There is ‘fire on the mountain’ in ace institution, the University of Lagos (UNILAG), and it will take nothing short of urgent and decisive intervention by the Visitor, President Muhammadu Buhari, to put it out.
The university is under a chokehold of supremacy contest between the governing council led by Dr. Wale Babalakin, and the management which has no clear headship at the moment – Professor Oluwatoyin Ogundipe having purportedly been sacked as vice-chancellor by council but with no one accepting that sack – not even interest blocs with seats on same council like the university senate and students’ national alumni. Cut to the cheese, the issue is an irreconcilable personality clash between Babalakin and Ogundipe.
Council announced Ogundipe’s removal last Wednesday, sidelining his three deputies to name Professor Theophilus Soyombo as acting vice-chancellor. Ogundipe swiftly dismissed the purported sack, affirming that he remained in office, whereas council insisted he’d been removed. But it wasn’t embattled Ogundipe alone who rejected the sack, the university senate and all staff unions also did. Later last week, the alumni body pitched in.
The senate, which held an emergency meeting on Thursday, argued that though extant laws give council the power to hire and fire vice-chancellors, the case in point did not follow due process and thus is void. Spokesperson and former Dean of Law Professor Chioma Agomo cited Universities Miscellaneous Provisions Act 2003, which provides that where a vice-chancellor is to be removed for misconduct, a joint panel of council and senate should be set up; saying “this was not done in this case.” She also said the naming of an acting vice-chancellor flew in the face of law, which provides that council has a right to appoint but on recommendation by senate.
Arguing along similar lines, UNILAG and College of Medicine (CMUL) chapters of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Senior Staff Association of Nigeria Universities (SSANU), Non Academic Staff Union (NASU) and National Association Academics of Technologies (NAAT) rejected Ogundipe’s removal and called for government dissolution of the Babalakin council. Outside UNILAG, the Committee of Vice Chancellors said the whole business smacked of a “hatchet job.”
Babalakin, for his part, accused Ogundipe of deep sleaze. Without answering to specific provisions of law, he insisted due process was followed in the vice-chancellor’s removal, alleging that those protesting were a vocal minority who benefited from the dispensation. He held the senate’s resolution invalid because only the vice-chancellor is empowered to convene such meeting, whereas the one that held did so after Ogundipe had been removed from office.
Meanwhile, Soyombo was reported saying he had assumed duties. Now UNILAG has an acting vice-chancellor named by council but rejected by the university community, while the one being recognised is purported to have been removed by council. The visitor cannot dally on intervening.