The scary crisis that recently engulfed the University of Lagos (UNILAG) started as a power play between the university management and the Governing Council. It has, however, taken a worrisome dimension, causing ripples and disruption to peace of the ivory tower in the last two years.
The crisis has culminated in the controversial removal of the erstwhile Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Oluwatoyin Ogundipe, by the Dr. Wale Babalakin-led Governing Council. That singular act has continued to threaten the very well-being of the 58-year-old ivory tower.
With the condemnation and criticism that, in the past few weeks, have trailed the development, it is lamentable that the referred institution was allowed to drift to this uncontrolled, steep and abysmal level. In fact, this is yet another unbridled struggle for the soul of the university while the due process was jettisoned, as witnessed in the tumultuous years of the ivory tower. We recollect the 1978 saga when Prof. J. F. Ade Ajayi was removed as Vice-Chancellor. Again, in 1981, the university’s Registrar, Eperokun Matthew Olufemi, five professors and the then Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Babatunde Kwaku Adadevoh, were removed by Council under controversial circumstance.
The germane question raised on the crisis is whether or not the university could achieve the needed development for its transformation under this quasimanagement that has, in the last two years, almost brought the institution to its knees. Although, we are not out to justify or back illegality in the system, but to condemn in its entirety all forms of misconduct under any guise ranging from financial recklessness, mismanagement, administrative ineptitude, official misdemeanour, corruption/graft to nepotism. Despite Federal Government’s recent move to resolve the lingering face-off, we note sadly that the UNILAG crisis has been left to fester for too long.
A university like UNILAG, a supposed purveyor of knowledge, should not be left to the whims and caprices of a Governing Council that has not carried out or brought any tangible developmental project to the institution, except crisis, as if any meaningful development could be achieved thus. Now that the Visitor to the university, President Muhammadu Buhari, has inaugurated a seven-man Special Visitation Panel to look into the immediate and remote causes of the crisis and all contending issues, it is hoped that this will eventually bring a ray of hope and, ultimately, peace to the volatile situation in the institution.
While, we laud government for taking the bold steps in setting up the panel, we condemn in totality the illegalities surrounding the sacking of the vice-chancellor, an act perpetrated outside the ambit of the extant law of the university.
Beyond this and for peace to permanently return to the university, we call for the dissolution and sacking of the Governing Council and its leadership, while the vice-chancellor, if found guilty of the allegations levelled against him, should be made to face prosecution. We note that the Council is not just appointed to monitor or fight the management, but also to deploy its energy, influence and experience towards the physical and academic development of the institution, as it carries out its oversight responsibility of checks and balances in the effective running of the ivory tower.
If the Babalakin-led Council had been diligent enough in this matter without throwing due process and rule of law into the wind, but exerted more energy towards the growth of the university, the present turmoil facing the institution would have been completely averted. We are, however, worried that a university could be a subject of alleged corruption and sharp practices hanging on the management, given a university’s universal phenomenal and critical role as repository of knowledge, especially in the delivery of academic, research and community services and primarily as a swivel on which national development is predicated.
We recommend that to restore sanity to the troubled university and save its soul, the Federal Government should go beyond merely suspending the Chairman of Council/Pro-Chancellor pending the outcome of the report and recommendations of the special visitation panel and ordering the vice-chancellor to proceed on terminal leave. Now that the special visitation panel set up by the Federal Government to look into the remote and immediate causes of the crisis has begun work, the members, believed to be tested personalities, people of impeccable character and track records, are expected to be bold and courageous enough to do a thorough job as an unbiased umpire that will once and for all end the protracted crisis in the university.
One thing that should be put in proper perspective is the vote of no confidence passed in the Chairman of Council/Pro- Chancellor, Dr. Babalakin (SAN) by the university Senate and the institution’s chapter of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), who also declared him as persona non-grata. Without pre-empting the report of the panel, it is advisable for the Federal Government, going by the stalemate and the attendant threat to the peace of the university, to dissolve the Council as it would be unimaginable to still believe that the Senate, a critical organ of the university and ASUU, would be favourably disposed to work with the Council.
Based on the foregoing, while we laud the Federal Government for its boldness on this issue, we call on concerned authorities to implement the report and recommendations of the panel to the letter without minding whose ox is gored, as this is the only way to save the university from further descent into abyss.