OPINION: KWASU and the burden of leadership. BY 'YEMI ADUROTOYE

Date: 2020-06-15

It is hard times for Nigeria public universities not only because of the dwindling price of the crude oil in the energy market but the Coronal Virus pandemic which has iccasioned a threatening economic shutdown. The effect of the pandemic on the universities is particularly so because of their heavy dependence of owner-government's funding. The crunch set in for the funding governments because Corona Virus (otherwise known as COVID-19) is voraciously rampaging the world, global economy is terribly devastated (no sector is spared).

Amidst the global health challenges, leadership succession process at the Kwara State University (KWASU), Malete, produced Professor Mohammed Mustapha Akanbi, a law scholar from the University of Ilorin as the new Vice Chancellor. The time Akanbi's appointment was consummated under the suprintendency of Mallam AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq, Governor of Kwara State; Corona Virus pandemic was virulently ravaging the entire human race. It has plummeted the revenue base of the state. Just like other learning enclaves, COVID-19 has compounded matters for the new leadership of the institution.

KWASU, it is widely known, has taken a big leap into reckoning. In less than a decade of its existence, it has come to be classed among the best in Nigeria. The institution, established, owned and funded by Kwara State Government, prides its as the fastest growing public university in Nigeria. It is equally unique for its community development orientation. It was led into stardom by the pioneer Vice Chancellor, Professor AbdulRasheed Na'Allah.

Upon Na'Allah's glorious exit from the institution, an equally transformational leader was appointed to pilot the affairs of the young citadel of learning. Beyond being set for the race, the new administrator has hit the ground running. However, he is coming at a time his ability will be highly tested as a leader.

The environment seems inclement; government has ceased giving the institution subvention, encouraging it to adopt a self-funding model. The intrepid don is expected to exhibit innovativeness and creativity to unearth the opportunities in the adverse situation. He has to see to the construction of more lecture theatres, modern laboratories and students' hostels. He has to recruit more well-schooled, highly cultured lecturers and introduce more relevant academic programmes. He must enhance the welfare of students and staff (academic and non-academic).

The job of the new Vice Chancellor is more like skating on the ice, which is a daunting task. To meet up with expectations, he has to ensure the revenue generated internally is raised and also explore linkages with renowned foreign higher institutions for more collaborative endeavours.

These are what make the leadership of the wave-making institution burdensome at this auspicious time. In the midst of all these challenges, the ebullient don is expected to deliver, a test of strength for him, one is spurned to add. Professor Akanbi may look grilled and groomed for the position, he is considered competent, well-cultured and strong-willed but he needs a crack team of equally dedicated and trustworthy professionals and academics to help in steering the sailing ship of the young institution in the direction of his vision.

Since he mounts the saddle, he had engaged in complex-thinking, planning and formulating policies, culminating in hard decisions. The target had been set, daily he keeps on working the talk with series of meetings and consultations. He had unarguably demonstrated a mature leadership disposition as the signals were unambiguous and unmistakable.

A peace scholar with deep knowledge of institutional development matrix, he has set the pace by constituting KWASU Consultative Committee comprising of leaders from varying units, groups and trade unions. The body is to constantly engage with the vice chancellor on the issue of welfare of the university community members, the contiguous indigenous communities in the institution's neighbourhood are not left out. He's sure not to allow the serene academic environment turned to a rascaldom just as he would not tolerate students' turpitude. He has jumped the gulf of unusual upheaval associated with the succession battle, extending hands of fellowship to all and sundry.

When I listened to the in-studio interview he granted Unilorin 89.3FM, I was convinced he is the best man for the job among all else; coming from a better-by-far background and with strong family pedigree, he had chosen not to disappoint. He had resolved to make KWASU far better sustaining its world-class status producing what he called “"The Total Man". He had transmutted the administrative system from United States style collegiate system to British style faculty system for ease of coordination and management.

His youthfulness is no doubt an advantage, he has visited the two other campuses of the university in Ilesha-Baruba and Osi, and the satellite school (KWASU School of Business and Governance) located in the heart of Ilorin metropolis. In fact, making them come on stream are parts of what are expected of him. He's freely and favourably dispose to doing more for the institution's neighbouring communities aside forging development partnership with the host community, Malete.

Era defines ruler; this,, the new vice chancellor knows. He understands that spring water that flows desert-wards flows into extinction as postulated by Ayi Kwei Armah, Ghanaian writer. Besides innate abilities and in-built driving force for greater success, the new vice chancellor has Unilorin spirit as a tonic in bolstering and energizing him. Unilorin Spirit is that of a courageous achiever threading where the feckle-minded and laggards are failing. The young and brilliant university administrator is set to facilitate the realization of the institution’'s dreams like KWASU Radio, KWASU Bakery, KWASU Table Water, KWASU Packaged Fish, KWASU Yam Flour, among others. He is equally working on more friendlier partnership with corporate organizations to ease the attainment of the set targets.

Presently, no Nigeria public university is ranked among the first 800 in the world or among the top 10 in Africa in terms of quality researches for development. KWASU under Akanbi is set to change the narratives. Expectedly, the institution will make bold presence in agriculture, giant feats in science and engineering, the law faculty will stand stronger just as he promised to fund researches that would initiate solutions that relate to real life situations.

“Uneasy”, William Shakespeare posited, "lies the head that wears the crown". Professor Akanbi, now coronated and adorned with KWASU Crown as the chief administrator knows where the crown hurts. To ease the knotty and complex affairs in the system, staff had been shuffled, putting the right people in the right positions, developing cutting-edge technology to drive development process. He is operating on veritable ethics rooted in probity, accountability and propriety.

Despite global oil glut occasioned by the corona-virus pandemic and eventually drastic drop in businesses and economic activities, the new KWASU Vice Chancellor has upped the game. He sees it as test of strength. He’s pricked to gain quantum speed with the physical absence of students on campus presently and also entrenching corporate governance for efficient service delivery. He cannot but push for selfless, meritorious service and unwavering dedication to duty for a greater KWASU.

Adurotoye is the director, Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON), Kwara state.

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