Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Gov. AbdulRazaq’s Odious Ilorin-centric Bigotry at KWASU

By Farooq A. Kperogi
Twitter: @farooqkperogi

Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq of Kwara State recently appointed a Professor Muhammed Mustapha Akanbi, said to be the son of the late Justice Mustapha Akanbi, as Vice Chancellor of the Kwara State University (KWASU). But Akanbi’s most crucial qualification for the job is his being from Ilorin—like the governor. Here’s why.

The acting Vice Chancellor of KWASU, Professor Sakah Saidu Mahmud, who is also the school’s substantive deputy Vice Chancellor (Administration), was adjudged by the search committee to be the best of all the candidates who applied for the position of Vice Chancellor. Akanbi was third.

It’s easy to see why Mahmud came out on top. He had been head of the KWASU's Social Sciences and Global Studies Department; Academic Coordinator to the VC; Provost of the College of Humanities, Management and Social Sciences; and Deputy Vice Chancellor (Admin), which is next in hierarchy to the VC. In other words, he has been everything that anyone could possibly be at the university, except the position of substantive VC.

Before he was recruited to KWASU in 2009 by Professor AbdulRasheed Na’Allah, the founding VC of the school, he taught at many US— and Japanese— universities for decades. He resigned as head of the political science department at Transylvania University in the state of Kentucky to join KWASU.

He studied at the University of Denver for his MA and PhD (after earning a BSc in Government, which is now called Political Science, from ABU in 1976.) He speaks French and Japanese, is the author of two critically acclaimed books and dozens of well-cited journal articles, and is the recipient of prestigious fellowships including the (American) National Endowment for the Humanities and the Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship.

His doctoral dissertation was a comparative study of early Meiji Japan and Nigeria, which required him to live in Japan for an extended period and to learn the Japanese language well enough to read and understand archival materials written in it. So he has a broad, global vision for KWASU that is consistent with the founding VC’s idea for the university.

Why did Gov. AbdulRazaq pass over this well-published, experienced, and cosmopolitan scholar who was part of the founding professors of KWASU for Akanbi, a 1993 OAU law graduate, from the University of Ilorin who has never taught at KWASU and who has little administrative experience under his belt?

Simple: Mahmud is from Baruten, a marginal, non-Yoruba-speaking part of Kwara that is constitutive of what is called “Kwara North” in the state’s political vocabulary because of the cultural similarities between that part of the state and Nigeria’s far north.

Akanbi, who came third, is not only from Ilorin but is also the son of one of Ilorin’s prominent families. That’s the chief reason he was appointed VC. It's inter-generational perpetuation of privilege with a dash of ethnic bigotry. But this will ultimately destroy the university. We are talking of a university that has distinguished itself since its founding as a "different" Nigerian university that is modeled after American universities. Akanbi has no idea how to sustain what Na'Allah started. He has neither the experience nor the training to do so.

Elders of “Kwara North,” drawn from the non-Yoruba-speaking local governments of the state— Baruten, Kaiama, Patigi, and Edu—condemned Akanbi’s appointment in a public statement published in Premium Times yesterday, saying the appointment is “quite nauseating and very insensitive because it goes extremely against the principles of equity, justice and fairness in a symbiotic and heterogeneous political entity like our beloved Kwara State.”

The statement said the appointment follows an emerging pattern. Even though more than 80 percent of voters from “Kwara North” voted for AbdulRazaq in the governorship election, which eclipsed the percentages he got from other parts of the state, the statement claimed, his appointments have been invidiously exclusionary and Ilorin-centric.

I frankly don’t care whom the governor chooses to appoint as his political aides, but passing over the most qualified candidate for the job of Vice Chancellor for a barely qualified intellectual parvenu because of where they come from is just outright condemnable. That’s NOT how to govern a heterogenous polity—and certainly not how to run a university. I hope the governor reverses himself and apologizes.

Full disclosure: Professor Mahmud and I are from the same hometown, but I haven’t communicated with him in the last two years. When he told me in 2009 that he’d resigned from Transylvania University to help establish KWASU, I didn’t think he made a good decision, but I couldn’t bring myself to tell him that because he is many years my senior. Nonetheless, when he said he wanted to “give back to the community,” I thought he had his heart in the right place.