At Kwara University, a Controversy to Watch

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Kwara State Governor, Abdulrahman Abdulrasaq

The appointment of Professor Muhammed Olarongbe Akanbi as the new Vice-Chancellor at the Kwara State University has become one controversy too many. Hammed Shittu reports

The recent appointment of a new vice chancellor at the Kwara State University (KWASU) has continued to generate furore in view of the manner the appointment was allegedly carried out by Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrasaq.

Abdulrasaq, in a statement through the Commissioner for Tertiary Education, Alhaja Saadatu Modibo Kawu, announced the son of the late Justice Mustapha Akanbi, the pioneer chairman of the Independent Corrupt and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), Professor Muhammed Olarongbe Akanbi (SAN) as the new vice chancellor of KWASU.

Akanbi succeeds Professor Abdulrasheed Na’Allah, who after his two-term tenure of 10 years as the pioneer VC of the university became the vice chancellor of the University of Abuja.

“The Kwara State Governor, His Excellency, Mallam AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq, has accepted the recommendation of the Governing Council of the Kwara State University, Malete, with regards to the appointment of Vice Chancellor.

“Consequently, on behalf of His Excellency, I hereby announce the immediate appointment of Prof. Mohammed Mustapha Akanbi, SAN, as the new Vice Chancellor of the Kwara State University, Malete.

“I am similarly conveying His Excellency’s approval of the appointment to the Governing Council of the University, today, Wednesday, the 1st day of April 2020,” the statement stated.

But prior to the assumption of office by Abdulrasaq, the immediate past administration of Abdulfatah Ahmed had appointed a substantive vice chancellor for the university in person of Professor Kenneth Adeyemi.

The announcement then was largely opposed on the argument that the most senior professor should have been appointed and therefore, Professor Adeyemi could not be sworn-in.

The ugly situation however prompted the governing council of the university to give nod for the taking over by the most senior professor in the University, who happens to be the deputy vice chancellor of the University, Professor Mahmud Saka.
This was the situation until the Abdulrasaq administration assumed leadership on May 29, 2019.

However, as the new government began work, the state House of Assembly led by the speaker, Yakubu Danladi set the ball rolling on the situation at the university in order to move the institution forward. The development, according to THISDAY checks, might not be unconnected with the series of petitions that were sent to the assembly to look into.

At a sitting, the house passed resolution on account of a petition by member representing Afon Constituency, Hon. Abdulwahab Opakunle titled: “Unpalatable Activities in KWASU” and written by Usman Adamu Bayero, Issa Sanusi and Adamu Liman Abubakar.
Reading the resolutions of the House, Speaker Salihu said the suspension of the institution’s governing council by the governor, who according to him is a visitor to the University, became imperative to ensure equity, fairness and restore sanity in the process that would lead to the appointment of a new vice chancellor.

Most of the members who spoke on the petition accused the governing council of flagrant disobedience to the laws establishing the Ivory Tower. They therefore urged the House to urgently intervene with a view to restoring sanity in the process that would lead to the appointment of a VC.

It is worthy of note that the governing council had before the inauguration of the new administration in the state advertised for the appointment of a new vice chancellor for the university.

Out of the candidates that applied, THISDAY checks revealed that three were shortlisted for the interview. The three candidates are Professor Muhammed Mustapha Akanbi, Professor Mahmud Saka and Professor Yisa Muhammed Gana.
Akanbi hails from Ilorin in Kwara central senatorial district, Saka is from Baruten Local Government while Gana hails from Pategi in Patigi Patigi Local Government area of the state.

It was further gathered that, Saka who also happens to be the acting vice chancellor of the university came first, followed by Gana and while Akanbi came third during the interview.

However, the new government set up a visitation panel headed by the former vice chancellor of University of Ilorin, Prof. Abdulganiyu Ambali, which recommended that, the post for the vice chancellor of the University should be re-advertised and fresh interview conducted.
The government did not take the advice but instead resorted to the first interview conducted by the immediate past administration of Ahmed.
Therefore, the report of the first interview was submitted to Abdulrasaq to choose one among the three for the plum position of the university. The governor decided to pick Akanbi, who came third and also hailed from Ilorin in Kwara Central as the new substantive vice chancellor of the KWASU.
Since the announcement of the new vice chancellor of the University, stakeholders in the state had been expressing divergent opinions on the appointment.

Pundits argued that the governor’s choice of Akanbi was unjust as an Ilorin man, Prof. Abdulrasheed Na’Allah, who happened to be a pioneer vice chancellor of the university occupied the position for 10 years before he was also appointed vice chancellor of University of Abuja.
They argued further that Akanbi came third during the interview and the governor should have picked the person that came first during the interview if he wanted to move the institution forward.

The age factor put forward against Saka, who came first during the interview was said to be irrelevant as he ought to have been disqualified during the screening and not now that he came first at the interview and now wanted to be sidelined.
Akanbi’s appointment has however continued to be trailed by divergent opinions.

Offa Professors’ Forum rejected the appointment, saying the process of the selection was not fair and against natural Justice. OPF in a statement by its Chairman, Prof. Hussein Oloyede, said the appointment was not in tandem with what Abdulrazaq promised Kwarans.
“Prof. Mahmud Sakah from Kwara North Zone was rated first by the Committee of Council and not Prof. Akanbi from Kwara Central, who was rated third behind Prof. Gana also from Kwara North.

”It would be recollected that during the Selection process in 2019, the OPF raised the issue that the Selection Board (a committee of Council) was skewed in favour of Ilorin Central Senatorial zone (where they constituted 4 out of 5 members, including the chairman)
“The exercise went on never the less and three (3) Professors were recommended in the following order of merit: 1st Professor Mahmud Sakah (from Kwara North), 2nd Professor Gana (from Kwara North) and 3rd Professor M. M. Akanbi (from Kwara Central) “This was the state of affairs by the time the present government came in May, 2019. The then in-coming government set up a Transition Committee preparatory to its taking over government and it was advised, concerning KWASU, that the selection process for VC was faulty and that the Council should be dissolved (for so many other reasons also), a new council constituted and the position of VC re- advertised.

“When the government took office, it ordered a visitation to KWASU, which was overdue and also recommended by the Transition Committee. It is noteworthy to state that the visitation panel, was chaired by somebody from Kwara Central. The Visitation Panel also recommended the dissolution of the University Governing Council.
”The government thereafter constituted a panel, also headed by somebody from Kwara Central, to draft a white paper on the Visitation Panel Report.

“The OPF did not encourage its members to apply for the position of VC of KWASU, because it felt that the then Deputy VC, Professor Mahood Sakah, who is from Kwara North is eminently qualified and that it was high time the North be encouraged to occupy the position, in the spirit of fairness and inclusiveness,” the statement said.

A socio political group in Kwara North, Baruteen Patriotic Agenda has expressed their grievances towards the government for overlooking their son, Professor Mahmoud Sakah as the Substantive Vice Chancellor of the Kwara State University (KWASU).

The group in a statement signed by it President Mallam Sidi Oumar accused the governor of favoritism and lopsidedness, adding that his actions points to the fact that nothing has really changed from the old ways of governance in the last regime.
He advised the governor to retrace his step so as to create unity and sense of belonging across ethno-religious divides across the State.
Omo Ibile Igbomina, another socio-cultural group in Kwara South Senatorial zone also berated the governor on his decision to appoint an Ilorin Indigene as a substantive Vice Chancellor of Kwara State University.

The group in a statement signed by it PRO, Comrade Oni Martins said the appointment of the new Vice Chancellor came to the union as a rude shock, describing the governor’s decision as insensitive to the principle of equity and fairness.
Kwara state branch of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) described the appointment of the new Vice Chancellor as a daylight robbery of obtruding candidate, who came 3rd in interview as the VC KWASU, adding that the party was not bothered, because the party, which the governor represented was not fair in appointing people to different positions.

PDP in a statement signed by it state chairman, Engr Kola Shitu said that “KWARA NORTH elders are still in rude shock over the nepotism and political manner for appointing the ivory tower Headship,” adding, “it is known to us that the interview was conducted in 2019 and the result released confirmed that :Prof Saka Mahmud came 1st, Prof Gana Nigerian Amb to Japan came 2nd while Prof M.M Akanbi came 3rd, so how did the 3rd position come 1st?”

Clearly, the appointment of the new vice chancellor was greeted with serious condemnation and the people of the state are now waiting for the governor to have a change of mind by doing the needful and correct his error so as to take the university to a greater height.
It is believed that what is good for goose is also good for the gander. The people of the other senatorial districts of the state should be allowed to take the slot to reflect the wishes of the Kwarans and thus give a sense of belonging.