Of course this is no grandstanding. But slightly over a year ago, I wrote in a little known website (theivorypost.com) that Prof. Venansius Baryamureeba was the best suited to become Makerere University's vice chancellor. Yesterday, the University Council seemed to agree and gave him the mantle. As a journalist, I realise the precarious position this places me in--since now we must turn to watch him closely. But for now, I think he deserves the benefit of doubt. Below is what I wrote then:
Who is best suited to be Makerere’s next VC?
By Don Wanyama TiP Columnist
Published August 3, 2008
I have read from the print media that the Makerere University vice-chancellor slot will be available in the coming year. Prof. Luboobi, who has been at the helm for five years, may not get a kisanja (another term) because apparently, a committee set up to review the rules guiding the search process has put an age shelf on the position.
A vice-chancellor must be between 40-60 years at the time of appointment and not beyond 65 at retirement. This means my good old Luboobi, who currently has six decades and three years to his plate, is technically cancelled out.
I have also learnt that his second-in-command, Prof. Bakibinga, tried to put up a spirited defence for the current team but the council could not hear any of it. He wanted their terms renewed but the members had other ideas. “Go,” they decided.
And indeed go, Luboobi’s team must. What intrigued me was that when the council asked anyone with interests in the matter to step out before voting was done, a host of fellows left. I want to imagine that the action meant they will be fronting themselves for the ultimate job.
Their names and titles go thus; Assoc. Prof. Lilian Tibatemwa (DVC Academics), Prof. Venasius Baryamureeba (Dean ICT), Mr. Olal Odur (Academic Registrar), Prof Edward Kirumira, (Dean faculty of Social Sciences) and Associate Prof JB Nyakana (lecturer faculty Arts).
Now, these are some of the best brains at that hill and I want to imagine they all have their eyes set on the prize. So, how do we proceed? By elimination method I suggest.
Assoc. Prof. Tibatemwa A focused lady I must admit. I attended a few functions as a student leader where she was chief guest and her presentations were perfect. She seemed to grasp her stuff well. She is also a woman and maybe the only one in this bull race. But look, she has been with Luboobi for all these years. With Bakibinga, she has deputised Luboobi for the five years. True, her academic portfolio may not have been as scandalous as Bakibinga’s administration and finance docket, but she can not pass the buck. There is general consensus that Luboobi has failed but he can’t fail alone. He has failed with his team, Tibatemwa inclusive. I don’t see her being any different. She should go with the current crop of leaders. She was also at the core of the aborted restructured retake fee payment schedule, which plunged the university in a destructive strike in 2005.
Assoc. Prof. JB Nyakana Let me be candid here. We all know that academicians usually border on the paranoia. Nyakana is a true embodiment of this. I remember meeting him near the geography department, which he headed for years, in his white gum boots and speaking in a baritone. Admittedly he is a great academician. His problem is that he borders on unprincipality. He has been the deputy chairperson of MUASA, the academic staff group, and was very vocal when lecturers laid down tools demanding for better pay. I remember watching him and MUASA spokesperson Kiggundu make a case for the teachers on TV.
But reports indicate that when the state infiltrated the association and caused the lecturers to abandon the strike, fingers kept pointing at Nyakana. Some unconfirmed reports claimed he sold out. Now, impeccability is a necessary yardstick, he fails here. Besides, apart from being a head of department and MUASA chief, not much sits on his administrative plate.
Mr. Olal Odur Let me go personal. In my first post on this site, I narrated how Olal Odur blatantly told us a lie about our transcripts. After assuring us that they would be ready a month after graduation, I still have friends (two years after), who are yet to get their transcripts. That is how bad the section he heads is. There are also questions about his academic standing. I am not sure but I think he has no PhD. He might have helped start a successful Institute of Long Distance Studies, but his stint at the orange building (Senate) has been poor. He took over from Ngobi, who had just taken over from the controversial Mukwanason Hyuha, but a lot need to be done, especially the transcripts office. I also recently met a young lady who had paid an official at senate to get her brother admitted irregularly. This place still stinks. To elevate him to vice-chancellor would be a big miscalculation.
Prof. Edward Kirumira He is a smart guy, no doubt about that. A smooth talker and open diplomat, Kirumira would be a prefect choice for VCship. But wait a bit. Has he not been in charge of the social sciences faculty for ages? What physical development has he got to show for that time? Nothing. This gives you an insight into his development ambitions—if they exist.
He is also accused of being a member of the “Masaka clique” the group of deans from the central region, who have run down the university. He is too soft to take on Makerere and its gigantic problems.
Prof. Venasius Baryamureeba aka Barya I can’t hide my admiration for this guy. He is just your perfect CEO. He may be an academician but he knows a thing or two on marketing and that is why his faculty seems to be very different from the rest in Makerere. When other faculties like technology are admitting that they have equipment which is three-decades old, ICT is becoming the best information technology hub in the East and Central African region. What is one of Makerere’s most recent faculties is really giving all the others a bloody nose. Maybe it has something to do about Barya’s youth, maybe his acumen, maybe just him, but acknowledge it; none of the other guys above have shown leadership, innovation and focus like this youngest dean in Makerere. His major undoing could be his politics. He is known to be closely connected to Bidandi Ssali’s PPP, and on the Kfm Saturday talk-show hosted by Simon Kasyate, where he is a panelist, Barya is known to criticize the government.
So, will the powers that be sacrifice sycophancy and let merit succeed? We have to keep our fingers crossed.
____________________________________________________________________________________*Don Wanyama is an alumnus of Makerere University. He currently works for The New Vision publication as a news sub editor. His blog is http://dwanyama.blogspot.com