The University, revered as the highest echelon of intellectual and moral values is supposed to produce the human resources and manpower needed to steer the affairs of ‘state’. This invariably suggests that if there is a failure in leadership or dysfunctional state of affairs in any society, the teachers in the ivory tower should be held responsible. This therefore implies that the process of selection of the vice chancellor of any university should be based purely on merit and capacity, void of the usual politics of fraternity, ethnicity, religion and other sentiments.
However, what is now worrisome is the great caprice and a tendency of the ivory tower to learn the dirty politics of the larger society, rather than these citadels of learning becoming the moral and ethical standard bearers for the rest of society. It is no gainsay that the leaders of the ivory tower (who are hitherto known for astute integrity and high moral proclivity) are invited by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to serve as returning officers for major elections. But if the process of appointment of a Vice Chancellor for any university is perceived to be marred by irregularities and ‘highest bidder takes it all’ then what is the hope for the wider Nigerian polity?
On the 27th of May, 2020, the print media was excited by a published advertisement of “Vacancy for the position of Vice Chancellor” for the University of Calabar. The University has had quite some prominent Vice Chancellors from inception till date. Many erudite administrators led at different times. Notably, Professor Ayandele, Professor Kelvin Ettah to mention a few. Nothing was heard or known about irregularities and exchange of money. But in the last two dispensations of administration, it is alleged that, ‘cash and carry’ and movement of ghana-must-go played a significant role in the appointment and sustenance of the administrations. According to a reliable anonymous source, about 17 million naira was involved at a time and about 40 million naira was involved at another time.
This is aside the huge amount of monies sent to Abuja and other places at different times to sustain the highly revered position of Vice Chancellor that was allegedly bought off the shelf of those who determine who becomes Vice Chancellor. No one knows how much would be involved in 2020. The only question still begging for an answer is, “Is the position of Vice Chancellor for the University of Calabar for sale?
The role of Academic Staff Union of Nigerian Universities, University of Calabar Branch (ASUU-UCB) in the whole marketing and sales of the position of the Vice Chancellor as reported and analyzed by our informant (who prefers to be anonymous) is rather disturbing. Rather than ASUU-UCB to maintain and defend the values of the ivory tower, it is alleged that certain immediate past Chairmen of ASUU-UCB and then members of University Governing Council were the bag carriers for the transactions.
It is not certain if the immediate past chairman of ASUU-UCB who is also currently a member of the University Governing Council would be involved in the courier of money for the purchase of the position of the Vice Chancellor. The world is watching in 3D, how the process of appointing a new Vice Chancellor for the University of Calabar would be this time.
It is sincerely hoped that the ‘new normal’ would be to premise the process on a fair, credible and level playing field where the best candidate that can provide “administrative leadership to a well-informed and articulate local academic community” Let the ‘best’ candidate who satisfies the requirements for the exalted position of Vice Chancellor be appointed to run the affairs of the University of Calabar.
The position of the Vice Chancellor of the university ought to be a vintage post reserved only for those with the character, temperament, exposure and academic prowess and understanding to run 21st century ivory tower. The recruitment for the post of VC should be based on a candidate meeting those prerequisites and criteria, and being capable of displaying outstanding leadership qualities. The appointment of a VC should never be tied to a candidate’s deep pocket and financial muscle.
As the University of Calabar’s Governing Council prepares to appoint a new VC, the overall interest of the university community and the prospect of advancing the institution should be paramount. The objective should be how to recruit the best candidate who will lead the university to a higher level. That process begins with purging the governing council of any traces of bias, outside influence and any other form of inducement. The council should let the best candidate emerge.
*** Ekong Ekpo-Abasi, a policy analyst, wrote from Calabar, Cross River State.