By Adesina Wahab
TWICE the Governing Council/Senate Selection Committee of the Lagos State University, LASU, conducted screening exercise for the appointment of the ninth substantive Vice-Chancellor of the institution, twice the Visitor, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, rejected their recommendations. Incidentally, twice also the committee rated Prof. Olumuyiwa Odusanya, as the top performer in the screening exercise, and twice he has been unfortunate not to be named the VC of his beloved university.
When the tenure of the immediate past VC, Prof. Olanrewaju Fagbohun, SAN, was coming to an end, as usual, the Selection Committee, headed by the Chairman of the Governing Council, Prof. Adebayo Ninalowo, rolled out the advert calling on interested persons to apply for the post of the VC of the university. Many people applied and the committee eventually made its recommendations to the governor.
However, the issue of equating the fellowship of professional bodies with having a doctorate degree became the major plank on which critics faulted the first exercise. Odusanya is a medical doctor and does not have a PhD.
His traducers were quick to point to the comment by the Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission, NUC, Prof. Rasheed Abubakar, a former VC of Bayero University, Kano, that being a fellow of a body does not equate with having a PhD. Though there is no statutory instrument to back the claim, the fear that as the regulatory body of universities in Nigeria, going against this could pit the university against the NUC is making some people to want to follow Abubakar’s assertion.
Remember that the NUC accredits courses run by universities in the country.
When Sanwo-Olu cancelled the first exercise and Prof. Oyedamola Oke was elected by the Senate of the university as the acting VC, a marching order to do another selection process within 45 days was given the committee.
Loopholes noticed in the second exercise
To those opposed to the manner the selection process was going, the first loophole they pointed out was the manner the advert calling for applications was couched – the advert said having a doctorate degree or being a fellow of a professional body would suffice. Pronto, the critics went to work saying the committee was bent on choosing some candidates.
But those in support of the advert said it was not only approved by the committee, but also by the necessary organ of the state government, the owners of the school. Also, a former deputy VC of the university and who has also headed a tertiary institution in the past, was not shortlisted by the committee. His petition and those from some groups who threatened to go to court, were among the first to land on Sanwo-Olu’s table.
Alleged marking down of candidates
Some candidates and their supporters are accusing the committee of deliberately marking down some candidates. They cited the case of a candidate who had served in various capacities in the university but who was still rated very low in administrative competence during the interview. Some also alleged that the results of the candidates in the computer-based test that they did were not computed by the committee because they never knew some candidates would be good at using the computer.
Throwing of political weights.
As usual in a situation like that, candidates embarked on lobbying people to support their cause. However, a particular candidate is accused of throwing political weight around because the candidate has some relations in government at the very top level. Some people are even saying one of the candidate’s main backer is the one engineering the rejection of the selection exercise by the governor.
Sanwo-Olu’s annulment of the second exercise
It was gathered that the governor would have openly cancelled the second exercise the way he did the first, but was advised against that, so that it would not seem as if he has any vested interest. That is why he opted for setting up the Prof. Bamitale Omole-led Visitation Panel to probe the handling of the exercise by the committee and any other issue.
The panel would collate memoranda till April 16, this year before it begins to sit.
What the governor may do
Going by feelers from government sources, Sanwo-Olu may eventually disband the current Governing Council, as his rejection of their recommendations twice appear to be votes of no confidence on the Council. He is likely to appoint an acting VC from outside the university who would help to douse the tension already in the system. The selection of the VC has raised tension on campus.
What LASU needs
Fagbohun may not be rated a saint, but his tenure brought stability, peace and progress to LASU. Unlike in the past, during his five years in office, the school was only shut down for two days and that was last October when workers agitated for the implementation of the new minimum wage by the state government. Also, whatever is said, LASU enjoyed favoUrable ratings nationally and globally.
That those good old days should continue is the demand of many stakeholders.
Recently, members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU and some professors in a group called The Liberators, urged the Lagos State Government to choose the best candidate for the vice- chancellor’s seat, adding that there should be no special consideration for any candidate.
“We want the Governor to give us the best candidate and continue the spirit of excellence. Whoever comes in should prioritise welfare, infrastructure, among others. He or she should tap from the knowledge of the past administration. We want to see a visionary leadership from whoever is appointed.”
He or she should create a conducive environment for learning and academic excellence,” Prof. Ibraheem Bakare, the ASUU chairman said.
Coordinator, The Liberators, Prof. Adeleke Fakoya, said, “We are neutral. All those who contested are our people. We want someone who can take us higher to an enviable position.Whoever comes in gets our full support. We don’t want a VC that is divisive. There should be no scapegoats and sacred cows.”
What happens in the next few weeks would determine where LASU is heading – continuation of peace or a campus of one week one trouble.