The Federal University Oye-Ekiti, (FUOYE) is one of the 11 universities established by former President Goodluck Jonathan in 2011 to address increasing demand for university education and ensure federal balancing in the states. Since its establishment, the young citadel of learning has been bogged down by the seemingly unending crises occasioned by the activities of the different unions operating on campus.
The unions, including the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU), Non-Academic Staff Union (NASU) and the National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT) have had their different share of activism, which has led to the disruption of peace in the young institution. However, while the local chapter of ASUU has remained relatively peaceful, the zonal chapter of the union has remained very combative and consistently engaged the management, led by the outgoing vice chancellor, Prof. Kayode Soremekun, in war of attrition.
The leadership of the zonal chapter has been up in arms against FUOYE’s management shortly after its establishment. The genesis of the crisis between the management and zonal ASUU, according to a staff of FUOYE, was the indefinite suspension of the erstwhile chairman of the local chapter of the union, Dr. Gabriel Akinyemi Omonijo in 2018 for alleged misconduct.
The official disclosed that ASUU local chapter was embroiled in a crisis of confidence, which led to the impeachment of Omonijo, an action that was resisted by the zonal leadership. The zonal leaders threw their weight behind the embattled Omonijo as they faulted his removal by some academics in the institution. The backing of Omonijo by ASUU led to the fictionalization of the union, as some academic staff, who were angered by the alleged meddlesomeness of the zonal leadership pulled out to join the break-away faction- Congress of University Academics (CONUA).
The zonal ASUU started the efforts to get Omonijo’s suspension lifted through subtle appeal to the management, but the efforts did not yield the desired results, as Omonijo had gone to court to challenge his suspension. Speaking on the genesis of the crisis, Prof Sola Omotola of the Concerned ASUU (CASUU) group on campus, said the decision by the zonal leaders to take sides with the embattled Omonijo was the genesis of the crisis in the institution.
“For us, impeaching Omonijo was the only way to make progress; that is where we stand. ASUU congress had met in October 2018, and resolved that Omonijo must be removed. The motion was moved and the resolution taken to that effect, but efforts to realise that was sabotaged by Prof Olufisayo Olu, the zonal leader, because he stopped the letter we sent to ASUU’s national executive committee. “Despite this, we insisted that the congress is supreme and decided to assert its supremacy by proceeding with the impeachment and on that, we stand,” Prof Omotola said. But in a counter move, Prof Olu, called on the Federal Government to set up a panel of inquiry to probe the alleged illegal recruitments of staff and other corruption-related issues at the institution. Prof Olu accused the outgoing vice chancellor of appointing people into the rank of professors without acquiring Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) certificates, alleging that the beneficiaries of these illegal appointments were allegedly paid outrageous salaries. The ASUU chief described the action as a flagrant violation of the statute establishing Nigerian universities. It also alleged that some academic staff was receiving double salaries, while some were given undue accelerated promotion.
But Prof Soremekun justified his action, saying all appointments; promotion and recruitment done by the management were ratified by the university’s governing council. Rather than peddle what he called “unsubstantiated rumour”, the Vice Chancellor challenged the zonal body to make public, any evidence of fraud or act of favouritism. On the deduction of pension, Prof Soremekun clarified that the university was not responsible for the deduction of pensions, as it is done from source at the office of the Accountant General of the Federation in Abuja. From 2018 till date, the zonal ASUU has consistently held on to its position that a visitation panel should be set up by the Ministry of Education to visit the institution and investigate the sundry allegations against the institution’s management. Though Prof Olu has maintained that there was nothing personal in the allegations levelled against FUOYE’s management, some lecturers in the institution who appeared fed up with consistent attacks on the school, threatened litigation against ASUU over alleged meddlesomeness in the affairs of the university. The lecturers, under the aegis of “Forum of Concerned Academics” (FCA), led by their chairman, Prof Shola Omotola accused the zonal body of prosecuting a personal agenda and vendetta against FUOYE. “For those who have shown keen interest in the evolution and metamorphosis of this matter, one thing that readily comes across is the way ASUU kept shifting the foundations of its allegations, all the press conferences by the zonal executive, were, to say the least, utterly aimed at destroying, if not ‘kill’ our university,” Prof Omotola said. But ASUU stood its ground by asking the aggrieved lecturers to support its call for auditing of the university if they have confidence in the outgoing VC and its management. The festering crisis took yet a different dimension recently, when ASUU accused Prof Soremekun of alleged plot to impose his candidate, Prof Abayomi Fasina, the Deputy Vice Chancellor, Administration as successor, in an attempt to jettison the selection process and allegedly cover up his activities.
No fewer than 70 Professors applied for the position of the vice chancellor, including nine who have held principal positions in the university since its establishment. The list includes, Professors Adebimtan; Adeniji Aganga; Prof. Ajayi Omolehin; and Sunday Abayomi.
Others are professors Olugbenga Amu, Olajide Lawal, Prof. Olajide Oladele and E. Alabadan. Initially, nine candidates were shortlisted for the top job and were eventually pruned to three, among whom the vice chancellor will be picked. The last three are Fasina, Oladele and Lawal. They are all from FUOYE.
But ASUU faulted Fasina’s emergence and accused the outgoing Soremekun of plotting to impose his stooge as successor. Prof Olu accused Fasina of allegedly absconding from Ekiti State University (EKSU) where he was lecturing in 2015, for FUOYE, and collected double salaries running into millions from the two universities for about six months. Therefore, ASUU said Fasina lacks the requisite integrity to be appointed vice chancellor.
He said, “Fasina was on sabbatical at FUOYE between January 2, 2015 to December 31, 2015. He sought for, and got an extension to utilise his deferred accumulated leave still at FUOYE between January 4 and September 22, 2016. He duly returned to EKSU on September 23, 2016 and later absconded in the same month till now.”
He also alleged that in the advertorial calling for application for the position of vice chancellor, Professors from state universities were shut out from applying. “We won’t resort to brigandage, but we will continue to speak against despotism, disorderliness, brutishness and arm-twisting at FUOYE. We call on President Muhammadu Buhari to urgently stop the impunity and the attempt to institutionalise it at FUOYE.
The lecturers however faulted the allegation of maladministration by the management, accusing the zonal body of deliberate plot to destabilise the young university. They wondered why ASUU always focuses on FUOYE when there are more troubling issues in other member-institutions. The duo of Prof Omotola and Ayodeji Ige tasked ASUU to put its house in order, by resolving the crisis that has split the union at the local branch into four factions. “Prof. Olu should know that in FUOYE, we have four factions of ASUU: Congress of Nigerian Academics (CONUA), New Academic Staff Union (NASUF), Concerned Academic Staff Union of Universities (CASUU), and the impeached Omonijo faction.” The group wondered why the zonal body made accusations against the outgoing vice chancellor and the management, when the process for the appointment of a new helmsman for the institution has not been concluded. “If not for mischief, over 60 candidates have applied for the position of vice chancellor and the process of selection is ongoing, how then can anyone accuse Soremekun of imposition when nobody has been selected? We challenge Prof Olu to tell the whole world how the vice chancellor of his university emerged, was the process fair and credible? Why was he silent then and failed to raise alarm?”
The man at the centre of the current accusation, Prof. Fasina, in his reaction to the allegation that he was not qualified as a professor, said his appointment followed due process and had the approval of the Federal Character Commission who witnessed the interview. Fasina stated: “After my sabbatical leave, it was clear I still had some workloads to complete and I had to use my accumulated leave to complete them. Shortly after, l was appointed a Visiting Professor to FUOYE. Later, the vice chancellor found me useful in other important areas, such as administration and security matters on campus, and asked me to apply for permanent appointment. I was interviewed and the representative of federal character commission was present at the interview. The commission also gave a letter of compliance to back up my appointment. This made me to transfer my service from Ekiti State University (EKSU) to FUOYE in September 2017.
Mr Salaudeen Sulaiman said the choice of a vice chancellor in universities has been politicised for a long time. He lamented that in some cases, the most powerful professor, who is not necessarily the most senior or most qualified, gets the plum job.
Sulaiman noted that the politics of the choice of vice chancellor was a reflection of how bad the situation has become in Nigeria, wondering if the situation can ever improve.
A legal practitioner, Femi Olajide, said the process for the selection of a vice chancellor would remain compromised as long as politicians determine who becomes the VC.
He said: “We are in the democratic era, is it wrong for lecturers from the university to vote for a preferred professor to become the vice chancellor? How can somebody in Abuja determine the most suitable for VC in FUOYE? The current process allows manipulation and compromise.” As the controversies continue, a new vice chancellor ought to be named for the troubled institution before end of the month. – The Guardian.