By Peter Agi

Zoning illuminates mediocrity and should be jettisoned for the good of the academia. We had wrongly propagated the idea of zoning, which has today led to the entrenchment of a ruthless, draconian, corrupt and profaned leadership by a neophyte who feels threatened in the presence of merit. A lot of people look intellectual and wise, but their mediocrity comes sailing through via their habits and when they start talking. The zoning system conveniently gives merit the back seat while making mediocrity have the crown. Most of us advocates of such primitive thinking live to regret the error we made. Only meritorious and credible personalities with strong capability in people and resource management should be considered. We must eschew dysfunctional politics and conflicts in considering who should occupy the post of a VC. Equal opportunities should be given to all to ensure and enhance effectiveness, create a sense of belonging and security, and promotion of national unity.

Zoning promotes mediocre performance. Our eyes should be centered on appointing a vice chancellor of good character, intelligence, drive, openness and vision who is prepared to perform and bring gains of administrative sagacity and experience to the University. Unfortunately, the politicization of the post has introduced greed and corruption which has become the hallmark of some vice chancellors. The very essence of qualitative education has been destroyed by greed and nepotism.

I stated as above that we regretted the error made. Nevertheless, the best can be found in every location, let the criteria for appointment be competitive enough to allow credibility, nobility, administrative sagacity or erudition, profundity in wisdom display, honesty, sincerity, consciousness, intellectual prowess, tried and tested acuity, shrewdness in creativity, capacity for inventiveness, strategic awareness, resilience in the face of criticism, courageous and compassionate disposition, capacity to think global but caring about the local and a host of others. The time to correct the error should be now.

Let’s not relegate the intelligence of our people to the trenches by encouraging mediocrity. Let’s emphasize meritocracy by making the headship of an academia more competitive. Go to the University today and see how nepotism has become pervasive. This is certainly worrisome. The south or central or North comes in and replicates the same line of rationalization. “More emphasis on my people”. Qualifications criteria altered to favor interests rather than identifying with the vision for academic excellence. No emphasis on merit, this is not good for our citadel of intelligentsia. The benefit of “merit” in the long run will position the University for the best.

Let’s evaluate the various intellectuals currently jostling for the position via their preparedness to wrestle with paradoxes – to drive change for the new, but conserving the best of the old; knowing their own minds, but able to listen and take advice from others; aiming to see the value in things not just the price; reflecting and reflecting again, but also knowing when to act; being resilient and very patient but being able to up the pace when needed; knowing what the University is for as well as what it is good at; thinking global but caring about local; having a sense of humour rather than physically fighting and exchanging blows when under pressure. The University is a place for decency not vulgarity or crudity.

The position of a Vice-Chancellor is an exalted one, signifying utmost honour for the person holding it. There are enough instances when academicians or administrators of impeccable integrity, who had attained superannuation, were requested to become the Vice-Chancellor of a university. A request to grace this highest academic position was the recognition of the good work done by them not necessarily the zone or location they come from. This propensity to promote primordial or primitive albeit mundane justification for advancing the leadership of an academia is certainly lamentable.

Times have changed and so has the criteria for the selection of a Vice- Chancellor. The contrary is happening now. Whenever either the position of a Vice-Chancellor falls vacant or one has to be appointed for a new university; there are hundreds of applicants. Some deserving candidates may not even apply, thinking it is all political business and merit will not prevail. There are examples of professors without any administrative experience being appointed Vice-Chancellors. The caste or son-of-the-soil tag may have its own role in the selection process. This edifies lack of inspiration and inferiority. Competitiveness encourages the best to thrive.

Integrity and passion of a person to be appointed as Vice-Chancellor, is as important as his/her administrative and leadership acumen. Nothing works in the right direction if the one at the helm of affairs does not own up the institution he or she is working for. The Vice-Chancellor should never yield to political pressure and must be ever ready to put in his papers if the circumstances so demand.

The Vice-Chancellor of a university should know his business well and be morally committed to maintain the dignity of the position. He should be the one who salutes his work and not the bosses. Corruption thrives when zoning becomes the order. Today is our turn to share from the national cake. A syndrome that’s a bad omen for a university setting.

Financial crunch in universities has become a big issue. Vice-Chancellors are often under pressure to raise funds from the internal resources. Not steal. Such situations are the real test of integrity, concern and the vision of a Vice-Chancellor. Rather than framing any long-term policy to improve the financial status of the institution, probably many preferred to take the easy way of parting with a part of immovable property to tide over the situation temporarily.

Where from does one get a Vice-Chancellor who is passion and commitment personified and has vision, wisdom and administrative skills.? Only if the search committees do their business well, things would improve. Rather than searching for the Vice-Chancellors from the lists of the applicants for the position, they need to knock at the door of the right person with the promise of no political interference and full financial support.

We must eschew the politicization of the position of a vice chancellor. It is not a political arena for election, but an academia where efficiency, effectiveness and proficiency should thrive. This is so now that the entire districts have tasted the office. Needless I say that the University is ab initio a federal university opened to all Nigerians to contest.

It will be might delight to hear your opinions on this critical issue.

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