OPINION: THE ACADEMIA ELEPHANTS

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By Martin-Rita Adebayo

The proverbial adage of our people will say, “Where two elephants locked horn, the grass underneath is set to suffer it.” In view of this, whatever worth doing at all, it is worth doing well.

The imbroglio that ensued between the Pro Chancellor, Dr. Olawale Babalakin and the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Oluwatoyin Ogundipe has escalated into a full blown crisis within the University community and the general public. This is a result of upheaval and power tussle between the duo which has been going on for some month. The Pro Chancellor who is the head of the council had alleged the Vice Chancellor for gross misconduct, financial recklessness and abuse of power in which the latter has not come out to deny of any wrongdoing, and also been denied of due process. This allegation has tarry beyond time and had already panned out to be a charade.

The genesis to this crisis can be traced to the collapsed structure of the proposed library on the Akoka campus late last year. The uncompleted building was said to have collapsed due to substandard materials being used for constructions and heavy corruption that is said to have marred the bidding and the contract process of the project. The former Vice Chancellor of the University, Prof. Rahman Bello was alleged to be the arrowhead and part of this in which the embattled Vice Chancellor, Prof. Ogundipe served under him as a Deputy Vice Chancellor. In view of the probe, the Pro Chancellor was drawn into the allegation too. The question now is, why is the Pro Chancellor trying to arm twist the Vice Chancellor when he is part of the process? It is a known fact that a structure can not stand without a foundation. If the Vice Chancellor is alleged of these crimes, then where’s the role of the governing council that approved all these anomalies under him. This makes the governing council to be an accomplice too. It would have been easier done for the governing council to have invite the University senate to a joint committee of the Council and the Senate to look into the allegations and the surrounding grey areas.

The brouhaha snowballed into a full glare crisis in March this year when the Pro Chancellor, Dr. ‘Wale Babalakin had to put the convocation ceremony of the University on a hold two days before commencement. He alleged that the council was not duly informed and that the Vice Chancellor is trying to usurp the power of the governing council and that of the visitor to the school. This can be seen as the beginning to the end of where we are now. The disagreement in date and postponement of the convocation ceremony is something that really put the University name and brand in a bad light. What would be the remain of the mantra of “The University of First Choice And The Nation’s Pride” if we can’t be organised and do things in a sane and rational way. Is UNILAG still the nation’s pride with two persons laying claim to the office of the Vice Chancellor? We are not getting it right on this, and this might be put a dent on the UNILAG brand.

The surface of this crisis has been scratched, but I believe more is yet to be excavate out of it. The governing council alleged the embattled VC by depriving him a chance to fair hearing. They went ahead to removed him by breaching the University extant laws. This is also a gross misconduct on their own part. In a situation like this, anyone can be alleged. But, it would be logical to an extent that two wrongs doesn’t make a right which makes it an illegality upon illegality. The governing council has not followed due process in this regard, and they must be prevail on to do the right thing, so as to redeem the image of the University community. In a situation whereby an acting Vice Chancellor was appointed without a due recourse to the senate of the University confirmed the illegality upon illegality that has been carried out. These two elephants must not be allowed to use their parochial sentiment to rubbish the entire university apparatus and system. It is so obvious that the brouhaha had created division and groups within system have been taking sides. The solidarity protest by the members of the Academic staff Universities Union (ASUU) on the Akoka campus last week Friday, 15th of August, 2020 is a further confirmation to the grass underneath of the two elephants that are fighting.

This is a charade that must not be allowed to stand. The Pro Chancellor must be prevailed on to do the right thing. In this case, it won’t be out of place to follow due process. The Senate of the university must be given a fair hearing to this. The Visitor to the University who is the President of the country, President Muhammadu Buhari must step up and intervene in this matter. To be fair enough, the governing council should be dissolved and make the embattled Vice Chancellor to step aside upon completion of investigation into the alleged offences. No one should be allow to be a judge in their own case. The image of the school and all what it represent must not be desecration or rub in the murky of politics.

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