By Yinka Odumakin

TIME it was that Nigeria ran proper universities and academic freedom was a thing of pride. There was the story of a military governor in Western Nigeria who received a report from his townsman that he was leaving the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ife because he had been unjustly denied a chair.

The governor, being a man of limited scholarship, thought a chair in a university was the product from the shed of a carpenter and wondered the wickedness of the vice-chancellor. He waited till he met Prof. Hezekiah Oluwasinmi and politely asked for an appointment. When they eventually met he asked the vice-chancellor in a friendly manner the crime of the particular lecturer that would make the university not to give him a chair to use.

The vice-chancellor explained to the governor that a chair in the academic world is not purchased in a furniture shop but a professorial chair earned through academic work and he as vice-chancellor cannot award such to any intellectual. This story came back to me after Lagos State governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, cancelled the process of selection of the ninth vice-chancellor of the Lagos State University.

He asked the outgoing vice-chancellor to lead a process that would appoint one of the deputy vice-chancellors who is not in the race as acting vice-chancellor. The level everything has fallen was indicated by the fact that no cogent reason was given for the cancellation outside some nebulous investigation into some alleged petitions. Insiders are, however, of the view that the favoured candidate of the Lagos establishment did not even make the list of three shortlisted candidate from which the visitor could make a choice.

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In the absence of clear standard, the land is now filled with all kinds of innuendo leading to the cancellation. The ASUU is latching to some lapses in the selection process and the inclusion of those who do not possess doctorate degrees in the process.

A particular don who is said to have spearheaded the selection of the last vice-chancellor is said not to have a doctorate. Everyone is now holding to his or her own reason in a deregulated season of standard.

It was the kind of mess England found itself over measurements until a wise king stretched out his arm which gave a yard and the measuring standard.

It is because we pander to special interests that make it difficult for us to enforce universal standard and thus become a subject of ridicule. As a result, the choice of a vice-chancellor that should be seamless now seems as if we are picking a ward party leader or the chairman of a motor park. Politicians see all as positions to share to lackeys anyway.

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