UNILAG & Babalakin – Leaping Before Being Pushed?

Looks like the first leg of the solution to the UNILAG crisis has been played with the resignation of Dr. Wale Babalakin as the Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of the Governing Council of the institution. So, that card is gone! Only one more hand to play.

Babalakin sent his resignation letter dated 15th September 2020 to the Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu, with a long list of reasons why he decided to quit.

The erstwhile Pro-Chancellor was involved in a battle with the substantive Vice-Chancellor, Professor Toyin Ogundipe, prompting the Visitor to the University, President Muhammadu Buhari to send a Visitation Panel to find out the cause of the crisis and report back to him within two weeks.

The Panel submitted its report to the Education Minister during the week but Dr. Babalakin’s letter of resignation was full of complaints about the whole empaneling process and how he said they carried out their work.

His letter detailed the process the Governing Council of the University took to remove the Vice-Chancellor of the University from office, alleging that the VC was involved in, amongst other faults:

“Corruption and financial recklessness; Forgery; Complicity in the collapse of the University library and planned cover up; Deliberate policy of wrongfully concealing information; Depriving the Faculties in the University of funds; Concealing and distorting finances of the Internally Generating Units of the University; Undermining the academic process and seeking to appoint a Professor by fiat; Siphoning of the University’s funds through dubious contract awards; Undermining the office of the Registrar; Failure to follow due process in organizing the University’s convocation ceremony; and Sponsoring or acquiescing in the unconstitutional actions of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), University of Lagos chapter”.

Prof. Oluwatoyin Ogundipe
Vice-Chancellor

He maintained that all the Federal Government Representatives who are the independent members on the Governing Council voted for the removal of the Vice-Chancellor.

Babalakin disagreed with the decision to have him recuse himself from duty for the duration of the Presidential Visitation Panel along with the Vice-Chancellor, saying that he found it difficult to understand how a non-executive Chairman of a Governing Council could be requested to recuse himself during the visitation and that the VC could only recuse himself if he were still in office. Implicit in this position is that the Vice-Chancellor was acknowledged as still being in office despite his removal.

He said the terms of reference of the Visitation Panel clearly indicated to any discerning person that the Panel was put together to exonerate the Vice-Chancellor and implicate the Pro-Chancellor.

He also disagreed with the composition of the Visitation Panel and pointed out that the Vice-Chancellors on the Panel were drawn from relatively smaller universities who were not likely to have a comprehensive understanding of the procedure contained in the University of Lagos Act (as amended). Even Vice-Chancellors of state universities were included, he complained.

Dr. Babalakin and Professor Ogundipe are said to have appeared before the Panel and witnesses were also invited to testify in a bid to determine the immediate and remote causes of the crisis in the university.

Throwing in the towel was probably the best option for Babalakin who has been Pro-Chancellor of the University of Lagos since 2017 and was also Pro-Chancellor of the University of Maiduguri from 2009 to 2013. He seemed to feel that he would not get fair ‘judgment’ because the Visitation Panel was made up of Professors and Vice-Chancellors who may side with their VC colleague. However, observers looking in from outside had also formed their own opinion on the goings-on inside the ivory tower and some say that happenings and pronouncements on campus left a sour taste in the mouth.

Dr. Babalakin’s disagreement with the Professor Ogundipe seems to have polarized the UNILAG community, but an Acting Vice-Chancellor, Professor Folashade Ogunsola, who was elected by The University Senate as directed by the Visitor, has been in place since the announcement of the setting up of the Visitation Panel while an acting Chairman, Mr. John Momoh, also took over for the Governing Council, and things looks like they have cooled down a bit.

A full resolution is what everyone looks forward to with the submission of the Visitation Panel’s report. We hope that the Visitor would act quickly on it to bring normalcy to the University of Lagos.

 

Epa Ogie Eboigbe, veteran journalist, broadcaster and public affairs specialist writes on, and analyses current and historical issues with a ‘wise pen’.

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