UNILAG and the crisis within

In recent times, the prestigious University of Lagos (UNILAG) has been in the news for many reasons – some pleasant, others unpleasant notable of which is the crisis between the university governing council and the management.

It is quite disheartening that for the first time in a very long time, the 57-year-old institution that many struggle to gain admission into partly because of its cosmopolitan nature, but more importantly because of its academic excellence, has been enmeshed in crises that may make its management lose focus, if not quickly resolved. In fact, from the way things are going, this current Governing Council, which was inaugurated on May 9, 2017, may run its full tenure in avoidable crises because the interventions of the Federal Ministry of Education and the House of Representatives have failed to resolve the issues at stake, as both parties in the crises have stuck to their guns. This, to me, is totally unacceptable because it will have a bandwagon effect on scholarship in the University of First Choice.

What are the issues that have turned hitherto friends and colleagues in UNILAG against themselves, which many believe was escalated by the leadership of the Governing Council? What are the problems that have turned the hitherto peaceful atmosphere in the university to crises mode to the extent that armed bouncers, for the first time in its history, invaded the Senate Building as if it was one club house where fraudsters meet, in a Gestapo manner?

Financial recklessness, shoddy construction works, lose internal control system, insubordination, witch-hunting, usurpation of power, arrogance and more were alleged by both parties in a spree of accusations and counter-accusation that mediators have been unable to resolve.

The crises escalated after a committee set up to probe the finances of the institution submitted its report to the governing council chairman, Wale Babalakin in which it accused the Vice Chancellor, Toyin Ogundipe and his management of financial  recklessness. It was headed by Dr. Saminu Dagari, a member of the governing council and lecturer in the University of Gashua.

Thereafter, Babalakin was accused of instructing the registrar, Mr. Oladejo Azeez, to issue queries to the vice-chancellor and other indicted officers of the university, who incidentally are Oladejo’s seniors. As a stakeholder in UNILAG, this is unacceptable and no superior officer anywhere in the corporate world would accept this kind of aberration, where a very junior officer will issue queries to his superiors. This is a big misstep on the part of the governing council, where Oladejo is the secretary. This has actually blown up the crises because the queried officers, including the vice-chancellor and a former vice-chancellor, would certainly consider it as an affront and an insult for the registrar to query them.

While this has been going on, some sponsored characters who called themselves Concerned Stakeholders have, unfortunately, been pouring petrol on the fire by consistently attacking the vice chancellor and the entire management, instead of intervening to resolve all the issues at stake. They do this because of the wicked gains they make from the crises. Their silent prayer is that this problem should not go away! This, indeed, is very disheartening.

The short and long-term effect of this is that academic and administrative works would be adversely affected. When the immediate past governing council, led by the erudite lawyer and philanthropist, Chief Afe Babalola (SAN) and the council before him, led by boardroom guru, the late Dr. Gamaliel Onosode, and other past councils were in-charge, they brought unprecedented academic and physical development to UNILAG. A situation where the current governing council cannot sit because it does not usually form a quorum due to the crises, or a situation where such council meetings are tension-soaked is totally unacceptable.

Babalakin, who incidentally is the first alumnus of the university to be its pro-chancellor and chairman of its governing council, should, with other members of the council resolve all the issues at stake amicably and support the vice chancellor to take the university to greater heights, instead of this ceaseless fight over issues that could be resolved procedurally and administratively. This is a golden opportunity for all of them to write their names in gold in UNILAG, like the previous governing councils before them did.

 Igwe writes from Abuja.