Ethnicity and Appointment of Vice Chancellors – The Sun Nigeria
The invasion of Obafemi Awolowo University (OUA), Ile-Ife, by some natives of the host community following the non-appointment of a native of the town as vice-chancellor of the university is another manifestation of the growing rot of the nation. university system, especially in federal universities.
According to reports, protesters alongside some masquerades besieged the university campus, attacked security personnel and students and disrupted the movement of people around the university. The protesters, apparently backed by a group of community elders and youth, reportedly threatened to shut down the institution on the grounds that the university’s board of trustees had conspired to get an indigenous man, Rufus Adedoyin, a professor of physiotherapy, be appointed the vice-chancellor of the university. Adedoyin came ninth out of 16 shortlisted candidates for the post of vice-chancellor. Out of the 16 candidates, Prof. Adebayo Bamiro was chosen by the University’s Board of Trustees as Vice-Chancellor based on merit and in accordance with applicable university regulations and guidelines.
Apart from the fact that their preferred candidate was not among the top three shortlisted for the post of Vice-Chancellor, the aggrieved natives cited examples from the universities of Ilorin, Jos and Ibadan, which were administered at different times by natives. of their host. communities. They also demanded the cancellation of the decision of the university’s board of trustees on the appointment of a vice-chancellor and threatened that there would be no peace on campus until a native be appointed Vice-Chancellor of Obafemi Awolowo University.
The sad development of Ile-Ife has been condemned by the natives of Ile-Ife, the Nobel laureate and former professor at the university, Professor Wole Soyinka. They also fired the protesters and called their demand unrealistic. In the same vein, Ondo State Governor and alumnus of the university, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, has also denounced the invasion of the university by traditionalists.
The unfortunate evolution of Ile-Ife is condemnable and must be nipped in the bud before the appointment of vice-chancellors is localized and even ethnicized. It is unfortunate that such unrest cannot be called unique to Ile-Ife. This is said to have happened at the University of Ibadan, where the natives of Ibadan had insisted that the vice-chancellor be a native of Ibadan. Similarly, some natives of Nsukka have at one time or another demanded that the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, be from the community. The ethnic virus that afflicts nearly all federal universities in terms of staffing and student admissions must be stemmed now before mediocrity reigns in these citadels of knowledge as merit is sacrificed. Appointment of a Vice-Chancellor should be based on merit and not on the ethnic origin of the candidate. However, if a native of the city where the university is located qualifies for the position on merit, he should be awarded the position. It must therefore be made clear to the agitators of Ile-Ife that the post of vice-chancellor is not a political appointment or a traditional institution where ‘the son of the soil’ counts for a great deal. The position of vice-chancellor is purely based on merit and not on the geography of the candidate. We believe that merit other than the candidate’s original merit should be emphasized when appointing a university’s vice-chancellor.
What happened in Ife does not reflect well the relationship between a university and the host community. Moreover, the new vice-chancellor is also from the Yoruba ethnicity. The demonstration of the natives is out of place. Selection of a vice-chancellor should be based on established criteria, including excellence and ability to do the job. Universities should be centers of learning and research, not places of petty politics. We call on those locating the post of Vice Chancellor to desist from the act. Such agitation is ridiculous and hostile to learning and scholarship. The existing criteria for the appointment of vice-chancellors must be respected. When universities lose their culture of excellence, the university system is ruined.
Universities must have a universal and international vision. Any attempt to locate or ethnicize them must be resisted. Some Nigerians have been appointed heads of universities abroad. In 2021, a Nigerian female entrepreneur, Yekemi Otaru, was appointed Chancellor-elect of the University of the West of Scotland (UWS). In her capacity, Ms. Otaru holds formal powers to confer degrees, diplomas and other academic honours, and represents the university at key events. Earlier in 2020, Professor Charles Egbu from Idemili North, Anambra State was appointed Vice Chancellor of Leeds Trinity University in the United Kingdom (UK). This appointment makes him the first black vice-chancellor of a university in the United Kingdom.
It is commendable that the Nigerian Federal Universities Pro-Chancellors Committee condemned the protesters in Ile-Ife and insisted that Vice-Chancellors of Universities can be appointed from any part of the country. Federal and state governments must not succumb to the blackmail of villagers over critical appointments in the ivory towers. The ugly OAU incident should not be tolerated. Those who are causing the OAU troubles must be caught and prosecuted.