Book: Strategies in Overcoming Challenges by Administrators in Nigeria’s Tertiary Institutions
Author: Mustapha Hanafi-Idiaro
Reviewer: Dr Idris O. Jibrin
Publisher: Kabiat Muilti Digital Ventures Limited.
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The history of the development of educational enterprise informs us that the creation or establishment of tertiary institutions anywhere in the world is always embedded with the need to administer them to attain their set goals or objectives. In the same vein, the necessity of the day-to-day management of the institutions is matched by the corresponding engagement of those to do the job. Among the crop of managers of tertiary institutions are the career or professional administrators whose tasks and responsibilities are as dynamic and exciting as they are onerous and challenging. Because of their centrality in the operations of tertiary institutions, understanding the role of the administrators in the development, ever-changing fortunes and or repositioning of the Institutions have remained a categorical imperative, especially in this knowledge-driven era.
It is in this respect that the book, ‘Strategies in Overcoming Challenges by Administrators in Nigeria’s Tertiary Institutions,’ written by Mustapha Hanafi-Idiaro, a vibrant and studious career administrator and brand new Deputy Registrar of the Federal University, Lafia, Nasarawa State, should be received and appreciated. The 82-page book published by Kablat Multi Digital Ventures Limited, Kaduna, aptly described by the author as “a concise handbook” (page ix) is a bold attempt by an administrative practitioner to advance the knowledge and understanding of basic principles, processes, procedures and practices in the running of tertiary institutions in Nigeria.
The delivery of the intellectual piece in short and simple language and style will make the book readable, and also a convenient reference material for administrators in tertiary institutions and interested members of the public.
The book is enriched by the supporting comments of some senior colleagues of the author and the forward written by his boss, the Registrar of the Federal University, Lafia. The book is made up of seven chapters and is adequately referenced by citations of relevant and up-to-date literature even up to the latter part of 2022.
Chapter one of the book which doubles as the introduction defines tertiary education as post-secondary, advanced or higher education that is obtained in universities, polytechnics, colleges of education, etc. It explains that the registry anywhere is manned by career or professional administrators, and for tertiary institutions, the registries serve as the engine room of their administration via the facilitation of established processes, procedures and practices. The chapter sums up the role of the administrators to ensure excellent operations and performance by the institutions.
Chapter two provides an overview of Nigerian tertiary institutions, specifically the universities, polytechnics and colleges of education. After the exposition of the various purposes for establishing the institutions, the organisational and governance structures of the Institutions are laid bare and explained. The differences and peculiarities of their setups and operations are highlighted while not ignoring areas of uniformity such as the existence of unions and other pressure groups as partners in the governance and administration of tertiary institutions.
Chapter three identifies and discusses the challenges confronting the Nigerian tertiary education system. The challenges are analysed under two broad categories. One is the general challenges facing the Nigerian University system and the strategic goals put in place by the National Universities Commission to address them. The second is the specific challenges facing administrators in tertiary institutions, namely, lack of induction/orientation for new administrative staff, poor mentoring culture, little or no capacity development, and lack of social skills, etc. This is against the backdrop of similar structures and functions of Registries in various tertiary institutions, in which the broad duties and responsibilities of the University Registry are highlighted. These include the provision of secretariat services, facilitating academic matters and processes, establishment matters, custody of laws and regulations, information and public relations, as well as records management.
Chapter four dwells on the key facilitating tools being used by the administrators in the performance of their duties and responsibilities. Appropriately titled ‘Administrator’s Guide…’, it defines and distinguishes between minutes, reports, memoranda and circulars. The purposes, the importance, the process of production and the formats and types of all these various means of communication are explained with clarity. In chapter five, the strategies towards overcoming the challenges in administration are eloquently articulated by the author. These involve appropriate steps by the administrators, including due diligence, effective communication, planning, digital literacy, invention, mastery of the rules and regulations, high productivity, and understanding and projection of the core values of the Institutions.
Similarly, in chapter six, the author attempts to connect the administration of tertiary institutions in Nigeria with the global best practices in Higher Education Management. He identifies several global best practices and maintains that they are necessary for “improved overall efficiency” and increased competitiveness in the contemporary global arena. However, the challenges of meeting global best practices in Nigeria are mentioned, including inadequate infrastructure, poor work ethic, policy instability, technological underdevelopment, resistance to change and over-dependence on government initiatives, including funding.
Chapter seven is the last and provides a comprehensive list of abbreviations being used in official correspondence in the governance and administration of tertiary institutions as part of the nation’s public service. The author rightly notes that the abbreviations “are permissible and they convey quick understanding and enhance efficiency in administrative procedures and practice” (page 70). The chapter also listed the non-English words or phrases frequently used, especially in official correspondence by administrators. Needless to say, that a mastery of the usage of abbreviations and non-English expressions recommends itself to anyone involved not only in the onerous task of the day-to-day operations of the tertiary institutions but also in public service in general.
On the whole, the book is a great effort by the author to advance the knowledge and understanding of his chosen profession as he lives and practices it. This is timely given that higher education institutions’ management has come a long way in Nigeria, and with the tremendous transformation and changes in the governance and administrative setups and processes of the Institutions, only those directly involved can understand and explain the unfolding scenarios better. It is gratifying and commendable that our own Mustapha Hanafi-Idiaro has now joined the select few proactive Nigerian university professional administrators that have taken the intellectual gauntlet to articulate and publish their thoughts on their chosen profession for the benefit of colleagues, public service and posterity.
Furthermore, moving forward, it may be desirable to isolate and interrogate in-depth, especially the Nigerian University system, given both the apex position it occupies and the ripple effect of the changes at its level on the entire tertiary education sector. For instance, with the recent governance and succession crises at the University of Lagos, the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, as well as the Universities of Ibadan, Port Harcourt and the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, the jury is still out on whether the so-called autonomy granted to the federal universities has improved governance and administration in these institutions. Again, within the Registries, what has been the impact of the shortened tenure of the Registrars and the frequent succession politics on the professional security, occupational solidity and job performance of the so-called chief administrative officers as arrowheads of the engine rooms of the university administration? These are some of the burning questions begging for answers and it is hoped that more professional administrators will venture to intellectually address them for the overall benefit of the system. We can do it because we always witness, record and remain at the centre of the implementation of the new policy changes and directions in the system.
Finally, having blazed the trail at the Federal University of Lafia, the book written by Mustapha Hanafi-Idiaro, Strategies in Overcoming Challenges in Nigeria’s Tertiary Institutions, is recommended for reading by all career administrators in the Nigerian tertiary institutions, the public service and interested members of the public.
Dr Idris O. Jibrin is a Senior Deputy Registrar (General Duties), Unity and Diversity Officer, University of Abuja, and Founding Registrar, Federal University, Lafia (2011-2017)
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