The invasion of the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife, by some indigenes of the host community over the non-appointment of an indigene of the town as the vice chancellor of the university is another manifestation of the deepening rot in the nation’s university system, especially in the federal universities.

According to reports, the protesters alongside some masquerades besieged the university campus, attacked security staff and students and disrupted movement of people in the university. The protesters, apparently backed by a group of elders and youth of the community, had reportedly threatened to shut down the institution on the allegation that the governing council of the university schemed out an indigene, Rufus Adedoyin, a Professor of Physiotherapy, from being appointed the vice chancellor of the university. Adedoyin came ninth out of the16 applicants shortlisted for the office of the vice chancellor. Out of the 16 candidates, Prof. Adebayo Bamiro was chosen by the university governing council as the vice chancellor based on merit and in line with prevailing varsity regulations and guidelines.

Apart from the fact that their preferred candidate was not among the first three shortlisted for the post of the vice chancellor, the aggrieved indigenes cited examples of the universities of Ilorin, Jos and Ibadan, which have been administered at different times by indigenes of their host communities. They also demanded the reversal of the university governing council’s decision on the appointment of a vice chancellor and threatened that there would be no peace on campus until an indigene is appointed the vice chancellor of Obafemi Awolowo University.

The sad development at Ile-Ife has been condemned by the Ile-Ife indigenes, the Nobel Laureate and former lecturer in the university, Prof. Wole Soyinka. They also dismissed the protesters and described their demand as unrealistic. In the same vein, the governor of Ondo State and an alumnus of the university, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, has also decried the invasion of the university by traditionalists.

The unfortunate development at Ile-Ife is condemnable and must be nipped in the bud before the appointment of vice chancellors is localised and even ethnicised. It is regrettable that such agitation cannot be said to be peculiar to Ile-Ife alone. It has reportedly occurred at the University of Ibadan, where Ibadan indigenes had insisted that the vice chancellor must be an indigene of Ibadan. Similarly, some indigenes of Nsukka have at one time or the other demanded that the vice chancellor of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, should come from the community. The ethnic virus affecting almost all federal universities in terms of staff recruitment and students admission must be curbed now before mediocrity is enthroned in these citadels of learning while merit is sacrificed. The appointment of a vice chancellor should be based on merit and not the ethnic background of the candidate. However, if an indigene of the town the university is located qualifies for the job on merit, he should be given the post. Therefore, the Ile-Ife agitators should be made to understand clearly that the position of a vice chancellor is not a political appointment or a traditional institution where ‘the son of the soil’ matters a lot. The vice chancellorship is purely based on merit and not on geography of the candidate. We believe that merit other than where the candidate comes from must be emphasised in the appointment of the vice chancellor of a university.

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By pulse

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