Tussle assumes ethno-religious dimension

THE lingering succession crisis at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Kaduna State, took a fresh dimension last week when the chairman of the institution’s Governing Council and former minister of finance, Malam Adamu Ciroma, resigned his position.

Sources hinted that Ciroma was forced to throw in the towel following the failure of certain forces to allow the Council to appoint Prof. Andrew Jonathan Nok as the new vice chancellor for the school. The enviable position became vacant last May after the expiration of the tenure of Prof. Shehu Usman Abdullahi. The council had set up a selection board to interview and screen candidates for the position after which Prof. Nok emerged first out of  five candidates who had applied.

Malam Adamu Ciroma, chairman, ABU's governing council

Nok had scored 81 per cent to beat Prof. Yakubu Nasidi who scored 66.83 percent and Prof. Zakari Mohammed who scored 61. 83 per cent, among others. But contrary to all expectations, the ABU Senate annulled the results and announced the appointment of the Deputy vice chancellor  (academic), Prof. J. U. Umoh, as  Acting Vice Chancellor.

Competent sources said the appointment of Prof. Umoh was designed to diffuse tension which had begun to mount on the two campuses of the university in Zaria.

Although the university’s Senate had claimed that the selection process did not follow laid down procedures, it was learnt that the failure of the authorities to confirm the appointment of Prof. Nok may not be unconnected with religion and ethnicity.

Some other extraneous factors were equally said to have contributed in denying Nok the position as the Zazzau emirate might have insisted that the only condition for peace to reign at the ABU is that the vice chancellor must be an indigene of Zaria or environs.

Although Prof. Nok, currently the dean of the Faculty of Science, hails from Kaduna State, his apparent offence is that he comes from the Christian dominated area of southern Kaduna, the people who have consistently alleged marginalization by the Muslim dominated northern Kaduna state. Ciroma had been quoted as saying his  position at  ABU would be his last public office and that he would retire honourably.

Although there are no official reasons to explain Ciroma’s sudden resignation, the sources said the septuagenarian politician and administrator had expressed his frustrations over the turn of events at ABU, with ethno-religious considerations taking precedence over merit and scholarship.

During his inauguration as the founding chancellor of the ABU on November 23, 1963, the late premier of the defunct Northern Region and Sardauna of Sokoto, Sir Ahmadu Bello, had envisioned a university that would carry on its academic and research activities with the least consideration for ethnic and other mundane factors. According to the Sarduana then, “the reputation of a university is the reputation of its graduates.

This is especially true of its reputation within its own country. I can put it this way. We, here, are on the commanding heights of the plateau of education of the north. The rock formation of this plateau consists of many forms and branches of education at different levels.

Unless the rock formation of this plateau is and proof against erosion, then there can be no commanding heights, there will be no students of high quality that we need in the university. It therefore behooves us all of the university to take the greatest interest in all forms of education, to understand the difficulties, to cooperate in every way and to give leadership in academic matters.

Only through the freedom of membership and the freedom of enquiry and research can a university be drawn into the full ferment of thought from which new knowledge comes. Only when it adheres to these freedoms can it be truly great.

We must draw on the best of scholarship from all and we will contribute our quota to the pool of learning. In doing so, we will be playing our part in developing understanding and respect among nations. I believe that a university is, or should be, a reservoir of knowledge and special skills, stored in its libraries and research records and in the heads of its staff.”

Even as the institution’s authorities failed to uphold the result of the Selection Board, on the appointment of the VC,  the university had, in a statement, then, said, Governing Council of Ahmadu Bello University, at its 131st (special) meeting, held on Monday, May 18, 2009, discussed exhaustively the report of the joint Council/Senate Selection Board for the appointment of a new vice chancellor for Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria.

“Arising from the deliberation, council observed the non-presentation of scoring sheets by each member of the Selection Board on each of the candidates that appeared before it to support its recommendation.

Council also noted with dismay the non-involvement of Council Secretariat in the process and the leakage of the Board’s recommendation to the general public before the council meeting. Consequent upon the above, Council directed the Selection Board to submit the scoring sheet used by each member of the Board on each candidate interviewed for scrutiny.”

Sunday Vanguard obtained a copy of the report of the joint Selection Board which gave detailed scoring guidelines for the appointment of a new vice-chancellor as approved by the Governing Council at its 130th (special) meeting of Monday April 27, 2009.

The guidelines approved a total of  100 points to be scored per candidate with breakdown of, 15 maximum score points for qualification and university teaching/research experience; for administrative experience, 15 maximum score points were provided, six maximum score points for DVC (1.5 per year), five maximum points for dean/director (1.0 point per year) and four maximum points for head of department (HOD)/Unit (1.0 point per year). For professional standing/honours, 10 maximum score points were provided.

Four maximum score points for (i.) Membership of learned societies (1 point for each society subject to a maximum of four) and another six points for (ii) honours/fellowship of relevant learned/professional societies: one point for local, subject to a maximum of six points.

The guidelines further approved five maximum score points for proficiency in ICT; five maximum score points for societal linkages (community service); five maximum score points for ability to attract funds/research grants; 20 maximum score points were provided for contribution to knowledge (academic publications, inventions, etc.).

The guidelines also approved 25 maximum score points for interview performance which covered, (i.) 7.5 points for candidate’s vision for the university as presented in his or her  write-up, (ii) knowledge of the job, 7.5 points, (iii) general knowledge, five points, (iv) articulation/personality, three points and (v) potentiality for acceptability, two points.

The report had recommended that, in compliance with Section Three of the 1993 Universities (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act as amended, the Council should appoint the next vice chancellor based on the order of merit: Professor Andrew Jonathan Nok (81.0%), Professor Nasidi Yakubu (66.3%) and Professor Zakari Mohammed (64.1%).

According to the report, “the Selection Board took a particularly careful approach to the assignment, in order to maintain steady progress and stability in the university. Furthermore, in order to ensure sustained peace, progress and stability in the University, only the most competent candidate, acceptable to the generality of the university community should be appointed.”

Before Ciroma’s resignation, two lecturers who had contested the position along with Pro. Nok, approached the Federal High Court sitting in Kaduna praying it to stop the Governing Council from continuing with any process that could lead to the naming of a new vice chancellor pending the determination of a substantive suit on the matter.

The plaintiffs, Prof. Shehu Dadari and Prof. Shehu Ado, also urged the court to order the stoppage of all internal council members from participating in the process because their tenure had expired. The court granted the prayers and fixed hearing for tomorrow, November 16.

Reacting to the deadlock in the announcement of a substantive vice chancellor for the ABU, the southern Kaduna people in both the USA and Canada, led by Prof. Tunga Lergo and Dr. Patrick Yat respectively, said that the non-appointment of Prof. Nok was capable of diminishing the reputation of the ABU.

In an open letter to the ABU Governing Council, the group noted, “the ABU, a premier institution of higher learning in Africa is in danger of losing its global reputation because of the refusal of the authorities to follow laid down procedures for the appointment of a substantive vice chancellor.

This case may have serious negative consequences for students of  ABU who may  wish to study abroad as well as  scholars who may wish to collaborate with colleagues outside country. As alumni and friends of the university, we have discussed the issue and have waited hoping that tempers would have calmed and decided to write this appeal to the university’s Governing Council and people of goodwill.

The attempt to deny Prof. Nok, an individual with impeccable credentials and international standing, a well deserved and merited appointment to the vice chancellorship of the university calls to question ABU’s status as an ivory tower with academic integrity and sound judgement.”

Another group, Southern Kaduna Youth Vanguard (SOKAYOV), had earlier denounced what it described as “sacrificing excellence on the altar of mediocrity, criminality and economic sabotage” on the part of the ABU Council. According to the group’s national president, Ibrahim Mordecai, “We, the youths of Southern Kaduna have followed very carefully and keenly too, the events surrounding the selection of a new vice chancellor for the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria.

“Being concerned about the fact that Ahmadu Bello University remains the only surviving legacy of the late premier of Northern Nigeria, Sir Ahmadu Bello who laboured to establish the ivory tower, we therefore wish to expressour deep concern and worry by making the following submissions.

“Every rational mind would agree that this premier university is a citadel of learning that has earned for itself through excellence over the years an enviable position in Nigeria and the African sub-region. An ivory tower like Ahmadu Bello University Zaria deserves the best as vice-chancellor (VC) in order to preserve the sanctity of its unique role in the Nigerian university system and of course, the African sub-region.”

It is not certain when the authorities at the ABU will eventually resolve the impasse. However, for Ciroma to have “chickened out” in the heat of the crisis, it is perhaps left for higher authorities including the Presidency, the National Assembly and the Ministry of Education to wade into the matter.


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