By Kunle Orelope & Titi Adebowale
SINCE former President Goodluck Jonathan made his controversial but failed attempt to distinguish between stealing and corruption, and since President Muhammadu Buhari assumed office with his, flaming anti-corruption crusade, manyNigerians have come to understand that corruption cannot only be defined in terms of misappropriation of funds, or as using one’s position to steal money meant for public projects, or inflation of contract costs.
It is now much more appreciated, to appropriate the definition of Merriam-Webster Dictionary, that corruption entails ‘dishonest or illegal behaviour, especially by powerful people (such as government officials or police officers)’. When people use their positions, public or private, to enforce decisions that favour them and/or their cronies and family members, they are involved in corrupt practice. Where there is disregard for the provisions of the law, there is corruption.
It is against the foregoing backdrop that we consider the dissolution of the Governing Council of Obafemi Awolowo University without the establishment of any wrongdoing as a classic example of dishonesty which strongly questions the anti-corruption campaign of the Visitor to the university. To disband a Governing Council whose tenure had not ended and that was not found guilty of incompetence or any act of corruption through the findings of an investigative panel as required by the University Autonomy Law (as amended) 2003 constitutes an illegal behaviour much as it is an atrocious disrespect of the personages that constitute that apex university organ.
We are deeply convinced that it is indefensibly wrong to dissolve the OAU Governing Council because two violent, uncoordinated unions (NASU and SSANU), which do not even have a say in the appointment of a Vice-Chancellor (VC), howl that the special body commits some infractions in the discharge of its duty. Till the time of the writing of this piece there has not been any evidence produced by the laid-back unions or any other group to support the claim that the Governing Council tinkered with the procedure on the appointment of Prof. Ayobami Salami as the VC of the university. We recall that President Buhari did not drop three of his ministers when some individuals and groups alleged that those people embezzled the monies of their respective states. If those allegations were of no effect in the judgement of the President, why did those of NASU and SSANU against the Governing Council in OAU assume the mantle of truth?
May we report to the President and the conscientious members of the public that our discovery as members of the university is that the law governing the appointment of VC was not ignored by the Governing Council in the process that produced the current VC. It is impossible to embark on that evil considering the fact that varied layers are involved in the process. The Governing Council advertised the position ‘specifying the qualities of the persons who may apply for the post’ [as Section 3(1) of the University (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1993 says]; it constituted a search team; it drew a shortlist of suitable candidates; it presented the shortlisted candidates (six in all) to the Joint Council and Senate/Academic Board Selection Committee which interacted with the candidates and recommended three of them to the Governing Council for consideration; and selected one of the three candidates (Prof. Salami) to be the 11th VC of OAU. Thereafter, as the law requires, the Governing Council informed the Visitor of the emergence of a new VC.
There was no point in that process at which the Governing Council bent the rule. Rather than dissolve the body, it is this process that the Visitor should have investigated. And the unions which claim a court issued a restraining order against the Governing Council have not shown anybody a copy of the judgement. The copy we have as bona fide members of that university is one of notice, which the university Registrar reported the school acknowledged. But to these unions and their nondescript supporters, there is no difference between notice of a court case and direct restraining order. The mischievous unions confuse one with the other.
Moreover, we have since discovered that the violent actions of NASU and SSANU (which locked up members of the Governing Council and threatened to kill them before the Ooni of Ife came to their rescue) are motivated by two things which any objective mind can as well thoroughly investigate.
One, the unions are afraid that Prof. Salami will act like his predecessor by not paying their allowances. Smart, albeit only by half, the unions refrain from saying this so as not to be viewed as being lawless and impatient with the new VC. They decidde that they would continue to cast aspersion on the process that produced Prof. Salami so that something can give. They imagined that only a new person who did not work with the Omole Administration can pay their allowances. It is this speculative reasoning that inspires the unions to jettison their works, pretending they are on civil disobedience and not strike. In the case of NASU, their National Executives even dissuaded them from badmouthing the VC’s appointment, assuring them that the leadership will work with them to get the new VC to pay. They refused and so the National Executives dissolved the OAU branch of NASU.
Two, SSANU and NASU, as we found out, have two failed candidates for the position of the VC, not only egging them on in this disruptive campaign of false claims against the Governing Council. Some of the members who could not even provide for their homes were reportedly assisted financially by these two candidates. The candidates’ miniscule, wafer-biscuit-weight followers in our union (ASUU) are also the ones who have been going about telling the public lies that they are often unable to aid with irrefutable facts.
The anti-union that they are, these people misrepresented the congressional resolution of our union, to wit, that since there is a furore on the process that produced the current VC, then the Visitor should carry out an investigation.
*Orelope and Adebowale write from OAU, Ile-Ife.