Guess it is appropriate to bring to the notice of Nigerians at home and abroad-if they don’t already know- that our Universities have remained without Governing Councils since Yar’adua dissolved the existing ones shortly after taking over power in 2007.
For a government that has been described as “go slow”, that has been in the process of carrying out a cabinet re-jig since May, that has re-scheduled the presentation of Budget 2009 on two occasions now not minding that we are barely a month to the end of the year, and which signed Budget 2008 into law over ten months into the year, this is not entirely surprising. It is however high time, we told them, we have had enough of their poverty of will and idea.
It is one thing to be inefficient and another thing to be a hypocrite. I think this government is both and in the most annoying of ways seems to take pride in it. From the date of its inauguration, we began to be fed with the gospel of “rule of law” which presupposed that all actions of Government including the operations of her institutions shall be carried out with strict obedience to all prescribed laws governing such an institution and with total recourse to due process. Beyond the pages of Mr. Presidents speeches or put more appropriately, the figments of the thoughts of his speech writers, nothing worthy of note has happened to give credence to the lofty goal.
For example, what justification visa vise the rule of law noise does the government have for its failure to reconstitute the Governing Councils of our ailing Universities till date? Does the law not provide for the existence of Governing Councils to supervise the operations of Universities? Or have Yar’adua and his lieutenants simply forgotten their responsibilities or is it that in the scheme of things, our universities are not considered important and thus simply not worthy of attracting Mr. Presidents attention?
I can take it if it were just an act of omission in which case we would have simply added it to the long list of brazen cases of inefficiency this administration is now notorious for, but to fail so woefully at such an important and simple task which is provided for by law and still daily foul the airwaves and the pages of our dailies with talks of “rule of law” is not just inefficiency, it is hypocrisy and that is what this Government is.
It is common knowledge that Governing Councils are germane to the proper and efficient running of Universities. It is bad enough to note that our universities (even as Yar’adua himself noted recently during the University of Ibadan anniversary) are far from being decent institutions of learning and are trailing behind in the roll call of their pairs world over due to years of mismanagement, neglect and policy failure. To leave the management of these universities entirely to the discretion of our often directionless, power drunk and crisis loving Vice chancellors is to be literarily condemning them to final balkanization and collapse.
In case he is not yet aware, I wish to take up the task of informing Mr. President that the continued absence of Governing Councils has led to a situation on our universities where such very sensitive issues such as financial accountability, Career progression and promotion as well as issues of discipline have been greatly abused and in case he equally can not deduce from the above, let me also add that the current situation gives room for all sorts of crises in the ivory towers, a situation I don’t want to believe is part of his eight sleeping agenda.
I am not long out of the University and so I think I am in a good position to appropriately capture in words the level of decay the system is suffering from much of which is a direct product of failed leadership which brews such other sundry issues as Union unrest, rivalry, allegations and counter allegations, students unrest, infrastructure decay, and so on which culminates in leaving the universities on their kneels.
Absence of Governing Councils I must state here is by no means the only problem of our Universities, indeed, it is not even the most important, but its absence leaves a vacuum that prevents the proper balancing of the leadership structure of varsities and an abuse of the law which provides for their existence with clearly spelt out responsibilities.
I am aware that appointments to Governing Councils just like appointments into Boards of government agencies are a means of political settlement. I wish to therefore before hand, beg Mr. President- just in case he takes heed to my plea and decides to do his long neglected job- to save us the trauma of having contract seeking, semi literate, re-cycled politicians as members of University boards. It’s been the practice, and needless to state that it failed us. It wouldn’t be an entirely bad idea if we tried other options this time. By this I mean, assembling morally upright, experienced and intellectually sound Nigerians not anything like the ministerial list he just sent to the senate.
Rule of Law, if I get Mr President right suggests that, things should be done the way the law has said they should be done. If I got that right, then this request should not be too much for Mr President. On behalf of the Nigerian academia, students and concerned citizens (which I belong to) please, reconstitute Governing Councils for our Universities. It is rule of law.
Sylva Nze Ifedigbo