Thursday’s meeting of the 639-member Senate of Nigeria’s premier university, the University of Ibadan (UI), is set to be shrouded in controversy as two candidates who vied for the vice-chancellorship position but were overlooked have petitioned the university’s governing council over alleged irregularities in the selection process.
The disgruntled academics, Ademola Dasylva, a professor of English, and Adesoji Fasanmade, a professor of Physiology, in separate petitions are accusing the university electoral committee of departing from the extant rules and manipulating and compromising the electronic voting platform used during the election process.
As the tenure of the incumbent vice-chancellor of the university, Idowu Olayinka, draws to an end, the university in May called for application from qualified professors to replace Mr Olayinka, a professor of Applied Geophysics. The university shortlisted nine candidates from the 18, which applied for the position.
In accordance with the law granting federal universities an autonomy over their affairs, the selection of vice-chancellors is no longer done by executive fiat, where the country’s president chooses who he pleases to head universities. The governing councils of universities are now empowered to appoint vice-chancellors through a democratic process with members of their senates voting for their preferred candidate from a list of shortlisted applicants.
On September 21, members of the UI senate voted and the duo of Peter Olapegba and Ezikiel Ayoola, emerged frontrunners. The result announced by the university’s registrar, Olubunmi Faluyi, showed that while Mr Olapegba polled 362, Mr Ayoola polled 352. Their closest rivals were Ademola Aremu and Mr Dasylva who polled 132 and 94 respectively.
After the result was released, Mr Dasylva and Fasanmade, who polled 20 votes, petitioned the governing council, accusing the electoral committee of manipulating the processes. They claimed the outcome of the election was not credible.
Mr Dasylva, in his letter to the chairman of the governing council, Joshua Waklek, argued that the election committee did not publish the details of those who nominated or sponsored the shortlisted candidates.
The petition dated September 24, reads in part; “As part of the rules governing the electoral process, at the close of nominations, the names of contestants, their proposers, and seconders, are usually made available to the electorate and the general public.
“At a formal meeting between the contestants and the electoral committee held on Friday, September 18, 2020, we pointed out this anomaly. The registrar acknowledged the omission, apologised, and promised to publish the valid nominations before the election. This was not done, making the nominations to be shrouded in secrecy and the process to be technically flawed and invalidated, ab initio.”
He also claimed that the platform for the e-voting was also compromised and manipulated.
“To be sure, there were two windows associated with the platform. One was meant to display the cumulative votes, while the other was to display the actual votes accrued to each of the contestants. At the beginning of the voting exercise, a request was made for the open display of the voting process, namely the two windows, for close public viewing to ensure transparency. Unfortunately, this was not done.
“Instead, the tellers were given a link through which they could check vote counts. What was accessible through the link was the first window, which displayed the cumulative votes, denying the tellers access to the second window which should display the actual votes accruing to each of the contestants, being the main reason the tellers were there in the first instance.”
The second petitioner, Mr Fasanmade, a professor of Physiology, also made similar allegations.
But contrary to the concerns raised by the duo, another candidate in the election, Mojeed Akinsola, wrote to the governing council arguing that the process was free and fair.
SSANU calls for cancellation of election
Meanwhile, the university’s chapter of the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) has echoed the concerns of Messrs Dasylva and Fasanmade and has called for the cancellation of the election.
SSANU in a petition to the governing council signed by its chairman and secretary – Wale Akinremi and Abiodun Omisore – said the controversies surrounding the ongoing selection processes could lead to crisis if not nipped in the bud.
The statement, which was issued on Monday, stated in part; “Corruption, intellectual thievery, maladministration, compensatory appointments hitherto alien to the ivory tower are now the order of the day. Many of these have been chronicled in past correspondences to you but to which no meaningful effort had been made to salvage,” adding that; “…the process of the appointment of a new vice-chancellor is in a state of quagmire, and therefore, there is an urgent need for a bailout to forestall unpalatable backwashes.
“Our prayer is that the overall process has to be overhauled, sanitized, and redone in the common interest of the university.”
Outgoing vice-chancellor accused of favouritism
Meanwhile, the outgoing vice-chancellor of the university, Mr Olayinka, has been dragged into the controversy following a statement he posted on Facebook, which some members of the university community said suggests he was biased.
An employee of the university, who asked not to be named, alleged that after the names of the two frontrunners were announced, Mr Olayinka wrote a Yoruba aphorism: “Eniyan l’aso mi” on Facebook, which means “I’m clothed by people.”
But the VC, in a telephone interview with PREMIUM TIMES, has denied the allegations, describing them as lame and lacking substance.
“Well, that is their interpretation. And am I not free to express myself? Have I committed murder? I think there should be freedom of movement and freedom of association. The senate of the University of Ibadan has 464 professors while others that make up the 639 members are either associate professors and readers who are acting heads of departments. So if as a professor in that university, I am just one person. Even a senior lecturer, who is junior in rank but a member of the senate cannot be forced by me to vote for a particular candidate.
“So if people have chosen to vote the way they liked, what has been my offence in that? Even my wife who is a member of the Senate is an adult and cannot be forced to support a particular candidate if she doesn’t believe in that person,” he said.
Mr Olayinka, then challenged anyone with a credible allegation against him to state it during Thursday’s meeting.
He added; “In an election where 604 people voted, did I vote on behalf of all the 604? The truth of the matter is that there is an electoral committee with a professor as the chairman. I’m not the one that organised the election. We have had about 12 elections conducted electronically in the last few years, and none of the results has ever been disputed in this manner. So what is so special in this one.”
“The senate meeting will hold as scheduled. Those who have mentioned me in their allegations should also come there to prove the allegations.”
Senate unfit to address issues – Dasylva
Meanwhile, ahead of Thursday’s meeting, Mr. Dasylva has said the senate is incompetent to attend to his petition. He said the petition was addressed to the governing council, and that the council cannot delegate an organ-led by interested parties to anchor resolution of a matter of such magnitude.
Mr. Dasylva’s latest petition reads in part; “As the Returning Officer in the Election of which the process and conduct were allegedly compromised technically, fraught with procedural improprieties, as well as lacking in transparency, the Registrar is implicated in the petitions. Also implicated in my petition is the Vice-Chancellor who has not hidden his desperation to install, by all means, Prof. Adebowale, one of the aspirants and the current Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Admin.) as the next Vice-Chancellor. All the people mentioned in my petition are the Vice-Chancellor’s foot soldiers. They are the ones strategically positioned to ensure that the process is compromised in favour of Prof. Adebowale, an aspirant, and the Vice-Chancellor’s anointed candidate.”
Electoral committee chair defends process
The chairman of the university’s election committee, Ayodeji Ogunjuyigbe, has threatened legal action against the petitioners, saying his hard-earned integrity is being dragged in the mud.
According to the professor of electrical engineering, a series of electronic elections had been organised in the university in the past with commendation from all involved. He thus queried the motive behind the allegations.
In a letter to the registrar of the university dated November 30, 2020, Mr Ogunjuyigbe wrote that “On Friday 18 September, at 4p.m in the Senate Chamber, all the contestants, including Prof Dasylva, were effectively briefed on the process. During the meeting convened by the Registrar, questions were raised and answers were given. We went through the guidelines (sample in Appendix B) and the process together. The actual electoral process did not deviate from the map or guidelines which we presented during that briefing meeting. In other words, we did exactly what we all agreed we should do. It is therefore not a surprise that the allegations produce in us a justifiable feeling of backstabbing.”