By Gabriel Dike
Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu’s decision to annul the second appointment exercise for the ninth Vice Chancellor, Lagos State University (LASU), has sent shock waves to the staff, students and other stakeholders.
There were mixed reactions over the sacking of the Pro-Chancellor/ Chairman, Governing Council, Prof. Adebayo Ninalowo and the entire council. It was dissolved for not following the guidelines and LASU Law in the appointment of a new VC for the 38-year-old institution. Also, the decision to send the Registrar and Secretary to Council, Mr Amuni Olayinka, on compulsory leave sent jittery down the spines of staff.
However, some stakeholders expected the sanctions slammed on the council and registrar. The Liberators and Medical Dental Consultant Association of Nigeria (MDCAN), had hoped for a favourable result but were shocked by the governor’s decision. Staff, groups and other stakeholders have gone back to the drawing board to re-strategize to ensure success of their candidates.
The Liberators, led by three Professors in the camp of the immediate past VC, Prof. Olanrewaju Fagbohun, were most affected by the governor’s decision. The group produced two out of the three candidates recommended by the governing council to Sanwo-Olu for approval.
Professors who were qualified to contest the VC position but not shortlisted by the Prof Ninalowo-led governing council and their supporters, are also not taking things lying low. They have upped their game in the contest for the VC position
In the coming days, things would start unfolding. The staff and groups backing professors without PhD have another battle at hand. The National Universities Commission (NUC), recently cleared the air that Postgraduate Medical Fellowship is not equivalent to PhD.
The botched selection exercise took a new turn as some staff, the Liberators and MDCAN mounted a campaign urging the Visitor to jettison the report of the Special Visitation Panel.
Soon after the Prof Omole Bamitele-led panel submitted its report, some staff and MDCAN went to town denouncing the step taken by Sanwo-Olu to redress the alleged manipulation of the selection process.
Memorandum submitted by a senior staff said the Ninalowo side-lined the governing council and authorised the placement of an advert before the inauguration of the governing council. He alleged that members did not make input into the content of the advertisement.
Education Report gathered that the advert published on January 11, 2021, was a departure from the one used in 2015 that produced Prof Olanrewaju Fagbohun. The document revealed that the selection of three members of council to serve on the Joint Committee of Council and Senate (JCCS) did not follow due process.
It alleged that they were not elected on the floor of council but handpicked by Ninalowo. The petitioner insisted that the election of three Senate members to serve in the committee was manipulated by the former VC as the exercise was pre-determined and three anointed professors won:
“The JCCS is a sub-committee of the governing council. The council was not briefed about the selection exercise and recommendations of three names to the Visitor as obtained in other universities.
“Ninalowo did not carry along council members in the second advert published on January 14, 2021. Changes were inserted and published without ratification of the entire council.
“At the time the council chairman submitted the three names to Sanwo-Olu, he did not convey any meeting to brief the entire governing council. Thus in the two selection exercises, members were side-lined.
“The first step in the process is the declaration of vacancy for the position to be contested for by Senate members. This is followed by the release of the election time-table that will clearly state the date nominations will open and when the nomination will close, where the nomination forms will be collected from and returned to is stated in black and white.
“In the nomination form, the position to be contested for is stated and there is usually a portion to be completed by the nominator and the seconder to the nomination. The nominated candidate is usually asked to append his/her signature as an indication for consent. On the close of nomination, the voters’ register is displayed for claims and objections to be made and a time frame is set aside for this purpose.
“Following this, the voting procedure is clearly stated wherein what an eligible voter should bring to identify him/her and how the ballot will be cast. In all elections conducted so far in the university that I know, accreditation of voters before casting the ballot is sacrosanct. In most elections conducted so far in the university, the ones where physical ballots were cast were the ones considered credible. This is the norm in LASU.’’
Reacting to the Liberators’ position, Dr Dideolu Awofoju said: “The group is uncomfortable with the procedure applied by the governor in accordance with the powers conferred on him by the provisions of Section 23 of LASU Law, Ch. L69 Vol. 7, Laws of Lagos State, 2015.
“By this provision, the governor can constitute a special visitation panel to LASU on the appointment of a VC to attend to the numerous complaints and petitions against the selection process.
“Rather than wait for the outcome of the government’s white paper following the submission of the report by the panel, these people have become jittery and unsettled with the flurry of publications in the media in anticipation of a supposed negative outcome against their expectations.’’
He alleged that some groups, section of the LASU Alumni body and individuals at the Lagos State University College of Medicine who are holders of Medical Fellowship but without PhDs are being instigated to speculate and publish stories about the possible outcome of the exercise.
But MDCAN said the first advert publicised was silent about the eligibility of holders of Medical Fellowship to apply for the position: “Despite this obvious anomaly, one of our members applied. Following a thorough process by the governing council, he emerged as the top candidate among the three recommended to the visitor.
‘’We are concerned that the visitation panel may come up with a report that will discredit the governing council of the university so as to dissolve it and to put in place another one that will do the bidding of those who want to steer the process in the direction they want.”