Intrigues, horse trading as aspirants square up for Unilorin VC

Date: 2017-05-15

As the tenure of the incumbent Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ilorin, Professor AbdulGaniyu Ambali, winds up, issues on who succeeds him have been on the front burner since the University officially advertised the seat with would be applicants warming up. AHMED 'LATEEF, who has been following the trends of event, reports.

Among the Federal Universities established across the country, University of Ilorin appears to be the only one that has enjoyed seamless peaceful co-existence. Close to two decades, the ivory tower has continued to maintain its widely acclaimed uninterrupted academic calendar.

Even while other varsities owned by the Federal Government resolved to ventilate some grievances by shutting down both academic and non-academic activities, that of Ilorin would prefer stand aloof and be watching the unfolding scene by scene of the protest.

Established in 1975 within the city of Ilorin, the University of Ilorin popularly known as "Better By Far", has rapidly turned the most sought after among admission seekers. The reason for this was not unconnected with the seamless transition from one academic session to the other.

The citadel of learning is not just known for its profound scholarship, it also instills in students strong moral and character, which are inalienable factors in determining the righteous.

For students of the University, who are either in four, five or six years academic programmes, successful admittance into the institution has crystallized the day of graduation/convocation barring any unforeseen circumstances.

The institution is also reputed for its academic discipline. Just as it is abominable to engage in physical combat on the campus, examination malpractice attracts immediate expulsion, ditto other anti-social conducts including theft. For anyone found wanting, there is a common saying among the students "Face Tanke".

On that day, would be culprit would clad in the University's gown as if ready for convocation before the institution's Disciplinary Panel. It is not negotiable that anyone found guilty would be summarily expelled, though there are cases that also attract rustication or other disciplinary actions.

Little wonder that the University has towered to an enviable position among its peers not just in Nigeria but in Africa as a region within the global map.

Since the University came on board about 42 years ago, it has played host to eight successful Vice-Chancellors while the incumbent is ninth. The seating VC, Professor AbdulGaniyu Ambali succeeded Professor Ish'aq Olanrewaju Oloyede while Oloyede took over from Professor S.O. Amali. Apparently in a smooth like transition, Amali emerged after the tenure of Professor Shuaib Oba Abdulraheem, the first indigene of Ilorin to clinch the covetous seat of the ivory tower and the sixth Vice-Chancellor, and it continues like that. In line with the act governing Federal Universities, the five-years single term of the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ilorin, Professor AbdulGaniyu Ambali, is gradually coming to an end. To be precise, the seat of the VC will formally become vacant October 16th, 2017.

The aspirants eyeing the seat including a former Dean of Business and Social Sciences of the University, Professor Hassan Ajisafe Saliu; a former Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic), Professor Bayo Lawal; a former Vice-Chancellor of Al-Hikmah University, Professor Sulyman Age Abdulkareem and the Dean of Arts, Professor Ahmad Abdussalam, have begun intense lobby, it was learnt.

Some of them were said to be courting politicians, seasoned academicians and highly placed individuals believed to wield influence, to help them secure the seat.

Among the aspirants, both Saliu and Abdussalam are from Ilorin while Lawal and Abdulkareem hail from Offa and Oro respectively, all in Kwara State. It could not be immediately ascertained who are other aspirants preparing for the plum job.

But within the last few weeks, vitriolic criticisms including financial misappropriation had poured in torrents against the outgoing VC Professor Ambali by the zonal body of Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).

The incumbent VC was not the only person mentioned in the alleged catalogue of sins. His predecessor, who is now Chief Executive Officer and Registrar of Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB), Professor Ish'aq Olanrewaju Oloyede, was also alleged to have been involving in shady deals despite the fact that he had completed his tenure since 2012.

Those alleging the duo did not stop at that, they went ahead to submit mind boggling petition to the office of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in Ibadan, where they documented sins of the incumbent VC and his predecessor. The development was believed to have been instigated by some aggrieved forces within the University of Ilorin.

Currently, the University parades two factions of ASUU. While the one with sizeable number of members is led by Dr Raheem Usman, the other is chaired by Dr Kayode Afolayan. The Afolayan's faction is recognized by the national leadership of the academic union.

Although the management of the institution had dismissed all the allegations as engineered by the disgruntled elements. Similarly, a concerned group also lambasted those alleging the administration of Ambali of misconducts as rabble rousers, who were hell-bent in destroying the good image of the institution. However, there has been suspicion on the motive of those behind the allegations. It was believed that the allegations were scripted to scuttle the chance of some aspirants on account of their ethnic or tribal affiliations.

While accusations and counter-accusations linger, the Ilorin Emirate Descendants Progressive Union (IEDPU) also joined the fray by fingering those it referred to as "Ilorinphobists" as behind the attacks.

The union said the attacks on Ambali were premeditated and targeted at running him down in order to stop another Ilorin indigene against aspiring for the seat of the Vice-Chancellor.

Going by the recent advertorial placement from the office of the Registrar and Secretary to the Council of the University, Mr Emmanuel Dada Obafemi, the office of the VC will formally become vacant October 16, 2017.

The IEDPU President, however, said the union viewed the frequent attacks on Ambali, who has consolidated on the gains recorded by his predecessors, as conceived to rubbish Ilorin as host community of the University.

He stated that similar attacks were also inflicted on the sixth Vice-Chancellor of the institution, Professor Shuaib Oba Abdulraheem, because of his Ilorin indigeneship, saying the union would no longer fold its arms and allow those it called fifth columnists to impugn the integrity and personality of an indigene of Ilorin, who has carved a niche for himself in the office as varsity administrator.

Adi said, "Let no one misconstrue our action now as a ploy to shield Professor AbdulGaniyu Ambali. Nothing of such is intended. We cannot however look helplessly and tolerate any person or group of people to rubbish the feats attained by the University in general and the Vice-Chancellor in particular who happens to come from Ilorin Emirate.

"It is apposite to start this short intervention by reminding ourselves of the significant roles played by the people of Ilorin in all the activities, which preceded the establishment of the then University College in 1975. We also remember with pride the roles played by indigenes of the Emirate way back in 1977 when the University of Ilorin took off as a full-fledged University, with open arms and hearts, the host community and the entire people of the Emirate supported the institution.

"It should be noted in particular that Ilorin donated so much land to the University that made the permanent site of Unilorin to be the biggest land mass possess by any University in Nigeria.

"At its inception, pioneer staff of the University were 'imported', as it were. Almost all academic and non-academic staff including even cleaners were brought from States outside the then Kwara as if there was no one within the state worthy enough to be employed.

"Islam, our own tradition and culture, admonishes us to be tolerant and accommodating. We were not (and still are) not hostile to them. For instance, the Department of Arabic and Islamic Studies, which would have been the department to reflect the cultural attachment of our people was changed overnight to the Department of Religions because of the sentiments of a negligible few. We did not complain even though it was an act of insensitivity to our sensibility by the powers that be.

"Five Vice-Chancellors had administered the University- all of them from outside the immediate host community. Professor Shuaib Oba Abdulraheem was the sixth. Ilorin never engaged any of them in any press war. They were lavishly supported. It is saddening that there is always hostility to our own sons whenever they are in charge instead of reciprocity. We were over-generous, perhaps in our solidarity with them. Nothing would change that stance.

"In 1997, Professor Shuaib Oba Abdulraheem was appointed the Vice-Chancellor of the University, incidentally, 20 years into the University's establishment. To welcome him to the office, a 21 feet python sat majestically on the Vice-Chancellor's Chair he was to sit on to commence his administration. It is to be noted that the snake, preserved for posterity, is still in a laboratory of the University.

"The malicious writers and their cohorts started their hostility against Professor Abdulraheem before his emergence, while in office, after completion of his tenure and even while on national assignment. They are incurable Ilorinphobists hence they continue their unholy war against Professor Ambali. A question: Were they on sabbatical leave to Afghanistan when Professor Amali was the Vice-Chancellor? While Professor Ishaq Oloyede was the Vice-Chancellor, this group of people tormented him as a result of the perceived link of Professor Oloyede with the host community and their paranoid for Islam.

"The dissident Academic Staff Union of Universities, University of Ilorin, never meant well for the administration and even the personality of Professor Abdulraheem and in fact all what he represents. What happened during Abdulraheem's tenure was in our assessment a self-inflicted disciplinary case they stampeded themselves into. Professor Abdulraheem left in 2002, 15 years on and still counting; the Ilorinphobists must fight to the death.

"We owe ourselves, and generation to come, the obligation to speak out against those who are malicious and mischievous simply because our people have been making marks on the sands of history. Our own son did things differently to the extent that today everyone wants to gain admission into the University of Ilorin.

"The current ranking of the University speaks eloquently for our sons' courage and doggedness. It is our responsibility to ensure that our own people are not disgraced, embarrassed or ashamed. Any attack on them is a direct attack on us as a people.

"In the Academia, it is a right to defer. To disagree with an idea or concept is an age-long norm. People are bound to have different positions on issues. Man is not a creation of logic. He is a creation of emotion, prejudice and bias. It is however sad to note that those who should know that when someone has done certain things wrong, you blow the whistle to relevant agencies of government.

"The agencies take it up from there. They will investigate and if anything incriminating was found, they would prosecute. They did not do that. They uncharitably rushed to the press to disparage and lampoon the personality of an individual. The affairs of any establishment are not run on the pages of newspaper contrary to what some academics want the right thinking Nigerians to accept. To describe them as congenital Ilorinphobists is to make an understatement.

"The reason for this attack is crystal clear- bring down the outgoing Vice-Chancellor from Ilorin. Another Ilorin Vice-Chancellor will not emerge. What they want to do is to dent the image of the incumbent Vice-Chancellor to jeopardize the chances of another Ilorin indigene in the ongoing exercise to appoint new Vice-Chancellor".

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