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GATHERING STORM

• Five years after, FUT Minna and its host community are poised for another showdown over who becomes the 9th VC of the university

From John Adams, Minna

Intrigues, manipulations and confusion have characterized, in recent times, the process that leads to the appointment of the Vice Chancellor of the Federal University of Technology, Minna (FUTMinna), as it has pitched the host community, the Minna Emirate, with the authorities of the University over who becomes the next Vice Chancellor.

The tension is mounting again. This followed the decision of the University Governing Council that rose from its meeting last month (March) and released the criteria for interested candidates for the position of the Vice Chancellor of the institution through a newspaper advertorial.

The decision of the University Council to effect certain changes in the criteria which have guided the selection of successful Vice Chancellor since 2002, has attracted sharp criticism and reactions from the academic community and the public, especially the host community, which believed that this is another attempt to deny it the chance of producing the next Vice Chancellor of the University, 37 years after its establishment.

A brief history of the University VC appointments

Since the establishment of the University in 1983, the host community has not ceased to complain that it has neither produced the Vice Chancellor, Deputy Vice Chancellor nor the Registrar of the University, despite the array of academics considered qualified to occupy these positions. For instance, between 1983 and 2017, the University has had eight Vice Chancellors and five Registrars and a number of Deputy Vice Chancellors, but none is from the host community.

The list of successive VCs that have led the University since the establishment of the university is as follows: Prof. Jonathan Ndagi (Nupe), Niger State, pioneer Vice Chancellor (1983-1990); Prof. Suleiman Adeyemi, (Yoruba), Kwara State (1990-1994), Prof. Ibrahim Umar (Fulani) from the far north (1994-1997); Prof. Suleiman A. Garba (Igbira), Kogi State, acting Vice Chancellor (1997), Prof. Mohamned A. Daniya (Nupe), Niger State (1997-2002), Prof. Tukur Sa’ad Tukur, (Fulani) Kano State (2002-2007), Prof. Mohammed S. Audu (Igbira), Kogi State (2007-2012) and Prof Musbau Akanji, Yoruba (2012-2017).

Between 2002 and 2012, the host community, made up of largely Gbagy, the second largest ethnic group in the state, came close to having one of its own appointed the VC of the institution for donating their land without compensation, it was knocked out when the chips were down.

In 2002 when Prof. Tukur Sa’ad was appointed, the University Governing Council came up with ten-year professorship as the criteria for anyone applying for the position. It knocked out all Gbagy candidates vying for the post because they had between seven and eight years professorship. The 10-year professorship has produced successive Vice Chancellors in the University since 2002, including the incumbent VC, Prof. Musbau Adewumi Akanji.

The new criteria

However, the University Council, after its meeting last month (March), presided over by the Chairman of the Governing Council, Prof. Ahmed Rufai Alkali, whose tenure expired since February this year, came out with zero year professorship as the new criteria.

The implication of this is that anyone appointed as a Professor this year, 2017, is qualified to apply for the position of the Vice Chancellor, contrary to what has obtained in the past three appointment of VCs and this has raised a lot of questions as to what informed the sudden change of goalpost in the middle of the game.

In addition to this, the council also came up with another criterion that made it mandatory for all candidates to have their application signed by three referees, out of which one must be the Vice Chancellor of the applicant’s University. This criterion made the incumbent Vice Chancellor, a mandatory referee for all candidates from FUT, Minna.

The rumour and suspicion

A source close to the University but who did not want his name in print, told The Sun Education that it appears there are plans to once again deny the host community whose candidates have now met the ten-year professorial experience the opportunity to produce the next VC.

According to the source, already the University Council has its own anointed candidate, in the person of a Deputy Vice Chancellor of the University. He is said to hail from Niger State even though that fact is being questioned or disputed but he is said to be below the ten-year professorship. Hence, the general belief or suspicion is that the decision to abolish the ten years criteria was made to clear the way for his emergence as the VC.

Another area of controversy which the source points to as part of the alleged plan to manipulate the process, is the decision of the University Council to advertise the VC position nine months to the expiration of the tenure of the current VC as against the mandatory six months.

Dismissing the allegations

But reacting to these allegations or suspicion, the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Musbau Akanji, told our correspondent that, contrary to the rumour making the rounds, the decision by the Governing Council to abolish the ten years professorship was to create room for the host community who, according to him, has limited chances of making it if the ten years criteria is maintained.

Although the final decision on who becomes the next VC of the school rests squarely on the Visitor to the University, President Mohammadu Buhari, Prof. Akanji said that the Council, during its meeting, came up with the idea that the next VC should come from within the University, hence the decision to bend the rule so as to accommodate more applicants from the University.

He admitted, however, that since 2002, the University Council has insisted on ten years professorship and that was what knocked out all the candidates from the University in the past.

“If you look back at 2002 when Prof. Tukur Sa’ad came, they insisted on ten years experience as a professor,” he said. “After that, Prof. Mohammed S. Audu came in 2007. They also insisted on ten years and when I came in 2012, they also insisted on ten years and those from the University who wanted to apply were disqualified. But to enable our own professors from FUT compete with outsiders who may apply, the Council decided to abolish the ten years professorship, because, out of the 84 professors that the University has, only four are qualified if we insist on the ten years.”

Findings from other universities

He further disclosed that from the Council’s findings most universities in Nigeria in their recent recruitment did not require years of experience, adding that “for example, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, (UNN), which was established in 1960, during its recruitment of VC in 2014, requested for zero year. ABU Zaria that gave birth to us, when they were to appoint the current VC, did not request for any experience. University of Abuja in their requirement also did not ask for any experience. We sampled 16 universities across the country and out these, only eight asked for experience and it is below ten years, while two requested for five years.”

Prof. Akanji recalled that one of the grouses that the host community had against the Governing Council and which threatened the peace of the University, leading to a protracted court case during his appointment in 2012, was that the Council insisted on the ten years criteria because it did not want the host community to produce the Vice Chancellor.

The host community grouses

The university host community made up of Minna Emirate, in a strongly worded letter of protest signed by the chairman of the group, Alhaji Usman Nagogo and ten others, accused the university authorities and the Vice Chancellor of marginalizing the community in the scheme of things as regards the appointment of both senior and junior staff, the admission policy of the institution and the award of contracts in the university.

According to the community, there is no one from the immediate host community that is occupying an important position in the university ranging from the Vice Chancellor’s office, the registry and even bursary department, adding that the marginalisation is more glaring with the appointment of junior staff even when the law says all junior staff should come from the immediate environment.

The community then warned that the situation has reached an intolerable level because the state, especially the immediate community, has sacrificed their land and properties as well as made strenuous efforts to ensure peaceful and conducive environment for teaching and learning and has always cooperated with every successive administration of the University.

It remains to be seen how far the current situation playing out, the rumour and tension it is generating, can go in promoting peace, both before and after the appointment of the next VC.

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