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By Olusola Adegbite, Esq.
Finally, the High Court of Osun state, via its improvised sitting in Osogbo has granted bail to the former Acting Vice-Chancellor of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Prof.Anthony Elujoba. Prof.Elujoba, a renowned Professor of Pharmacy had be arrainged before the State High Court in Ede, over spurious allegations of abuse of office. In a shocking turn of events, a simple bail proceeding that is an elementary subject for even a Law School student, became a drama script for the Osun state justice system. The rule of men replaced the rule of law, as all manner of shenanigans was deployed to achieve their aim of dumping the eminent Professor in prison. But the power lords met their match in the age-long ‘Aluta spirit’ of Great Ife. Both staff and students not only held the High Court in Ede hostage, but made history by forcing a sitting Judge to reverse his order. In a historic moment, Ife demonstrated that well documented fact, that it is the only Nigerian University where no foreign power can withstand the collective will of the people. Sadly, this adventure of disgrace, attempted at using Brother Elujoba as a pawn, as again brought to the fore the cesspit of filth that the once highly exalted Office of the Vice-Chancellor has become.
Once an enviable position, the Office of the Vice-Chancellor was once known for academic sobriety, intellectual equanimity, and officious prestige. It was designed to be a mere Administrative set-up within the University super-structure, where outstanding academics are elevated to the zenith of academic leadership, with a view to advancing the core visions of teaching, research, and community service. Such individual picked from the many eminently qualified, are expected to further deepen the town/gown relationship, and were strictly forbidden from the shameless inanities of life, and consecrated to aloofness from those pedestrian things that easily destroyed Men, such as money, fame, and the pursuit of naked power. It was that golden era when even though in Office, Vice-Chancellors stuck to their calling as teachers, and would still dash to Class in between their tight schedules to impart knowledge into their students. It was a dispensation when even after leaving Office, such VCs would still remain in the University, teaching for many years, grooming and inspiring younger academics.
But that era died as soon as it was born. The coming of the Military destroyed the Nigerian university system. Particularly with the destructive polices of the General Olusegun Obasanjo government of 1976 – 1979, Vice Chancellors became no more than political errand boys, postrating before ordinary politicians to be appointed into Office and subjecting themselves to insults from the small boys in government in exchange for crumbs. Contest for the Office of the Vice Chancellor became a satanic battle, in which supposed intellectuals deployed all manner of clandestine moves to secure the favour of dirty politicians. Vice Chancellors became tyrants moving around on the University campus with scores of security escorts, living in reckless oppulence, and carting away University resources in mindless corruption. In a desperate descent to the mud, the University became a microcosm of the jalopy, that the Nigerian state had become. That was what Ife was sliding into, before Prof.Anthony Elujoba was asked to step in and begin a reversal of the rot.
The last Vice-Chancellor I saw walk freely on Ife campus, returning the greetings of people as he passed by, was Prof.Rogers Makanjuola. He was an enigma, a towering personality and a Man loved by all. The next VC I would shockingly see do that, was Prof.Anthony Elujoba. His personality again was strikingly cerebral, attractively simple, and pleasantly unassuming, that you could hardly tell him to be the VC when passing.The two in-between them were like tin-gods. Ordinary men are privileged with power, and they suddenly become the worst of men.Shame!
Brother Elujoba, Our Village Chemist! What manner of Man. Mr.Promotions! I cannot forget his words when he came to address us as members of academic staff. Throughout his speech, he kept repeating these word – ‘If you have stolen before, dont steal again; If you once cut corners, now is the time to stop’. At a point, he started teaching all of us the new mantra, ‘Do things right’, and we kept chanting the slogan after him. By the time he was done, we were all on our feet in rousing applause. That is our Brother Elujoba.
When some tin-gods had denied some persons Professorial promotion for close to 8 years, he came in and did the unthinkable. In just 11 months, he promoted close to 200 New Professors; paid over N1 Billion in outstanding staff arrears; restored sanity to a system already mortgaged by a microscopic few; and midwifed the appointment of a new Vice-Chancellor. You can’t do such things and not annoy the merchants in the system, who view the University as their personal fiefdom. That was Brother Elujoba’s sin, what sin ? He did the right thing. For doing the right thing, he became a victim in the hands of a corrupt system. Thankfully, and as it is a familiar fact of history, good has now overcome evil. Today, Brother Elujoba is been celebrated in that 5000-seater magnificent stadium-like structure on Great Ife campus – The Amphitheatre. Tragically, those who once held Office as Vice-Chancellor and thought they could send Elujoba to prison, cannot even come near the University’s gate. They have become academic IDPs, after their tenure ended in disgrace.
Enough said, shame on a system that celebrates academic tyranny, but rejects the doing of the right thing. The victory of Brother Elujoba is today a victory over cronyism, clientilism, and satanism in our Ivory towers. For us, Brother Elujoba is a metaphor for that unknown, but honest Nigerian, who represents a vacant plot in the middle of this nauseating slum. We know that the journey has just started, and we are not unmindful of the battles ahead.But our rest remains in the fact that, no matter how much it appears that lie has gained advantage in a race, the truth only requires a moment to overtake it. Let me put my pen to sleep by saying thank you Brother Elujoba for standing for us when we needed you most! Thank you for not behaving like the Esaus who could not resist the porridge of Office. Thank you for reinventing that ‘uncounterfeitable’ spirit of Great Ife. Our Village Chemist, please accept the assurances of my highest regards. Amandla!
Olusola Adegbite, Esq. is a Lecturer in the Faculty of Law, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria.