“Oba of Lagos, His Royal Highness, Rilwan Babatunde Akiolu 1 (right), with the Vice Chancellor, Lagos State University, Prof. John Obafunwa, at the King’s palace during a courtesy visit by the latter.”
His Royal Highness, Rilwan Babatunde Osuolale Aremu Akiolu 1, is the amiable Oba of Lagos. Frank, witty, compassionate, broad-minded and self-assured, the former Police Officer had no airs around him, the other day, when he hosted ROTIMI LAWRENCE OYEKANMI in his expansive palace on Lagos Island. Despite a stream of endless visitors, the King assured: “Don’t worry o, I will grant you an interview.” And he did. He spoke affectionately of the Lagos State University (LASU), imploring all stakeholders to allow the institution to flourish.
Kabiyesi, the Lagos State University was established to provide Lagosians and other Nigerians with good quality higher education and to also produce the critical human capital needed to develop the state in all ramifications. What, in your opinion, have been the university’s contributions to Lagos so far?
First and foremost I want to thank the almighty Allah. We have to give a lot of thanks and show gratitude to God. Also, we should give thanks to the man, Alhaji Lateef Jakande, who conceived the idea; who had a dream to set up a befitting university for indigenes of Lagos and Nigerian students in general.
It is true that since the inception of the university, there has been one problem or the other, but the university has been quite productive too. And honestly, Prof (John) Obafunwa has tried a lot. He has introduced sanity to that institution and all I am hoping and praying is for his lieutenants to cooperate fully with him, so that more can be achieved and God will take us to the desired destination.
He (Obafunwa) deserves our prayers and the cooperation of all his lieutenants in that university, so that things could be better. You see, education is the bedrock of development anywhere. I have been there and I can say I had what you may call a second chance, because I read Law (Part Time) at the University of Lagos and I know the value of education. It’s an eye opener.
Chief Obafemi Awolowo (former Premier of the Western Region) said, “show the light and the people will follow.” And it is just not possible, let’s be honest to ourselves, that government alone can provide everything that a university needs. The students too would have to bear with the government. The government, particularly the present government, has been trying to meet their (LASU) legitimate demand as much as it can, but there are many other sectors also demanding government’s attention.
So, whatever the institution is given, they should take it with open arms. I know that like Oliver Twist, they will always ask for more. LASU has been so far so good. I am very happy and I pray that may God almighty continue to assist them to record more success.
Sir, how best do you think some of the challenges facing LASU could be successfully resolved?
The (state) government would have to tackle LASU’s problem holistically and many of the multinational companies (in Lagos) would have to assist us. But on the federal government’s side, it is absolutely necessary for them to give us reliable electricity, because when we have power and security; and if all other necessary infrastructure are in place, things would definitely be better.
I would advise the Vice Chancellor to see how he could introduce mass agricultural programmes that could support LASU. I want to appeal to the multi-nationals to also try to use what I would call the wise men in the University for their Consultancy Jobs, to enable the university to generate revenue from such partnership and developmental programmes. If we show love, contribution and affection in everything, I believe all would be well.
What would be your advice to the Lagos State government on the funding of LASU?
Like I told you earlier, there is no responsible government that would set up an institution and would not like to fund it. But there are many competitive demands.
However, the most important thing is for the state government to, one; block all financial leakages in revenue collection. Two, on the part of the elite and the citizenry, they should contribute and genuinely pay their taxes as at when due, so that the government would be equipped enough to finance all necessary projects and sectors.
In recent time, some of the unions in LASU have had series of disagreements with the university management, although, this is not peculiar to the current management. As a foremost royal father in Lagos, what advice do you have for the unions?
I have on many occasions called the unions and tried to advise them that they should be very close to their God and perform their civic responsibilities.
You see, many of the happenings in that place, the Yorubas would say “kokoro ton’ je efo, inu efo lo wa” (the insect that eats a plant resides at its root).
It’s just a few bad people that are instigating others. I am aware of that. I was a police officer for 32 years and I know what is called intelligence gathering. I know exactly what is happening there, but they have to think twice before they do anything. No matter what happens, students should never think of resorting to violence or damaging government property. It is ungodly and it is unlawful because, at the end of the day, if they damage anything, they would be surcharged and would still have to pay. So, why do it then?
We all should try to be good citizens and if we cooperate, with the fear of God, all would be well.
What advice do you have for the graduating students sir?
For the students who are graduating, the government should try, within its limited resources, to assist them. You see, if there is a way to introduce what we can call, do it yourself projects; because it is not possible to offer jobs to all the graduating students. Government should think of how to embark on a do it yourself project, to make these graduating students self-employed. But, they still need government’s support and guidance and that would solve a lot of problem. I insist that they should be close to God and try to be good citizens. If we inculcate that in our daily lives, all would be well.
Advice to prominent Lagosians on how they can assist LASU?
When you say Lagos, remember that Lagos is Nigeria and not for Lagosians alone. Right from the time of its inception, the ancient belief of the people was that the excessively rich people in Lagos may not necessarily be Lagosians. Even if you don’t have anything, and you come to Lagos, you will have enough, even more that what you require.
So, we should try to be our brother’s keeper. After all, all these worldly things would end one day. What is very important is peace of mind and closeness to almighty Allah.
Try to assist the government if you have the means. We should not leave everything to government. All of us should contribute towards the success of the university.
Kabiyesi, would you recommend Prof, Obafunwa for a second term?
Yes, by the grace of Almighty Allah. I will pray for him and even support him. If you really understand him (Obafunwa), he is not difficult. He is just a very, very thorough person. He deserves it (second term) and God almighty Allah will give it to him.