The current leadership crisis rocking the Rivers State University of Science and technology (RSUST), from all indications, appears to have degenerated into a life-threatening dimension, as virtually all the disputing parties and personalities involved are sticking to their guns despite appeals from well-meaning individuals and groups for amicable resolution.
The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), RSUST Chapter kick-started the industrial dispute with a proclamation of an indefinite strike following the re-appointment of Prof. Barineme Beke. Fakae as the institution’s Vice Chancellor at the expiration of his first tenure. ASUU accused Governor Chibuike Amaechi, the visitor to the institution of “not following due process” in the re-appointment of Fakae as enshrined in the enabling law which established the University.
As if the RSUST Chapter of ASUU’s strike was not enough, the national body of the union similarly declared a one –day warning strike in all government –owned universities in the country in solidarity with the lecturers in RSUST. The union at federal level also demanded for the reversal of Fakae’s re-appointment by the State governor.
Contrary to ASUU’s view on the issue, Governor Amaechi who re-appointed Fakae for a second term defended his decision for the re-appointment, stating that he followed” due process in the re-appointment and challenged ASUU to seek redress in the law court if aggrieved.
In same vein, the Chairman of the institution’s governing council, Justice Adolphus Karibi-Whyte who was also the Chairman of the Joint Selection Committee for the appointment of a new Vice Chancellor defended Fakae’s re-appointment stating that the body followed the rules and regulations guiding the process of getting a new Vice-chancellor.
Justice Karibi-Whyte said in an interview that out of the five candidates who were short-listed for screening, three of them were disqualified for engaging in sharp practices tailored towards getting the RSUST’s topmost position.
He explained that Professors ben Onuegbu, M. Ahiakwo, Ndu Lale, C. Enyinda and Barineme Fakae were all screened and interviewed by the panel which disqualified three of them and recommended Fakae and Enyinda to the Visitor who exercised discretion; and re-appointed Fakae.
For him, therefore, the re-appointment of prof. Fakae is entirely the discretion of governor Amaechi who exercised his powers as the visitor to the institution on choosing fakae among the two candidates that were recommended by the selection panel.
However, in another development, Professors Onuegbu, Lale and Ahiakwo who were accused of sharp practices by the Justice Karibi-Whyte panel addressed a press conference in Port Harcourt alleging that Karibi-Whyte merely executed a script authored by the powers-that-be.
The University dons challenged the panel’s Chairman to make public the alleged sharp practices by them, if he has the facts right. They faulted the entire selection process and described it as fraudulent as the result released by Karibi- Whyte is a departure from the one with the institution’s registrar.
For them, the Karibi-Whyte-led panel was merely feeding the public with lies tailored to justify Fakae’s re-appointment.
The trio affirmed that their disqualification was “fraudulent” and based on thrump-up charges”. He challenged Karibi-Whyte on why he could not recommend Prof. Enyinda having, in his wisdom, disqualified the other three candidates.
The scenario is indeed confusing and curious for those of us wishing the institution well. While the school’s governing council and perhaps, the visitor to the school share similar point of view, ASUU and the contending candidates are of the same position which runs at parallel with the earlier contention.
Fakae on his part had consistently maintained that his reappointment followed all due processes in line with the guidelines for the appointment of a new Vice Chancellor.
While all these are going on, the state government, as justification for Fakae’s re-appointment confirmed the re-appointment stating, among others, that the Visitor to the RSUST used his discretionary powers and affirmed that Onuegbu, Lale and Ahiakwo who were candidates in the selection process were involved in the nomination of members of the Joint Selection Committee.
In a press release signed by the Secretary to the Rivers State Government, Mr. George D.N. Feyii explained that Onuegbu and Ahiakwo nominated Professors Ogburia and S. Amadi as members of the panel, while, Profs Lale and Ahiakwo nominated Amabipi Martins and Mrs Matilda Nnodim, Chief Nemi Adoki, Deacon Abigo and Chief Wike into the same committee.
Feyii contended that as candidates for the Vice Chancellorship position they were barred morally and legally from participating in the selection process to determine the suitability of the Vice-Chancellor, hence their substantive disqualification and disability.
For the SSG, and by extension, the Rivers State Government, the claims by ASUU and other elements were deliberate attempts to misform and mislead the public on “due process” for Fakae’s re-appointment.
He also recalled that ASUU had earlier in 2008 challenged in court Fakae’s appointment and had that case struck out, for lack of merit and wondered why the same union is still hell-bent on removing Fakae without clearly disputing his towering achievements in RSUST
Happily, well-meaning indigenes of Rivers State and beyond feel strongly about the ugly developing scenario in our dear RSUST; the nation’s premier University of a Science and technology, and are exploring avenues for harmonisation of views by the disputing parties.
That is why one would hail the institution’s alumni association’s initiative to bringing sanity back to the school as a welcome development, not just for the students of the school alone, but for parents who had laboured so much for the well-being of their children and wards.
The Dr. Lawson Woka-led association must therefore ensure that all the disputing parties should come to the negotiating table with facts and figures (evidences) in order to amicably resolve the impasse.
Under the auspices of RSUST Alumni Association, Woka and other well-meaning members of the group must strive to ensure that UST does not degenerate further. The union must provide the necessary panacea for the resolution of the stalemate.
Methinks that other well-meaning persons in the state should join forces with the association in resolving the matter in the shortest possible time so that the vision of the founding fathers of the school is not allowed to die pre-maturedly. ASUU must be open to dialogue and not close its doors to negotiation.
The Rivers State government, the governing council of the institution, ASUU, of RSUST should be more circumspect and respect one another’s feelings so as to reach a compromise. This is the only way forward.
Without doubt, students of the school have, indeed, suffered so much set-back in their academic pursuits giving the impression in some quarters that RSUST is always in crisis. This, must, stop now.
The era of senseless strikes in our tertiary institutions, especially in RSUST should be considered old-fashioned and thrown to the trashcan while, dialogue and give-and-take spirit should be adopted in resolving all matters in Nigerian Universities so as to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and Vision 20:2020. ASUU should please embrace dialogue and peace now for RSUST to move forward.