OPINION: Abdulkareem's revival crusade at UNILORIN. By Best Agbese

Date: 2021-04-04

In those days, the graduates of the University of Ilorin (Unilorin) pranced the land with mercurial elegance as proud products of one of Nigeria’s best second-generation universities. But this aura suddenly faded and over the years, graduates of the varsity faced character discrimination in the labour market. The decades of bickering between splinter factions of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) within the university, which led to the severance of the ASUU-Unilorin branch from the national body shattered academic excellence on the campus. It insidiously affected the public rating of the university by moralists.

Although, the duration of internal confrontations among factions of the academic staff of the university spanning over 20 years, entrenched an uninterrupted academic calendar for the happenstance of exclusion from incessant ASUU strikes, it nevertheless, adversely affected the varsity in other areas. The coherence of teaching staff, necessary unity, and the cordial interpersonal relationships between students and lecturers suffered strains.

Ostensibly, the cat and dog atmosphere on campus, ennobled by warring ASUU factions affected the quality of research and learning as well as the time-tested culture of collaborative understanding in the pursuit of academic excellence. Students were also aware of the redlines among their teachers and, proper intellectual development and moral upbringing also suffered some blot and drawbacks as a consequence of the union members’ fisticuffs.

Successive Vice-Chancellors of the university frequently boasted of a stable and sacrosanct academic calendar timeline as “the hallmark of the university,” which attracted a sea of admission seekers within and outside the country. But deep down their hearts, there was a void of an unstable workplace steep in cold animosity.

The scenario groomed students who probably could have been fit in academics. But the students must have been possibly defective in character, as they rather saliently learnt from their teachers, bitter unionism, irreconcilable differences, and mastery of endless feuds as a way of life. The sacred universal doctrine of universities is that degree certificates are awarded only to students found worthy in "character and learning," and the latter virtue was unwittingly abused by decades of bickering in ASUU-UniIorin.

Interestingly, before the incumbency of Professor Sulyman Age Abdulkareem as the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ilorin (VC-Unilorin), successive ASUU leaderships in the university made series of attempts to reabsorb itself with the national body of ASUU. And Prof. Abdulrasheed Adeoye’s leadership of ASUU-Unilorin held several reconciliation parleys with the national ASUU under the midwife of the ASUU Zonal Secretariat.

Similarly, desperate efforts were made by Dr. Usman Raheem (now, a professor) to reunite ASUU-Unilorin with the national ASUU family. Unfortunately, these attempts flopped as a result of the stiff terms and conditions thrown up. But apparently, the majority of the teaching staff of the university were enthusiastic and willing to reintegrate with their parent national body.

The eagerness of ASUU-Unilorin to rejoin the national body was spurred by the years of humiliations, alienations, and discriminations its members suffered from colleagues in other universities across the country. It dealt a heavy psychological blow on most of them. That the ultimate reintegration happened under Prof. Abdulkareem's tenure is a coincidence that has confirmed his sincerity of purpose and passion for staff development in all nuances.

So, early in the Year 2020, the ASUU Unilorin branch regained its membership of the national body and participated in the strike declared by the national body to protest the failure of the federal government to implement the 2009 ASUU-FGN agreement, the 2013 Memorandum of Understanding, and the 2017 Memorandum of Action and the subsequent other activities of the ASUU national body.

So, the 2017 emergence of Prof. Abdulkareem, a renowned chemical engineer as the VC- Unilorin descended blessings on the institution from different angles. No doubt, he was confronted with daunting multiple challenges. But he trudged on with a principal focus on staff and student welfare as well as human resources development.

Consequently, UniIorin rebounded back to its glory days as a leading citadel for learning, research and technology as well as the giant of students’ academic excellence. In the last one-year, Unilorin has re-ebbed its niche on home-grown technological solutions to the multiple local challenges in the country.

Agbese, Unilorin Alumnus is a researcher at the University of Dundee, Scotland.

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