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KKU: Between Church Politics and Tribe

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January 23, (THEWILL) – Karl Kum University, Vwang in Plateau State is yet to commence academic activities due to some challenges, including a clash of interest between its management and the host community, UKANDI ODEY reports

Karl Kum University, a private university in Vwang, Plateau State, has been mired in a crisis since its Governing Council announced the principal officers to supervise the commencement of academic activities at the institution.

With the Church of Christ in Nations (COCIN) as the Visitor to the university, the inauguration of its Governing Council on May 12, 2021, also marked the beginning of a conflict between the host community and the management of the institution, which forced the National Universities Commission (NUC) to withdraw the institution’s operational licence. As a result, KKU has been under lock and key, with members of a vigilante formed by the Vwang Youth Movement keeping watch on the main campus.

The bone of contention between the host community and management of the university is the appointment of a registrar for the institution. Initially one Daniel Dung Kim was chosen for the job on merit and in fulfillment of a Memorandum of Understanding between the management and the host community, which had earlier donated over 60 hectares of land to the university.

According to reliable sources, Mr Kim dutifully performed the role of secretary to the Governing Council during its inaugural meeting held on May 12, 2021. Things went awry just the next day as appointment letters were issued to all the principal officers of the institution, except the Registrar, Daniel Dung Kim. In the succeeding moments, intrigues were consolidated and anxiety gave way to agitation and eventually, debacle.

While the host community accused the management of KKU of betraying their agreement and witch-hunting Kim, the latter claimed that Kim was interviewed in error and must not be allowed to hold the same office, qualified or not.

The community has resolved to stand by Kim, affirming that he is still its  candidate for the position of registrar, based on the MoU it had with the university authority.

The community also revealed that on one occasion the Chairman of the Governing Council of KKU, Prof Ochapa Onazi, told a delegation of concerned residents that telephone calls from Professors Bogoro (of Tetfund) and Rahila Gowon urging the council to rethink the appointment of Daniel Dung Kim in order to check the dominance of the Berom ethnic group in the University and Church hierarchy had halted the issuance of an appointment letter to Kim.

This was what led to the crisis that has stalled the progress of the university till date.

The governing council is on a hot seat, with an excruciating moral burden over-hanging it. It has traced Kim’s trajectory back to the State College of Education in Gindiri where he first held the portfolio of registrar, before retiring to take up appointment as the registrar of the Plateau State University, Bokkos.

Onazi and his team are insisting that Kim did not only retire from the college of education, but that his tenure as registrar of Plateau State University was mired in controversy and infamy, culminating in an inglorious exit and subsequently, litigation against his former employer, PLASU.

It was however confirmed that the problem Kim had at PLASU, which led to his forced resignation and exit was actually a clash between discipline and abuse of standards in a matter involving the Vice Chancellor of PLASU at that time, who was accused of short-circuiting procedure by allegedly approving and paying a whopping N50 million to himself from the institution’s coffers.

Between May and December 2021, sentiments and hostilities heightened as the leadership of the COCIN Church changed. Only recently, a new President of the Church was installed to bring a formal close to the tenure of Rev Pandang Yamsat, a Berom like Kim, and the entirety of the Vwang population.

As is discernible so far, the new era has not shown as much potential to resolve the impasse as it has stoked the fires to provocative and endemic depths. A fortnight ago, the KKU Governing Council paid a visit to Governor Simon Lalong at the Government House in Rayfield, Jos. In the course of his address, Prof Onazi did not only invite the governor to intervene and resolve the situation, the Berom Educational and Cultural Organisation (BECO) has noted with grudge and exception that Onazi on the occasion use pejorative and foul language that denigrates the sense of honour and integrity of the Berom as a people.

In a world press conference held last week, BECO dismissed the visit to Governor Lalong by the governing council as idle walk and time-wasting gerrymander, noting that if such a visit were to hold any value, it should have been carried out by the COCIN leadership on behalf of the Church with whom the Vwang people signed an MoU.

BECO has alerted that the governing council of KKU is currently engaged in some “cunning” moves “that will undoubtedly worsen the already bad situation”. It noted further that “since the outbreak of the cold war between the university and its host community, no effort has been made by the council and the institution’s Board of Trustees to consult critical stakeholders within and outside the host community for their intervention”.

BECO also regrets that “the host community, whose candidate in the principal officers cadre is the egistrar, who has become the target of attacks and frustration”.

It further observed that “appointing another candidate other than the President of COCIN as the Chairman of the Board of Trustees was intentionally done to completely pull the carpet off the feet of the Church in policy formulation and critical decision making on matters concerning the university”.

While the Berom socio-cultural organisation called on COCIN  to continue on the commendable path of  engaging the host community to resolve the situation, it also wants the Church to call its appointees at the KKU to order and interface with critical stakeholders, as it hopes that these efforts and a culture of adherence to established channels of communication in university organisational structure will pave the way forward, keep the school gates open and usher in the dawn of the desired atmosphere for teaching, learning, and research. This will also save the Church from doctrinal crash as a result of organisational politics.