Nigeria: VC Appointment - Tension in UI As Council Chair Sets to Meet Protesting Workers

30 October 2020

The two unions said the only solution to the impending crisis is to suspend the ongoing selection process of a new VC.

There is an atmosphere of fear that is currently building up at the University of Ibadan, as angry workers are gathering to meet with the chairperson of the institution's governing council, Joshua Waklek, over the ongoing selection process of a new vice-chancellor.

The protesting workers, who are members of the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) and the Non-Academic Staff Union (NASU), have said the ongoing process is compromised and insisted on a fresh one.

Under the umbrella of the joint action committee, the two unions said the only solution to the "impending total shutdown of the university is the suspension of the ongoing selection process, the appointment of an acting vice-chancellor, who they said will commence a fresh process.

The workers, who had been on industrial action since February, said they have lost confidence in the outgoing vice-chancellor, Idowu Olayinka, and accused him of compromising the selection process to ensure "the emergence of his preferred candidate and the incumbent deputy vice-chancellor in charge of administration, Kayode Adebowale."

The unions had on Wednesday disrupted the selection process and chased away the members of the governing council, who had been meeting since Monday to address all the issues surrounding the appointment of a new vice-chancellor.

Apart from barricading the institution's entrance gates on Wednesday, the angry workers also reportedly pelted the governing council members with sachet water and stones.

They accused Mr Waklek-led governing council of working to the answer "towards foisting the preferred candidate of the incumbent VC on the institution."

Thus, as Mr Waklek hopes to meet with the angry workers today, they have concluded that only the suspension of the selection process is what they hope to hear, "and that anything different will be met with still opposition."

Speaking with PREMIUM TIMES on Friday, a member of SSANU on the campus and the union's national vice-president, Alfred Jimoh, said imposition would not be allowed by his members.

"The university belongs to us all. We all have stakes in it and we must guard it jealously. But if someone believes we can all be taken for granted to foist a vice-chancellor on us, the consequences will be grave," Mr. Jimoh told PREMIUM TIMES on the phone.

Background

The protesting workers have, for months, been having a running battle with the incumbent management of the university over issues of unpaid outstanding promotion arrears, alleged illegal deductions from their salaries, unpaid leave bonuses, among others.

The disagreement with the management led to the strike embarked by the two unions in February, with a weekly congress to review the developments since then.

Meanwhile, while the unions' agitation for improved welfare was ongoing, the university commenced the process for the selection of a new vice-chancellor in May.

On Tuesday, after interviewing all the applicants the 18 candidates were pruned down to six. They are a former provost of the university's college of medicine, Babatunde Salako; Abideen Aderinto from department of sociology; the incumbent deputy vice-chancellor (administration), Kayode Adebowale, and the former vice-chancellor of Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba-Akoko (AAUA), Femi Mimiko.

Others are Olusegun Ademowo of medical college, and Olatunde Farombi of biochemistry department.

Though the unions had sustained their agitation for the suspension of the selection process, the governing council went ahead with the ranking of the six shortlisted candidates.

"But as soon as news filtered in that Mr. Adebowale had been ranked first among the six, we realised the governing council was bent on setting our university on fire, and we had to wade in by stampeding the process to a halt," a member of one of the unions, who does not want to be named, told our reporter on Friday morning.

ASUU speaks

Meanwhile, the chairperson of the university's chapter of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Ayo Akinwole, has said its union is yet to take position on the protest that rocked the university on Wednesday.

According to Mr Akinwole, the union's position on the selection process has always been to ensure a just, fair and free process. He said such a stand hasn't changed, and that his members did not join the protest on Wednesday because it only coincided with the weekly congress of the two unions.

"We have always advocated for an open and transparent process whether in the selection of vice-chancellors or in any other matter. So our position hasn't changed. But on Wednesday's protest, we are yet to take an official position, and that will be done soon," Mr. Akinwole, a professor, said on the phone.

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