Nigeria: Lasu - Smeared but Not Sinking

9 August 2019

The University of Lagos also known as the Lagoon light house has been in the news in recent times with attendant adverse consequences for her image as the university of 'first choice' and the nation's pride, as well as the worrisome signal of the sacrifice of the time honoured traditions of the academia.

In the exchanges that have come out on the issues raised, it is evident that apart from the decadence being unearthed, truth and integrity that should be jealously guarded are made to suffer on the altar of sycophancy and the desire for ingratiation.

Three main interventions in the social media have been made in response to an advertorial published in June this year. These are by Dr. Laja Odukoya, Professor Ojikutu and Professor Okanlanwon in his Unilag History notes series. All of these have been demonstrably pro management and anti- council. They all give the impression that while management had been right, council had been either over bearing or meddlesome. This makes it inevitable to take a second look at the saga with a view to striking a balance.

A new council was inaugurated by the visitor to the university after the expiration of the Professor Jerry Gana led council in 2017. This new council was headed by Dr. Wale Babalakin (LLB) Lagos, LLM, Ph.D. Cambridge, SAN, OFR. Since the tenure of the council also coincided with the expiration of the tenures of principal officers of the university, it has been the lot of the council to appoint them. To this end, the council has had the duty of appointing the vice chancellor, the bursar as well as the university librarian. The council's composition is stipulated by the University Act. The Act requires the federal government to nominate some members to represent special interest and that their nomination should as much as possible, reflect the geopolitical zone of the federation.

On commencing its duties, council headed by Dr Babalakin, made some worrisome discoveries and this led the council to institute a fact-finding committee to investigate. This was the Dagari Committee. While this was going on, there was a force majeur. This was the partial collapse of the multi- storey university library under construction. The vice chancellor thereafter constituted a committee to probe the circumstances leading to the collapse albeit without consultation with Council.

The council also instituted a committee of its own headed by a Professor of Law, Professor P.K. Fogam. It was discovered that the head of the vice chancellor-constituted committee, Professor Duro Oni, had participated in the process for the award of the contract for the construction of the library. The simultaneous institution of two committees to probe the same issue generated some bad blood between council and management. This was however resolved and the council's committee eventually carried out the investigation.

These two committees made startling revelations. Arising from the revelations, council decided to ask for explanations from management in exercising its statutory prerogatives. It is from this stage that hell appeared to have been let loose on the university. So bad was the situation that a group of concerned people took an advertorial in the Guardian of June 26, to set the issues in a proper perspective. The perceived anomalies unearthed by the council committees have been well laid out by the above stated advertorial not to require belaboring.

The latest in the series of intervention is the representation of Professor Yomi Okanlawon in his University of Lagos historical note series. This was posted on July 4. In it, he also towed the line of the earlier two contributors by identifying council as the trouble maker in the ongoing situation in the university and called on council to borrow a leave from a publication by Professor Okebukola about how to run a successful council.

As an academic, the accusation of impersonation against the Pro-Chancellor ridicules the intellect of the accusers. This is because to be able to make this accusation with a modicum of credibility, they, the accusers, would have had to show that the Pro-Chancellor, in applying for the job of Pro-Chancellor, made this claim in the Curriculum vitae that he submitted. It is a fundamental principle of Law that he who alleges must prove. To the best of one's knowledge, people do not apply for appointment to the council to government. The appointment is made by government strictly on its own discretion. Only internally elected members have the opportunity to campaign to their colleagues for election. Even at that, they do not supply any CV to make any claim. Secondly, to what end will Babalakin make a false claim about his state of origin? There is nothing to indicate that his not from Ekiti State.

The authors of the intervention on the social media have accused the Pro-Chancellor of sponsoring the publication in the Guardian of June 26, by concerned stakeholders who are more than competent to intervene without being goaded to do so. However, in their post, those who made these postulations have not left even anybody with kindergarten pupil brain in doubt that they are errand boys of management.

The case of Professor Ojikutu needs no effort to establish. As the chairman of the Governing Board of the Distance Learning Institute of the University, he is a direct appointee of the vice chancellor.

He therefore, by implication, does not see anything wrong with the vice chancellor going beyond his legal limit of approval to give travel grants with local running cost for overseas trips against extant rules. For somebody who knows the university has no tolerance for impunity to still be blaming council for doing its job defies explanation. Impunity by explanation is exemption from the consequences of wrong doing.

- Akintayo, a teacher and journalist, writes from Lagos.

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