Ife warriors and OAU politician-teachers (1)
A longtime protege of the late Chief Bola Ige told me a funny but sad story. He was a member of a group of younger friends around Cicero, sharing his ideals and vision. Ige was visiting his country home in Esa-Oke during a particular Christmas season and his people, including the town’s traditional rulers, came to call. Besides the good seasonal news, they also came with a request. Yes, the polytechnic in the city is state owned, but they wanted a native of the city to be the rector and their illustrious son to realize it. They got an immediate response from him. It was a not too subtle rebuke. He would have asked in the Yoruba language if the desk was a traditional stool. That ended the turmoil, at least, for the season.
If the slightest signal of support had come from him, the city could descend into chaos within minutes. The body language of leaders matters a lot. Bola Ige did not hate his people. He did not exclude them from patronage. He alone, patriotically, loved them. He was sensitive enough to know the brewing sense of right in town, was a sure tinder who could incinerate anything; the institution, the Esa-Oke community and its economy, its livelihoods, even its lives and above all, peace. He preferred to work for them behind the scenes, instead of fanning a fire, on the altar of clan populism. He refused to be a reckless hero for his people.
If a community, town or city is in flames today because of the rights mentality, it is likely that leaders and elders of Ige’s stature and native intelligence, are not in abundance. , or those available, may lack community value, leading to a disconnect between falcon and falconer, as they say.
Elders and leaders are the gatekeepers, especially in maintaining community peace. As soon as they descend into the arena of conflict, they become part of the problems to be solved. Once they become irreverent, they become irrelevant, regardless of titles. What good is a title, without a coat.
Identity politics, stemming from insensitivity to rights, was once an aberration, but it is now so normalized that we are comfortable with whining as our best disavowal. And that is not new. Gradually eroding values and the death of merit and lack of due process are among the species of maggots crawling out of the decaying society that we are about to hand over to future generations.
And they don’t need to be taught, they just learn by watching today’s leaders. Imagine a professor of peace and conflict management, leading a pack of dissenters against the legal direction of the university, then galloping in front of the class, trying to teach his students the theories his actions perforate. They may listen, but they have already internalized the practices he inadvertently taught with his misconduct.
Yes, the above may be conjectural, but the power struggle in Nigerian university administration has registered a worse episode in recent times. Professors’ wives now serve midnight jollof rice to the invaders, besieging the VC office, while husbands fund the destabilization program. Haha!
The appointment of public officers is pure politics, except for those who live in denial. Yet against the backdrop of the sad realities swirling around and about compromised procedures and processes, reason is still attainable, especially if those whom the Yoruba will call agba ti ko to ile (unreasonable elders) are not involved. The greatest tragedy is that most of those who are still handpicked to do the job are not decent men and women. Money is their god. Influence peddling is their job and kneeling in front of their bosses their main qualification for missions that require tact and facts.
If Ife and other communities, hosting tertiary institutions, are in turmoil today, self-review should be the critical starting point for all stakeholders, including the nominating authorities in Abuja. It’s not about big grammar. It’s about retooling and resetting, to prevent the shame from repeating itself.
King Solomon says there is nothing new under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 1:9).
Years ago, a late monarch from the city of Ife invited then VC to sit in his palace, for a one-on-one. The monarch has tacitly demanded an upgrading of the status of Ife natives who are part of the teaching staff. The VC told Baba that this would not be a problem as long as his concerned subjects were willing to stay longer in the chalk call, instead of the widespread practice of leaving the business world after becoming a speaker 1 or nearly. They would need to grow, to compete. Baba understood. In the presence of the VC, he beckoned his elders around, to hear for themselves, the solution, to the grievances of their people. He did not make the VC an enemy to be destroyed. He correctly communicated the solution to his people through the Community Guardians. Any arrangement outside of this is an invitation to anarchy.
I take Prof. Rufus Adedoyin’s decent performance in the contest that propelled Prof. Adebayo Bamire as OAU VC-elect as the manifest result of the sincere advice of yesteryear and the guardians of Ife, receiving it with determination, on which to work. Ife warriors need not engage in crime. One day, it will be the turn of the son of the soil, strong in his academic achievements and his personal qualities, should I add.
This is however not without counting on the appeal mounted against the victory of Bamiré against Adedoyin. If there is any basis to the claim that Bamire was, against established protocol, awarded twice for being DVC, instead of once, as allegedly dictated by nomination guidelines, a recount should be ordered by the visitor, and the one who ends up with the highest legal points, must be chosen. The cliché is that there can be no peace without fairness, justice and fairness. If the courts could reallocate votes not cast in their presence, why not a university board of trustees, which did the ranking in the first place. And why should it be difficult to set up a standardized scoring system. With the exception of the Nigerian cheat factor, it should be very easy for an average candidate to enter the competition, knowing their preliminary score based on positions held, within the system. If being Dean of Faculty attracts 6 points, it shouldn’t suddenly become 12 points for anyone. If the five-man panel awarded 30 to one candidate, it would be criminal for another to get 60, for the same parameter.
(To be continued).