In critiquing Nigerian universities I prefer to use examples of possibilities to flesh out my critique, and the example works best when it is from the Nigerian context, not from America, whose higher education system is different in several ways from the Nigerian one.
In that spirit of highlighting and celebrating exemplary conducts that are aberrations but that nonetheless demonstrate alternative possibilities for other universities to emulate, I will tell the stories of two universities that are trying to deal with the two intertwined issues of poor ethics and primordial preferences.
It has been brought to my attention that In the last five years, under the Vice Chancellorship of Professor Victor Peretomode, Delta State University has vigorously and decisively dealt with ethical infractions and misconduct. I’m told that the university thoroughly investigates all cases of alleged misconduct and dismisses many academic staff who are found to have committed the acts they are accused of.
I was in fact told that the university’s website site has a section that publishes the names of dismissed academic staff, a name and shame strategy that if implemented across Nigeria will prevent the recurring situations in which professors dismissed from one institution go to another and get a job, sometimes at a higher rank, because there is no public naming or shaming and there is no national database for convicted or dismissed academic offenders.
I do not know this man and have never been to DELSU, so I cannot independently confirm these claims, but I hope they are true. What I can confirm, which leads me to want to believe the claims is that indeed there is a section of the DELSU website (the “info” dropdown menu) that contains names of recently dismissed academic staff. Although I saw only five names there and none of them was dismissed for sexual misconduct (the dismissals are for exam malpractices and absconding /absenteeism), I commend the VC for the bold move of not only investigating and dismissing these academics but also publishing their names. That’s the way to go.
The second example pertains to the scourge of ethno-religious preference to the detriment of diversity and excellence. I do not know Professor Sulyman Age Abdulkareem, the Vice Chancellor of the University of Ilorin. What I’m about to relay was told to me by a friend who, in his capacity as HOD in the institution, has interacted with the VC a bit and has read his directives.
In sum, the VC, upon assuming office two years ago, sent out a memo on recruitment whose main thrust is the radical thinking that, after years of Ilorin emirate (Kwara Central) people monopolizing or dominating academic jobs in the institution and producing a scandalously ethnic (and religious) lopsidedness in the academic ranks of the institution, the university would diversify its academic workforce to shed its provincial toga for a cosmopolitan one.
The VC told Deans, HODs, and heads of academic units that when a vacancy opens up or when they are authorized to recruit academic staff, they should be guided by the need to attract women, people from other parts of the country, people with disability, and people from other parts of Kwara state (in other words, historically neglected minorities in the context of the university). The memo further makes clear that only when no suitable candidates are found among these demographics should candidates from Ilorin emirate be considered.
This is exactly how to reverse the ethno-religious takeover of Nigerian universities by ethnic host communities and constituencies. What is even peculiar about Professor Abdulkareem’s radical move is that he is from Ilorin. It takes boldness and a deliberate commitment to diversity (intellectual and demographic) to return these institutions to the original idea of the university.
These are just two universities, but they show that the academic incest and inbreeding that have killed the intellectual life of Nigerian public universities and turned them into politically charged arenas of mediocrity can be reversed.
All that is required are a few committed administrators and a national higher education policy banning incestuous recruiting practices and enforcing diversity. We also need a robust policy on academic sexual misconduct from the NUC.