By Olusegun Oluwa
No doubt, the appointment of the next Vice-Chancellor of Lagos State University rests on the authority of the Governor of Lagos State and Visitor to the institution. The irregularities in the process of selecting the 9th Vice-chancellor for Lagos State University has thrown up a series of backlash of petitions to the Lagos State Governor and Visitor to the University. The three shortlisted candidates supposedly submitted to the Visitor include Professor Olumuyiwa Odusanya, Professor Senapon Bakre and Prof. Kabir Akinyemi. However, it appears that the Joint Selection Committee of Senate and Council influenced by the outgoing Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Olanrewaju Fagbohun deliberately shot Professor Ibiyemi Olatunji-Bello to number four on the list in order to reduce her chances of being considered. This matter is currently being handled and investigated by the governor as a result of the various petitions he received. The contention is whether Odusanya who has no PhD can become the Vice-Chancellor when the institution itself is currently weeding out many academic members of staff without PhD. Although Professor Odusanya possesses the National Certificate of Medical Fellowship of Nigeria, which some say it is equivalent to PhD, the advertisement for the position of Vice-chancellor clearly states that the candidate must have supervised PhD during his or her academic career. Odusanya could not have supervised any PhD because he does not possess one.
It will also be highly improper for him to confer the PhD degrees on student as Vice-chancellor, a degree he does not have himself. Again, Professor Akinyemi is noted to be statutorily unqualified because his Professorship position is not yet ten years as clearly stated in the advertisement. It is the same criterion of ten years professorial experience that was used to disqualify Professor A.O.K Noah. In spite of years of Professorial experience, Professor Senapon Bakre has never supervised a PhD candidate to completion, which is also a major criterion in the advertisement. Away from all of these issues of irregularities in the selection process that behove on the Governor to investigate, one matter that has become seemingly burning is the issue of indigeneship and native of Lagos State. Intriguing as this matter is concerned; it was not a criterion in the advertisement for the position of Vice Chancellor of Lagos State.
Some reports have attempted to tarnish the reputation of Ibiyemi Olatunji-Bello in anticipation that she may eventually be picked and appointed as the next Vice-chancellor of Lagos State University. Those reports are erroneously bellowing the narrative that Olatunji-Bello is not an indigene of Lagos state. In order to set the record straight, Ibiyemi Olatunji-Bello is an indigene of Lagos State. Her mother is from the Abraham Onigbanjo family of Olowoogbowo Area, Ita Kose of Lagos Island. Her maternal grandfather Abraham Babatunde was a mechanical engineer with the Nigerian Railways Corporation, while her great grandfather, Abraham Onigbanjo was an auctioneer.
The indigenous natives of Lagos Island are known for one thing, the offspring of a female child within the family have enormously equal rights as the offspring of a male child. This accounts for reasons that several offspring of female children in Lagos often grow to become kings and royal chiefs of their communities. A case in point is the offspring of Princess Erelu Kuti whose son Ologunkutere became the 4th Oba of Lagos upon which the line of succession of Obaship of Lagos continues till today. A more recent example is the current Oba of Iru Kingdom who became king as a result of his ancestral links with Iruland from his maternal side. Ibiyemi has always been proud to be associated with her maternal heritage where she has lived all her life, and contributed immensely to the growth and development of the state. One then may begin to wonder why some elements are doubting her Lagos heritage, even when that was not a basic criterion for the appointment of the 9th Vice-Chancellorship of Lagos State University. Those who have based their illogical arguments on reasons that because her husband, Mr. Tunji Bello, has been a three time commissioner in Lagos, as he is the current Commissioner for Environment and Water Resources, are the most ignorant of people about personal ambition and self-fulfillment. Does a woman have to abandon her personal self-determination for her husband’s political pursuit?
Rather than being a deficiency, Mr. Tunji Bello’s immense political contribution to Lagos’ development and progress over the years should have been the wife’s strongest strength. Was her husband not in government during Governors Fashola and Ambode in Lagos when she lost her quest to become the Vice-chancellor of Lagos State University two times during those administrations in Lagos? Meanwhile, Prof. Ibiyemi Olatunji-Bello has never lashed on her husband’s political influence. She has achieved her academic career based on her dint of personal hardwork.
Even by virtue of the fact that Mr. Tunji Bello is a native and indigene of Lagos, Professor Ibiyemi Olatunji-Bello automatically qualifies by marriage as a Lagos indigene. Controversies about Mr. Bello’s indigeneship of Lagos have long been put to rest. His family house is at Ita Akano, by 32, Ajishomo Street, off Nnamdi Azikiwe Street, near Tom Jones Building, Lagos Island. Just as his father contributed to the political progress of Lagos when twice he was elected under the Action Group (AG) into the Lagos City Council in the First Republic, Mr. Tunji Bello’s contribution to politics in Lagos cannot be underestimated. Based on the above, Professor Ibiyemi-Bello is eminently qualified for the office of the Vice-Chancellor of Lagos State University, having ticked all the boxes as specified in the requirements advertised for the position. She has a PhD in Physiology, and possesses well above the required ten years’ experience as a Professor. The weak effort to question her heritage as a Lagosian appears to stem from the realization in some quarters that she is the only one on the shortlist whose credentials meet ALL the stipulated requirements.
Prince Professor Ibiyemi-Bello in her brief stint as Acting Vice Chancellor of Lagos State University demonstrated in little time that she is an institution builder, a good motivator of the workforce, and a leader who possesses in-depth understanding of a dynamic work environment. This is why she enjoys wide acceptability across all layers of the University.
Prince Oluwa writes from Lagos