By Professor Tukur Sa’ad (A former Vice Chancellor)
Kperogi is a great writer and crusader for a just system to be established in Nigeria, but he is a bit out of touch with the new Nigeria. He may read all and listen to all that is passing around but he cannot unravel the riddle in the Nigerian academia.
The systematic erosion of the system started long before he joined the academia and it has been going on ever since. He wants NUC to sanction Owerri for making Pantami a Professor. May be his knowledge of our university laws and the various statutes is limited. so also his understanding of the level of autonomy universities have vis a vis NUC. A University can decide to appoint an individual to a position either through promotion or straight appointment based on the criteria they set up indipendent of NUC.
We that spent our working lives in in the First generation universities cannot comprehend the happenings in the new universities. Most of our Senior lecturers with little prospects of becoming Professors have migrated to newer universities and became Professors. NUC does not create professorial Chairs or determine the mode of appointment of a Professor. If I were to cite cases that would surprise Kperogi, I would write a book. Yet the cases are legally right. One may disagree with the criteria for such appointments or promotions but cannot challenge their legality.
It may erode the status of professors who had to obtain their promotion through the British system where you had only one Professor and Head of Department, others had to wait until he retired or died or until a new chair is created, but what obtains now is legal and cannot be challenged by NUC or Ministry of Education until a Bill giving them the powers are passed by the National Assembly and is accented by the President.
Kperogi should be familiar with the US system having been there and may be still teaching there. In many disciplines, especially the technology or professional areas such as Architecture, Engineering, Medicine, Fine Arts etc. an individual who has made tremendous contribution to the discipline by his practical work may be offered and invited to occupy a chair without ever teaching in a university. Harvard Graduate School of Design is known to practice, unless it has been discontinued.
But as of 1990 I witnessed it. Great Architects from Japan, Latin America and Europe, whose command of English left a lot to be desired were invited to occupy profesdorial chairs. Their mastery of the practical skills in their areas was in no doubt. Let those who obtain professorship by writing papers and publishing in peer reviewed journals, get their professorship by writing about these practical men and their works, but they remain men of creativity and skills. Even in Nigeria I was a witness to one such incidents in University of Lagos, whose system of assessment for Professorship involved the hosting the assessors to do the work insitu. Architect Godwin of Godwin and Hopwood fame decided to retire from practice and impart knowledge to young Nigerians. Unilag offered him Senior Lecturership.
He declined and instead that he applied for a professorial position. Take itbor leave it. I was invited among others to do the work insitu and interact with the candidate during the process. You see, I respect professors from Lagos more than most other Universities because of this format in their assessment. You will read all what he claimed to have published while you stayed in the University Guesthouse. During the interaction session you will know whether he actually wrote these papers or was it communal effort where academics do the so called group research and publications, when in fact is one talented individual who did the work and understood what went on and was willing to help colleagues come along by putting their names on the paper?
You will also assess the quality of the journal, was it really a referred journal or was it like let say “Samaru Journal of Architecture” vol. 1 no 1. where group of academics cutting accross many universities in the country in a particular discipline will float a journal and pressure the University to accept it as a refreed journal through intimidation by ASUU? Let me go back to Arc. Godwin’s case. Some of the assessors took a stand similar to that of Kperogi on how Professors were made. But with my Harvard experience of 1990 when I went on Sabbatical I cited cases and names of practicing architects with no University teaching experience occupying a Chair.
I also cited the case of my Hungarian colleague who was recruited at ABU as a LECTURER I, but who had been a star architect in Hungary winning a lot of national and international competitions just looking for an outlet from the suffocation by the then Communist system of his country, by taking a contract in ABU Department of Architecture. From Zaria he applied for a professorship when it was advertised in Alabama State University and got appointed, by 1990 we linked up in USA he was already the Dean of Architecture in Auburn for some years and was about to move to Pennsylvania State University as the Dean of the Architecture School, a more prestigious school.
His mastery of English still left a lot to be desired for a Dean in a highly rated school of architecture. His publications in architectural theory consisted of numerous miniature sketches with annotations. A very novel and unique way of transmitting ideas in the academia. Kperogi can check it up if he is interested. His name was Peter Mygar. With my superior argument backed up by facts the other assessors holding similar arguments to Kperogi gave up.
So Lagos was lucky to get a Professor with practical skills and knowledge. I am not saying that Pantami can fit into the examples that I gave, but that Kperogi should be flexible in assessing an issue, as an intellectual when faced with a situation. Unfortunately, the journalist in him usually takes over when he hears or sees things. He wants to be the one with the “breaking news” and the Front page story. I rest my case.
Prof Tukur Sa’ad (a former Vice Chancellor)