The Registrar, Akin Lewis speaks on what the future holds for LASU
By Rotimi Lawrence Oyekanmi
Despite the Lagos State University’s (LASU’s) shortcomings, nobody can deny the fact that it has produced, and is still producing, great men and women of international repute, who are doing very well in various sectors.
Making this assertion in an exclusive interview with The Intellectual recently in Lagos, the institution’s Registrar, Mr. Akin Lewis remains confident that LASU is currently being well positioned to join other great global universities in all aspects, in the coming years. “Yes, LASU has had its share of negative events, but it is on its way to becoming one of the best universities, not only in Nigeria, but also in Africa,” he said.
But the unpretentious Registrar did acknowledge that there were still some major obstacles that must be dealt with. One of them, he noted, is the recurring disagreements between a couple of unions and the university management.” In any human organization,” he stated, “there’s bound to be friction. However, what I tell people, from my own experience, having led a union before, is that we should be able to accommodate ourselves.
“Unfortunately, for the past 20 years, unlike a normal, regulated institution of higher learning, where university culture and traditions are the norm, LASU’s case is totally different. Sometimes, I think it defies human logic. It is only University I have seen, where the employees tell their employer how they want to be administered, even when everybody knows the rules and regulations and the conditions of service of the University.”
That notwithstanding, Lewis insisted that the management would continue to harp on the right things. “We need to continue emphasizing and reiterating that people must work within the ambit of all the rules and regulations,” he averred. “Yes, there will be issues on welfare, that border on financial matters or otherwise, but one thing you cannot take away is that only change is constant. Most of us run away from change. Not knowing what the future holds, people get scared of the unknown. But if we can all sit down and tackle issues with an open mind, in order to reach an understanding, there will be a lot of industrial harmony.”
He continued: “I believe strongly that LASU needs to move away from what I can call jankara type of public service. LASU is a tertiary institution. The rules governing it are different from what obtains in the normal civil service. So, anybody that wants to thrive and make a good career, either as an academic or non academic staff, must be willing to subject himself or herself to the rules of engagement, ethos, customs and traditions of an ivory tower.
“Go to the University of Ibadan, or the University of Lagos, or the Obafemi Awolowo University, people are not forced to tow the line. Everybody knows what is right and what is wrong. LASU is, however, a different kettle of fish. But I have a strong belief that things will continue to get better. The process has already started. The current administration is already towing that path. Some people are finding it difficult, yet many are already gravitating towards the new LASU. Yes, there are pains here and there as a result of shortage of funds, but again, if you look at it from the perspective of the global economy and from the perspective of making LASU competitive, if you look at it from the aspect of relevant research coming out of the institution, then we must quickly embrace change.”
On his dream for LASU, the Registrar was emphatic: “I would like to see our faculty attracting research grants, like they do in other universities. Look at Harvard (United States) with an endowment of over $30 billion. If you see the Pfizers, Wellcome of this world, they are actually feeding fat from the various research results coming out of American universities. It’s high time LASU’s academic staff leaned towards that, so that they can become competitive and global scholars.
“I can see that already in the young and upcoming academics. But I believe that the older ones can mentor the young ones and help repackage LASU, so that in the next five to 10 years, the landscape, in terms of infrastructural development, intellectual content and service delivery; the town meets gown prophesy, would have been fulfilled.
On what the future holds for the university, Lewis expressed optimism that LASU’s future “is bright.” His words: “I am looking at the LASU of the next five to 10 years that will be totally independent of the funds coming from its principal, because it would have become so self sufficient in every facet of its life. I see a LASU in the next five to 10 years, where academic culture would flourish, with our academic staff breaking new grounds and competing for global prizes. That is my belief and that is the dream I live every day.”
On the legacy he would like to leave behind, Lewis smiled and said: “I will like to be remembered as having come into this job prepared, even as an intern in 1994 till now. I want to be seen as someone who imbibed the culture of hard work, who is open to new things like technology and better ways of doing thing, in terms of digitalizing the records; in terms of modern trends in university administration.
“I want to leave this office, when the time comes, and be able to look back and say these are the ones I have mentored. I want to leave this office, having fully prepared those coming behind in line with the succession plan.
“I want to leave this office under a situation, where the academic staff will not see the job of the Registrar or the Registry, or a non-teaching staff as subservient to the job of an academic staff. I want a situation where an academic staff will look at a non-academic staff with a lot of respect, knowing at the back of his mind, that that person chose not to go into academics, but has found his or her dream in the non-teaching environment, where he or she also contributes daily to the overall development of LASU, with everybody interlocking with one another, to form a formidable university.”