and petition writing by “Concerned Members of Senate” is a mockery of academia, and dragging of the name of the prestigious FUTA through the mire. The aggrieved “Concerned Members of Senate” should embrace the positive change and allow “politics of progress” to operate while they shun puerile and putrid politics. The progress of FUTA is all that MATTERS.
*Folorunso Fatai Adisa is a Communications Specialist and Public Affairs Analyst who writes from Abeokuta.