By Wuraola Ajanlekoko
January 8, 2016.
More facts have emerged on how the Lagos State Government finally settled for Olanrewaju Fagbohun, the 47-year old Professor of Environmental Law, as the 8th substantive Vice Chancellor of the Lagos State University (LASU).
According to informed sources, the initial plan allegedly hatched by some “powerful individuals,” was to appoint Prof Ibiyemi Bello to the coveted position. Ibiyemi, a Professor of Physiology, who was appointed the university’s Acting Vice Chancellor in 2011 at the peak of the crisis that eventually forced the former Vice Chancellor, Prof Lateef Hussain out of office, is married to Mr. Tunji Bello, the Secretary to the Lagos State government.
The magazine further gathered that intense pressure by prominent indigenes, who insisted that a qualified Lagos State indigene must be appointed to the position, tilted the equation in Fagbohun’s favour.
It was learnt that the institution’s immediate past Vice Chancellor and Professor of Forensic Pathology, Oladapo Obafunwa was illegally disqualified from the selection process, to make it easier for the preferred candidate to emerge.
Obafunwa, from Epe town, had submitted his application and was, by virtue of the previous LASU law, qualified for a second term. He was, in fact, believed to be the most qualified among the 14 individuals that applied for the job.
Despite being favoured by the students and some prominent indigenes of the state, including a First Class traditional ruler, who had all been impressed by his first term performance, certain individuals (names withheld) were said to vowed never to allow Obafunwa’s application to sail through. One particular individual was quoted to have said: “those who appointed us would think we are crazy if we allow Obafunwa’s participation in the process.”
In addition, intrigues and dirty politics were said to have deployed to overshadow the initial support Obafunwa received, when “the hawks cited unsubstantiated allegations against the former vice chancellor. “ The source said the Lagos State governor, Akinwunmi Ambode did not have the true picture of the situation until it was “too late.”
“The governor actually delegated the LASU matter to the Deputy Governor and was not aware of all the intrigues until it was too late. It has now dawned on the state government that Obafunwa had, indeed, been unfairly treated but it is too late in the day to do anything about it,” the source added.
There is yet another allegation that the inclusion of the one single term clause for Vice Chancellor in the new LASU Law was “specifically targeted at Obafunwa” in order to disqualify him from being re-appointed, although this could not be verified at press time.
The Eko Foundation, in a half page advertorial published on page 18 of The Punch’s December 8 edition, had pointedly asked the state government to ensure that a Lagos State indigene emerged as the next vice chancellor of the institution.
The statement, signed by the foundation’s President and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) Prof. Imran Oluwole Smith; its Secretary and legal practitioner, Mr. Kunle Uthman, reads in part: “The expectation of the indigenes of Lagos state is the emergence of a qualified, competent and experienced indigene of the state as the Vice Chancellor (of LASU), through a free, fair and transparent process, devoid of manipulations and ‘working to the answer’ device by interested groups. We are aware that there are true indigenes in the race for that office that meet the criteria for this position.”
This unexpected pressure from the foundation and other prominent Lagosians, it was gathered, worked against Bello’s nomination, since she’s is from Ekiti state. Besides, Fagbohun, from Akesan in the Alomosho Local Government area of the state had emerged first during the selection process while Bello came third.
But stakeholders are of the opinion that the fundamental issues that led to the last crisis, which pitted the staff unions against the university management have still not been resolved.
An academic staff of the institution who spoke on the condition of anonymity described the scenario this way: “ We pray that our new Vice Chancellor will be guided by God’s given wisdom to steer the ship of LASU away from the precipice. The fact remains that all outstanding issues have not been resolved and honestly, I don’t see how the incoming vice chancellor can solve the problems within the first year of his tenure.
Another academic staff, who did not want his name in print said: “For some of us, the Lagos State government ought to have addressed the excesses of the staff unions first before appointing a new vice chancellor. As it is now, those unions have been emboldened and the impression has been created that they can do anything and get away with it. This is not healthy for an academic community like LASU and it is like postponing the evil day. The unions chased the former Vice Chancellor and other principal officers out of the campus in March last year and ensured that the vice chancellor did not return to his office till October when his term expired. Yet the state government stood by and simply watched.
“The new vice chancellor could suffer the same fate as his predecessors, unless the state government which owns the university, effectively curtails the staff unions’ excesses and make it clear to them that banditry will no longer be tolerated. They cannot be banishing principal officers from the university or shutting down university facilities like the administrative buildings for months or littering the university environment with fetish materials, just to have their way. They should also be told in clear terms that it not in their prerogative, to dictate who becomes LASU’s vice chancellor, registrar or pro chancellor, as they have been dictating in the past.”