By Ibrahim Lawal
It is no longer news that a renowned professor of Pharmacy and a proud son of Ile -Ife, Professor A.A Elujoba has been appointed as the acting Vice Chancellor of the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife through a popular votes by the Senate of the prestigious university.
Prior to the appointment of this gentleman, the university has been embroiled in a serious crisis of confidence between the management and staff on the one hand, and the students on the other hand. The crisis was engendered by the high handedness of Professor Tale Omole, the immediate past Vice Chancellor in handling issues relating to the welfare of staffs and students.
Great ife from time immemorial has a culture of intellectual discuss and democratic ways of resolving issues bothering on the collective interest of the university community. OAU is a sanctuary of students unionism grounded in dialectical materialism. To insist that an average Great Ife Student represents the most conscious layers of student activism is stating the obvious. Both staff and students respect that right in equal measure.
This beautiful culture of engagement was gradually dismantled by the infamous Professor Bamitale Omole as the Vice Chancellor of Obafemi Awolowo University. Students’ Union executives and other genuine change seeking activists were attacked, brutalized and hounded into detention for daring to exercise their rights of expression in an accademic environment. Members of Non Accademic Staff Union (NASU) were the worst hit. I remembered that in the heat of the NASU struggle against Professor Bamitale Omole, a friend of mine and my classmates in Oduduwa College, Ile Ife, comrade Akintilebo Titus was transferred from OAU campus to one of the agric settlement in Oke Ogun Oyo state as agric officer. On a day he was to report at that station, there was no provision for accommodation and he had to sleep on a mosquitoes invested shed only because he was the PRO of NASU and had to be taken out of the circulation.
The attack on student’s right cannot be well chronicled in this piece but suffice is to say that the students faced one of the greatest abuse ever known in the history of Obafemi Awolowo University. As I write this piece, the University cannot boast of an independent students Union, a right which an average Great ife students see as sacrosant and inalienable to their studentship on campus. The beauty of being a Great Ife is encapsulated in what their students’ Union represents.
Many a time, the then Ooni of Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuwade had waded into the crisis between the management, staff and students of the institution contrary to the established norms that university should be a sanctuary for the town to get appropriate solution to myriad of problems confronting it. Because of the crisis, the University lost precious time in terms of academic achievements such that set targets cannot be met.
This crisis situation was witnessed till the end of the tenure of Professor Bamitale Omole with an attendant problems of choosing a successor that would steer the ship of the institution. The selection process and eventual appointment of a new Vice Chancellor was also mared by controversy, leading to the closure of the university. Never in the history of the university as the appointment of who becomes the VC has divided the institution to the extent of ASSU rejecting their chairman’s position on the appointment of the new VC as not representing their views.
Perhaps the loud opposition that greeted the appointment of Professor Salami by all the stakeholders in the institution led to the dissolution of the Governing Council and the directives by the President, Muhammad Buhari that the Senate should elect from among them, an acting Vice Chancellor.
An election was conducted in the Senate among the senators of the prestigious university and in their wisdom overwhelmingly voted for a son of the soil, Professor Anthony Elujoba. He got over 200 votes to beat Professor Lamikanra who scored a paltry 5 votes. The jubilation that herald the emergence of Professor Elujoba was unimaginable from within and without. Everybody was pleased with his choice and there is sign that the peace that has eluded the university community is gradually returning. The appointment was like a soothing balm to all and sundry.
Now that the university has been allowed to choose it’s leader, I implore the stakeholders to allow genuine reconciliation takes place. The new leadership must be allowed to do what is right to cover for the lost ground. Professor Elujoba is not a magician, he must be allowed ample time to correct the ills of the past. This is the time for give and take as the situation cannot be have it all.
To Professor Elujoba, while congratulating you for this appointment, I implore you to learn from the pitfalls of others before you and try as much as possible to bring back the glory of Great ife. Yours is a unique opportunity to write your name in gold.
May Almighty God help you to achieve the best for the institution.
In conclusion, it is important for us as a nation to rethink the process of appointment of a Vice Chancellor and heads of other institutions. Democratic method of appointment to my mind is a sina qua non to the attainment of peace and tranquillity in our citadel of learning. Most of the crisis in our institutions of learning stems from this unilateral imposition by the council without recourse to the extant laws. Our laws must be rejig to involve all stakeholders including students to have a say in who becomes their Vice Chancellors, Rectors or provost. The lesson from OAU experience must not be allowed to pass without notice.
Ibrahim Lawal is a legal practitioner and a proud son of Ile- Ife.
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