What did ASUU discuss with the visitation panel which ended its assignment recently?
The visitation panel was constituted by the visitor to the University of Abuja, who happens to be the president of the country. It was inaugurated on the 25th of July this year. They had six weeks within which to work and at the end of it, because of the magnitude of work, they demanded for additional two weeks and they were granted. They’ve completed their assignment. I will like to say here that the visitation panel was constituted at our own instance. It was our union, ASUU, that wrote to the visitor to the university, calling his attention to the rot, decay and deplorable situation that is going on in the university and requested him to constitute a special visitation panel to come and investigate these rot and decay. So far, so good. The panel has been here, they had seen more than we pointed out. We hope they will come up with a far-reaching recommendation that will carve a way forward for the university and will as well bring serious changes that will truly transform it to a true centre of excellence.
What will you say is really the problem of the university?
Believe me, the problem of this university is leadership. Let me tell you. Historically, we can look at it from two perspectives and they are all problems of leadership. Historically, in the sense that the university, from inception, has never been lucky with leaders that are very pragmatic and focused and that is why we have been having very slow pace of development. When you look at things in the university they are just not working well. But fundamentally, what has really over blown the problem is the present leadership. Right now, we have a leadership that is not focused, has no vision, no mission and does not listen or take advice. This is the fundamental problem of the university. Last year alone the internally generated revenue of the university was over N1.5 billion. One would have expected any focused leader to utilize it very well, but unfortunately, nothing was achieved with it. As I’m speaking to you now, nothing is on ground here despite this huge amount that was realized. The problem of the university, I can tell you, is not funding. The internally generated fund is sufficient for the VC to do so many things in the university. But when he wants to do the work of the head of departments, clerk, finance, that of the foreman at the construction site and so no, then he ends up achieving nothing. That is the problem we are facing here.
Is this why ASUU is asking for his sack?
Yes, his sack will be the beginning of the solution. You see, we must understand one thing. Once the leadership is problematic, nothing seems to move. When you have a leader that is mediocre he is bound to surround himself with mediocre who will end up doing nothing and that is what is happening in the university of Abuja now. He does not take advice from people who should be helping him. The university operates on committee system. You appoint people into the committee to do the work. When you look around you can see this from what you see in and around the university. He does not call for senate meeting, he is supposed to have management that advises him. They met last almost two years ago. So, how does he get advice, ideas to work. Because of this, nothing seems to be working at different departments and units of the university and things are gradually moving to a halt. Believe me we saw these things coming and that was why ASUU had resolved to getting him out as the immediate solution to the decay taking place in the institution. When he gets out we can be lucky to get somebody that is capable, pragmatic, who will listen to advice and knows his onions. Then things will begin to move as expected in the institution. Believe me this university had moved five years back, we have leadership that believes we don’t need ICT in the university in this era. Since he came there has not been internet facility here. Everybody here is now finding private solutions to public problems. It’s not supposed to be so. Look at the rating they are doing for universities, this ICT thing was one of the things they consider, yet the leadership here does not believe there was need for it. So, fundamentally, like I said earlier, the university’s problem is leadership.
How has this affected the academic activities in the university?
If you look at it, there is no easy access to information here. We are supposed to have e-library from where staff and students could easily get information. The ability of lecturers to access information from the internet is affected. This is also affecting our research, performance and overall productivity, and definitely this will be carried over to the students. There is no infrastructure. Since this present leadership came in, there has been no science laboratory, no reagents have been bought in the university, so what magic are you expecting from lecturers and students? Will they now be doing alternatives to practical? These were the things that we saw and we started crying out, as far back as April 2010. Our union is so organized that we took our time to gather our facts and build our case. From November 2010 we started calling him to order. We had threatened three times to go on local strike. We got the permission of our national executive council to go on strike if this visitation panel was not constituted. So, I think when they looked at the issues we wanted to be investigated on financial irregularities, death of academic programmes, examination malpractices, admission irregularities and others. They saw sense in what we were saying and the visitor constituted a panel and we were happy that the panel had seen what we are saying. Definitely our union had resolved and stands by it that the V.C must leave office so that we can have another person who will lead us aright.
IS ASUU also responsible for the invitation of the EFCC to probe the management of resources of the university?
No, ASUU did not petition EFCC over the management of the university’s resources. I told you how we do our things. We are very, very procedural. We started by taking our grievances to the V.C himself. We tried to make him change but he didn’t. We took our grievances to the university’s governing council. The governing council started well, they constituted a committee to look into all the issues we had raised, but when the committee submitted report to the overall council, to our greatest dismay and surprise, the council rejected the report of their committee and threw it away. It was then that we said well, because we are procedural we are not going to court but we still know how to go about things and that was when we now took our case to the president who is the visitor and that was what has brought us this far. I assure you that we, as a union, have never taken anybody to EFCC or ICPC but I must admit that I have heard about the EFCC issue. The acting bursar told me he was invited by the EFCC and I have heard several times that the V.C was also invited.