November 12, 2020, meant so many things to the reinstated Vice Chancellor of University of Lagos, (UNILAG), Prof Oluwatoyin Ogundipe. That Thursday certainly could be described as a day of his triumphant re-entry into the campus.
November is a special for Ogundipe. On November 12, 2017, he assumed office as the 12th Vice Chancellor of UNILAG. He was removed by the Wale Babalakin-led Governing Council on August 12, 2020, but reinstated by President Muhammadu Buhari on November 11, 2020. He started his third term same day he resumed on November 12 after his reinstatement.
And for four over hours, academic and administrative activities were grounded. The staff trooped to the main gate as early as 8.30am to wait the arrival of Ogundipe. The workers engaged the services of band boys, produced T-shirts, caps and three different banners with the name of Ogundipe boldly inscribed.
Wife of the reinstated VC, Oluwaseun, arrived at the main gate around 9.26am and joined the workers in praising God. They danced to the songs dished out by the band boys. At 9.40am, Ogundipe made a triumphant entry into the campus and the atmosphere changed. He was practically mobbed by the workers.
From the main gate, members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU), National Association of Academics of Technologists (NAAT) and Non-Academic Staff Union (NASU) with Ogundipe, his wife and family members praised and danced on the road to the Council Chambers.
The staff unions described the reinstatement as a victory for the university system, integrity and justice. They commended the Federal Government for acting on the recommendations of the special visitation panel.
Chairman of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) UNILAG branch, Dr. Dele Ashiru, said UNILAG would come of the crisis stronger: ‘’God is God of justice. Today is great day in the annals of the university. Ogundipe’s reinstatement is a victory for university system. Today, we have said no to impunity, tyranny and dictatorship. After today, UNILAG will know peace and come out of it united.”
Leaders of SSANU, NAAT and NASU thanked God for His intervention and pledged to work with Ogundipe’s administration to move the university forward.
The acting Vice Chancellor, Prof Folahsade Ogunsola, lauded the Federal Government for doing the right thing and described Ogundipe’s reinstatement as victory for university autonomy: “Today is a day of celebration for victory and the crisis will never happen again.”
While handing over the symbol of authority to Ogundipe at exactly 11.03am, Ogunsola said nobody sat on his (Ogundipe’s) seat throughout the crisis: ‘’This type of crisis will never happen again in UNILAG. Today, we welcome our vice chancellor back. The president has done the right thing by reinstating him. Despite the recent problem, we are one. I am handing over to our amiable VC.’’
Ogundipe responded: ‘’The crisis is not about me but about UNILAG. Let us embrace peace. Our strength is in the peace we enjoy in UNILAG. Let us unite and work for the progress of the university. I have put in over 30 years in UNILAG and will continue to give my quota to ensure we remain the best in the country.’’
He lauded Ogunsola for holding forte: “People thought they can divide us, she has done well in my absence. She is somebody one can relay on. The Senate of UNILAG has proved themselves as the best Senate in the university system by insisting on rule and regulations of the university are upheld.’’
He said his travail would not change his quest to make UNILAG one of the best universities in the country and the world.
A retired professor of Chemical Engineering, Ayo Ogunye, said Ogundipe will serve his tenure: ‘’God will guide you to move the university forward.’’ Registrar of UNILAG and Secretary to Council, Mr. Oladejo Azeez; Deputy Vice Chancellor (Management Services), Prof Ben Oghojafor and some management staff were absence at the event.
How crisis engulfed UNILAG
Crisis rocked UNILAG on August 12, when the Wale Babalakin-led governing council removed Ogundipe based on a council panel report that investigated the finances of the 58-year-old institution. Despite opposition from Ogundipe and the staff unions, the council appointed Prof. Theophilus Soyombo as acting vice chancellor.
This prompted a protest on August 13 by the four staff unions rejecting the appointment of Soyombo. They stated that his appointment did not follow due process and insisted that Ogundipe remains the VC. President Buhari, visitor to UNILAG constituted a Special Visitation Panel and asked Babalakin and Ogundipe to step aside until the final determination of the issues in contention.
The Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu, directed UNILAG Senate to meet and appoint an acting VC. In a swift reaction, the Babalakin-appointed acting VC stepped down based on the Federal Government decision.
An attempt was made by the Registrar to scuttle a Senate meeting ordered by the minister when he ordered the venue of the meeting to be sealed. It took the intervention of the minister for the Main Auditorium to be opened for the emergency meeting. At the end of the meeting, Ogunsola defeated Prof Oghojafor by 135 to 31 votes to emerge acting VC. In less than 24 hours, the council under Dr. John Momoh as acting chairman met and ratified her appointment.
On Wednesday, November 11, 2020, Adamu announced government decisions based on the white paper of the special invitation panel. The presidency reinstated Ogundipe and dissolved the governing council. Government action led to jubilation and celebration on campus by workers.