THEWILL EDITORIAL: Restoring Sanity To UNILAG

BEVERLY HILLS, August 21, (THEWILL) – The ongoing crisis at the University of Lagos, Akoka, is very worrisome, especially as it is coming at a time like this. A situation where the university that has become the dream choice of every admission -seeking Nigerian student is being turned into a battlefield, literarily, cannot be said to be the best.

Of great concern to Nigerians and even foreign observers of the current development in the school that is being flaunted as the best University in Nigeria is a situation where ego reigns supreme and illegality is being seen as the new normal.

It is, indeed, sad that a matter that could have been resolved with maturity and transparency in line with due diligence, is now being subsumed by ego, vendetta and illegality.

A situation where the University Governing Council, headed by the pro-chancellor, Dr. Wale Babalakin, is forcing its wishes on the Senate of the school against all laid down rules is a clear case of arbitrariness.

More irritating and disturbing is the justification of what is clear to all as gross arbitrariness – a case of turning the law on its head – by those who are very well informed and well learned.

Nigerians are therefore worried that the good image of UNILAG and the credibility and excellence it has come to be identified with over the years are just about to be rubbished by what is clearly an ego-trip and desperation to have a pound of flesh on an ‘erring’ vice-chancellor.

While we don’t support fraud and inept leadership on which Prof. Oluwatosin Ogundipe’s sack was allegedly based, we find it very strange that a vice-chancellor of a public university would be sacked, purportedly, by the Governing Council without any input from the institution’s Senate in accordance with the extant laws guiding such action.

It is even more shocking that a replacement for Ogundipe, Prof. Omololu Soyombo, would be unilaterally announced by the same Council without the input and recommendation of the Senate.

What made the entire drama more interesting and suspicious is the timing of the whole incident. The hammer was slammed on Ogundipe at a time the tenure of the two deputy vice-chancellors, one of whom could have stepped into the position in acting capacity, has elapsed.

The most unfortunate effect of the development is the huge divisions it has created among the various groups in the school community. It is a real case of a house that is divided against itself.

While the Senate and the entire staff, both the academic and non-academic, have rejected the action of the Council, maintaining that the status quo remains, the Council is insisting that it is acting within the ambit of its powers.

The students, who are at the receiving end, have refused to take side with any of the ‘warring factions’, as they describe the ongoing battle as selfish, personal and not in their interest in any way. They have been at home for about four months due to the coronavirus and are eagerly looking forward to returning to the campus.

THEWILL therefore joins other concerned Nigerians in condemning the ongoing power tussle in UNILAG as we believe that due process must not only be followed, but to the letters too, in the process of sacking the vice-chancellor and in appointing his replacement if indeed his indictment follows due process.

We want to agree with the stand of the Senate led by Prof. Chioma Agomo, a former Dean of the Faculty of Law, that the Governing Council has the right to hire and fire the vice chancellor as it has just done.

However, such should be done in consultation with, and on the recommendation of, the Senate. Unfortunately, this has not been done in the present situation in UNILAG.

We also commend the maturity of members of UNILAG Senate, who have taken the matter to the appropriate authorities for intervention instead of joining the mass of protesters who recently turned the University campus into another protest ground.

A delegation of the Senate recently took the matter to the Nigerian University Commission, Minister of Education and the Presidency in Abuja for intervention in order to avoid a complete breakdown of law and order in the institution.

We therefore call on President Muhammadu Buhari, who is the Visitor to the university to intervene in the situation by acting fast now to save UNILAG from another crisis, which might come with some unforeseen consequences.