OAU: Preserving learning and culture — Nigerian Tribune Editorial

Posted by News Express | 7 April 2022 | 398 times

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For more than a week, the gates of the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, reputed to be Africa’s most beautiful campus and one of its very biggest research institutions, have remained shut. Shutting the gates is of course an annual ritual, as the university’s calendar is often circumscribed by internal crisis compounded by the regular downing of tools by members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU). This time, the university’s management was forced to take the latest drastic step following the invasion of the institution by mob protesting the appointment of the institution’s new vice chancellor, Professor Adeboye Bamire. The mob armed with “charms’ and clad in the costumes and accoutrements of traditional worship had sacked the security team at the university’s gate and invaded the campus in large numbers, threatening fire and brimstone over non-appointment of a non-indigene of the host community, Ile-Ife, as the 12th vice chancellor and assaulting members of the university community, including staff, students and workers. They came in diverse teams: some were clad in egungun paraphernalia while others professed allegiance to Osun, the Yoruba goddess of fertility and the aquatic, flaunting white attire. Thus, according to the statement signed by the University’s Registrar, Mrs. M. I. Omosule, the decision to close the school from Monday, March 28, was taken to prevent the total breakdown of law and order, and to prevent students from staging reprisals on indigenes of Ile-Ife.

Truth be told, the invasion is a reflection of the level of degradation in the Nigerian society.  It was targeted at undermining quality and integrity, the fundamental qualities that a university is expected to be known by. This incident must be condemned by all right-thinking members of the society, being a criminal breach of the prevailing peace on the campus. It was reprehensible. To be sure, there is nothing outlandish in adherents of traditional religion and indigenes of Ile-Ife ventilating their grievances on developments in the university: democracy seems to allow protests, including over apparently silly causes, provided that the protesters conduct themselves in a civilized manner. However, invading a university in large numbers, overpowering the security post and generally constituting a nuisance on campus, with intent to subvert a process internal to the university, is clearly abhorrent. If indigenes of Ile-Ife desire that one of their members should be vice chancellor of the university, the best thing to do is to put the best candidate forward. That way, the case would have been unassailably made for merit and justice.

Certainly, denying an indigene of Ile-Ife or any other part of the country or indeed the outside world of the opportunity to be vice chancellor simply on account of ethnicity is unacceptable, abhorrent and repugnant to natural justice. In the instant case, however, that is not the case: an Ife indigene did indeed contest in the selection process but was defeated along with others by an obviously better qualified candidate. And, what is more, the VC selection process is internal to the university. The invasion in question is therefore totally unwarranted. We reiterate that presenting the best candidates to contest against other qualified, competent, visionary and broadminded candidates is the way to go, not resorting to base values, judgments and primordial sentiments, and seeking to unleash mayhem on the university simply because things have not gone a certain way.

To be sure, the Ife incident is emblematic of the situation across the country. For a long time now, universities, which ought to be centres of excellence in real terms, have become just another means of sharing the proverbial national cake. They have been subjected to the politics of patronage. Universities are being seen as villages/local governments and the academia is being increasingly bastardized and rendered prostrate. It is a fact that in many parts of the country, only adherents of particular faiths can be made vice chancellors while in many others, the overarching factor is ethnicity, or a combination of both. That being the case, it is hypocritical to pretend that the Ife incident is unprecedented. Yet if the countries’ universities are to survive, emphasis must be placed on minimum benchmarks for standard behaviour and value. The appointment of a vice chancellor should follow due process, and the bad precedents everywhere must be halted. Just how are United States and United Kingdom universities appointing Nigerians into key positions if not based on merit and pedigree? Why promote bad behaviour?

People must think straight and not treat the university system as another special constituency, like in the confused political circles. The point must be recognized that those canvassing indigene ship as the criteria for appointing vice chancellors are not doing so for the love of the society; they are doing so in order to have people that they can easily manipulate in positions of power and authority. They must therefore be resisted in Ile-Ife and elsewhere. With reference to OAU, in particular, the philosophy of the university as a centre for promoting learning and culture must be retained. We urge the management of the university to remain steadfast in its pursuit of excellence and the betterment of society. It must not succumb to the antics of land grabbers and wild, analphabetic thugs intending to turn the university to their polling unit and cash cow.

We call for the arrest and swift prosecution of the Ile-Ife invaders without delay. They must be hauled before the law courts and treated according to the severity of their crime and the degree of individual involvement. We look forward to the day an Ife indigene will emerge the vice chancellor of OAU not because he or she is an indigene of Ile-Ife but because he or she is the best person for the job, and has emerged through due process.

Source: News Express

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