Sprint for UNIOSUN VC office: The facts, the intrigues

The recent placidity of the Osun State University, Osogbo may have been defiled by the on-going race for office of the fourth substantive Vice-Chancellor of the multi-campus university established by administration of the former Governor Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola in 2006.

From Osogbo main campus to Okuku, Ikire and Ipetujesa campuses, the topic on lips of academic and even non-academic staffs is how a new VC would emerge, especially in face of the raging debate erupted after the school’s July advertorial published in Punch and Daily Trust in which criteria for candidates, eyeing the competitive job, were spelt out, consequently inflaming the academic community and beyond.

And at the centre of the fray, TheTabloid.net gathered, is the incumbent Vice-Chancellor, Professor Labode Popoola, who is steadily winding down to pave way for a new helmsman in November when his term is expected to run out.

Popoola, a Professor of Forest Economics is alleged to be clandestinely interested in who steps into his shoes, hence what is called potholes he allegedly dug on road of many intending candidates for the contest.

“VC is just being smart about the thing because he would not want a successor who would go after him after his tenure expires later in the year. He is behaving like a true Nigerian administrator. How many state governors support candidates they don’t know as their loyalists? It is the same thing in this VC issue here and in other universities.

“But the only thing is that I am not comfortable with it, if I must say the truth. If I have nothing to hide, I don’t think I should poke my nose into who comes after I have left office. But in as much as there is no proof that our VC is intervening in the selection, it remains a conjecture, as far as I am concerned,” a source in one of the campuses told our correspondent.

Relying on the advert, which is also posted on the school website, each candidate is required to be a PhD holder, who must also have a research gate score of 15.0 and 800 citations, aside that he must have published at least 50 research articles, 20 of which must have been published in what is called high impact journals as defined by Thomson Reuters ISI and Web of Science.

In addition, he or she must have also published a minimum of 10 research articles in the past three years, again, in high impact journals as defined by Thomson Reuters ISI and Web of Science.

Besides, the candidate must have ability to attract international and research grants with evidence of having won and led at least 10 local and internationally funded researches.

Remarkably, the highlighted requirements did not go down well with groups and individuals who found it out of tune with reality and a subtle plot to award advantage to a particular discipline at the expense of others.

On August 17, 2021, the Osun State Chapter of the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) rose and addressed a press conference in Osogbo, the Osun State capital where they picked holes in the requirements, most particularly that which insisted on candidates having a doctorate degree from a recognised university.

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The Chairman of the NMA, Dr Rasak Akindele used the gathering to tutor the UNIOSUN authorities that PhD is equivalent to the first degree of Medicine, saying his members should not be robbed of their right of aspiration to the academic community highest office.

Akindele revealed that the University of Ibadan, despite its history of excellence, saw no reason in a PhD benchmark for applicants as contained in its recent advert in search of VC candidates.

“The doctors’ residency programmes take a minimum of four years to eight years to obtain the Fellowship, which is the highest academic and professional qualification to teach and practise Medicine. A doctor in residency for six to eight years would have completed three PhDs programme if he does them serially. The PhD is at par with the first degree of Medicine (MBBS).

“The National Postgraduate Medical College recently introduced the MD degree for medical trainees who may not be willing to complete the fellowship programme-an option lower than the fellowship degree academically. If a Medical Professor has undergone rigours of research, training and service to get to this position, it is quite irritating to say such a person cannot lead the university community to which he belongs,” he stated.

Among other prayers, Akindele, therefore, called for a fresh advertisement, “stating the possession of PhD or its equivalent certificate, including fellowship. In the alternative, the possession of PhD (should) be removed and replaced with ‘a scholar of international repute’ like that of the University of Ibadan.”

He continued, “The fresh advertisement should also include all external origin, bias and deliberate specifications that have no major bearing on the functions of the university chief executive as separate from only researchers in the university.”

In the same vein, another group, Concerned and Committed UNIOSUN Professors, had earlier, on August 10, 2021 come up with a letter to the Visitor of the university, who is the Governor of Osun State, Alhaji Gboyega Oyetola. The letter, which was sent through the Pro-chancellor of the university and Chairman of council, highlighted the professors’ points of disagreement with the selection requirements.

They amplified the NMA grouse over candidates’ possession of PhD, declaring it as a spit to fellowship degree holders in the medical field and denying them of right to the VC race.

It was further learnt that the same fellowship degree, which is said to be the highest degree for lecturers in the Basic Clinical Sciences and Clinical Sciences at the point of entry to lectureship in the university, is a flagship of the UNIOSUN from inception.

“The MBBS Degree Holders are appointed as lecturer II like PhD Degree Holders in all other fields that do not have MBBS as their primary Degree. This issue of deliberate exclusion of Medical Fellowship Degree Holders from the position of Vice-Chancellor has been generating a lot of furors over the years in many institutions,” it stated.

The letter clarified that the university establishment law of 2006 included doctorate Degree as a prerequisite qualification on account that the Planning and Implementation Committee of the university excluded medically qualified personnel ab inito, adding that the succeeding governing council, later respected judgement which followed the former Vice-Chancellor, Professor Basiru Okesina’s petition of being dropped from contest because of his not possessing a PhD. Okesina was the VC between 2013 and 2015.

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To further establish their defence, the professors referenced a litigation in the University of Jos over the PhD requirement, revealing thus: “An Appeal Court judgment nullified the PhD provision from the law establishing the University of Jos and we have documents to that effect. Suit number FHC/J/CS/23/2011 of NMA VS UNIJOS (Attachment 1).”

On Research Gate Score, it was learnt that the outgoing VC is equally deficient, having only 11 out of 15 Google scholar H-index and 284 out of 800 citations. The professors further asserted that no academic in the history of the university ever met such condition because of what it called reduction in the capacity of and declining interest in some disciplines such as Humanities, Law, Management and Social Sciences and Law.

They also submitted that the insistence on 50 research journal articles failed to note publications required to fix problem of insufficient textbooks in Nigerian higher institution of learning.

The concerned professors also argued that a Vice-Chancellor can only be made to attract funding not to scavenge for grants at all cost, disclosing that no Nigerian university places such restriction on the office of Vice-Chancellor.

“A survey of the advertisements of the University of Lagos; University of Ibadan; Obafemi Awolowo University; Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria; Bayero University, Kano; University of Benin; University of Nigeria, Nsukka and Lagos State University in the recent times justifies this position. None of the advertisements made by those Universities set such difficult requirements. (Attachment 3).

They contended that attracting such grant is restricted to Science-based disciplines, especially in Nigeria where TETfund is the only available national grant to all disciplines, adding that there are limited grant agencies for Humanities, Education, Management and Social Sciences and Law.

“Even then, disciplines have different rigours in accessing grants and so cannot be equally measured with the same yardsticks. Apart from fellowships, it seems impossible to have been able to access ten research grants, except in Science-based disciplines.

“Other locally based grant agencies like LNG, Shell Petroleum, Chevron and Central Bank of Nigeria Grants in Nigeria have focused on Science and Health based research recently. Where did the drafters expect the people from the Law, Education, Humanities, Management and Social Science-based candidates to have this requirement when many of our Universities are teaching-intensive?.”

From the foregoing among others, the agitated professors maintained that the resume of certain candidates had been used as template to deliberately shut the door against candidates from disciplines outside Science-based and “this is setting the stage for a crisis that the University may not find healthy.”

Thus, they called upon Governor Oyetola to exercise his power as the university visitor by insisting that the university establishment law of 2006 is enforced with his full executive power.

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“We urge our visitor to effect the withdrawal of the advertisement so far made and that a redraft be accomplished. The proposed new advert should place everybody on equal level and remove all legal infractions and draconian criteria mentioned above,” they recommended.

Similarly, the NMA demanded a new advertisement that will respect their prayers, stating “the fresh advertisement should also exclude all external origin, bias and deliberate specifications that have no major bearing on the functions of the university chief executive as separate from only a researcher in the university.”

Despite the sundry reactions, the school authorities, however, remain unperturbed and indeed firm on the said advertisement, asking the aggrieved to instead join the university management in its current efforts to move the institution forward.

According to the Public Relations Officer of the university, Mr. Ademola Adesoji, demand for scholarly articles and journals had no discrimination underlying against any disciplines, explaining that the requirement was drafted in a good faith according to the global standard.

Adesoji noted that the university was transparent in its requirements and cautioned the complainants not to compare the UNIOSUN with the Lagos State University (LASU), which, he revealed, operated a different law, and amended its requirements to accommodate certain categories of scholars in medical fields who were formerly excluded from application benefits.

Unambiguously, he stated that the criteria which the university used in selecting the Vice-Chancellor in 2016 are no longer tenable for the same office this time around because the university had to move with tide of the dynamic academic world.

He said, “If there are going to be any changes, the law has to be amended first.”

Notwithstanding, the authorities argument, tongue continues to wag that candidates outside the UNIOSUN were being prepared for the position, a plot which is considered to be an anathema to the ‘home lecturers’, who are said to have over the years, made sacrifice in building the university to its current status of producing many competent graduates.

A lecturer in the School of Management, who did not want his name in print, lamented the practice of bypassing his colleagues in favour of professors whom, he said, had no tie with the school. He compared the matter with that of one reaping where one did not sow any seed, berating old professors who would allegedly shun new universities and stay back at old generation university but later struggle for Vice-Chancellor position with those in new universities.

All eyes seem to be on Governor Oyetola, who is said to have been formally informed of the development but maintained a sealed lip over it.

A source, however, disclosed that the governor might not consider interference despite what he called pressure to break his silence, adding that the governor’s model of administration does not suggest he would dabble into that matter.

“But may be because election is around the corner now, His Excellency might do something to check the matter from becoming a major problem for his campaign,” the source remarked.

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