By Festus Adedayo
The University of Ibadan, popularly known as UI, is currently undergoing one of its most challenging moments. The university that was once a great point of reference, even from its University College glory days, is now marooned as the epicenter of self-centered politics and everything-but-academic considerations. This has resulted in the threat against all those lofty achievements credited to this centre of learning, with the fear that they may be subsumed in the sewage. In the race for the Vice Chancellor office of the university is the proverbial wind that blew and the naked rump of a university associated with Professor Kenneth Dike is seen in its manifest dirt and rot.
UI, in its 73 years existence, had been dragged backwards severally by issues not strictly academic. From its Crescent and Cross crisis of the 1980s which pitted Islam adherents against Christian worshippers on its campus, to another religious war at its staff school which shot UI’s name into records of infamy, as well as allegations of plagiarism against some academics, the succession crisis of 2020 that the university sunk into after the expiration of the tenure of Professor of Applied Geophysics, Abel Idowu Olayinka, launched the school into another signpost of religion and tribe. A university that signposted the luscious growth of the academy for 73 years, began to dance to ethnic and religious tunes. In same 2020, Ibadan indigenes asked that Olayinka’s successor must hail from the former capital of the Western Region, while another group also came up to ask that whoever would be the next VC must wear a lapel of religion. The ghost of the Kenneth Dikes must feel insulted and assaulted.
Those who know say that the idea of the universe which the university stands for ended in UI with the glorious administration of Professor of Engineering, Olufemi Adebisi Bamiro and died with ex-Minister of Health, Isaac Adewole’s administration. His administration was said to have focused on governing the university like political governance. The carcass of the university was also said to have been exhumed by Olayinka and is threatening to die again, judging by the throes that the appointment of a VC for the school is undergoing. With Adewole, the VC began to drive in a convoy like political office holders and the VC appointed a Chief of Staff. It took the wise counsel intervention of the National Universities Commission (NUC) to stop this descent into the sewage of political governance by a respected academic institution.
Under Adewole, the main engagement of the university descended from strict academy to infrastructure, with the VC trapped inside the vortex of multiple contract awards. Today, contracts awarded by Adewole are said to be such that the contracts’ terminal life will outlive two VCs to come. The stake then increased for whoever would become the VC, commerce looming very large on the cards. Like they do in chieftaincies, lineups of who would be VCs for more than four consecutive terms were structured to reflect the “Adewole boys” professors. The clash of egos then became the second important factor in the UI crisis, with the afobaje (anointer) seeking to be relevant, even after leaving office.
Today, University of Ibadan oscillates on an uncertain loop. The several tendencies described above are competing heavily to outdo one another. As the tendencies clash, threatening to boomerang, the university’s Senate then met and appointed Professor of Philosophy and former DVC Academics under Olayinka, Adebola Ekanola, as its Acting Vice Chancellor, beginning from Dec. 1, 2020. Other tendencies are that of Adewole, manifested in Professor of Chemistry, Kayode Adebowale, who analyst said was Olayinka’s proposed successor, having served under him. Professor Abideen Aderinto, who personified the Muslim tendency, was Adewole’s candidate. Thus, apart from the Christian/Muslim tendencies of Adebowale and Aderinto, the clash between Olayinka and Adewole is also a very dominant, with Adewole allegedly bringing in the fourth factor, the federal push, which manifests in suspected partisan intervention of the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, who allegedly dances to the Adewole beat.
The University of Ibadan must reclaim itself from all these mundane tendencies and return to the business of academy. Stooges and surrogates of Abuja politicians who fool us with their scalpels and stethoscopes, with intention to turn our precious UI into a fiefdom, must be shown the way out. This can only be done by a proper assurance of the place of teaching and research in the university. Politicians masquerading as academics must be weeded out for the university to retain its sanity.
Festus Adedayo is a Public Affairs Analyst.