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Court stops selection of OAU VC



•Workers disrupt candidates’ screening

Who is  the next Vice-Chancellor (VC) of the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife, Osun State?

The question has been hanging for some time, following the indefinite suspension of the selection by the Governing Council.

The suspension followed a workers’ protest on the campus last Thursday.  Besides, a court injunction stopped the council and the university Senate on Friday.

It was secured by the institution’s chapters of Non Academic Staff Union (NASU) and Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU), which opposed the process.

The injunction ordered that the process be stopped until after the suit instituted by the workers’ unions on the legality of the process is determined.

NASU and SSANU  are urging the court to compel the Federal Government to dissolve the council, among other prayers.

The OAU management confirmed the suspension at the weekend, saying it was a normal thing to do “in a chaotic situation”.

The Public Relations Officer (PRO), Abiodun Olanrewaju, said the management suspended the selection when protesters barricaded all gates to the Administrative Building, preventing movement in and out of the building.

The tenure of Prof Bamitale Omole expires on June 24, but the process put in place to choose his successor has torn apart the stakeholders and pitted the university workers against the council and the outgoing VC.

More than 38 professors within and outside OAU are jostling for the top job. The contenders were pruned to 11 during the preliminary screening by the search team, comprising members of the council and the Senate.

Last month, five of the 11 candidates were screened out, paving the way for six contenders to compete for the position.

The six shortlisted candidates are the Deputy VC for Academics, Prof Ayobami Salami, Prof Afolabi Akindaunsi from Federal University of Technology, Akure (FUTA), Prof Charles Akinyokun also from FUTA, Prof Olabisi Aina, Prof Eyitope Ogunbodede and Prof Anthony Akinlo.

The shortlisted candidates were billed to appear before a selection committee for screening last Thursday, but the session was disrupted by the workers’ protest.

It was gathered that the protesters moved to the institution’s Conference Centre, where the selection committee members reconvened to screen the candidates, and locked up the committee members.

They remained at the screening venue till the midnight of Friday to ensure the event did not hold.

On Friday morning, the workers marched on the council’s chairman and VC’s residences to register their grievances on the method taken by the council to choose the new VC.

At the centre of their complaints are the accusation of non-compliance with OAU Statute 6 in the method of VC selection and the allegation of favouritism against the departing VC.

According to Section 3A, B, C, D and E of the OAU Statute 6 and amended Statute 22 of Miscellaneous Decree 11 of 1993, the council is empowered, among others, to constitute a search team consisting of a member of council as the chairman, two members of the senate, and two members of congregation to nominate suitable persons to contest for Vice-Chancellor’s position.

Section 3D of the OAU Statute 6 advises the council to select three candidates from among the contenders recommended to it by the joint selection board after screening and forward their names to the Visitor, which is the President.

But, an amendment by Miscellaneous Decree 11 of 1993 empowers the council to complete the VC appointment process without the input of the Visitor, thereby rendering Section 3D and 3E of the OAU Statute 6 irrelevant.

After the search team completed its task, the council led by Prof Rowland Ndoma-Egba, convened a meeting on March 10 where it adopted the nominees presented by the search team.

The problem started when the council selected six of the 11 candidates presented before it and screened them, without constituting the joint selection committee as required by law.

The council allegedly went out of the criteria advertised for eligibility and introduced a scoring method to evaluate the competence of the shortlisted candidates.

It was learnt that the candidates were ranked based on years of teaching (five marks), international exposure (10 marks), number of journal publication (10 marks), fund attraction (10 marks), years of professorship (five marks), research supervision (five marks), and calibre of referees (five marks).

The total score was 50 marks, but the awarded scores for each candidate were doubled to obtain percentage scores.

The Nation gathered that pass mark was pegged at 60 per cent, but all the six candidates, it was learnt, scored above the pass mark.

The unions held that the council usurped the responsibility of the joint selection board to screen the candidates.

They accused Prof Omole of influencing the outcome of the screening conducted by the council, saying the outgoing VC had a favourite among the candidates.

A statement jointly issued by NASU and SSANU said: “The responsibility of the council in drawing up shortlist of suitable candidates for the post for consideration, as stipulated in Statute 6, Section 3, should be solely based on whether or not the applicants met the advertised eligibility criteria.

“By rushing to score and rank applicants prior to the constitution of the Joint Council and Senate Selection Board, which is statutorily responsible to perform these duties, the council has unlawfully usurped and hijacked the statutory responsibility of the Board and rendered its purpose and functions irrelevant.”

The unions urged President Muhammadu Buhari to dissolve the Ndoma-Egba-led council and re-constitute a new council that would work with workers in appointing a “credible and competent” person to succeed Omole.

Olanrewaju denied that the council violated the extant laws of the university, saying the selection method complied with the statutory provisions guiding the selection of VC. Asked whether the council was right to bypass the Joint Council and Senate Selection Board to screen and rank the candidates, the PRO simply said: “The Council is the highest ruling body of the school and there is nothing wrong with the position of the council on the matter.”

On the allegation of favouritism levelled against the outgoing VC, Olanrewaju said: “Prof Omole does not have such agenda and has not said it anywhere, either secretly or openly, that a particular candidate should succeed him.

“The outgoing VC has been running an open and transparent administration. If some people feel aggrieved with the method taken by the council to pick the new VC, they should come forward for a roundtable discussion on the way to resolve the issues. This is the best way to move forward.

“The members of Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), NASU, SSANU together with students and alumni association are all stakeholders in the affairs of the school. We do not expect any of the groups to want to see to the downfall of the university as one of the best in Africa. What is happening is a family affair; we will settle our differences in a family way.”

However, a top member of the Senate, who spoke to The Nation on the condition of anonymity, said the council was wrong in its method.

He said the council did not comply fully with the OAU Statute, noting that it erred against the law to have screened and ranked the candidates before the Joint Council and Senate Selection Board.

A lecturer accused the outgoing VC of having a favourite candidate, saying the management did not learn a  lesson from the controversy generated by similar scenario, which played out during the tenure of Prof Wale Omole, a former VC.

The NASU Chairman, Comrade Wole Odewumi, threatened a “total showdown” if the council goes ahead to pick the next VC against the court order.

He said the only condition for peace was for the council to start the process afresh.