Politics Of Succession Divides University Of Uyo | Independent Newspapers Nigeria

 The announcement of Pro­fessor Nnyaudo Ndaeyo as the incoming Vice Chancellor of the Uni­versity of Uyo has continued to generate controversy, dividing the university community into two with the chairman of the Governing Council, Professor Austin Awujoh heading to Abuja to explain situations.

The Registrar and Secretary to Council, Mr. Aniediabasi Udofia, in a statement on Tues­day, announced Prof. Ndaeyo as in-coming Vice Chancellor claiming that the decision was reached at the meeting of the in­stitution’s Governing Council; but the chairman of the Coun­cil, Prof Awujoh is insisting that the result of the interview pan­el which Prof Edet Udoh scored the highest remains the only official, reliable and acceptable result for the position which will become vacant on December 1, 2020.

The incumbent Vice Chan­cellor, Professor Enefiok Essien (SAN) is expected to vacate the of­fice on December 1, this year but the politics of succession, which has become a festering sore in Nigerian universities in recent times, has divided the univer­sity community into two major camps; a development which has attracted the attention of the au­thorities in Abuja.

The camps in the universi­ty are formed behind Professor Udoh who seems to have the back­ing of the Governing Council and Professor Ndaeyo, who seem to have the backing of the outgoing Vice Chancellor and some mem­bers of the University’s Senate. Both camps are quoting the law governing the process of appoint­ing and removing a VC and other principal officers of federal uni­versities

The law governing the process of appointing and removing a VC and other principal officers of federal universities is the Universities (Miscellaneous Pro­visions) Act 1993 as amended. It states: “The Council shall select and appoint as the Vice-Chancel­lor one candidate from among the three candidates recommended to it under subsection (3) of this section and thereafter inform the Visitor.’’

Although the controversy is said to stem largely from the un­willingness of the Chairman of Council to follow the said law, in­siders say the action of the Vice Chancellor and some members of the University’s Senate is to block Prof. Udoh coming in as the Vice Chancellor because they are not comfortable with his very strict nature.

“He will be difficult to influ­ence or manipulate,” they fear.

Professor Udoh is also said to be a young intellectual who obtained his professorship at a relatively young age, a situation those who did so at a much older age are not comfortable with, as he would thus end up with excep­tional credentials.

“Some of these professors see professorship as a cult which ranking should be guarded jeal­ously and not be diminished by young initiates. It is a gang-up by the old people,” one of the lectur­ers apparently behind Prof Udoh said.

A five member Joint Selec­tion Board on October 5, 2020, was said to have conducted an interview where Professor Udoh received the highest score.

Three of the selection board members were from the Govern­ing Council which included the chairman, as well as two mem­bers appointed by the Vice Chan­cellor, excluding himself.

The University had adver­tised for the position to fill a vacancy that would be created when the incumbent concludes his tenure on December 1, 2020.

Sunday Independent gathered that the Selection Board had pre­sented the three candidates with the highest score – Prof Udoh (90), Prof Ndaeyo (86) and Prof Gabriel Sunday Umoh (70), to the Council.

All three are from the Faculty of Agriculture. The Governing Council, comprising the Chair­man and 12 other members was said to have met and in a secret ballot and reportedly chose Prof Ndaeyo as the new Vice Chan­cellor.

Prof. Ndaeyo was said to have scored nine votes and Prof. Udoh four votes. Prof Umoh did not have any vote. Disagreement started at this point as the Chairman of Council washed his hands off the process and refused to sign the minutes.

He was said to have insisted he never announced the pur­ported winner as claimed by Prof. Ndaeyo’s camp because the voting was not necessary in the first place since a clear winner had emerged from the interview.

According to him, such a ballot could only have been necessary where there was a tie during the interview, which was not the case here. The an­nouncement of Ndaeyo as the Vice-chancellor-in-waiting by the Registrar was therefore without his consent, he claimed.

In an interview in Uyo, on Tuesday, Prof. Awujoh, explained that the interview process was fairly and democratically con­ducted for the best candidate to emerge.

He was therefore surprised that the outcome of the contest was rejected by the management of the institution led by the out­going VC, Prof. Essien.

His words: “After the inter­view for the 10 candidates who were cleared for the final round of the contest, three candidates were outstanding. Prof. Edet Udoh, of the Department of Ag­ricultural Economics scored a total of 90 percent; Prof. Nnyau­doh Ndaeyo, the current Deputy Vice Chancellor, polled 86 per­cent while Prof. Gabriel Umoh, also of the Department of Agric Economics, scored 70 percent.”

The outcome, according to him, was rejected by the out­going Vice Chancellor and his supporters, leading to the voting that is now in dispute, a develop­ment he said, was not recognised by the extant laws governing the institution.

Following the decision of the outgoing Vice Chancellor and others not to accept the out­come of the official interview in which Prof. Edet scored the highest and the controversy which the action was bound to throw up, the chairman was said to have intimated the Executive Secretary of the National Uni­versities Commission (NUC), Prof. Abubakar Rasheed.

“When I put the call through that I was under pressure to an­nounce the second person, Prof. Ndaeyo, as the winner, the NUC Executive Secretary instructed that a meeting of the Council should be immediately convened to announce the right person, Prof. Edet, who was objectively selected on merit, having scored the highest in the interview.

“Surprisingly, the outgoing VC and others who are in sup­port of his candidate, Prof. Ndaeyo, shunned the Council meeting which was to publicly announce and declare Prof. Edet, as the new UNIUYO VC.

“Based on this development, the Permanent Secretary at the Fed­eral Ministry of Education, also called me, and I am going to pres­ent the matter before the Minister of Education, Prof. Adamu Ada­mu, for final ratification”, he said.

A commentator said the devel­opment has become common in the university system and is one of the monsters thrown up by the autonomy which the univer­sity system demanded and was obliged.

“This is the monster that the autonomy of universities has brought upon the system. The internal contradictions within a particular university now dictates the leadership and not merit. Any successful gang-up can throw up anything within the system now under the cover of autonomy. They wanted it, they should live with it,” he said.

Before the law was amended following the agitation for auton­omy for the university system, the Visitor to the University was required to pick from three recom­mended candidates who should be appointed as Vice Chancellor; but the amended version cedes such power to the Governing Council of the respective universities.

Mr. Bem Goong, Director of Press, Federal Ministry of Edu­cation, failed to respond to en­quiries on the issue, as at press time.

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