The Senate of the University of Lagos (UNILAG), Akoka, will Monday morning meet to appoint an acting vice-chancellor as recommended by the Visitor to the institution – President Muhammadu Buhari.
As of Sunday night, more than 140 professors have signed for the convocation of the emergency senate meeting, PREMIUM TIMES learnt. The signatories are already more than half of the senate’s roughly 230 members and four times more than the required 25 to convey such meetings.
The senate meeting is one of the decisions contained in the federal government’s recommendations announced on Friday night, which are aimed at addressing the lingering crisis rocking the university.
The government had also mandated both the pro-chancellor, Wale Babalakin, and the vice-chancellor, Oluwatoyin Ogundipe, to step aside from office pending the conclusion of the task before a seven-member special visitation panel appointed to dispassionately look into the crisis.
The panel is to be chaired by a former vice-chancellor of the Federal University of Technology, Minna, Niger State, Tukur Sa’ad.
Mr. Sa’ad, a professor, was in office between 2002 and 2007, and was also a resident electoral commissioner in Borno State.
One of the key decisions to be reached at Monday’s senate meeting is the appointment of a new acting vice-chancellor for the institution.
Those in contention for the coveted office are more than eight professors including those whose retirement is due in less than four months.
Those who have reportedly signified their intention include a former deputy vice-chancellor of the university, Babajide Alo, and a former registrar of the Joint Universities Preliminary Examination Board (JUPEP), Duro Ajeyalemi.
But others who are being prodded by various camps among the senate members include the former acting vice-chancellor who was controversially appointed by the governing council following the controversial removal of Mr Ogundipe, Omololu Soyombo; two deputy vice-chancellors – Ben Oghojafor and Folasade Ogunsola – and the provost of the university’s college of medicine, Afolabi Lesi.
Others who are being rooted for, include a former director-general of the Centre for Black and African Arts and Civilisation (CBAAC), Duro Oni, and the incumbent dean of the faculty of Law, Ayo Atsenuwa.
It is not clear what specific criteria the university would use in the selection of the acting vice-chancellor but both Alo and Ajeyalemi have declared their interest. Both men belong to the oldest generation of professors on the campus. Chioma Agomo, the former dean of the Law faculty, who chaired the senate meeting that countered Mr Ogundipe’s removal and led a three-member committee to submit the senate’s position in Abuja, also belongs to this generation.
While Mr Ajeyalemi is due for retirement in November, Mr Alo, a former deputy vice-chancellor in charge of management services during the administration of the immediate past vice-chancellor, Ramon Bello, will also exit the system by early 2021. But this is the same argument being deployed by many of the senate members to counter their nomination, PREMIUM TIMES learnt.
Another opinion among many senate members is that the two deputy vice-chancellors, Messrs Oghojafor and Ogunsola, were part of the embattled management of the university, and that they were not impartial in the crisis. Their reappointment as deputy vice-chancellors was also yet to be ratified by the governing council before the imbroglio.
But for the provost of the medical college, Mr Lesi, many are of the view that he is the third in the hierarchy of the university’s organogram. His supporters argue that since he is also a governing council member and was not mentioned in the Saminu Dagari-led committee report that indicted Mr Ogundipe, he should be allowed to step in.
But his opponents have suggested that being a provost should not be seen as an automatic endorsement, and have insisted on giving chance to others. Those who hold this view have suggested the likes of Atsenuwa, who they claimed was part of those who rose to the challenge and represented the senate in Abuja to protest the council’s decision.
Meanwhile, a professor of Finance, Ayo Olowe, has canvassed support for Mr Soyombo. In a letter to the university community personally signed by Mr Olowe and distributed via social media on Sunday, he maintained that the federal government’s silence on the status of the acting vice-chancellor in its recommendations should be seen as an endorsement.
He, therefore, appealed to the senate to disregard the reported resignation of Mr Soyombo as acting VC, claiming he was yet to formally notify the university’s council through the registrar, Oladejo Azeez.
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He wrote; “Luckily for us, though Prof. Soyombo has issued a press statement, he has not submitted any letter to the registrar or governing council stepping down his appointment. This is an internal UNILAG matter not for the press. By implication, he is still the acting vice-chancellor. We need somebody like Prof. Omololu Soyombo to save the university out of the current crisis.”
There is yet to be any argument against the former CBAAC DG, Mr Oni, but the former deputy vice-chancellor seems not to be the favourite of many of his colleagues reportedly due to his discipline and principles.
None of the contenders who were approached by our reporter agreed to speak on the matter while other senate members only spoke on the condition anonymity.
ASUU stays aloof
The leadership of the university’s chapter of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), has said all the contenders are members of its union, and so it would not support any candidate.
According to the union’s chairman, Dele Ashiru, the union stands for due process and it would enjoin the professors who are to take part in the process to ensure that due process is followed.
ASUU has been vociferous in its opposition against the chairman of the university’s governing council, Mr. Babalakin, especially over the crisis on the campus.
“Everyone interested in becoming the acting VC is in one way or the other our member. So it will be wrong for the union to throw its weight behind anyone. However, we will plead with the senate to conduct the process in a very civil and legal way. The university is bigger than anybody’s ambition,” Mr Ashiru told our reporter on the phone.