Opinion: Why Mbithi may never return as UoN V.C |TCM

Opinion: Why Mbithi may never return as UoN V.C |TCM

Opinion: Why Mbithi may never return as UoN V.C |TCM

The University of Nairobi has been under the leadership of Professor Peter Mbithi since 2014 when he took over from Professor George Magoha (The then UoN VC and current cabinet secretary for education). The University has, since Prof Mbithi’s resumption of office, had its ups and downs in terms of development, internal and external relations. Professor Mbithi made a lot of reforms in the institution immediately he resumed office, some of which worked with some people and others not. One of the reforms the Mbithi made was to disband the then student organisation SONU (Student Organisation of Nairobi University) and replaced it with UNSA (University of Nairobi Student Association). Other reforms included introduction of a policy which required that any transaction by the University that exceeded Ksh100, 000 would only be conducted by the Vice Chancellor and not even the D.V.C.

The latest report from the Auditor General indicated that the University is drowning in debts. The auditor report shows that the university has liabilities of Ksh5.7 Billion and assets that stand at Ksh4.2Billion .This leaves the university to operate at a capital of negative Ksh1.5 Billion. The reports also showed that the university has failed to comply with tax obligations, an amount that adds up to Ksh282 million, National Social Security Fund (NSSF) with an unpaid amount adding up to Ksh3 million, National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) of Ksh10 million and HELB, Ksh5 Billion.

With all these debts and a deficit for the university, will Professor Peter Mbithi be able to return to the position of the Vice Chancellor after his suspension by the board of management? Professor Mbithi’s term came to an abrupt end after he received a letter of suspension from the board sighting mismanagement and embezzlement of university funds. Mbithi’s request for a second term was declined with claims that the council was not in a position to consider his request. “The council is not in a position to consider, approve and recommend your appointment as requested in your letter dated May 9th, 2019.” Professor Julia Ojiambo, Council Chair.

The University of Nairobi has had a repetitive trend when it comes to appointment of Vice Chancellors. According to history, everyone that has served as VC once served as Deputy Vice Chancellor; Philip Muinde Mbithi who served as V.C 1985-1991 was DVC 1981-1985, Crispus Makau who served as VC 2002-2005 was DVC 1998-2002, Prof. George Magoha who served as VC 2005-2014 was DVC 2002-2005. Another trend showed that if a Vice Chancellor served for two terms in the University, the subsequent VC would serve for one term; Prof. Philip Muinde served the university for one term 1985-1991, his successor Prof. Francis John Gichaga served for two terms 1991-2002, Gichaga’s successor Crispus Makau served for one term 2002-2005, Makau’s successor George Magoha served for two terms 2005-2014 when Prof. Peter Mbithi took over from him.

If these will still be the trends during this term’s appointment of the VC, then Prof. Peter Mbithi’s future in the University of Nairobi is already dull.

I talked to students, staff and some individuals from the general public seeking to know their opinion on Prof. Mbithi ousting and appointing of Prof. Mbeche as the acting VC. Some people were free to talk about these issues, including the good and shortcomings of Mbithi during his tenure. Some people however feared to share their thoughts, trying to remain neutral to avoid any controversies and any problems that may arise from their opinion. Some of the opinions we received from the people are as stated in the questionnaire below.


  1. In your opinion, do you think the move by the University of Nairobi council to suspend Professor Peter Mbithi as VC was right?

(a) Yes

(b) No

(c) I don’t know

5 respondents said YES and 1 respondent said I DON’T KNOW.

2. Do you think Professor Mbithi deserves a 2nd term in office as VC?

(a) Yes

(b) No

(c) I don’t know

5 respondents said NO and 1 respondent said I DON’T KNOW.

3. Why do you think he deserves/doesn’t deserve a 2nd term?

  • Mbithi doesn’t deserve a 2nd term. His governance is so poor.
  • I can’t say the council was right or wrong in their decision. I also can’t conclude that Prof Mbithi doesn’t deserve another term. Anything can happen.
  • Prof Mbithi didn’t bring the change that we needed. There is need for a different leadership.
  • He grounded the university both financially and academically, hence poor services.
  • He is a very good VC who only lacks integrity in his leadership at the university.
  • The rate of corruption has skyrocketed in the university during his tenure.

What scholars say about leadership

Different scholars have defined leadership in different ways. According to Tsnnsbeun and Massarik, leadership is interpersonal influence, exercised in a situation, and directed through the communication process towards the attainment of a certain goal.

Leaders are supposed to possess certain qualities in their day to day running of activities so that they can be effective in their service delivery. There are many globally accepted qualities that a good leader should have. However, these traits do not guarantee leadership success. A good leader must not just have the traits but should put them into active use for there to be success.

Some of the traits that a good leader should have include;

  1. Honesty and integrity

A good leader should be open and honest in any of their day to day activities in an organisation. He/she should be ready and willing to embrace positive change which may impact positively on the organisation’s service delivery. Openness can also lead to generation of new ideas for the organisation which will ensure its smooth running. Leaders should embrace these new ideas and positive change without fear of contradiction.

2. Accountability

Accountability is the acknowledgement and assumption of responsibility for actions, products, decisions and policies.

A good leader should take responsibility, be answerable and be ready to blame for any issue that arise within the organisation. Accountability in leadership helps foster trust among both seniors and juniors. A good leader should therefore be ready to take risk over success or failure without blaming others.

3. Drive and motivation

 Motivation is the drive to do something. Good leaders always have different incentives and reasons as to why they are doing whatever they do for the organisation. A leader with personal interests at heart is motivated by his personal gain and not the organisational gains. A leader with the organisation’s interests at heart can easily propel an organisation to the next level.

4. Self-confidence and mission

Self-confidence is an individual’s trust in his or her own abilities, capacities, and judgments, or belief that he or she can successfully face day to day challenges and demands. A good leader must be confident that he/she can be able to perform his daily activities without fear of blunder.

5. Humility

A good leader should be humble in character and behaviour in order to lead others effectively.

The University of Nairobi should therefore look into these traits in their quest to appoint a new Vice chancellor. The council should also assess Prof Peter Mbithi’s previous performance in order to determine whether he deserves or does not deserve a 2nd term in office.

From the opinion shared, it was evident that the university staff that I talked to feared to speak against Prof Mbithi for fear of being spied. However the general opinion about this matter was that Prof Mbithi does not deserve another term as Vice Chancellor.

In my own opinion, after looking at the trends and development records for the University since it was started, I am convinced that regardless of the developments Mbithi has done, the University of Nairobi needs a new V.C. The country’s giant institution needs someone who can bring it back to its position before it is too late.

Charles Getembe

Charles Getembe

Charles Getembe is the founder and CEO of The Campus Magazine. He is a passionate writer specialized in Print Journalism from The University of Nairobi.

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