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,” most Nigerian Universities were absent. As confirmed by the current primitive activities that are trailing the emergence of the Vice-Chancellor, Obafemi Awolowo University, at the moment, it would be appropriate to conclude that OAU is the king of the absentees at the occasion where Disraeli thundered the aforementioned statement.
News reports have it that on Thursday, 17th March 2022, the Governing Council of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife announced the appointment of a Professor of Agricultural Economics from the university’s Faculty of Agriculture, Adebayo Bamire, as the new Vice-Chancellor. It was noted that out of the 19 other applicants who vied for the post, Professor Bamire with 84.6% defeated others to emerge the 12th Vice-Chancellor of the university. Sadly, upon his announcement as the new Vice-Chancellor, some indigenes of Ile-Ife— who had been pushing for the appointment of an indigene as the new Vice-Chancellor— with charms and other occultic/dangerous instruments, have continued to disrupt the peace of the university community.
First, the appointment of the Vice-Chancellor of a university should be based on both academic and administrative merits that are steeped in character. Wherever the trio of character, academic, administrative excellence is present, progress and development effortlessly surface.
Second, a Federal University, regardless of its location, is a property of the Federal Government and every Nigerian who has the requirements of any opening in the institution has the right to get it without any fears or intimidation. It is, even, execrably disappointing that the newly appointed Vice-Chancellor, Professor A.S. Bamire, is a Yoruba man from, Oyan, Osun State, the very State where the University is located. This further disapproves the reproachable attitude of the protesting Ife indigenes as needless, divisive, and ethnocentric all of which are against the ethics of academia and development.
The renegade attitude of the Ife protesters is fast becoming the norm in Nigerian Universities. For example, It took the University of Ibadan some quality time before it presented to us its current VC as information has it that some Ibadan indigenes had protested that their son had never been appointed the Vice-Chancellor of the University since the inception of the school. If the emergence of the Vice-Chancellor is not predicated on the tribe, it would be religion. Pathetically, as long as 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 the intellect for the larger society condemns the attitude of the protesting indigenes of Ile-Ife , where it is believed that all Yoruba people of the world hailed from. Consequently, their protest against the appointment of a fellow Yoruba man without minding the nexus between Ige and other Yoruba land is both primitive and divisive. What if the Vice-Chancellor were from up north or the eastern zone? War might erupt. Disunity at its peak.
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 service, and according to Muhammad Ali, “service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.” If it is true that academics as a profession is about service, then no one should be bothered about the tribe and tongue of who becomes the Vice-Chancellor of academia as long as the person is eminently qualified
Overall, it is time indigenes of a place where any federal university is located knew that every Nigerian who is qualified for any position in the school has the right to get it. Re-orientation, which may be backed with sanctions if broken, need to be done.
I hope our traditional leaders, Particularly the Ooni of Ife, step in to douse the smouldering situation in ile-Ife
Folorunso Fatai Adisa, a Communications Specialist and Public Affairs Analyst, writes from Abeokuta.