The race to replace the current Vice Chancellor (VC) of the University of Maiduguri, Professor Mala M. Daura has begun with 11 eminent professors, mostly from the same institution throwing the hats into the ring. Professor Daura is due to leave office on June 2, 2014, when his five-year tenure officially expires. The Governing Council of the university had nearly six months ago advertised the position, in line with the procedure for selection of vice chancellors in Nigerian varsities. Following the advertisement, the Council harvested 11 applications. Among the applicants is Prof. Bukar Bababe of Soil Science Department, Faculty of Agriculture (UniMaid). Also in the race from the Agric Faculty in UniMaid are two other professors: Yakubu Bila (Agric Economics Department), and Abubakar Kundiri.
Other contenders include Prof. Umar Sandabe, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine; Prof. Sheriff Modu, Faculty of Science (Department of Biochemistry); Prof. Ibrahim B. Goni, also from Faculty of Science (Department of Geology); Prof. Tijani El-Miskin, Faculty of Arts (Department of Arabic and Islamic Studies); Prof. Yagani Kaarta, also from the Arts Faculty (Department of Languages and Linguistics); and Prof. Ibrahim Njodi,Faculty of Education (Department of Health Education).The other two aspirants are Prof. Isa Hussaini Marte of Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences in UniMaid, and Prof. Ibrahim Iliya of the Department of Geography, Faculty of Social Sciences, Usmanu DanFodio University (UDU), Sokoto.
Incidentally, of the 11 applicants, only two are not natives of Borno state, where the university is sited. These are Prof. Bila who hails from Taraba state and Prof. Njodi, a native of Gombe state. Both Gombe and Taraba states are however within the university’s catchments area. It is also instructive to stress that among the 11 contenders, only Prof. Iliya is currently working outside the University of Maiduguri.
Curiously, however, while the process of appointing a new vice chancellor for UniMaid was on, in accordance with laid down procedures, our reporter learnt that issues relating to ethnicity and politics crept in, resulting in the sudden interruption of the selection process through certain intrigues and manoeuvrings.
Investigation by our reporter showed that a Joint University of Maiduguri Council and Senate Selection Board, on Thursday, April 25 in Abuja, interviewed the 11 candidates who had applied to replace Prof. Daura. The board comprises the Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of the Governing Council of the university, Alhaji Lawan Bukar Marguba, two external members of the university’s Council who are not members of its Senate, two members of the Senate who are not members of Council, two representatives of the Federal Character Commission (FCC), and a representative of the Federal Ministry of Education. The two external Council members were seasoned journalist, Mr. Innocent Oparadike and Engineer Paul Attah, while the two Senate members who are non Council members were Prof. B. R. Badejo and Prof. Abdurrahman Tahir. The FCC was represented by Alhaji Haruna Mahmuda and Mrs. Mercy Olufunke Olajubu, while Barrister (Mrs.) Akamo O. E., who is also a member of UniMaid’s Council represented the Federal Ministry of Education.
Some members of the university’s Council who pleaded anonymity, told our reporter at the weekend that of the 11 candidates interviewed for the VC slot, Prof. Njodi came tops, having scored 90.1%, while Prof. Marte came second with 71.2%. The other candidates and their scores are as follows: Prof. Kundiri, 69.5%; Prof. Iliya, 66.3%; Prof. Sandabe, 62.8%; Prof. Kaarta, 61.3%; Prof. Goni, 56.8%; Prof. Bila, 52.6%; Prof. Modu, 52.4%; Prof. Bababe, 51.6%; and Prof. El-Miskin, 47.8%.
According to our sources, though the selection board’s report was ready for the University’s 16-member Council to act upon, Marguba, in his opening remarks at the meeting held on Friday, April 25, said he would only allow the Council’s Secretary, Engineer Attah, to present a summary of the report, without mentioning the scores of the candidates interviewed. While admitting that the selection process conducted by the board was “transparent”, Marguba, according to member of the Council, said it was unfortunate that “people” called him to question the criteria for the exercise, alleging that it was prepared “to favour a particular candidate (indirectly referring to Prof. Njodi)”. The Council chairman emphasised that he was placed under “pressure” by some highly placed personalities, including a newly appointed minister from Borno state, to reject the criteria, which he emphasised, was allegedly stage-managed to favour “a candiidate (Njodi)”.
The Council chairman, while assuring that he will ensure justice and fair-play in the selection process, however, also drew attention to a petition against Prof. Njodi, and that he (Marguba), had received so many text messages and phone calls urging him to reject the candidate (Njodi), whom he said, was promoted to ‘Reader’ in less than one year. “The person (Njodi) came with spiral bound copies of his promotion letters. Unknown to the applicant we have his file”, the Pro-Chancellor allegedly stressed, adding that he (Marguba) was not satisfied with the professor of health education’s claim.
It was at that point that the chairman invited the secretary to present an interim report on each of the candidates, instead of the full report of the selection board, which our source said, should have been made available to each of the 16 Council members. According to our source, “despite protest and insistence of members of the Council that the report of the joint selection board be circulated, discussed and acted upon, the chairman unilaterally suspended the meeting indefinitely”, saying he was going to set up a committee “to investigate the (hurried) promotion of the candidate (Njodi)”.
One of our sources said the ideal procedure was for the Council to vet the selection board’s report, and if unanimously accepted, announce the appointment of the qualified candidate as VC of the university, without recourse to either the Presidency or the education ministry.
But Marguba allegedly went on to suspend the meeting indefinitely and left the venue “to go and see the supervising minister of education”. Shortly afterwards, however, information filtered out that there was an attempt to subvert a credible process that had produced Prof, Njodi as the new vice chancellor. This created tension on the varsity’s campus, with many lecturers collecting signatures, threatening to petition the Presidency and the education ministry, demanding that due process be respected in the choice of a new helmsman for UniMaid. The lecturers, according to a former member of the university’s Governing Council, “are shocked that some people are so insensitive to the current crisis that has rocked Borno state in particular, and the North-east in general, courtesy of the insurgency, that they want to compound the problem for the promising university, by sacrificing merit on the altar of ethnicity and politics”.
Efforts to get the reaction of Alhaji Lawan Marguba over the matter from Friday night, up to yesterday failed. He did not answer repeated calls by our reporter. Also, he did not respond to an SMS sent to the phone inquiring on the issue.
How this impasse gets to be resolved before the June 2, 2014 when Prof. Daura’s tenure expires is something only time will tell. Already, a similar deadlock has halted the appointment of a vice chancellor for the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University (ATBU), Bauchi.