Proposal for change in federal varsities’ administration -By Dr. Michael Omolayole

Filed under: Educational Issues |
University of Ibadan main gate

University of Ibadan main gate

 

Introduction: About two weeks ago, I wrote an essay with the title: Proposal for a desirable change in the administration of federal universities starting with the governing council.

At the time the essay was written, the announcement concerning the dissolution of all boards of federal parastatals was presumed to include the governing councils of all federal universities. A subsequent public announcement indicated that the governing councils of federal universities are not included in the earlier announcement for the time being. The implication is that the dissolution of the governing councils of federal universities will come later. Therefore, all the points made in the earlier essay reproduced below are still valid. The essay goes as follows:

Sudden administrative decision concerning the dissolution of the governing councils of federal universities tends to happen with unfailing regularity in our dear country. Sometimes the frequency of the change is as often as once in two or three years. The longest tenure of governing councils of the most federal universities is four years. What I really cannot understand is why a governing council should be dissolved when the government is not ready with a complete list of the members of the new council.

Everybody knows that nature abhors a vacuum. Therefore, asking the vice chancellor to administer the university as a ‘sole authority’ in the absence of a governing council is putting too much temptation in the way of a human being no matter how intellectually endowed he or she may be. In the past, many cases of mismanagement arose out of the ‘sole authority’ syndrome, particularly in the management of funds and human resources. It is egregious in the present situation in Nigeria when there is no federal minister of education to oversee what is going on. The universities and tertiary institutions play a vital role in the development of any country. Therefore, the vacuum arising out of the dissolution of the councils of universities should be filled with deliberate speed. The most urgent consideration is the appointment of a committed, virtuous and selfless chairmen of the governing councils.

In this context, I have certain suggestions. The first is that the appointment of the chairman of the governing council of a university must not be seen as a reward for party membership. Most party members appointed as members of governing councils of universities consider it as a punishment since the institutions are not regarded as financially juicy. The second is that the university would be much better served if a dedicated virtuous and service-oriented alumnus or alumna of each university can be found without regards to any class – to occupy the post, mainly to render service and not as a reward for party activities or possession of a party membership card.

It is pertinent to take the University of Ibadan, of which I am an alumnus (1948), as an example. In my opinion, it is uncontroversial and incontestable that two alumni Dr. Gameliel Onosode and Dr. Felix Ohiwerei, who were chairmen of the governing council of the university for some years within the last 20 years, were star performers. It is obvious that alumni of universities, who are eminent, virtuous and selfless, demonstrate unmistakably their dedication and commitment to an institution just as a child venerates the name and legacy of his or her parents. There is a natural affinity between the individuals and the institutions which are often referred to as alma mater.

Consequently, at this stage of our political and economic development when financial resources are very scarce, the government should look for credible and well regarded alumni/alumnae of the federal universities for appointment as chairpersons of the governing councils of federal universities. It is however advised that a former employee of any particular university should not be appointment as chairman of governing council of that university in other to avoid conflict of interest.

The second vital point I want to make is that the dissolution of a governing council is unnecessary simply because the Federal Government wants to change those council members that represent its interest. Invariably, those members are few. They could be replaced without dissolving the whole council. An external member of council with the longest service on council e.g president of the alumni association could be made an acting chairman before a substantive chairman is appointed. In that way the continuity of the council is preserved and a situation of “sole authority” is avoided.

I believe these suggestions will help to improve corporate governance in federal universities. As a stakeholder, I want the implementation of these suggestions to start as soon as possible. I have declared my interest and started a discussion. I hope other alumni of Nigerian universities will join in the debate.

Dr. Omolayole, the first Nigerian Chief Executive Officer of Lever Brothers wrote in from Apapa, Lagos

 

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