UI: Acting VC Prof Adebola Ekanola And The Need For A New Narrative

“What you do has far greater impact than what you say”—Stephen Covey

It is nothing but the truth that tensed issues are not resolved in a hurry. When the process of the appointment of the 13th University of Ibadan Vice-Chancellor began, there was high curiosity from the public—for the university catches attention from all spheres of life—as to who would emerge victorious especially with the calibre of professors who jostled for the position. There were guesses and calculations as to who would win. The public wanted to know.

The process, however, started to suffer some setbacks when there were clamours that Ibadan indigenes should be appointed as the next vice-chancellor as against meritocracy which has often defined the process. These clamours were followed by nation-wide rebuttals as to why the sentimental agitations would not come true in the first and best university.

The process further grew sour when there were allegations from different groups within the university and outside that the immediate past vice-chancellor, Prof Olayinka planned to impose a certain professor as his successor. This was perhaps the last straw that broke the camel’s back. As more petitions were written, the federal government waded in, ordering a restart of the process and the appointment of an acting vice-chancellor. It is by this order that Prof Adebola Ekanola assumed the mantle of leadership.

Prof Olayinka’s exit came with people praising his achievements and others condemning him. University members praised him for his tenacity. Afterall, the fact that the university improved in its global academic ranking during his tenure is an achievement even Prof Olayinka’s dissenters would credit to him.

Despite this, members of the university chapter of Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) and Non-Academic Staff University (NASU) did not think he deserved to be sent forth with style as they gave him a ‘symbolic farewell’.  These groups who have been in constant battles with him during his tenure likened him to the infamous dictator, Sani Abacha. Some past university students also called him all sorts of unprintablenames harping that the university is now free after his exit.

Leaders often reflect on their actions and inactions after they are out of power. They judge their performances to see what they did, should do and should not have done, and Prof Olayinka is not exempted from this reflection.

Prof Ekanola appointment came with a sigh of relief. It was indeed a relief because the vice-chancellorship crisis would have plunged the universityinto further disarray. His appointment was celebrated widely—from those who believe he would drive the university to further progress, from those who are happy an Ibadan-man is an acting vice-chancellor and from others.

 Prof Ekanola has a huge task before him; unfortunately, there is not much time on his side. He would have to prove his worth by maintaining and improving the global academic performance of the university, seeing to the needs of the academic community, resolving any crisis that would paint the university in bad light as well as avoiding any past mistakes of his predecessors.

He would also have to put measures in place to avoid constant face-offs with workers on campus, especially the SSANU and NASU. He would have to listen to their clamours and be responsive to them the more. The effects of these groups’ industrial actions are not only devastating to the students; they also give the university bad names and frustrate the tenure of the incumbent head.

If Prof Ekanola also does not also want a ‘symbolic farewell’ like his predecessor, he must reign with balance—ensuring all parties are adequately catered for to the best of his abilities. The vice-chancellor has already taken proactive steps by meeting with the groups and has promised there would be a better communication so pressing issues would be collectively resolved.

As students, we hope we can relate better with Prof Ekanola. We hope to see him respond effectively and effectively to our plights a soon as we clamour for them or even before. We hope we would be able to express our grievances without fear of being sanctioned. We hope he would drive the students to further academic progress by putting plans in place to aid their academic growth. We also hope he would see to the students’ health by making the Jaja Clinic more responsive to the students. Prof Ekanola would have to priotise the students’ needs. For a man who says he “wants to qualify for Heaven,” we expect more and many more from him.

We also hope the issue of insecurity would be addressed and there would be an everlasting solution to the crime rates on campus. The students must be adequately protected as it is a strange development for students to live in fear while on campus. We hope more security personnel would be employed and stringent security measures would be in place. This would not only be of tremendous benefit for the students alone, but for all.

Freedom of the press has been a constant worry in the university, as campus journalists are scared of writing on issues that relate to the university community. We however hope that this would not be the case under Prof Ekanola. We strongly believe that writing on major concerns within the university community is to draw the attention of necessary authorities to address them and not to indict or condemn. We hope campus journalists would enjoy at full liberty the freedom of the press without the fear of being penalized—which is fast becoming unstrange. We hope the university would be more friendly and accommodating, and campus journalists would not used as scapegoats.

Six months is not too short to make a mark especially when the leader has his plans and is working towards implementing them as soon as the time ticks. Since all eyes are on Prof Ekanola as to what he would do differently, we hope he is working towards changing the narrative of the University for the best. His praises have been sung at the time he assumed the position with staff and students of the university attesting to his dynamism and excellent leadership qualities. We hope the university will have a renewed energy under his watch and in six months’ time, we hope history would be favourable to him. We wish him all the best.

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