PRESIDENT JONATHAN: THE NEW STYLE OF ACADEMIC LEADERSHIP BY ALUKO, OKOGBAA AND FAROUK NEEDS BOLD, FULL AND OPEN AUTONOMY TO CONTROL CHANGE
Sir, the soon to come Academic Leadership approach to the new federal universities will enormously gain from an Executive order-type autonomy in order for it to fully evidence excellent practices, sustained outcomes and well defined changes in university educational system in Nigeria.
Sir, as an academic yourself, you have seen firsthand the lamentable nature of Nigerian higher institutions in spite of millions of money that have been poured into the system.
Sir, you will agree that in the last fifteen years the existing academic leadership in many of these higher institutions have had very little impact on the overall health of our universities, and this is partly because of some members of the leadership being all about self-interest rather focusing on matters of national interest. Mr. President, as you rightly know, every great development started as an idea, as such to adequately tackle the many human and capital challenges the country currently face, you have looked beyond the old ways of ‘doing things’ in Nigeria. A great move indeed!
Sir, you have done this by taking a very bold and unpopular step which in the words of Mohammed Farouk, the new Vice Chancellor of the federal University in Kashere, Gombe, include bringing in those who “will apply their knowledge, skills, expertise, and experiences” to better the nation.
Sir, I can assure you that compared to what exist currently, Bolaji Aluko of Howard University in Washington Dc; O. Geoffrey Okogbaa of the University of South Florida, and Mohammed K. Farouk of the Florida International University will come in with a collective culture in academic leadership and embark on your vision in a way that is marked with aggressive drive and a spirit of mobilization. But the question Sir, is under what platform and mantle of leadership will they do their respective work? Because for them to bring in meaningful, fundamental and important progressive changes to higher education, they must be protected against the expectations and attitudes of the outmoded mindset that are pervasive within the Nigerian University education system.
There is no attempt here to disparage the work of the officials of the National Universities Commission as they try to function within the present institutional environment that surrounds them in a taxing society like Nigeria. Mr. President, if you want these new appointees to turn around higher institutional learning in our society; beginning with the ones they will be leading, the long standing academic machinery will need to be ready for fresh, state of the art and cutting-edge approach to university management.
Sir, you will agree with me that there could be both overt and covert resistance from the systems currently in place, and this is expected being the way life is. Sir, I can assure you these Diaspora appointees will strategically, stubbornly, drastically and professionally push against unstable academic environments, unhealthy facilities, and non-functional library system. But again they will need your direct help!
Sir, through a special executive order your new appointees will have more freedom to erect and implement the type of higher learning in your shared vision with them. The special autonomy which could come in form of writing and full understanding by all stakeholders will in no way diminish the powers, and functions already being exercised by those in charge of academic systems. It is important that many of us in academic and administrative leadership in the Diaspora salute the Executive Secretary of NUC, Professor Julius Okojie who has continuously worked to raise the academic standards of universities in spite of the societal challenges in Nigeria.
Many of us applaud him for his ongoing collaborative and cooperative spirit with the new VCs as they embark on their respective works. With a greater level of independence, the new VCs will have the chance and control to assist in erecting new machinery in academic leadership that is at par with the 21st century educational system. If given a special protection from how things are done currently, it is very likely that the learning and teaching environment in their respective pioneering institutions will by every reasonable way shut out and shut down many Nigerian university education problems.
These new appointees will set a far reaching criteria that will steadily enhance faculty/staff quality and development in various areas not limited to mandated completion of trainings in the areas of Sexual Harassment prevention, employment discrimination prevention and student education privacy. The new Diasporan VCs, using their experiences and highly integrated perspectives will amplify an environment for collaboration with faculty and staff, thereby reducing any room for outdated equipment/laboratories and the almost lifeless infrastructures that currently exist.
They will fully ensure that quality delivery systems and benchmarks for teaching and working are current throughout in their respective universities as that is the only way to enhance a stable learning environment. They will respectively exert efforts and time on showcasing the new federal universities by providing leadership and a well-defined path to corporate funding, applied research, laboratory development, equitable equipment, modern libraries, and they will promote learner-centered education. They will aggressively create learning and teaching environments and see to the faculty/staff welfare, and they will create institutional environment that could be unattractive to the never-ending strikes, and the problems of cultism. They will provide leadership in regards to making sure that each of the new universities has active and workable websites. They will bring in cutting-edge research that focus on solving our local and other homegrown problems. They will attract lectures of international standards and proactively provide competent instructional technologies, thereby helping to achieve online, blended, and hybrid education, which will connect well with face-to-face instructions. They will aggressively provide leadership in the area of quality assurance in regards to institutional effectiveness, and work aggressively to efficiently and strategically stabilize electrical Power in their respective universities. They will ensure quality production and establishment of journals, publications and lectures in their respective universities to enhance applied and scientific research. They will provide strategic ways to protect administrators, faculty and staff from governmental abuse as it relates to the long-standing manner of grossly dismissing and firing lecturers, staff, or even Vice-chancellors without any mark of courtesy and due process.
They will provide university environments and facilities, which are attractive to international students, and see that an environment exists for functional basic medical and mental health care services. They will help provide stress and physical examinations and recreational facilities within the new universities as well as provide student activity centers that meet international standards. They will make sure that university websites are current and updated in order to allow for quick access to our current global economy. They will be able to easily collaborate with the continental African universities and other institutions in order to build new cultures within our public institutions and private economies. They will institute functional and quality leadership programs for public, government and corporate officials, thereby shrinking the urge for officials to travel to ‘Oyibo’ lands or European-American lands for ‘course’.
They should be allowed to create security or police type systems in order to fully respond to safety issues as they relate to the problems of strikes, kidnapping and cultism. They will use their Diaspora experiences to secure external grants which could provide stipends for faculty to develop indigenous research and these monies could help to facilitate faculty collaborations with students for scholarly and applied projects. They will help attract highly successful but settled diasporan Nigerians who are likely to appear at home and contribute to lectures, journals, books, and indigenous based studies which are akin to the needs of our systems and people. They will create openings for Nigerian graduates to alternative vocations which could push them towards private corporations, thereby reducing the dependency on white-collar or government office jobs.
In the same vein they will work on harnessing business and entrepreneurial opportunities for their respective graduates. They will provide leadership that will help create social networks through digital communication for our students thereby providing affordable access to our cyber world. Mr. President, I would like to believe that your objective is to shape the educational history and culture in Nigeria, but the right person in the right place at the right time is all that is needed to bring in best practices across our higher institutions. Please be assured that many of us in the Diaspora are fully confident that each of your new appointees will usher in the type of academic leadership and management style our society greatly deserves at this time. Goodluck to you Sir!
John Egbeazien Oshodi, Ph.D., DABPS; FACFE; is a Licensed Clinical/Forensic Psychologist; Diplomate of American Board of Psychological Specialties; Fellow of American College of Forensic Examiners (For Psy); Former Interim Associate Dean and an Assistant Professor of Psychology, Broward College - North Campus, Florida. [email protected]