What is emanating from one of the nation’s foremost ivory towers, University of Benin, Benin, Edo State is not palatable at all if not nauseating. It borders on financial mismanagement and indiscriminate use and abuse of power. As you are reading this, the Vice Chancellor of the University of Benin,[UNIBEN], Professor Godwin Osayuki Oshodin is now seriously enmeshed in a series of scandals that are of monumental nature for which only providence and sheer luck can see him through as the evidences and accusations being levelled against him are seemingly incontrovertible. The Columbia University of New York, USA-trained physical health educationist is being severally alleged to have turned the 42 year-old citadel of learning into his private estate, and this is mind-boggling.
Insiders have alleged with circumstantial evidences that since November 30, 2009, when he became the first Bini man to occupy the exalted VC seat of the University, the 61 year-old professor of Health Education has thrown overboard the principles of the federal character, as the recruitment and promotions of staff in the institution are alleged to be lopsided. ‘Many of the appointments made so far by Professor Oshodin have been in flagrant negation of the federal character instead in favour of his Bini ethnic group’, a privileged source within the university hierarchy quipped.
Born on August 9, 1950 and married to Otasowie Oshodin, the renowned specialist in physical health education is equally said to have recruited over 50 people including his siblings and family members as staff of the University, without following the laid down procedures.
Quite interestingly, but not surprising to those who are used to the don’s antics, Professor Osayuki Oshodin was also alleged to have shut down all decorum and thrown decency to the wind when he unilaterally appointed his immediate elder brother, Gabriel Oshodin, a one-time well-known Newspapers distributor in the ancient city of Benin, as the University’s Head of Exams., a hitherto bogus and un heard of designation in the university’s organogram. He did not stop there, he placed him on an unprecedented staggering N120, 000 per month salary. Insiders further alleged that Gabriel Oshodin, who was popular in the city courtesy of his circulation of the now rested Ikebe Super Magazine, has been the University’s Head of Examinations for two years now without Professor Oshodin batting an eyelid and not even minding whose ox is gored over his act of nepotism.
In the just released Federal Government Visitation Panel Report of 2004-2011, the management of the University was instructed to follow due process in the administration of the school. The Visitor pointedly ordered that it should de-emphasize the issue of ethnicity in all the appointments, promotions, employment and other related matters.
The directive which formed part of recommendations of the Visitation Panel to the University just released, urged that foreigners and members of staff from other ethnic extractions should be recruited to reflect the true Federal Character in all its ramifications. It was however found out much to the dismay of many that the incumbent Bursar of the school, Dr. May Nwoye, an Igbo was on the verge of being practically pushed out of the Institution, apparently on Professor Oshodin’s scheming.
Following the recommendation of the Panel, the Visitor to the University, had frowned at what they termed “academic parochialism” in the University and “therefore directed Council to ensure that Management complies with the policy of Federal Character in staff matters”.
The Visitation Panel Report which was presented at a recent Senate meeting of the University by the Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Osayuki Oshodin, an expert in alcohol education, revealed that from 2009 to date, the University embarked on an extensive recruitment and promotion exercise, adding that 257 new appointments of the academic, senior non-academic and junior staff categories were made.
“Additional 518 staff was recruited into the academic, senior non-academic and junior categories on temporary and contract basis”, the report said, and noted that “adequate budgetary provisions were not visibly made in the budget to accommodate the increase in staff”.
According to the Visitation Panel Report which covered the period 2004 – 2010, the University has an over expenditure of N267, 712,129.79 which would have been augmented.
The report further noted that “the recruitment of temporary staff has been abolished in the revised Public Service Rules” and that “almost all the retiring academic staff was offered automatic contract appointments”.
Consequently, the Visitor to the University directed management of the University to ensure that all appointments and promotions during any financial year were “within the establishment needs and appropriated for.
Besides, the Visitation Panel observed with great concern that the University leadership from 2004 – 2010 had not taken the updating of their publications seriously.
“For instance, (i) the University Manual has not been revised since 2003 (ii), the Rules and Regulations of the University have not been updated (iii) the university Calendar is due for publication (iv) the review of the Law of the University; mostly especially in incorporating the various amendments and bringing the Law up to date have not been promptly adhered to”, the report said.
The management of the University of Benin, in a swift reaction described the allegation that recruitment and promotion of staff in the university was done in favour of the Bini ethnic group as baseless and untrue The Public Relations Officer of the institution, Harry Osarenren categorically denied the allegation that the Visitation Panel report indicted the management of the Varsity. The PRO maintained that, as the guidelines of the Federal Government provided, the host community of the University [Benin] are given the privilege to produce up to 20-30 percent of the working population of the school.
Meanwhile in another development but not too far from the contending issue, last Tuesday, March 6, this year, Professor Osayuki Oshodin was nearly killed by one of his security details, when one of the security personnel in the escort car behind his vehicle allegedly had an accidental discharge in which two shots were fired. It was gathered from a source close to the VC insisted that the detractors who are not happy that Prof. Oshodin has blocked areas of leakages within the system are responsible for the plot to kill him. Professor Oshodin, inspite of all these weighty allegations against him has continued to hold sway in his job as if nothing is wrong, but the ominous signs of disillusion and discontentment within the university community are very glaring. It might well be the beginning of another chapter of hostility, accusations and counter accusations in the University of Benin. The National Universities Commission, NUC, and the Federal Ministry of Education must immediately come in to nip this ugly scenario in the bud before it gets out of hand.