The dance of shame at UNILAG

Niran Adedokun

BY Niran Adedokun


Regardless of who is right or wrong, the current power tussle at the University of Lagos is disgraceful and indicative of the widespread erosion of values in the country. For starters, while no university should be visited with the kind of aberration that UNILAG currently grapples with, this particular university, given the pride of place it holds and the quality of products it boasts of, should not be caught in the needless explosion of an otherwise resolvable internal crisis.

And this is the very crux of the matter. Even though it is in the society, the university is not of the society. In other words, while universities exist as part of different societies, they are by the idea behind their creation and composition, expected to be poles away from falling for the common frailties of ordinary men. This is where specific achievements, competences and tendencies are required of academics, who must of a necessity, not just display academic excellence but also have the blessing of beyond par Emotional Intelligence.

The university is supposed to be a place that conceives, nurtures and delivers ideas that propel society into technological, scientific, technical and even moral growth. The essential culture of a university places it at an advantage to produce innovation and influence the culture of society. As a result, universities are not only established to prepare young people for assorted roles in the future, they also have the higher obligation to discover or invent the future that societies hope for.

Take the current global race for the arrest of the COVID- 19 pandemic for instance. You can identify numerous universities across the world that are providing direction on different levels. One is the John Hopkins University, which from its seat in Baltimore, United States provides the world with near real time tracking and tracing capacities for cases as well as information and resource on the pandemic. You also have the University of Oxford, which has developed a vaccine that is currently undergoing trials. All hands in these universities are ever on deck in search of ideas and funding for the execution of landmark innovations to uplift the quality of lives and livelihoods around the world.


But not Nigerian universities. It is on record though that the University of Ilorin announced last May that a team from its Institute of Molecular Science and Biotechnology was working on a vaccine. Director of the Institute, Prof. Mathew Kolawole, indicated that funding was an impediment. It possibly still is, as little or nothing has been heard about this initiative in months. This is the sad thing about the management of Nigerian universities. Instead of working together towards repositioning these institutions to propel the country’s future, as managements and governing councils should, they are either colluding to live on the institution or scrambling to outdo one another in power games as is the case at the University of Lagos.

There is enough blame to go around all the parties in the current imbroglio at UNILAG, even though every side wants to come out as the saint. This goes to show that the current situation could simply have been avoided if the warring parties considered the common good over and above their big egos.

Even now that the bubble has burst, egos are still contending. Immediately after the announcement of his removal as Vice Chancellor last week, Professor Oluwatoyin Ogundipe released a statement to the effect that his sack was a figment of the council’s imagination. He went ahead to ask the public to disregard what he referred to as disinformation, while he insisted that the council did not observe due process in the decision to sack him.


Now, it is curious that a man who has been accused of financial recklessness, including spending about N100m on the renovation of two buildings, would consider holding on to office above clearing his name! Without prejudice to Ogundipe and his supporters’ position on the illegality of his removal, one would imagine that the professor of Botany should be more concerned about his integrity at this point in time. This is more so because there is nothing he can do to return to office without the intervention from the Minster of Education or the President, who is the institution’s Visitor.

On his own part, Chairman of the Governing Council, Dr Wale Babalakin, has carried on like his main mission in the institution is the removal of Ogundipe, something which he also seems to imagine he has the absolute power to effect, alongside his council. The chairman has shown this sense of entitlement in virtually all his reaction to the council’s removal of the VC.

Reacting to questions from reporters about the dissonance on campus, Babalakin dismissed it as a non-event. He claimed that the protests against council’s decision were being promoted by a “vocal minority with resources.” He described the emergency meeting of the Senate of the university, rising from which 91 professors were said to have signed a document protesting the council’s decision as a “debating society,” dismissed the reaction of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, accused the alumni association of the university of bias and the Council of Vice Chancellors of lacking proper information about Ogundipe’s removal. The question to ask Babalakin is, when he describes the Senate, ASUU, NASU and the alumni association (of which he is member) as a vocal minority, who are those in the majority with him?

It is also important to state that while most of these bodies do not insist that Ogundipe cannot be removed, they only request that due process should be followed in his removal. For instance, two council members, Prof Afolabi Lesi and Prof B. Oboh, disagreed with the result announced by Babalakin to sack the VC. They faulted the process of the election and the results it produced. The chairman has dismissed protests from anyone who may have had any link with Ogundipe’s management.


But that is not all. Speaking on behalf of the 91 professors said to have participated in the emergency Senate meeting, Professor Chioma Agomo cited the failure to set up a joint committee of Council and Senate as required by the rules as well as bypassing the Senate to appoint an acting Vice Chancellor as two instances of Babalakin’ usurpation of the powers of the Senate. Feelers amongst the university community are that the chairman went ahead to bypass the Senate because he was sure he would never receive their support. The chairman is accused of having no regard for the Senate, in addition to allegations that he had wanted to be involved in day-to-day administrative decisions like setting up of committees, appointment of heads of departments, awards of degrees and others. Disagreements over such banal issues are believed to have been behind the cancellation of the institution’s 51th convocation in May without any consideration of the students or funds that might have been expended. Is this how universities are run overseas where these people send their children to school?

Yet, students and ultimately, society are supposed to be the beneficiaries of any decision that universities take but none of these stakeholders seems to be top in the minds of the powers that be at UNILAG. That should however not be. If universities exist to challenge the imagination of a society and refocus the status quo, that objectives cannot be achieved in an atmosphere of indecorous rancour. The news coming from the University of Lagos is an extension of the betrayal of Nigeria’s future, the way the elite are notoriously known.

Even though the lines have been crossed, the hallmark of leadership is the humility to own up to errors and amend them. This is what the UNILAG council should do. If Ogundipe has indeed committed any infractions, investigate him as makers of the laws (who probably took the tendency of men to overreach into cognisance) prescribe and let his offence be made bare and seen by all. Let Babalakin and Ogundipe understand that UNILAG is greater than either of them, and that history, the ultimate judge of all men, is taking records. Please, set this great university back on the path of progress.

Adedokun tweets @niranadedokun

Views expressed by contributors are strictly personal and not of TheCable.

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