External members of the Governing Council of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State have petitioned President Muhammadu Buhari over the dissolution of the varsity Council.
Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of Council of the university, Prof. Rowland Ndoma-Egba, signed the letter on behalf of four others including Arc Omoyele Daniel, Chief Moses Otazi, Hon. Tajjani Goni Guzamala and Barrister S.I. Ameh (SAN).
The name of the representative of the Federal Ministry of Education in the council, Ms Ann Ebun Haruna, was also listed.
Entitled “In the service of our country” the letter was dated 8th July, 2016 and addressed to President Muhammadu Buhari.
The OAU Governing Council inaugurated in February 2013 still has about two years to serve before it was terminated “with immediate effect” by the fiat of the Federal Ministry of Education on July 1, 2016.
The Pro-Chancellor said that they were astonished to hear over the mass media including advertorial that their Council together with that of the University of Port Harcourt had been dissolved “with immediate effect” on July 1, 2016.
He noted that they were unfortunately unable to say why the OAU Council was dissolved since the advertorial did not say so.
The Council members, he said, felt obliged that it is in the interest of their integrity given the high confidence reposed in them by government to adduce the possible reasons for the dissolution of the Council.
On why the Council was dissolved, he noted that they should perhaps present their own side of the story since there are always two sides to a story.
Ndoma-Egba said, “We are left with no other option than this since we were not queried or given the opportunity to defend ourselves before the punishment was meted out. Perhaps as free citizens saddled with such high social responsibility, we deserved more. Our objective is not to challenge government action but to leave a written permanent record of events that probably led to the dissolution of OAU Council.”
The Pro-Chancellor noted that the immediate cause of the dissolution of the OAU Governing must be the appointment of the 11th Vice Chancellor of the university.
He said that the term of office of the incumbent Vice Chancellor, Pro. Bamidele Omole, was to end on 23, June 2016.
He added that the appointment of VCs in any federal university ought not to be “rocket science” because the Federal Ministry of Education produced in conjunction with the National Universities Commission “a complete, detailed directory on how it should be done.”
The Pro-Chancellor said that using the FME guide, Council set out a due process that will ensure that a VC elect emerged by April 12, 2016 to allow the VC elect to understudy the incumbent VC for a period of approximately two months before taking over.
He outlined the steps the Council took to ensure that a VC elect emerged seamlessly including December 15-17, 2015, advertisement of vacancy with clearly spelt out criteria/ template for candidates that befits the status, age and international standing of OAU.
On January 28, 2016, he said that special Council meeting to select chairman of “The search team” who must be an external member of Council, was held where Chief Moses Otazi was unanimously selected; January 28, 2016 closure of application for VC; February 1, 2016 search team commended activities, March 7, 2016, search team concluded its activities after visiting over ten universities and over 90 professor head-hunted.
He said that there was no external applicant in spite of search.
The Pro-Chancellor said that on March 8, 2016, Council met to consider and short-list applications already submitted by interested candidates using advert template for the short-listing process.
He noted that before opening the boxes containing applications, Council debated the criteria and decided on the weighing of each of the criteria while before the scoring began, the cut-off point for short-listing was also agreed upon.
He said that at the end of the short-listing exercise, six candidates were short-listed, in “alphabetical order and without scores in the recommendation of the selection board.”
He added, “On 7th April, 2016, while waiting to commence the interaction/interview, two unions SSANU and NASU who had been on strike for some ‘allowances and palliatives’ from the outgoing administration, turned their vengeance towards the Joint Council and Senate Selection Board.
“It would seem at this point that all efforts were being harnessed to frustrate the Selection Board. It would seem that the strike action was hijacked and further sponsored by some vested interests who did not want the due process to continue. It would also seem that the delay tactics were aimed at enabling SSANU and NASU to get a court injunction to stop the process.”
The Pro-Chancellor noted that on persuasion by the varsity administration, a meeting of Council was summoned at the varsity International Conference Centre to consider the aborted interaction process at 11.30pm.
He said, “It is amazing that the SSANU and NASU strikers became severely violent and restive. When I called out to the incumbent VC to call the Police, he said the Police Commissioner refused to answer. It even became more serious when I asked him to call State Security Service and the VC said the SSS feared that the workers could be armed and so will not come. At this point (12.30am), I had to call Ooni of Ife, His Royal Majesty, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi, Ojaja 11.”
According to him, “That the External (Council) members are alive to tell this story owes everything to the concern and bravery of the Ooni of Ife. That the security services abandoned us to the whims and caprices of the irate, wild and violent workers cannot be acceptable.”
Following the incident, he said that Council decided on advice to hold future meetings of the Selection Board in Abuja for security reasons.
Ndoma-Egba asked, “Is somebody saying that having faced this ordeal as hostages, and having been abandoned by the security services, we deserve to be dissolved as a reward. Our witness is His Royal Majesty the Ooni of Ife who deserves a special national honours for saving our lives. We have not been communicated, there was no invitation.
We were dismissed just like that through radio, television and advertorial. Is it true that there are people above the law? Who is it that just sat down and say just dismiss them.”
He noted that probably the candidates who felt that they would not emerge successful and some others who were not short-listed may have engineered the action against the Selection Board.
The Pro-Chancellor said that a new VC appointed by the Council had already been recognised because the law says “Council shall appoint.”
He regretted that “They are now going to appoint another person to cause mayhem and possible blood shed.”
“There is no provision for acting VC, there is no provision for interim VC. Why should you dissolve the Council when the conditions for dissolving the Council are laid down either for corruption, mismanagement or incompetence. If we were dissolved for any of the above, we should be told.”
He also said that if the Council was in contempt of any court, the court has the resources to sanction them.
Ndoma-Egba attached a letter dated 18th May, 2016 by the Federal Ministry of Education which asked the Council to ensure due process in the appointment of a new VC for OAU.
He also attached another letter by the Federal Character Commission dated 20th June, 2016 which gave the Council certificate of compliance as an authority to issue letter of appointment to Professor Ayobami Taofeek Salami, as substantive VC of the OAU.