IS THE VICE CHANCELLOR POSITION IN UNIVERSITY OF CALABAR FOR SALE?

Prof Francis E. Bisong…in the VC’s race

BY PRINCE ADIM ONOYOM

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 suggest that if there is a failure in leadership or dysfunctional state of affairs in any society, the teachers in the ivory tower should ordinarily be held responsible.

Therefore, this implies that the process of selecting 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 mundane sentiments.

However, what is now worrisome is the great caprice and a tendency of the ivory towers to learn the dirty politics and mudslinging of the larger polity, rather than these citadels of learning being the moral and ethical standard bearers for the rest of society.

It is noteworthy that leaders of the ivory tower, hitherto known for their astute integrity and high moral proclivity, have continued to enjoy goodwill from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), with invitation to serve as Returning Officers for major elections. But if the process of appointing the Vice Chancellor for any university is perceived to be skewed; marred by irregularities and the ‘highest bidder takes it all’, then what hope is there for the wider Nigerian polity?

On the 27th of May, 2020, the print media was awash with 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; and Professor Kelvin Ettah just to mention a few. Nothing was heard or known about irregularities and exchange of money. But in the last two administrative dispensations, it has been alleged that, ‘cash and carry’ and massive movement of ‘Ghana-must-go‘ bags played significant roles in the appointment and sustenance of the administrations.

According to reliable sources, about 17 million Naira was involved at a time while about 40 million was involved at another time. This is aside the huge amount of monies sent to Abuja and other ‘important and influential’ quarters at different times to sustain the highly cherished position of Vice Chancellor that was allegedly bought off the shelves of those that ‘run things’ and determine who captures the prized Vice Chancellor crown.

Today, the stakes seem higher and no one is sure how much would be involved as game changer for the 2020 contest. However, the only question still begging for answer remains; “Is the position of Vice Chancellor for the University of Calabar for sale?”

The ASUU-UCB Role

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 reliable sources that prefer anonymity is rather disturbing.

Instead of maintaining and defending the values of the ivory tower, the ASUU-UCB is currently embroiled in alleged sinister moves and manoeuvering over who becomes the next Unical’s Vice Chancellor. It is alleged that certain past Chairmen of ASUU-UCB and some members of the University Governing Council have constituted themselves into dutiful ‘bag carriers’ for the sneaky transactions.

However, it is not certain if one of the immediate past chairmen of ASUU-UCB, who is also currently a member of the University Governing Council, would be fully involved as a courier of funds meant for purchasing the Vice Chancellor’s position.

For now, the world is watching in 3D, how the process of appointing a new Vice Chancellor for the University of Calabar would play out this time around. Indeed, 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”

No doubt, every well-meaning stakeholder in the University of Calabar project, will not hesitate to agree that let the ‘best’ candidate, who satisfies the requirements for the exalted position of Vice Chancellor, emerge to run the affairs of this Nigeria’s second generation University.

Prince Adim Onoyom is a Public Affairs commentator and writes from Calabar, the Cross River State capital

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