FEATURE ARTICLE

Sunday, June 30, 2019
[email protected]
Accra, Ghana
IBRAHIM ABUBAKAR NJODI: A MODEL OF LEADERSHIP IN NIGERIAN UNIVERSITY SYSTEM

pon his assumption of office as a substantive Vice Chancellor, after a keenly contested but controversial selection process, Prof. Ibrahim Abubakar Njodi was able to garner and attract the good will of not only members of the University of Maiduguri (UNIMAID) community but the country and the international community at large towards moving the University to greater heights despite the security challenges that bedeviled Borno State and the northeast sub-region in general.

During his inaugural address to members of Senate of the University on Thursday 10 July 2014, Prof. Njodi clearly spelt out the policy thrust of his administration which include among others, imbibing academic culture; normalizing the University Academic Calendar and admission process; provision of houses for staff; enhancing revenue generation and exploring options of Investment in revenue generating ventures and sustenance of existing and introducing new programmes. Also included, is staff training and development; maintenance of cordial industrial relations and harmony; staff and student discipline; ensuring the full accreditation of academic programmes and quality control; development of e-library and improving the existing synergy between the Governing Council and Senate among others.He kept his promises and moved the University to greater height in all ramifications of the tripatite cardinal mission of Teaching, Research and Community Services.

To provide effective leadership in University Management, one has to have organizational skills, which requires having the capacity to understand people's emotional sense on an issue, to know their general concerns and priorities, and how to relate to them appropriately to solve the problems. Indeed, one needs to have the intellectual curiosity to acquire cultural intelligence and use the knowledge acquired appropriately to build bridges across religious, ethnic, and regional divides. In so doing the person creates an ambiance of organizational harmony and genuine trust. Without an effective leadership that has the capacity and willingness to bring people together, there will be what some social scientists describe as coordination failure at different levels, which is one of the factors that lead to development failure.

Though ethnic conflict and distrust have become huge hindrances and obstacles to the ability of Nigerians to work together for the common good, this problem has been manifested in its worse form in the Nigeria University system. However, this was never a hindrance for Prof Njodi.Ambient cultural disharmony in the workplace, in an organization, in a city, region or country is a great hindrance and obstacle to high level of productivity, creativity and innovation, team work and collaborative effort to pursue or promote the common good. This situation ends up in generating acrimony in the work place where everyone suffers. Prof. Njodi during his tenure proved to be a team player all times.

Prof. Njodi, as a Vice Chancellor, demonstrated emotional resilience and stability. There is prima facie evidence that he had in the selection process that led to his emergence gone through some emotionally depressing conditions and situations. In spite of all that, he did not allow such things to poison his mind with anger and chronic resentment. Instead, he developed a broader commitment to the social inclusion of all people and on that basis he committed himself to demonstrating love, kindness and respect for the human dignity of all irrespective of religión, tongue, tribe and nativity. Such manner of relating to people was crucial in enabling him to be a bridge-builder among what otherwise looks like warring factions.

Often the strengths of a person, his character, personality and more so, as an administrator can be deciphered by examining how strong and resilient the person is in dealing with stressful conditions, which one cannot always avoid as a scholar providing academic and administrative leadership in a higher institution. One needs not say that as one of the leaders of a major organization, there are definitely situations when one will be thrown into an emotional abyss and if such a person does not have the moral strength and resolve to remain stable and focused, there would be colossal failure. Prof. Njodi during his tenure maintained high emotional stability and capacity to cope with stress very well.

Prof. Njodi demonstrated the spirit of team work, organizational skill and owing a broad repertoire of knowledge and appropriate attitude that was used to bring things into fruition at University of Maiduguri. The specific instances where this is illustrated can be seen from his relationship with the Governing Council, his team of Management, Unions, Alumni, the host community, staff and students. He demonstrated leadership qualities of bringing people together and building a team-spirit at the University.

Prof. Njodi's tenure at UNIMAID achieved excellent track record in working towards creating inter-religious and ethnic harmony and understanding, an issue that many higher institutions in Nigeria are frankly in serious need of. One of the major problems we have in Nigerian higher institutions is that we have many people who even when they are intellectually smart and impressive, yet unwittingly contribute immensely to destroying the social fabric and community of the institution.Many leaders build their future or secure their positions by dividing and ruling the people instead of bringing people together, which requires patience, appropriate skills and time. Prof. Njodi, as a seasoned scholar and administrator had the appropriate skills to bring people of different religion and ethnicity together for pursuit of the common good. He demonstrated this virtue outstandingly.

It must be emphasized that Prof. Njodi throughout his tenure infused his life and work with a deep sense of moral and ethical commitment. He exhibited high level of integrity too, when it comes to how he relates to his colleagues, and subordinates, male and female. He demonstrated a strong personality, conduct and ethics in his work and relationship with staff, male and female from diverse ethnicities, regions and religions, without demanding them to get involved in any morally or ethically compromising activities.

The present imbroglio in the state and society of the country is not just a product of institutional failure or leadership incompetence as such. Rather, it is in its deep substance and core, a problem of moral and ethical failure where people lose the capacity to regulate or constrain their appetitive and selfish desires, which in a sense are human, but very destructive. It is that loss of control that has led many to use their position to intimidate, harass, abuse power and embezzle public funds while leaving public institutions and welfare to decay.Nobody filed any report against Prof. Njodi.

With enormous accomplishments recorded, Prof Njodi is being referred to in some quarters as the "Architect" of modern development of the University. He remained focused and refused to be distracted by shadows, rumours, gossips, fanaticism, sychophancy, ego-massaging and petty issues. He was an active, responsible, reliable, trustworthy and a highly resilient but quiet achiever. He left a memorable mark and will always be remembered as one man who challenged insecurity, nepotism and explored the heights in the life and history of University of Maiduguri. A man whose sense of perseverance is truly-wedded together with high sense of humility, apt, sharp intellect, grace, understanding, integrity, tolerance, transparency, probity, accountability and responsibility.

Unlike many African leaders, Prof Njodi made more friends than enemies. The position did not get into his head. He was sound and solid. He was not arrongant and too pompous unlike many academic leaders who saw Vice-Chancellorship as the end of life.Yet it is only a five-year appointment. And life continues! No condition is permanent. The relationship with his team of mangement was very fantastic and cordial. It was really a teamwork. It was a perfect team of people working at the same wave-length with good understanding and mutual respect. They were like twins. He gave his team of management a good sense of belonging. He never interfered with the election of Deans.He considered credibility,capacity and integrity in appointments.

He demonstrated that he was a man down to earth who did not see his subordinates as threats but as potential leaders. Hence he exhibited a high attribute of a man of wisdom. He carried them along and it paid off positively.Suffice it to note that in recognition of his outstanding and remarkable contributions to leadership and total commitment to teamwork and staff relations for academic excellence, His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari,GCFR honoured Prof. Ibrahim Njodi with the prestigious National Productivity Order of Merit Award (NPOM) on 21st of February 2017.

The two DVCs(Prof Abdullahi Godowoli and Prof. Aliyu Shugaba) gave the much needed support that ensured the success of adminstration. The entire staff of the Office of Vice Chancellor gave the logistics support and image-laundering dynamics.The Bursar and University Librarian were very wonderful. The "Chief Scribe" in the person of the Registrar, Mr Tijjani Bukar was dependable, reliable, confidant and strategic. Some call him "Mr Due Process". Some called him the "Head of Mission". Mrs S.A. Bwala of blessed memory facilitated critical administrative processes.The Registry always ensured that the right things were done in the right way but in a manner that greases bureaucracy. Prof. Njodi was always together with them.Indeed, they were on a rescue mission that transformed the modern UNIMAID.

Prof Njodi as a team-player made him gain the admiration of staff, students and colleagues which enabled him succeed in staff relations.This was why he achieved the feat to produce his successor in the person of Prof. Aliyu Shugaba. He brought innovation and change. He gave the institution a new face in the context of globalization. He gave many his ears and few his voice.The nature of his appointment and accomplishments is the dividends of merit as a yardstick.If it were to be his background or whom he knows (contacts and connections in the corridors of power),Prof Njodi probably would'nt have been a Vice Chancellor and probably would'nt have perfomed well.The University community and indeed stakeholders in the education sector are proud of the modest achievements recorded in the institution by this hardworking, astute, dedicated, courageous and award-winning Vice-Chancellor.We are very proud to have had him as the architect of modern UNIMAID.We wish him the best in future endeavours and in service to the nation in more capacities.The reward for hardwork is more work.He came!He saw!He conquered!

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