Since the establishment of the Federal University, Oye Ekiti, the institution has been jumping from one crisis to the other, the latest being the move to remove the Registrar, Mr. Daniel Adeyemo. In this report, Raheem Akingbolu examines the genesis of the crisis and the debate trailing the purported sack
The establishment of the Federal University, Oye Ekiti (FUOYE) six years ago, alongside other universities was celebrated by many Nigerians, who thought Ekiti State was due for a federal institution, given its legendary status in promoting educational values.
But not long after the pronouncement of its establishment, two communities in the state, Oye and Ikole Ekiti, threw caution into the winds and began to lay claim to the location of the school. Before the then Kayode Fayemi administration and federal government decided to site part of the institution in Ikole with the main campus in Oye Ekiti, the issue had resorted into war between the two communities and claimed lives.
Professor Chinedu Nebo, a former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka was appointed as pioneer Vice-Chancellor of FUOYE. He was to serve for five years, but this was not to be as he was later appointed by former President Goodluck Jonathan as Minister of Power. This opened the door for another eminent scholar, Prof. Uzoma Asuzu, who was also designed to spend five years. Again, he was summarily dismissed and replaced by the current Vice- Chancellor, Prof. Kayode Soremekun.
On assumption of office, Asuzu had confidently told reporters when asked of his vision for FUOYE, that by the time he finished with his term of five years, it would be the best in the country and be able to compete with first generation universities. The dream died with his removal from office.
With Soremekunâ€™s appointment, stakeholders thought the institution would begin to enjoy smooth administration, but since the assumption of office of the Ogun State born professor, crisis has almost remained the second name of the university. Few months after he took over, workers commenced an indefinite strike over alleged victimization, intimidation and non-payment of hazard allowances. The workers carried out the protest under the aegis of the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities, (SSANU), Non-Academic Staff Union, (NASU) and National Association of Academic Technologists, (NAAT).
The workers, who held an emergency congress around the institutionâ€™s gate, accused the management of sitting on the promotion of those employed at the inception of the institution. They alleged that the newly-employed ones were however promoted. The NAAT Chairman, Ekundayo Ajibaye, demanded the immediate withdrawal of queries issued to them and dissolution of panels allegedly set up by the university to intimidate the workers.
He also said the workers wanted the university management to immediately constitute the Budget Monitoring Committee that would look into cases of alleged financial impropriety levelled against the institution.
â€œWe are fighting impunity and corruption, which is at its peak in FUOYE and we want the federal government to beam its searchlight on its management.â€
The Chairman of NASU, Mr. Dada Adebayo, said the workers resorted to the industrial action because the management allegedly reneged on the agreement it reached with the unions after the last crisis in January. The Chairman of SSANU, Mr. Babafunso Awe, accused the management of being insensitive to the workersâ€™ plights, saying that they wonâ€™t back down until all their demands were met.
The crisis however took a new turn when Soremekun fought back and introduced a political dimension to it, accusing the state Governor, Ayo Fayose of fuelling the crisis by instigating the workers against the management.
At a press conference in Ado Ekiti, Soremekun alleged that Fayose was after his life after serving as the Chief Returning Officer in Edo Governorship Election held last year September 28, where Governor Godwin Obaseki defeated the candidate of the PDP, Mr. Osagie Ize-Iyamu. He stated that the governor took his resolve to destabilize the university to bare, when he allegedly ordered the Secretary to the State Government, Dr. Modupe Alade to bail some union leaders arrested for beating up some lecturers from the police custody.
Of course, Fayose replied through his Special Assistant on Public Communications and New Media, Lere Olayinka, that as the chief security officer of the state, his priority was to protect the entire state and not dabble into irrelevances.
While concerned citizens were still thinking of how to get out of the crisis, another calamity befell the university last month when its Bursar, Mr. Adejuyigbe Adebayo suddenly slumped and died in Lagos under controversial circumstances during FUOYE governing council meeting at the instance of its Chairman, Prof. Saadat Mabadeje.
It was gathered that Adejuyigbe had travelled to Lagos and developed health complication when the meeting was on before he was rushed to an undisclosed hospital where he died. A source revealed that the deceased didnâ€™t manifest any sign of ailment when he left for Lagos, which made the staff of the institution to be confounded by his death. â€œHe was in the meeting when suddenly he started shaking and slumped. He was revived and was rushed to the hospital where he died. His health situation deteriorated on the way to the hospital and he died shortly after he got to the hospital,â€ the source said.
According to investigation carried out in the school by this reporter, the late Adejuyigbe had been in the centre of the storm alongside the vice-chancellor, as union leaders in the university accused the duo and other top management staff of foiling attempts to pay some of their entitlements under contention which they had denied.
However, in what looks like the mother of all crises, the university has proceeded on a process to remove the Registrar, Mr. Daniel Adeyemo. The embattled registrar was appointed in an acting capacity on July 15, 2011 on secondment from the Federal University of Technology, Akure (FUTA). He was made a substantial registrar in May 2015 after a competitive interview, and his tenure was to last for five years with a possible extension of an additional year.
Adeyemoâ€™s travail began four months ago, when the coalition of the FUOYE branch of SSANU, NAAT and NASU wrote a petition dated May 16, 2017 to the pro-chancellor of the institution against him. The title of the petition is â€˜Vote of no Confidence on the Registrar, Mr. Daniel Adeyemo for Incompetence, and Subsequent Demand for His Urgent Removalâ€™.
Among other allegations, the registrar was accused of inability to be flexible and take advice, irregular promotion and reduction of salary. He was also said to be morally unfit for the position of the registrar. After receiving the petition, a committee was set up by the management to look into the issues raised against Adeyemo. After the committee submitted its report, a letter from the office of the Vice-Chancellor with ref. FUOYE/VC/V/01/245 dated September 27, 2017, the University Governing Council asked the registrar to proceed on an indefinite leave.
Since the day the news that the registrar should proceed on indefinite strike was dropped on campus, peace has literally evaded the six-year-old institution as management has divided over the decision. While a few management staff, who didnâ€™t see anything good in Adeyemo because of his strictness and principled posture, believed the decision served him well, many people saw it as hasty move to get rid of him.
To this set of people, Adeyemo is believed to be paying heavily for a collective decision of the management in order to protect the interest of some â€˜sacred cowsâ€™ in the institution. Besides, many individuals and associations in the institution have condemned the composition of the panel and dismissed its report as unfair to the person of Adeyemo.
But in a reply to the petition and the decision of the panel, Adeyemo had on July 11, 2017, in a letter with ref. no: FUOYE/REG/VC/170/VOL 1/146, through the VC to the Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of Council, expressed his sadness that the decision to proceed on leave was part of the fallout of councilâ€™s consideration of the report of the committee set up to look into the petition.
While assuring the council of his decision to comply with the contents of the said letter as a mark of due respect to a constituted authority, the registrar pointed out that as a principal officer in the university, and as a tradition, his deferred annual leave for the period of his tenure should accumulate towards the end of his tenure, adding that in any case, he has the prerogative to utilize all or part of the deferred annual leave only on his personal request.
According to the registrar, even though he was addressed in the presence of other members of council that council possessed some evidences against him; the evidences were not shown or read to him.
By these actions, he pointed out that he had been prejudged guilty and sentence passed on him without fair hearing, stating that the fact-finding committee set up never confronted him, interviewed or interrogated him with the evidences claimed to have been gathered to enable him affirm or deny them. â€œYet, I was judged not fit to continue as Registrar!â€ the letter stated.
In his appeal for reconsideration of the decisions taken by the council, Adeyemo made reference to his impeccable antecedents both in FUTA and FUOYE.
â€œI have had the opportunity to serve under the pioneer Vice-Chancellor, Professor Chinedu Nebo (the erstwhile Minister of Power of the Federal Republic of Nigeria), and Professor Isaac Asuzu, whose five years tenure was aborted prematurely in February 2016. Thereafter, Professor Kayode Soremekun assumed duty in the university as the current Vice-Chancellor.
â€œSince I assumed duty as acting and later substantive registrar in the university I have worked with the successive vice-chancellors putting my best into the service of the university with demonstrated zeal, effectiveness and unalloyed loyalty to my vice-chancellors and the university. I have also worked with two successive governing councils, and by the grace of God, I have never received any form of reprimand either formal or informal from any of my vice-chancellors or the governing councils, not even verbal reprimand for once.
â€œMy records in FUTA were clean. In fact, it was the impressive recommendations from the Vice-Chancellor of the Federal University of Technology, Akure that earned me the appointment as acting registrar of FUOYE at its inception.â€
Meanwhile, in an interview with the institutionâ€™s Director of Administration, Mr. Olatubosun Odusanya, he dismissed the insinuation that the indefinite leave slammed on the registrar was part of the plan to remove him.
â€œFar from seeing the decision of the governing council that the registrar should proceed on leave as a plan to remove him, it was actually taken to give him fair hearing and a level playing field to all the parties. Let me also state that the leave is not indefinite one but a necessary step that was taken pending the time the issue will be resolved.â€
A senior staff of the university, who spoke to THISDAY under condition of anonymity, dismissed Odusanyaâ€™s claim that Adeyemo was not target for removal.
â€œIf indeed Odusanya said the registrar was not pencilled down for removal, then he was being economical with the truth. One, from the day one, everybody, including the vice-chancellor, have been insisting that the issues raised by the people behind the petition were frivolous, how then did they (the council members) suddenly decide that he either went on leave or resign.
â€œThat is too harsh a decision. Nobody ever imagined that the axe would eventually land on the registrarâ€™s head because some of the issues raised were as a result of decisions jointly taken by the management. To many of us, it is just a matter of calling a dog a bad name in order to hang it.â€
When called to react to the issue, the Chairman of the institutionâ€™s chapter of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Dr. Akinyemi Omonijo washed the hands of his members off the matter. â€œThank you for the call, but let me quickly state that ASUU was not party to the crisis.â€
However, all attempts made to speak to the embattled registrar by THISDAY failed as he neither picked his call nor replied to the text message sent to his phone.
As things stand, the university is said to have set up a fresh committee to try the registrar but the questions are still being asked about how the registrar has suddenly become the victim of the lingering crisis, but the next few days will determine the answer.