Many of Nigeria’s Vice Chancellors are unquestionably perfect islands of distinguished academic administrators. So long as their islands remain islands many of their colleagues who constitute the rank-and-file outside their respective islands will forever need bridges and bridges across the Channels to be constructed and reconstructed to get to the islands. The meaning of this remark cannot be farfetched.
Many of our Vice Chancellors, so long as they occupy the offices they occupy, will not see and value themselves as first among equals. When they eventually leave their posts the scales fall from their eyes. Those who remain faithful at all times to their constituencies have nothing to fear or to lose. They know and understand the full meaning of semper fidelis, the Latin term for fidelity, faithfulness, every time. Such Vice Chancellors are what I will always refer to as semperparatus (another term) Vice Chancellors especially in their post-VC terms, for they are always prepared. But the terrible ones, the terribly terrible ones, the ruthless ones, the ruthlessly ruthless ones, always think and believe that they occupy sempiternal posts. They think that the office of the Vice Chancellor is an everlasting one.
They see themselves as eternal Vice Chancellors. For whatever reason(s); they believe that their term will never end. They turn logic on its head and proclaim the arrant nonsense of the logic of the sempiternity of the post of the Vice Chancellor. Their island is the island of sempiternity of blindness and of ruthless logic that controls and rules the illogical minds of ruthless men and persons in power. We don’t know what to call their greed. This is no exaggeration. This is no hyperbole. This is nothing of the sort.
Why am I entering the chamber of your attention now with this topic?
A few days ago I was at a social event in a little Urhobo town in Delta State. A tight friend was burying his mother. Our tight friend is an effective university person of note, of high international repute. The event which he coordinated well and well – in fact, more than well and well – was a gathering of assorted personages of high rank from all walks of life. But university persons, professors, from far and near and across the country made their number wonderfully meaningful. Now the chats of the egg-eggs flowed into the nature of our universities and those who head them. Some persons spoke of Vice Chancellors in the then years who were of the bad sort or who were nice ones, or who were sharp ones, and positively so, and those who were unholy terrors who pretended to be holy terrors.
But the conversation centred profusely on one Vice Chancellor who was particularly an unholy terror. The one in question slaughtered cows on weekly basis as sacrifices to protect his ruthless actions against colleagues, many of whom were top academics he hired, cajoled and begged to come help him to build the new university which he had been appointed to head. As a matter of fact, he slaughtered regularly by his actions the staff he hired the way he slaughtered sacrificial cows and rams regularly.
At the time of his appointment to the federal university in one of our central states, he was already the Vice Chancellor of a federal university in the South-South. What did he allegedly not do, this Vice Chancellor, this allegedly ruthlessly powerful Vice Chancellor, to the staff, especially academic staff, he charmed to the then very new university? Of course, history will record him as the only one who was the Vice Chancellor of two federal universities at the same time. How many roofs did he not order to be removed from the houses of colleagues who in principle disagreed with his modus operandi? Some of those he dealt with decisively died shortly thereafter. Some simply left the university for him. And the standard and image of the university, what was his vision in these regards? He did not care a fig about them.
A cited case of as at then a young, up-coming academic staff who is today a worthy professor in one of our top federal universities in the Niger Delta is particularly touching. The South-South indigene secured a foreign scholarship to read for his Ph.D. in Great Britain. The almighty Vice Chancellor rejected his application for study leave even without pay, and subjected him to conditions I don’t wish to recount here. Suffice it to say that the young man returned from Warwick in good time and returned to “his” university. But the day he entered the Vice Chancellor’s Office to announce his joyful return was his last day in that university.
What happened? It is better that I don’t lend you the interesting tale that will lend me your applause at its absorbing recital. The clever chap simply left to where he is now and has been since that time he sincerely turned his back on the Vice Chancellor that didn’t deserve his “yours sincerely, good bye.” Of course, cronies and frolicking yes people, and liars and tale-bearers, to boot, benefitted immensely from the system – but where have those benefits led them, their island-man and the university – of lies and liars and tales and tale-bearers today?
The island Vice Chancellor has since been abandoned in his island of ruthlessness and cronyism all alone, all, all and all alone, by even those who sickly licked his boots, his boot-lickers, his arse-and-ass-lickers. Today he is badly down – near a vegetable state. Did he eat? I must admit that this topic did not crop up in our conversation. But why would he not eat in a buoyant fashion if he must?
Two of the other Vice Chancellors who were conversed about were, I can gladly name them here, Adamu Baikie and Grace Alele-Williams of Uniben – in the years of yore. The first was generally called a nice Vice Chancellor. The second named was generally regarded as a positively sharp Vice Chancellor, but a holy terror to boot. More importantly, she might go into the record books as perhaps Nigeria’s poorest Vice Chancellor, who did not eat.
ASUU might probably give her this title and award her gold medal to this effect some-day – in the present time or post-humously. Some persons there are who when the time comes will or may describe her as Nigeria’s Jose Alberto Mujica Cordono (Uruguan’s president 2010-2015) of our university system. To those who do not know, Alberto Cordono the leftist president, native of Montevideo, Uruguay never pinched a penny from the coffers of his country throughout his years in office under the ticket and flag of the Movement of Popular Participation (MPP), his left wing party. He drove his Volkswagen beetle car before and after his presidency. He also remained in his farm house where he operated from throughout his presidency. He also even refused the offer of one million US dollars for his Volkswagen beetle 1987 model which he bought for less than one thousand US dollars. There is no leader like him anywhere in the world. But in terms of financial integrity Grace Alele-Williams may be close to him.
Our Academic Staff Union of (our) Universities (ASUU) must get a goad to goad our modern Vice Chancellors to accept financial integrity and financial poverty in their service to help improve our universities. The other day we read in the newspapers of the alleged arrest of a Vice Chancellor of a state university in the South-South who allegedly consumed or carted away a princely sum of above four billion naira which he was supposed to use to develop his university. I am not gullible enough to accept the story in-to-to. However, to make our universities’ helmspersons transparent, there is really the need to make them now compete for the honour of “Nigeria’s poorest vice-chancellor’’ – NOW, I repeat or restate in capital letters. And they should lead the way for our politicians in this regard. Am I building castles in Spain? Phew!
Afejuku can be reached via 08055213059.