Abdulrahman Bello Onifade
Sometimes in 2017, I had a chat with two senior officials of the University of Ibadan Security Unit, popularly called Abefele. We talked about the suspended Students’ Union and its officials; their mistakes as well as the many flaws of the UI management in handling the crises. During our chat, one of the officials related an anecdote that occurred in the University a few years back.
In his narrative, one day a Vice Chancellor decided to walk around the University while in his knickers. It was a weekend. He moved from one hall of residence to the others; until he reached somewhere around the Faculty of Arts or SUB Court. A security official on duty around the area stopped him and requested to know his identity. “I am the Vice Chancellor of the University,” he said. “No, I don’t believe you. I would like to see your identity card please,” the official demanded. But I am the VC of UI. “Well, I don’t think our VC would be walking around on knickers,” the official declared, “So please show me your ID Card.” Seeing the official’s insistence, the VC showed his identity card; behold! It was true. It was the VC. The official apologized; but the VC said it was nothing. He expressed his admiration for his resolve and diligence on duty. In fact, he gave the man a sum of five thousand naira (N5 000) in appreciation and left.
In another institution or scenario, the Vice Chancellor could have blown his own horn by saying: “You don’t know who I am? You mean you don’t know the VC of the institution you are working? You will lose your job today. In fact, you are fired!” And that could summarily be the end of that employee in that institution. But the Oga in charge as depicted above looked at the employee’s act from a broader perspective. He thought that with people like that man, the institution would be more secure.
I have been in the know about the rustication of Kunle Adebajo, a brother, colleague and an astute confidant whose shrewdness on any matter is wowing and fascinating. Without exaggeration, throughout my academic pursuit as an undergraduate in UI, Kunle Adebajo is one of the finest brains I have come across in the last decade. I envy his intellect and every sane individual would do same. His literary dexterity and oratory prowess, aside his unruffled simplicity, among other qualities would endear him to every gentleman and gentlewoman. He surely, indeed, does not deserve to have been rusticated by UI; an institution whose name he has soared with sincere contributions.
Maybe I should state that I have lately become somehow disinterested in reading the COURTROOM column. When Kunle Adebajo and Koyinsola Olorunnisola were the scribes of that column, I always looked forward to reading their intellectual arguments. Despite my very busy schedules as a unionist, I would never miss the weekly columns because on many occasions it helped to shape my reasoning about many issues around me. One of such great arguments was about which was needed more in student unionism: intellectualism or radicalism. Everyone who reads his writings would agree that he actually holds a superior pen that bewitches avid readers.
Meanwhile, in this part of the globe, like our societies, our tertiary institutions have been characterized by some good and many bad. Our ivory towers have shown that dissent, from staff and students, is a crime. Hence, there have been draconian approaches to stifle dissent. Whereas societies that hanker for development embrace criticisms and dissent with rapturous dialogues and mutual intelligibility. After all, nobody owns the monopoly of knowledge. Importantly, one of the things that strengthen educational institutions is intellectual tolerance and exposure of our varying weaknesses with objectivity; hoping amendments would be made for a better social communion.
The article which earned Kunle this rustication contains the bitter truth. I have read that article more than a dozen times; sometimes while still in the Students’ Union, hoping I would have to speak for that case some day and even again and again, recently. It brings to fore the priority of frivolities that abounds in many Nigerian tertiary institutions. Yes, I have seen many of these frivolities in many tertiary institutions – universities, polytechnics, colleges of education and monotechnics – in the southwest and northern parts. Sadly, we feign conscious oblivion and cripple those whose efforts reignite our conscience towards making the necessary changes. Therefore, our tertiary institution betrays the maxim of “Recte Sapere Fons” – “Right thinking is the fount [of knowledge].”
Since his rustication, I have spoken to Kunle in person and via mobile; and I must commend his tranquility. It does not mean he is happy with the status quo; he has only been man enough to bottle up those feelings of betrayal by person(s) who have used his name to accentuate the pride of the institution. I had felt same too sometimes back; when I was told text messages between me and our VC was taken to the floor of the Senate. Why? Perhaps, to recommend I be given a disciplinary case. Fortunately, I am privy to the fact that some University Senators who never even knew me in person spoke in my favour. A Professor who never knows, I mean never knows till now, that I am from the Department she retired was said to have spoken in my favour. But if I had gotten an undeserved disciplinary case for those text messages, I wouldn’t be perturbed because I had prepared my mind for it before joining the Students’ Union. I would still have been manly like Kunle; whose rustication came as a contribution from our second union – Union of Campus Journalists. Many of us, though young, have been hardened by the vicissitudes of life. We have come to terms with the reality that Que Sera Sera – what will be, will be.
This time will pass and whatever comes of it would be recorded in the anals of history. Meanwhile, I have a strong conviction that this rustication has further brought Kunle to limelight. It has also rekindled the conscience of administrators of tertiary institutions to embrace criticisms with open-mindedness; noting that the ills in the town can only be solved when the gown produces individuals who can challenge and change the status quo. Our tertiary institutions, without apologies, breed a lot of unfit graduates. Graduates who are certified ignoramuses, with little or no knowledge about solving the numerous problems that confront humanity. I believe, nonetheless, that the University Governing Council, which the VC is part of, will look at the case with a tender heart and review it favourably.
A former UCJUI President, Mr. Abraham Oladipupo, stated in a piece that he once wrote an article critical of the University of Ibadan management. When the VC saw the article, he was invited by and asked why he didn’t send it to him as a piece of advice. The VC advised that in future, such should be sent to him and that when actions are not taken, he could then write. The current VC, Professor Idowu Olayinka, could have invited Kunle for a chat. He knows Kunle very well and he had during one of the convocation programmes in 2016 mentioned how Kunle has made the University proud. It is, therefore, heart-breaking that the same Kunle got rusticated under his watch, comfortably. Indeed, Kunle does not deserve this. Like many appeals have been made from big shots such as Dele Momodu, Fisayo Soyombo, among others, I appeal to the Governing Council to review the case favourably in the shortest possible time.
Dear Kunle, we owe the future of this nation a lot of responsive responsibilities. In the pursuit of an egalitarian society, we surely must face challenges and our stand during those challenging times defines us for greater heights and duties. By now, you would have of course realized that not all positive gestures are noble. But rest assured that George Washington had you in mind when he said, “Worry is the interest paid by those who borrow trouble.” You have nothing to worry because you have borrowed no trouble. We shall overcome, indeed!