The inauguration ceremony of Lillian Imuetiyan Salami, professor of home economics and nutrition as the 10th vice-chancellor of the University of Benin came to an abrupt end Monday following an announcement that she had been invited by the state governor. No sooner a cultural dance by students of English and Literature studies finished their performance than the compere of the event, Benedicta Ehanire announced that goodwill remarks by other stakeholders would not be taken because the governor had just invited the brand new vice-chancellor to his office. Ehanire immediately called for closing prayers to the disappointment of guests while the vice-chancellor hurried away. Consequent upon this development, the various unions in the University community namely the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities, SSANU, Non-Academic Staff Union, NASU and the Students Union Government, SUG, were denied the opportunity of making their remarks.
Salami is the second female vice-chancellor of UNIBEN coming over 34 years after Grace Alele-Williams, a professor of mathematics. education who piloted the affairs of the university for seven years. Like Alele-Williams who made history as the first female vice-chancellor in Nigeria, (1985 – 1992) Salami also boasts of many firsts. She occupies the pride of place as the first female professor in the faculty of education (2005), the first elected female Dean of the faculty of education, (2014 – 2016) first alumnus of the university to emerge as vice-chancellor, as well as the first Benin woman to attain that height. In her inauguration speech after she was formally presented to the University community by her predecessor, Osasere Faraday Orumwense, professor of mechanical engineering, Salami unveiled her vision of “placing the University of Benin as a world-class educational institution and innovation hub in Africa” and one that “should be second to none and recognized internationally as a producer of top-notch quality and progressive graduates obtainable through research and quality teaching”. These, she hoped to achieve through her seven-point strategic plan which includes to increase funding and sustainable initiatives, to develop environmental and ethical orientation, ensure quality academic programme, and enhance staff and students’ welfare and security. Others are expansion/enhancement of physical structural development and management, increase in human capital development and management, and community impact initiative.
As the clock started to tick on her first day in office, Salami said “…today is the day we stop making excuses and become accountable for our doings…Today is the day that we start the next phase of University of Benin’s journey into the digital age”. She said if the university must remain relevant in this fast-growing digital age, it must embrace dynamism in all spheres of its academic activities. “My administration will introduce innovative courses to complement our already robust set of courses. We will also invest in innovation in curriculum and teaching to deliver better ways of teaching and provide practical experiences to our students. This will ensure that students are marketable globally and relevant to present and future needs”. She also gave her word that staff would receive their entitlements as at when due, adding that a mechanism would be put in place to ensure that assessment and promotion matters were announced in a timely fashion. “The Security Unit will be repositioned with improved process management and state-of-the-art technology to keep the University community safe 24/7…Accommodation of staff and students remain a high priority as we strongly believe that the level of security and discipline will be enhanced if a larger percentage of staff and students are on campus” Salami promised.
The new VC, however, gave an indication that she would not hesitate to use the stick if necessary. According to her, “faculty and staff members who constitute themselves as a clog in the wheel of progress through redundancy will be compulsorily retrained and appropriately redeployed; and if untrainable, other actions will be considered”. She also stated that while deserving staff and students would be meritoriously recognized, “equitable sanction will be given to those erring”..The immediate past vice-chancellor in his valedictory speech urged the university community to extend the same hand of fellowship and goodwill he enjoyed to his successor. Orumwense was optimistic that Salami would take UNIBEN to the greatest height as UNIBEST.