The Senate Building of OAU, Ile-Ife

Obafemi Awolowo University and the ugliness in Ile-Ife

* University is largely a conservative institution with its own culture and procedures. Usually, it distances itself from the primordial sentiment that is seen in the larger society

Rasheed Ojikutu

Ludicrous, bigoted, and immature are vocabularies that are too mild to label the show of indignity displayed by some ill-informed natives of Ile-Ife in their demand for the appointment of an indigene as the Vice-Chancellor of Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife.

It is, indeed, unfortunate that this is coming from a place branded and respected as the cradle of the Yoruba Race.

The foolishness and stupidity in this demand and the complementary actions of employing masquerades to invade the privacy of that university are indications of the intellectual decadence in the Nigerian state.

Ile-Ife has just confirmed the Yoruba adage that says “Adie funfun ko mo ara re l’agba” literally meaning that “the white cock does not appreciate its own value amongst its peers.”

It seems that the young, uninformed campaigners in Ile-Ife do not seem to appreciate the leadership of Ile-Ife, in Yoruba land, and the entire Black race in the world. It is indeed, a pity.

According to media reports, the protesters mounted roadblocks, destroyed the security posts, attacked students and workers and also had masquerades carrying and placing sacrifices on the doorsteps of offices and shamelessly invading the privacy of the Senate building.

This action is not only disgusting but also portrays the perpetrators as crazy, primitive, archaic, and retrogressive.

The traditionalists of Ile-Ife, the Ooni of Ife and all well-meaning sons and daughters of Ife should speak up immediately to let the world know their aversion to these actions.

The issues involved are three-pronged. First is the indigenous people’s right. The indigenes of any place in Nigeria have the right to exist and thrive on their land without being choked and squeezed.

They cannot and should not accept marginalisation and annihilation within their ancestral domain. Like the Yoruba would say “Ile Baba omo kii ba omo l’eru” meaning “A child should not be scared of his ancestral home.”

However, these rights come with some responsibilities. Attacking non-indigenes who stay within the ancestral domain of the indigenes would amount to criminality while refusal to let them thrive, progress, and exist without hindrance would be inhumane, naive and sadistic, especially for those who work tirelessly to make contributions to the progress of the community.

This is not restricted to Nigerians alone but the entire human race wherever they come from on the planet. Once they live in the community, they must be allowed to do so with minimal hindrance and inconveniences.

The second issue which is the crux of the matter of the moment is the demand that the Vice-Chancellor of Obafemi Awolowo University ought to be an indigene.

The promoters of this nonsense should note that the institution in question is a Federal university to which all Nigerians commit their hard-earned earnings, and therefore, have the inalienable right as shareholders.

No Nigerian should and can be discriminated against in a Federal university. Therefore, the campaigners should realise that it doesn’t have to be named the “Federal University of Ife” before they realise that it belongs to the Federation of Nigeria.

When the searchlight is beamed, it would be realised that the promoters of the confusion in the university are likely to be the indigenous candidates who lost in the contest and that the show of shame on campus by their stooges who paraded on campus as traditionalists is a justification that they are not worthy or fit to occupy such an exalted position of the Vice-Chancellor of a top-rated university in the first instance.

The National Universities Commission (NUC) and the Federal Ministry of Education should let people know that the building of a university in any location in Nigeria does not give the indigenes the monopoly of occupation of all spaces within its campus.

A university is largely a conservative institution with its own culture and procedures. Usually, it distances itself from the primordial sentiment that is seen in the larger society.

A university that is worthy of its name must create the pull factors for attracting the best scholars in the world irrespective of their colour, race, creed, religion.

In academia, your worth is in the brain and character. Sundry and trivial characteristics such as indigene ship are secondary.

A university that will grow must encourage freedom, plurality, and diversity not only in human structure but also in opinion.

The protest in Ile-Ife is a great disservice to Obafemi Awolowo University, and this may rub on it for some years to come as it may be unable to attract the best brains in terms of students and staff for a long time.

It will also affect its rating locally and internationally. What a big shame!

It is pertinent to mention here that the University of Ife, (now Obafemi Awolowo University) was set up by the government of the Western Region of Nigeria led by Chief Obafemi Awolowo, a native of Ikenne in Ogun State, and his Deputy, Chief Samuel Ladoke Akintola, a native of Ogbomoso in present-day Oyo State both of whom are non-indigenes of Osun State and Ile Ife.

The inference here is that if these men were as myopic as the protesters of today, the university would have been cited in either Ikenne or Ogbomoso. (The Guardian)

*Ojikutu is of the Faculty of Management Sciences, University of Lagos (UNILAG), Nigeria.