NUC versus Ministry of Education
For a meaningful and effective university system in the Nigerian firmament, in the pursuit of the noble objective of learning, research and provision of technical know-how for integrated and cultural development it is high time the relationship of university managements, NUC (National Universities Commission) and the Ministry of Education was deconstructed. The discord instead of collaborative interface, that have befallen the university education system during critical decision process, like appointment of Vice-Chancellors, has left much to be desired from the top to the bottom, precipitating a total decay and corruption. This, aptly speaking, is a cancerous tumor in the education sector, compliant with the proverb that when the head is bad, the tail will follow suit.
The above statement is being interrogated as a critical flip to the armchair bureaucratic conclusions of analysts in education ministries, departments and agencies. For once, the truth needs to be told about absence of true separation of powers, oversight functions and autonomies between NUC and the Ministry of Education. The epic of this confusion is, as expected, in the appointment of Vice-Chancellors, which inverted and complicated process has left the table tumbling with devastating blow on quality of teaching, learning and elevation and distribution of staff to the universities. From the first generation universities like the University of Ibadan through the third generation ones like the University of Abuja to the state universities, the office of the Vice-Chancellor has become a political portfolio to be grabbed by academics with political feather weights backed by political godfathers. In this scenario, our sensibilities and perceptions of the roles of NUC, the ministry and the Visitor become blurred even as the next level the last hope of the common man, the judiciary, is disappointedly a behemoth of manipulation of truth and justice.
Nigerian public appointments are most often marred by favourism, sectionalism and bribery. If there is no ombudsman in each case and in the Nigerian university context, it is as if the regulatory body, the NUC, is not autonomous enough. Within the deductive explanatory model, however, the NUC, from our intuitive, logical, universal and teleological perceptions of things and institutions, formal and informal, is the encoder and decoder of universities governance process and decision. But we are yet to understand what underline the flux of interjections, interventions and muscle-flexing of the Ministry of Education in the cold wars over appointment to the tenure of Vice-Chancellors. But in calling a spade a spade it is simply a situation of political bandwagon where the ministry is handcuffed by politicians who use it to exercise and expand their powers and influences on institutions for their personal interests and corrupt tendencies. Do you blame them? Their avarice would not have worked if the Permanent Secretaries and Directors in the ministries knew their onions. You don’t blame the politicians further because they are pooh-poohed and lobbied into the fray by unsuspecting academics whose Bible in the university is profit and loss in a game of money laundering and power intoxication.
However, of most fundamental is the question of direct and indirect role of the Ministry of Education and the direct role of NUC in university administration. It is common knowledge that the ministry as an arm of the presidency, the Visitor, appoints chairman of the council and some of its members to concurrently run the university with the Vice-Chancellor’s management team, with the NUC statutorily invested with oversight functions. In the systemic milieu the deductive rhythm is a reasoned logical process bereft of any elemental confusion. NUC lived to this billing with the new NUC Executive Secretary timely and positive unveiling of the megalomania of university Vice-Chancellors who address themselves as Chief Executive Officers, a borrowed corporate description with all its attendant corrupt tendencies. But that is only a tip of iceberg. To what extent would the new NUC helmsman go in curtailing the primitive bourgeois instincts of modern university Vice-Chancellors who celebrate power and wealth instead of academic excellence?
In redefining university education for quality assurance, NUC must be seen as an overseer that leverages on whatever inbuilt capacity, which the university Councils (UC), the direct appendage of the Ministry of Education, is exuding.
* Maduabuchi Dukor is a professor of philosophy at Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka and President/Editor-in-Chief of Essence Library
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