Tasks before 13th Nigerian vice chancellor of UI

IT is no longer news that the 13th Nigerian vice chancellor of University of Ibadan will take up the mantle of leadership from Tuesday, 1st December 2020 at 8am prompt. Consequently, all those who are interested in the exalted position submitted their applications to the registrar, Mrs. Olubunmi Faluyi, before the expiry date of Thursday, 9th July 2020.

It is also no longer news that various groups have now been formed on ethnic, religious and political grounds to support and do everything possible to have their choice of candidate appointed the 13th Nigerian vice chancellor of the university. Some groups have gone as far as consulting native doctors, traditional rulers, religious leaders, soothsayers and politicians for their support so that the position in question does not elude their candidate. Such groups have thrown the character of the aspirant, his or her academic credentials, uprightness and doggedness into the drain. This is clearly a very strong indication of the extent to which the cherished traditions of the University of Ibadan has been bastardized over the years by those who have selfish interests (Appointments as DVC’s, directors etc) and who view the position of vice chancellor as “a do or die affair”.

This is a very sad and unfortunate development particularly to those of us who regarded the University of Ibadan as one of the best universities in Africa and consequently joined the system only to be disappointed on the long run. This writer left his highly equipped laboratory at the University of Cambridge, England in 1981 to join the services of the University of Ibadan in our Department of Chemistry as Lecturer Grade II. Having been in the system for 39 years now and as a professor for 26 years, I feel very sad to note the dramatic fall in academic standards of the university as evidenced by the world university rankings showing a strong position of 100th in the sixties to the 1322nd position in January, 2020.

In the sixties and early seventies, the University of Ibadan was so highly rated in the world informing the visit of two Nobel laureates of Chemistry, Sir Derek H. R. Barton and Lady Dorothy Hodgkins to our Department of Chemistry to see things for themselves. The great Sir Christopher Ingold, who was then Professor of Chemistry at the University College, London, visited the Department of Chemistry, University of Ibadan in 1963 and was so impressed with the state-of-the-art facilities in our research laboratories to remark that “The Department of Chemistry, University of Ibadan, was pre-eminent on the continent and clearly at par with any Chemistry Department in the world”.

These were the good old days that have now been destroyed by the incursion of the military into politics due to the discovery of large quantities of oil wells in the current Delta State and Rivers State. The economic downturn during the military dictatorship of Muhammadu Buhari (31/12/83 to 27/08/85), Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida (28/08/85 to 26/08/93) and Sani Abacha (17/11/93 to 08/06/98) concluded the devaluation of the naira and obviously brought the international status of the University of Ibadan to an abysmal level. Those who are now clamouring for their candidate to be appointed vice chancellor of the university at all costs are not different from the above mentioned military dictators in the destruction of the once cherished traditions of Nigeria’s first university.

No stone should be left unturned in the selection of the best candidate by the university council as the 13th Nigerian vice chancellor irrespective of ethnic, religious or political affiliations. Any aspirant to the exalted position of UI vice chancellor must sincerely consider his or her preparedness to tackle the following issues for posterity:

The aspirant must return UI to her enviable position in the sixties and seventies. Dependence on the Federal Government alone for funding must be discouraged. He or she must ensure constant power supply in the whole university to avert disruption of research activities.

Preparedness to commence online teaching at the undergraduate and postgraduate levels if the COVID 19 pandemic persists. Preparedness to make research facilities readily available (equipment, chemicals etc) for solid research activities. Currently, due to the dearth of research facilities, there is now evidence of plagiarism, falsification or manipulation of “research” results and internet scam so as to produce “research papers” for promotion and consequently beat the “Publish or Perish” syndrome.

The aspirant must ensure constant running of clean water in all offices, hostels, laboratories and residence of all staff on campus.

The pathetic and shameful locking of all gates leading to the University of Ibadan must be addressed during strikes by non-teaching staff. It is very painful to see nursery and primary school children trekking even in the rain to their respective schools during such strike actions. In most cases, members of the University administration go into hiding!

The issue of IPPIS which has now been forced on teaching and non-teaching staff in a “democratic” system of government must be addressed by the aspirant. The aspirant must ensure that university autonomy is strictly upheld, including the appointments of teaching and non-teaching staff. The aspirant must work closely with ASUU, NASU, SSANU and other unions in the university to ensure the smooth running of academic programmes throughout the session. The aspirant must be prepared to rehabilitate many staff residences that look like police barracks as well as several roads that have been abandoned over the years.

I have no doubt that an aspirant that can faithfully address all the challenges will certainly take UI to the next level. The University of Ibadan cannot afford to have a vice chancellor that cannot place her amongst the best 100 universities in the world by 2025.

Professor Odiaka is the current Head of the Chemistry Department (2017-2021) and formerly the Dean, Faculty of Science, University of Ibadan (2007-2009).

 

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