Leadership in educational institutions like all other social institutions is the most important component for stability and development. The success of any university on teaching, learning and research depends to a large extents on the commitment, dedication and willingness of the leadership of individual institutions to bring the desired changes that will make positive impacts on achieving academic excellence to compete with any other in the world.
However, the historical antecedents of transitions in our universities became a do or die affairs between the incumbents that are seeking for second terms and those struggling to succeed them in power.
In this regard, late General Sani Abacha amended the university laws that imposed restrictions on the tenure of the Vice-Chancellors to single term which ends the quest and struggles for second term that marred such struggles with crisis and distrupted academic calendars, which sometimes resulted into violent conflicts.
The changes introduced by late General Sani Abacha gives university congregation more power to elect and rank the contestants which is a clear indication of one’s acceptability in the university he/she wanted to lead. With this development, prospective candidates embarks on mobilization for supports from the congregation as a prerequisites for occuupying the No. 1 seat in the university hierarchies. Out of his magnanimity, late General Abacha always picked the one that emerged the overall winner from the congregation with the majority votes as a mark of respect to the university congregations and goes with their choices. This brings an end to the chaos and rancours that affected universities negatively during transitions.
The like of Ahmadu Bello University, Bayero University Kano and Usman Danfodio University Sokoto and many others are now enjoying interrupted and smooth transitions without hitches and problems.
Nigerians expected the new universities established by former President HE Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan to have smooth transitions enjoys by old universities, but unfortunately the selfish interests of the pioneer Vice-Chancellors to imposed their successors truncated these established tranditions in the leadership transitions.
The pioneer Vice-Chancellors instead of organizing open and transparent election that will involve all the stakeholders from the Congregation, Councils and the Visitor, as some of them pledged to call for congregation, but sidelined the congregations and used the university’s governing councils to manuplates the process in favor of their preferred candidates.
These injustices of the pioneer Vice-Chancellors of the New Federal Universities, generated tensions, heated debates and petitions to the Visitor, President Muhammadu Buhari and the Hon Minister of Education Mallam Adamu Adamu which left them with no any other option than to appoint the Vice-Chancellors from Abuja. The tensed atmosphere created by the majority of the Vice-Chancellors leads to instability in some of these universities particularly Federal University Dutsinma which has no consistent Vice-Chancellor in the last four (4) years. As a results of the tensions created by them, some of them could not attend the handingover ceremony and exited unceremoneously because they could not face the university’s communities they betrayed and deceived.
The appointments of Vice-Chancellors from Abuja generated a lots of controversies from Nigerians who attacked President Muhammadu Buhari for abusing and ignoring the powers of the governing councils ignorantly and selfishly without telling Nigerians how those pioneer Vice-Chancellors hijacked the processes that will give them opportunities to control the affairs of such universities as defacto Vice-Chancellors.
During the heat of such tensions generated from the actions of the President/Minister of Education were sponsored by them to deliberately confused and distorted the facts to show that the rescue mission of the Visitor was illegal without exposing the illegality of what the governing councils did.
Be that as it, slowly the tenure of the Vice-Chancellors of the New Federal Universities appointed by the Visitor is coming to an end. In some of these universities underground movements and politicking have reached advanced stage by those who wants to succeed the incumbents Vice-Chancellors of the new universities by all means more especially through the governing councils where the external members are ready made material to use on one hand, and internal members are ready to dance to the tunes of the outgoing Vice-Chancellors on the other hand in the advancement and protection of their common interests.
At this juncture, we are appealing at the same time drawing the attentions of President Muhammadu Buhari and the Hon Minister of Education Mallam Adamu Adamu to closely monitor the transitions processes to make sure that it is open and transparent in order to be fair and just to all the contestants. This is the one and only measure that will check the excesses of the incumbents Vice-Chancellors and the Governing Councils to imposed the candidates of their choice at the expense of interests of the university communities.
We are not after any preferred candidates but the interests of the universities to have leaders that enjoys the acceptability and supports of the overwhelming majority of university communities, not stage-manage, dubious and manipulated transitions that will lead to the emergence of desperate, selfish and unpopular Vice-Chancellors.
Written by: Concerned Staff Forum for Smooth Transitions in Universities