By Gabriel Dike
The decision of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State to cancel the selection exercise of appointing a new Vice Chancellor for Lagos State University (LASU), Ojo, has triggered another round of petitions and the demand for the governing council chairman to step aside from the fresh exercise.
Two new petitions addressed to the governor are from the Academic Staff Union of Universities ASUU-LASU and stakeholders. They passed a vote of no confidence on the Pro-Chancellor, Chairman of Governing Council of LASU, Prof Adebayo Ninalowo, in midwifing a fresh process to appoint the ninth VC for the 38-year-old-institution.
Sanwo-Olu, who is also the Visitor to LASU, on Friday, cancelled the appointment exercise based on alleged violation of guidelines and irregularities. He directed that the process must start afresh, a meeting of Senate conveyed and must be headed by a protem chairman to appoint an acting vice chancellor from among the two deputy vice chancellors.
ASUU-LASU in a petition dated January 10, 2021, and signed by its Secretary, Dr Tony Dansu and Assistant Secretary, Dr Adeola Oyekan, said: ‘’We also hope that the governing council will elect its own representatives to the committee under an open process, and carefully develop a clear set of objectives, verifiable criteria for the selection of a new VC in line with best practices, as opposed to the controversial advert and criteria that brought embarrassment to the university, government and the good people of Lagos State.
‘’Having presided over a rancorous, divisive, costly and embarrassing process that had to be cancelled by the visitor, it is our hope that Prof Ninalowo will toe the honourable path of stepping down from his position, and stay away from the new process meant to correct the inconclusive one he midwifed.
“We are aware of the schemes of certain vested, powerful interests in the university who, exploiting their privileged access to information, sought to pre-empt the Visitor.”
Another petition dated January 9 and signed by the duo of Olalekan Akinloye and Olatunji Alonge, said: ‘’Since the initial process was cancelled on the basis of the thorough evaluation and investigation of the various petitions and complaints bordering on allegations of irregularities and gross misconduct, therefore, Prof Ninalowo is to recuse himself from the fresh process of appointing the ninth VC for LASU.
‘’We propose that the Visitor should mandate the Chancellor to chair council meetings while this situation persists, and that the Chancellor
should lead the new Joint Council and Senate Selection Committee for the fresh process of appointing the ninth VC.’’
The tenure of the former Vice Chancellor, Prof. Olanrewaju Fagbohun, ended Sunday, January 10, 2020. Ninalowo and Fagbohun were alleged to be deeply involved in the alleged manipulation.
In separate petitions to Governor Sanwo-Olu dated December 29 and 30, the Concerned Academic Staff (CAS) and Concerned Alumni (CA) alleged that the exercise was marred by irregularities occasioned by manipulation to ensure one of the two anointed candidates emerged the VC.
The CAS told the governor: ‘’We are constrained to react to the recommendation which listed Prof Olumuyiwa Odusanya as number one, and deliberately excluded Prof Ibiyemi Olatunji-Bello from first to third. We believe that there is a grand, elaborate plan to scheme Olatunji-Bello out of the race on the pretext that she didn’t make the top three.
‘’What is interesting about the candidature of Odusanya is how and why he was shortlisted without a PhD degree. Although he possesses the Fellowship certificate of the National Postgraduate Medical College of Nigeria, the advertisement for the position clearly states that such a candidate must be a scholar with significant impact in areas of international supervision and examination of PhD, and must also have supervised students (especially PhD). You cannot supervise a PhD if you do not possess a PhD degree.
‘’The question to be answered is how the Joint Council and Senate selection committee arrived at shortlisting him few weeks after the governing council dismissed many academic staff across different cadres for not possessing PhD. If appointed, this clause may lead to a crisis of legitimacy, as a VC without a PhD cannot confer PhD degrees on students. Such a VC cannot also chair the Senate of the university where results of PhD students are considered to be approved.
‘’Prof Kabir Akinyemi is statutorily unqualified abinitio, having not met the 10 years’ post-professorial experience stipulated in the advertisement. If appointed, this clause may lead to a crisis of legitimacy for him in the institution.
“The institution cannot afford such kind of crisis at this time, having experienced relative peace in the last five years. Akinyemi is not new to controversy in LASU. Akinyemi though a fine scholar in his field, does not have the required experience in PhD supervision, in further breach of the stated criteria in the advert.
“The provisions of the LASU Law 2004 provides that, ‘the VC shall be appointed from the proposal of at least three names of candidates nominated for the post of VC to the Visitor by a Joint Committee of Council and the Senate.’
“The visitor is not bound to accept any of the names, as he can choose among the five candidates he believes can bring peace and progress to LASU. Contrary to flying insinuations from certain vested interests, the law does not limit the list of those recommended to three.
“If Odusanya is picked, it will mean that the Epe Division will have three principal officers in the VC, Registrar and Bursar. It is also not lost on us that by providence that the current Special Adviser on Education is from Epe.
‘’As for Akinyemi, it will mean that Ikorodu will have the VC, Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academic) and the pro-chancellor and chairman of governing council. This will run against the principles of natural justice, equity and fairness, knowing that the state is made up of five divisions.
‘’The fair option is for the governor to pick Olatunji-Bello who is from the Lagos Division or outright reject the list to avoid a crisis in LASU. If the option of outright rejection is adopted, the visitor should appoint a VC in an acting capacity, but not from among the current DVCs who are already partisan and part of an orchestrated agenda. The visitor can then direct that the process of appointing the VC be started afresh.”
Petition of Concerned Alumni
The Concerned Alumni (CA) recalled that the governor said on the inauguration of new governing council on August 28, 2020, that their appointment came with a huge responsibility:
“It is in the realization of this that we have selected all of you here, professionals, professors, academicians, technocrats, businessmen, public officers with a high level of integrity and competence, who have distinguished themselves in their various area of calling and have no doubt that we have chosen rightly.”
Gleaning from the above, the alumni said they have seen clearly the good intentions of Sanwo-Olu in making tertiary education function: “We have, however, noticed the following loopholes which may damage the integrity of the governor if he goes ahead to make pronouncement as to who becomes the next vice chancellor of LASU for the on going process is lacking in merit, due process and foist with irregularities.
“Seven days after the inauguration of the new council, the registrar came up with criteria for the vice chancellor. In compliance, seven candidates applied for the job. Two professors were screened out; A.O.K. Noah and Oki on the ground of not meeting up with the first requirement which is, ‘the candidate should be a distinguished scholar of the rank of professor of 10 years standing with several years of teaching and research in a university,’ the same caveat heavily violated at the selection stage.
“While some academics were compulsorily retired for not having Ph.D and someone not having Ph.D will be allowed to become the VC. How can Odusanya stand on the convocation ground to award doctorate degree to people who have laboured for it? It is going to be a desecration of value and honesty to academic labour.
‘’Some of those allowed to proceed for the interview don’t have PhDs, which will also be a slap to the university if persons like that are allowed to occupy the vacant seat. It will also be a defeat to the quest of a competitive university of our dream. In breach of some conditions in the criteria, the question is, why were some candidates screened out and some left on the list?’’
The alumni asked the governor to cancel the selection exercise as was done at the University of Ibadan in 2020 and University of Port Harcourt in 2015 based on irregularities:
‘’Visitor sir, the process is marred in irregularities, fraud and academic inconsistencies. We pray for the outright cancellation of the process and a rerun of another one by unbiased, forthright and honest members to be raised by the governor.’’
Another petitioner, Dr Dideolu Awofoju said: ‘’My petition, like many others before it, centres on pointing out why the Joint Council and Senate selection committee for LASU 9th VC grossly erred and in gross violation of the advertisement for the position of VC. The irregularities that took place are against the law of natural justice. It is unfair and immoral.’’
He alleged that Odusanya was shortlisted for interview and subsequently recommended without possessing a PhD: ‘’This is totally unfair when many academic staff without PhDs were separated from the university recently. Even if the claim is that Odusanya possesses the Fellowship certificate of the National Postgraduate Medical College of Nigeria, the National Universities Commission recently requested those with the Fellowship to go and obtain a PhD. This is simply to underscore the fact that the highest academic qualification to teach and conduct research in the university is a PhD.’
‘’Secondly, the candidate should be a distinguished scholar of the rank of Professor of 10 years standing with several years of teaching and research in a university. However, the selection committee violated this by unjustly shortlisting Akinyemi while disqualifying Noah. They both are statutorily unqualified.
‘’You may have a crisis-ridden LASU if any of these three professors becomes the VC. You need to be sensitive to what the majority of LASU staff want. Please conduct your investigation or an opinion poll in LASU to find out. You should appoint the candidate whose credentials meet all the stipulated requirements.’’
NUC clears air on
The National Universities Commission (NUC) has cleared the air on the contentious issue of Fellowship of the National Postgraduate Medical College of Nigeria (NPMCN) and PhD:
‘’For the avoidance of doubt, holders of PhD must have gone through Bachelor of Science (BSc), Bachelor of Arts (B.A), Bachelor of Engineering (B.Eng) and Master of Science (MSc), Master of Arts (M.A.), Master of Engineering (M.Eng), or as the case may be in the relevant field.
“Candidates with Full Fellowships of either the National Postgraduate Medical College of Nigeria, the West African College of Physicians (WACP) or the West African College of Surgeon WACS or any other recognised foreign Fellowship.”
In another circular, the NUC Executive Secretary, Prof Abubakar Rasheed, said that the commission conferred with officials of NPMCN and other stakeholders. He said after exhaustive deliberation, stakeholders unanimously agreed to introduce Ph.D programmes in the Clinical Sciences in Nigerian universities for the postgraduate training of interested medical practitioners and for their career progression, especially for those in the academia.
The Education Report called Ninalowo, four times on January 6 and 10, 2021, sent him WhatsApp messages seeking his reaction on the allegations levelled against him. He is yet to respond.
Akinyemi was called thrice on January 6, 2021, but he did not pick his calls neither did he respond to WhatsApp messages sent to his phone same day.
When contacted, Odunsanya said: ‘’Governor has spoken. The selection exercise has been cancelled. That is final because he is the visitor to the university. On the allegation that he doesn’t have a PhD, he responded: ‘’The key thing is for the media to investigate whether I am qualified or not.’’
LASU management reacts
Acting Head, Centre for Information, Press and Public Relations (CIPPR), LASU, Mr Ademola Adekoya, said he was not aware of any petitions against the VC selection exercise. He debunked the insinuations that Fagbohun meddled into the appointment process: “It is a lie, there is no way the VC will meddle in the selection exercise.’’
He recalled that the insinuations against the VC started during the Senate nomination of three professors into the selection committee, adding that the professors were nominated and there was no opposition.
For the council, he explained that the three representatives to the selection committee were nominated on the floor of council during a meeting: ‘’The VC did not influence the scoring. The VC had told the university community that he did not have interest in who becomes the next VC.
“He can’t influence the governor, the VC does not have the powers to do so. I am not aware that Prof Odunsanya is the VC’s anointed candidate. People are making wrong insinuations.’’
He explained that the VC had no hand in the advert for the new vice chancellor: “The advert was prepared by the Registrar, approved by the governing council chairman and even taken to Alausa for government approval.”
On Odunsanya’s Fellowship, he said the NUC has resolved the issue and that professors in clinical sciences do not need to have Ph.D: “Fellowship is more rigourous than Ph.D. If you have Fellowship, one will be appointed Lecturer 1 and Ph.D holder will be placed as Lecturer 11.
“It is not correct that Prof Akinyemi is not qualified to contest. He became professor in 2011 and backdated. Akinyemi’s professorship is over 10 years. All the allegations against him are false. Council did a thorough job. Let people come with facts rather than make false allegations.”