– Debo Ikuesewo-Akinbami
I have seen the interior of the academe. I had its fair taste while tutelage lasted and I have seen its games as an adventurous member of its workforce. It is one of the most amazing environments to work. I know. I know too that it is a slippery terrain.
It is a world of weird dynamics. It has its fluidy shemes, its doctrines, philosophies and mould of mental fireworks. Within the tepid academic ambience, divergent ideas itch to puncture and pierce through the single cloud for the expression that they fiercely seek; one fanatic stance is constrained to condone the other for the space it struggles to take in the seismic, competitive space, all defining the undercurrents that converge to define a knowledge industry.
To succeed or survive in this highly sensitive space therefore demands the right initiation. It requires of its players knowledge of the dynamics which becomes indispensable to any person who must thrive under its tent. This is even truer of a fella who must sit safely atop its affairs, who must lead and leave lustre behind him. It is in this sense that the maxim which tells how ‘uneasy lies the head that wears the crown’ finds new relevance.
Like a sturdy tree whose branches align to render auspicious shield, the elements in the academic arena could be so resourceful the same way they could constitute cogs where care is not well taken. The leader in a Nigerian tertiary institution must make certain that these various and listless interests are reasonably tolerated to allow a smooth sail- which is even rare in most cases.
In defining the nature of a Nigerian academia with regard to its capacity for weaving weird webs, the Federal University of Technology, Akure, FUTA, comes to the mind. The University answers, in this treatise, the character of a typical Nigerian higher institution where the pangs of politics had markedly interfered with the flow of knowledge transaction and leave bad taste in the wake. Its former Vice Chancellor, Professor Adebiyi Daramola, had a full taste of the intrigues aforesaid.
Daramola took bruises from the tides, not because he is unfit. It is even correct to say that he has what it takes to conduct the affair of any modern university around the world. And unlike Vice Chancellors who were sourced and brought to govern from other universities, he has been a stout part of the University, knowing its lanes and lawns, having joined the University as Assistant Lecturer in 1986 and rose through the rungs to become a Professor in 1999, about four decades.
There is no telling his profound pedigree and the feats he has achieved as a distinguished scholar and accomplished Professor. As the Institution’s 6th substantive Vice-Chancellor, Daramola was quick to set the tone and pace for the prestigious university to reach more mileage. He made indelible marks, but somewhere along the way, the marks attracted erasers.
The ready instruments of fray against Daramola were the labour unions in the University- a conspiratorial convergence of the Senior Staff Association of the Nigerian Universities, National Association of Academics Technologists and the Non Academic Staff Union. To make matters worse, even certain unrefined elements from the surroundings borrowed the climate to conduct the pull-him-down-at- any-cost bid, and in the process contributed sour embers to the fight that would last till his last day in office.
The culmination was the tendentious petition written to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, alleging corruption, fraud, and mindless stealing of the University’s funds. The petition contained other spices- using public funds to finance private expenses, engaging in illegal payment of allowances to the university’s council members, collecting huge monthly imprests among other allegations.
When the onslaught lasted, the businesses of the university, expectedly, suffered. Her pursuits were stranded. The charge of the University abandoned for the pursuit of falsehood. And while it is not out of place for unions to have and make demands, it is but for those who lead the associations to know too that not all demands could be granted in a regime, and that where such a situation inevitably slides into crisis, the system ultimately suffers.
After all the hues, the court, through a judgement delivered by Justice Williams Olamide, said the prosecution had failed to establish its case against the appellants. The judgement therefore discharged and acquitted Prof. Adebiyi Daramola and former Bursar, Ayodeji Oresegun of allegations of graft brought against them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission. The court called the whole drama a vain chase and vindicated the man who meant and did well for the University, whose legacies endure.
The unions have a glowing history of significant contributions to the growing of FUTA up to this enviable height, and that is how the woeful descent in this regard was more unfortunate. Staff unions are supposed to be veritable instruments for influencing decisions or correcting untoward management or political decisions. Unions are meant for achieving progressive ends, not to indulge in crass conducts that would drag a supposedly noble assemblage towards the mud.
It hurts to see members of the academia who should exemplify standards and bear banners of best practices revert to deeds capable of compromising integrity, standing and prestige. The sad tale should therefore be discouraged forthwith, since it is the ivory tower whose interest should supersede all others that suffers, ultimately. The lessons (on losses) learnt from similar struggles at Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba Akoko, to mention but a few should serve as lasting lessons in future dealings.
Prof. Daramola, despite his ordeals, achieved incredible feats for FUTA. His tenure saw the institution and its products compete globally. He kept FUTA in a leading position as evidenced by the quality of academic programmes, graduates and research outputs. He spent more energies advancing the course of the university even while he was been persecuted. He understood that lies thrive but for a moment, and now that the conspiracy against him has failed, his successes will always resonate.