On the 4th of November, 2016, the Visitor to the Osun State University (UNIOSUN) and Governor of Osun State, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, approved the appointment of Prof. Labode Popoola as the new Vice Chancellor of the University. The appointment was in line with the recommendation by the University Council led by the indefatigable Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of Council, Mallam Yusuf Ali (SAN), after considering the report of the Selection Board. Prof. Labode’s appointment took effect immediately.
For those who have been following the trajectory of the 9-year old university, an appointment of this nature would readily elicit some great relief. This is because since 2013 or thereabout, UNIOSUN has been dogged with one form of crisis or the other. This is a university that has had within a space of 9 years, two acting Vice Chancellors who were brought in to stabilise an ailing university. Similarly, between 2012 and 2016 and until Prof. Labode’s recent appointment, UNIOSUN has had three Vice-Chancellors, two on acting capacity and one on full appointment. One would have thought for a university that prides itself as a world class institution (apologies to Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola), this terrible succession of Vice-Chancellor-ship would not have occurred in the first place. Yet, this is one out of the hundreds of apparent challenges the university face daily in its bid to survive.
It is interesting to note that UNIOSUN began on a strong footing. The founding fathers established a university that they believed would be the best institution not only in Nigeria but globally with the facilitation of world class faculty staff. They thought of building a globally-competitive university that would be at par with others around the world. The university mounted solid structures even before kick-off and through sheer determination of the then governor, Prince Oyinlola, all the six campuses were ready for swift academic life. By 2010, the university could boast of massive infrastructures and faculty staff pulled across the globe, all of whom returned to contribute to the development of the new university. Not only by sheer providence but with strong will did the university achieve monumental success. It was rough and tough and nobody gave the new institution a chance. By 2011, the university churned out its first graduates. They were not only the brightest but the experiment on them took them places. The university at the time trained students who were not only highly competitive but moulded with good character and discipline. Nothing was compromised in UNIOSUN’s determination to become a reference point in academic scholarship and staff training.
However, just a little after then, UNIOSUN slid into leadership crisis. Succession disputes ravaged the institution such that every facet crumbled with it. Mediocrity not only set it but the leadership tussle gave room for ineptitude. There was so much indiscipline that the Ikire Campus of that University was embroiled in serious riot that left infrastructures destroyed and burnt to the ground. Also, many faculty staff quickly left for greener pastures elsewhere after the school did not show signs of ending its protracted instability. The university lost more than half of its lecturers to private universities who were willing to treat them with honour and dignity. Most of the departments could not boast of a professor while teaching staff ratio was reduced by 70 percent. Not finished, by the time a substantive Vice Chancellor was appointed in 2013, matters became worse. Infighting and power struggle between Management and Council too its turn such that the Vice Chancellor, Deputy Vice Chancellor, Bursar, Registrar and few others had to be either removed or sanctioned. This would be the most atrocious period for the university. Aside the acrimony this brought upon the institution, experienced hands were lost. Bickering followed while division and deep rot set in. Students were admitted indiscriminately. Many who were not willing to learn and who lacked the moral character to be disciplined were handed admission. The image of the institution suddenly nosedived. We were inundated daily of news bordering on sexual harassment, indiscipline, examination malpractice, armed robbery, rape, massive failure and many other troubling stories from a university that held so much hope.
Today, UNIOSUN is in a terrible shape. It is in serious crisis and stinks with nepotism and mediocrity. The image of the institution has not only been battered by all the saddening news coming out from it but shows very little sign of promise. It is why Prof. Labode’s appointment is timely. He comes with a rich academic profile and robust experience. It is hoped he will bring to bear his academic expertise, technical experience, administrative acumen and skills for the sake of repairing an already damaged institution. The new Vice Chancellor has a lot on his hands. He has a little less than 5 years to make a difference. Prof. Labode will need to reach out to those who understand the university and how it began to be able to forge it ahead properly and efficiently. He needs to wield the big stick on those who have aided in moving backwards the development of the university and those who have little or nothing to contribute to its progress. He must equally reward talent. He must be able to return UNIOSUN to its glory days when students and staff were disciplined and the academic environment suitable for learning. He must as much as possible do away with the lethargic politics that has led to the degeneration of the university in the last couple of years. The seat of the Vice Chancellor in UNIOSUN is a slippery slope like many others across the country. A banana peel is always there to make people slip and fall. The new Vice Chancellor must ensure this peel is removed and make the seat less attractive. If UNIOSUN must go back to its glorious days, it certainly starts with Prof. Labode’s ability to do what is right at all times with justice and fairness. History will always be on the side of those who make a difference.