Owei Lakemfa

June 24, 2009

To be led by the blind

By Owei Lakemfa
WOLE  OLAOYE. I came to know him quite well three decades ago when he was president of the University of Ife, now Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) Students Union.

He had a very friendly disposition, a listening ear, a strong sense of service, an uncommon commitment to principles and a fierce streak of patriotism. Over the years, Olaoye a veteran journalist, public relations practitioner, analyst and writer has not changed.

I was therefore alarmed when I learnt that his life is being threatened. I had wondered who would want to take the life of  Olaoye, a man who attracts friends like sugar attracts ants.

I later learnt that this was a fall-out of the on-going protests against the appointment of one Chief Abiola Morakinyo, a PDP chieftain from Osun State as Pro Chancellor and Chairman of the OAU Governing Council.

Morakinyo was appointed by President Yar’Adua on January 9, 2009. Immediately the OAU branch of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and the University’s Alumni Association led by Wole Olaoye kicked against the appointment.

In letters to  President Yar’Adua and Education Minister, Dr. Sam Egwu, the organisations complained that Morakinyo never had any form of education within the university system and lacks the intellect necessary to run a university council.

They argued that his appointment violates the Universities (Miscellaneous Provisions) Amendment Act 2003 which states that to  be qualified for appointment as member of a university council, the appointee must be “knowledgeable and familiar with the affairs and tradition of the university”.

In spite of the protest, Morakinyo was sworn in on February 10, 2009.  Rather than this dissuading the organisations, it further incensed them. The  Presidency investigated the complaints and in an April 27, 2009 letter Re: No. SGF.19/S 81/X,  replaced Chief Morakinyo with another PDP Chieftain, Otunba Solomon Oladunni.

On May 7, 2009, the Federal Ministry of Education in a letter Ref: DE/HE/261/III/35 conveyed the President’s decision to the OAU Vice Chancellor.

Eleven days later another letter arrived from the same Presidency. Dated May 18, 2009 , the letter reference SGF.19/s.81/X. It said President Yar’Adua has again changed his mind. “Consequently, Chief Abiola Morakinyo is to remain the Chairman of the Council of the University…”

The ASUU branch in a May 23, 2009 response vowed not to work with Morakinyo. The Alumni in a letter to President Yar’Adua dated May 22, 2009 told him that “… this flip-flop does not portray the government in good light…”

It reiterated that Chief Morakinyo was never a student, a lecturer or administrator in any university and that OAU should not be “… saddled with a man whose sole claim to position is not cerebral endowments but extraneous considerations “.

Apparently, it is this latest letter that earned Olaoye a visit from the man who has been threatening his life.

Chief Morakinyo’s personal response to the crisis is an advertisement on pages 35 and 36 of the Thursday June 4, 2009 edition of the Nigerian Tribune. “The sometimes incoherent and ungrammatical advert laced with spelling errors was a sort of comic relief.

Morakinyo’s advert is a rambling  piece with incomplete sentences and a near vacant thought process”.

He wrote on ASUU Chairman, Dr. Ife Adewunmi: “… You had been on the drawing board to cause embarrassment for me and that was why, with your fore knowledge and home-work you made malicious damage in many newspapers…”

Morakinyo said his research reveal that “the main problem (in the University) is academic rascality …” and that his appointment and his mission as Pro-Chancellor  is “…an undisguised attempt to flush out mediocrity from ASUU”.

He argued that the post of Council Chairman is a political appointment and asked: “How is it the business of ASUU to dabble into political appointment?” Chief Morakinyo who is clearly uncouth described Otunba Oladunni who had been named as his replacement as a “highly rated pretender”.

On his academic qualifications, Morakinyo said he studied accountancy at Balham and Tooting College of Commerce in London and  did part-time studies at City of London College of Commerce and City of Westminster College of Commerce. He added: “As at today all these institutions are universities”.

His logic is that since the schools of commerce he attended have been upgraded into universities, he is a university graduate. It is like a Grade II teacher claiming that since his alma mater has been upgraded into a College of Education , he has automatically become a graduate.

His second qualification is that he served as a commissioner under late Chief Bola Ige in the old Oyo State. But being a graduate was not a prerequisite for that appointment. In fact one of his colleagues in the cabinet, Busari Adelakun “Eruobodo” might not even have completed his primary school education.

His fourth qualification is that the almighty PDP zoned OAU Council Chairmanship to Osun State.

Even if the PDP zoned the post to Osun State, it does not mean only the dregs of that highly educated state should be put forward. After all, the PDP zoned the House of Representatives Speaker to Osun State which produced a disaster called Hon. Patricia Etteh.

Despite the zoning formula, Hon. Dimeji Bankole from Ogun State was elected Speaker. So replacing Morakinyo with Oladunni from Ondo State cannot be a fundamental issue.

The point is that no university in our country deserves a Chairman of Council that may not know what the acronym GP stands for. Even if a Council Chairman cannot make qualitative contributions at meetings, he should at least have the capacity to summarise debates and guide Council towards a consensus.

The Osun or national PDP can find another job for  Chief  Morakinyo but not in an institution that requires the use of the intellect.