Bamigbola Gbolagunte, Akure
The crisis rocking the Ondo State-owned Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba-Akoko (AAUA), over the appointment of a vice chancellor for the institution is far from over.
Since the commencement of the process to appoint a new VC that would take over from the incumbent, Prof. Igbekele Ajibefun, whose tenure expires early next year, tension has enveloped the institution.
Already, following the discontentment in many quarters within the institution over the exercise, the state governor, Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu, who is also the visitor to the university, has ordered the suspension of the exercise.
It was gathered that the directive followed a series of protests alleging that the exercise was being conducted to favour some particular candidates.
Already, 25 professors from within and outside the university have signified their intention to contest for the soon-to-be-vacant position. It was learnt that the university’s governing council had shortlisted their names before a counter-directive came from Governor Akeredolu, through his Chief of Staff, Gbenga Ale, told the council to stay action on the exercise.
One of the reasons for the suspension, it was gathered, was the alleged plan by some powerful forces outside the university to impose their own candidates as VC of the institution.
The allegations were, however, denied by the chairman of council and pro-chancellor of the university, Dr. Tunji Abayomi. He asserted that the council was not under any pressure from anywhere over the appointment of a VC.
It was gathered that the university’s governing council was more disposed to having a professor from within the university as the next VC, believing that such a fellow would have been familiar with the system of the institution, compared with an outsider.
Those who applied for the position within the university were Professor Olugbenga Ige, current deputy vice chancellor (administration); Professor Victor Olumekun, who currently serves as the director of the Centre for Research and Development in the university; Professor Yemisi Adebowale, who was the immediate past deputy vice chancellor (academics); Professor Dayo Oludoro of the Faculty of Arts; Professor Afolabi Ayenigbara; and Professor C.I. Daramola.
Those who are in the race from outside the university include Professor Temiloluwa Ologunorisa from the Federal University of Technology, Akure, a former deputy vice chancellor of the Osun State University, Osogbo, and Professor Kayode Akeredolu, from Lagos State University, among others.
It was also gathered that Professor Adebola Adetula, an indigene of the state who lives and works in the United States, showed interest in the race.
The current VC, Ajibefun, was appointed on January 5, 2015, following the expiration of the tenure of Prof. Femi Mimiko, a younger brother to former Governor Olusegun Mimiko. Professor Mimiko was a lecturer in the Department of Political Science at the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife, before he was appointed VC of AAUA by his elder brother, Dr Olusegun Mimiko, who was governor of Ondo State at the time.
It was not clear what the governing council would do, even as all the processes for the appointment of the VC had been suspended in compliance with the governor’s directive.
Daily Sun gathered that Akeredolu has refused to directly intervene in the process and has only directed that there should be a fair contest that would throw up a sound and internationally acclaimed academic who would drive the growth of the institution.
Even though the governor’s younger brother, Prof Wole Akeredolu, is one of the contestants, people from different camps asserted that the governor had not displayed any open interest towards having his brother or any other person as the new VC. But there are allegations that some forces external to the university are seeking to install a candidate.
Investigations showed that there are four different camps seeking to have their preferred candidate in the VC’s office next year. First is the Owo Forum, which has allegedly insisted that the visitor, who is from Owo town, must appoint an Owo candidate, insisting that Owo deserved the appointment as no indigene of the town has ever been the VC.
Some have also accused the pro-chancellor and chairman of council of plotting to select a candidate from his Ondo North Senatorial zone. Those making the allegations alleged that Abayomi was working to impose a candidate from a certain federal university.
The third group comprises some vocal forces within the governing council who want the governor to appoint his brother, Prof. Akeredolu, in order to guarantee adequate funding for the university.
The fourth group comprises pioneer members of the university who believe they have been most active in building the university and an ‘indigenous’ VC, who has been part of the conception and growth of the university, should be appointed. Their contention is that members of the university community are conversant with the challenges and know the ground rules better that anyone coming from outside. These academics are particularly enraged that several people who never believed in the vision of AAUA and were deriding the university as “Oroke High School (named after the original owners of the land)” at its inception suddenly woke up to see the giant leaps the university has made through their personal efforts and commitment over the years. They are aggrieved, as they said, because their labour and sweat have not been referenced in the selection process.
It was gathered from a reliable source that the council had earlier disqualified a number of candidates for reasons not made known to the public. That action, some observed, might have prompted the governor to halt the recruitment exercise.
Unconfirmed reports from the university indicated, however, that some of the disqualified candidates failed to meet the minimum cut-off mark set by the governing council.
Another source stated that the governor took the decision following protests by some of the candidates that the members of the governing council were not transparent in the process of appointing the new VC and were working towards a pre-conceived result.
It was alleged that many crucial decisions were solely taken by Abayomi without the consent of other members. The reporter gathered that some members of the council accused the chairman of being dictatorial.
The aggrieved members, it was alleged, felt that adequate consultation was not done, and time-tested criteria were not utilised in the screening process. The chairman was also accused of backing a particular candidate and that he was working for that candidate’s emergence.
A staff of the university, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, noted: “AAUA has continued to struggle perennially due to manipulations in the appointment of successive VCs, which prevented those who really had the capacity to turn the university around from getting to the top.”
The university’s branch of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has maintained silence on the matter, but there are indications that members of the union are not disposed towards having a VC anointed, as if the office were a political post. The union was also said to be concerned about the sanctity and integrity of the academic process and university autonomy.
In his reaction to the allegations, Abayomi denied preferring any candidate, even as he also denied that the governor was working towards having his brother become the new VC. He told the reporter that he was after fairness and honesty in the selection and would not contradict integrity and capability as major yardsticks in the appointment process.
Said he: “I don’t have a preferred candidate for the post of the VC of Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba Akoko, and I am not sure the governor has anyone he prefers. The governor did not tell me of his interest in the matter and, therefore, I believe he doesn’t have an interest in any individual becoming the VC.
“I am not against any of the candidates who applied for the job. Anyone who is qualified can apply but the process will be fair and thorough. I don’t have a favourite. I am assuring you that the best among the contestants will emerge at the end of the day.”