December 2, 2014

Alumni battle LASU’s agelong challenges


By Ikenna Asomba

Since Tuesday, November 1, 2011, when Professor John Oladapo Obafunwa, became the 11th Vice Chancellor of the Lagos State University, LASU, Ojo, it has been an unending face-off between him and the institution’s staff unions comprising of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU; Senior Staff Association of Universities, SSANU; Non Academic Staff Union of Universities, NASU; National Association of Academic Technicians, NAAT, as well as the students.

Like the usual baptism of fire for every new administration, Obafunwa on assumption of office, met a university thrown into turmoil by the White Paper sent to the university’s Governing Council, by Governor Babatunde Fashola, announcing the implementation of a new fees regime, which saw tuition fees increased steeply from N25, 000 to as much as N348, 750.

Shutdown twice

Aside the six months nationwide ASUU strike between July and December 2013, the school was closed twice for several weeks within three academic sessions (2011/2012, 2012/2013, 2013/2014), owing to students protests and rampages occasioned by the fees hike, as well as industrial action by ASUU-LASU and SSANU-LASU, bordering on staff welfare on May 20 and 22, respectively.

PhD certificates withdrawal

However, when many observers of the LASU debacle thought lasting peace had returned to the 30-year institution, owing to the reverting of the controversial fees to the old rate of N25, 000, by Fashola, on August 7, it was not. At a briefing in the university, November 20, the Lagos zone of ASUU led by its Coordinator, Dr. Sola Nasir and flanked by ASUU chairmen from University of Lagos, UNILAG; Olabisi Onabanjo University, OOU; University of Agriculture Abeokuta, UNAAB; Tai Solarin University of Education, TASUED and the host ASUU-LASU,accused the university authorities of withdrawing the PhD certificates of 14 of its members.,

Nasir, who alleged that the management withdrew the PhD of the ASUU-LASU chairman, Dr. Adekunle Idris and that of 13 others from different departments claiming errors were made in the wordings, however, said the union expect them (management) to correct it and produce new ones for the affected lecturers.

Blaming the error on the university’s Senate, he called on Fashola to set up a visitation panel on LASU, urging the state government to call the VC to order to give peace a chance.

In a counter reaction, the Vice Chancellor, Professor Obafunwa, last Wednesday, while presenting the scorecard of his 1,095 days in office, dismissed the allegation that he arbitrarily withdrew 19 doctoral certificates the institution awarded in different fields of business administration.
He said the senate spent about three hours debating over the issue, where persons were given doctoral certificates in programmes not approved by it (senate).

Alumni wades in

Meanwhile, worried by the perennial crises rocking the university and in a bid to finding a lasting solution, former vice chancellors, registrars, student union leaders, students among others, last Thursday, gathered at the LASU Alumni Annual General Meeting/Summit themed: “Charting a new course towards achieving stability in academic calendar and monumental development in LASU.”

Those who spoke at the summit were the pioneer Vice Chancellor, Prof. Afolabi Olumide; pioneer Registrar, Mrs. Esther Ashafa; pioneer Student Union President, Mr. Yomi Orisha; former Registrars, Mr. Oluwatoyin Oshu and Mr. Owolabi Amisun.

Others were Fatai Olateju Sonoiki, one of the pioneer students of LASU in 1984 and the current Chairman Board of Trustees of the LASU Alumni Association; the current VC, Prof. John Obafunwa; Dean of Students’ Affairs, Prof. Kabir Akinyemi; former SUG Presidents, Barr. Ladipo Johnson (1988 set); Badaru Abdul-Basit (2008 set), among others.

Root causes of crises

The stakeholders, in consensus lamented that poor funding, government interference and bad leadership were the root causes of the perennial crises in the institution, pointing that it was imperative for the state government to set-up a Truth and Reconciliation Panel, to bring about a lasting peace in the institution.

In his opening remarks, the LASU Alumni BOT Chairman, Sonoiki, who said the summit was initiated to find a lasting solution to the crises bedeviling the growth and development of LASU said: “In our days in LASU, 30 years ago, we had this common vision, instituted by the foundation VC, that to make LASU great is a task that must be done. This statement spurred most of us to excel in our different fields of endeavour. As a matter of fact, the quest for excellence made us form the Alumni association in 1999.

“The crises in our alma mater has botched several programmes that we intended to hold on the university campus, even after intense plannings. These crises disrupted a dinner we wanted to host six years ago, our 25 and 30 years anniversaries and the account of stewardship presentation by Governor Fashola in the last 365 years.

“With this programme, we decided that the founding fathers of the university must come to bless the present management and the university in general. We believe that when this happens, everlasting peace will return to LASU,” he said.

Orisha, the pioneer SUG President, said the history of the institution in the past 30 years was that of eluding crises due to government interference.

He however, noted that in charting a new course of academic stability and development for the institution, the state government should stop handling the university as an extension of its government house.

Prof. Olumide, LASU’s founding VC, said that while funding was a major problem of the institution, it should not be the sole responsibility of the government.

On his part, Obafunwa who decried that LASU’s problem was a fundamental one said: “I sincerely have a passion for LASU. But with the series of issues I noticed since assuming office, I wonder how past vice chancellors survived the place. There is a fundamental problem in LASU, and we still have a very long way to go. But I believe with God on our side, we will get there.”