10 November 2012

Nigeria: Kano University of Science and Technology - Matters Arising


As one of his priority projects in his first tenure, the Kano University of Science and Technology (KUST), Wudil was among the first that the Governor Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso paid an official and personal visit when he came back as a governor for the second time. There was no doubt that the governor had good intentions for the university for the second time.

The first collision with the former Vice Chancellor Professor Ibrahim Garba Riruwai was when the university was directed to submit proposal on how to utilize the controversial Ado Bayero House. And it was clearly stated by His Excellency that he would compare it with other competitive proposals to decide on the best way to utilize the building.

Anyway, the proposal of the university lost to other alternative proposals which in the wisdom of the government are in the best interest of the people of Kano i.e. using the building for the second state university (Northwest University).

This decision did not go well with the reasoning of the then VC and of course many of his subordinates in KUST on the grounds that even the first university (KUST) does not get adequate funding from the state government. But despite these oppositions, the state executive council continues to exercise its mandate as the highest authority in the state. The scuffle was also taken to the decision of the recipients of the honorary degree of the university.

The committee responsible for the selection of recipients proposed the names of people that everybody is aware were in opposition to the return of Kwankwaso as governor. As if that is not enough, the university by commission or omission organized the convocation date to coincide with the date of the national convention of the political party of the governor. And despite a request by the governor for a shift in the date of the convocation to enable him attend the two important occasions, the university refused to cooperate.

Matters were further compounded by the students of the university when they decided to show some disrespect to the deputy governor that represented the governor while applauding the VC at the occasion of the convocation. The university further refused to comply with a number of directives issued by the state government. As the relationship were becoming more and more tense, some politicians and staff of the university try to influence the VC to adopt some diplomatic measures to placate the governor but to no avail. It appears some influential members of the society and politicians were trying to exploit the situation to score a political point against the governor in total disregard to the interest of the university.

Anyway, these events were not the reasons used by the state government to announce the sacking of Riruwai as the VC of the KUST, but rather in pursuance of a recommendation of a committee and/or report of the visitation panel to the university. Then immediately after the announcement some well respected staff of the university made a press release supporting and thanking the state government over the decision.

The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), KUST Chapter is simply an annexure of the former management. Becoming jittery about losing their seats, they rushed to the media to make a sentimental press release full of emotions and assault on the persons that exercise their civil rights to express their opinions. The ASUU that should be apolitical and very logical, this time decided to act like politicians.

They went ahead to classify those people as "mischief makers" and wrongly categorized all of them as non members of the union (They don't even know who are their members or not). Without receiving any official communication from the state government, they went ahead to pronounce the decision of the government out rightly "illegal" without making reference to which law was broken.

They also did not care to listen to the other side (the state government) before they made the hasty press release. This is because they already had a predetermined position on the issue. ASUU did not stop there, they went ahead to inspire insubordination to the newly appointed acting VC to the extents of circulating mutilated, incomplete and unofficial document (Report of the Visitation Panel).

This made some members of the union (including myself) to become suspicious of the exco and their motives. The new management wrote a letter requesting for an audience with the ASUU members to discuss issues of importance to the students. But the exco are refusing to handle the issue with dispatch and instead made it a subject of lengthy and unnecessary discussions based on hearsays.

Now the questions that are begging for answers are: Is ASUU going into partisan politics? Are matters of interest to the students no longer their priorities? Is their loyalty due to the system or to some personalities? Are they going to mortgage the interest of the educational system and the University for some personal and selfish interests? Is ASUU the personal property of some privileged individuals? Is the mission of ASUU to hijack or stop the executive powers of whoever is the Governor as provided by the Law?

I believe the future of KUST and higher education in general will be determined to a larger extent by the conduct of ASUU. And I believe this could only be achieved if the conduct of the exco and members were very professional and devoid of any possibility of political alignment.

The ASUU in each chapter should also be a watchdog against the excesses of the managements while protecting the legitimate interest of each and every member without discrimination.

The priority of ASUU should be the improvement of education and welfare of its members as well as issues of importance to the educational system but not personalities. The ASUU should also be a model of tolerance of divergent views without victimization or intimidation.

Abdullahi is of the Department of Architecture, Faculty of Environmental and Earth Sciences, Kano University of Science and Technology, Wudil.

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