‘I’m happy nobody accused me of stealing money’
By Chika Abanobi
If you are a journalist reporting the education sector, from now on, trouble Prof. John Obafunwa, the immediate past Vice Chancellor of Lagos State University (LASU), no more. Please, allow him to take his well-deserved rest.
“I am relaxed nowadays o!,” he said to you when you ran into him somewhere in Lagos. “It’s like I am on holiday. That’s the way I feel right now.” “They have placed him on embargo,” his colleague, a fellow Prof. announced for your benefit. “He must sleep by 7pm. If anybody calls him after 7pm, sorry, he is not available. They just told me that” (laughter).
Obafunwa tried to bring the truth nearer home. “I am glad I am free from you people (meaning the Press),” he reiterated. “I am free from ‘we heard that there’s this problem in your university; what’s your reaction?’ I am glad I am free from all that?”(another round of laughter).
Try as much you could, you would not get him to comment on his tenure, on the many battles that he fought, especially towards its twilight. To every question you asked, the answer was mum until you asked for his reaction on the alleged hanging of banners, on the Badagry Expressway and Iba gates of LASU, by some unknown persons (the unionists later denied that they were responsible), gleefully announcing a countdown to the end of his “evil” regime, some weeks before the expiration of his tenure in October, last year.
How did he feel on learning of that? His countenance suddenly changed into something sombre, indicating that you may have touched a raw nerve. “I still don’t feel that this is the right time to answer any question, not because I don’t have an answer,” he said.
Then he hesitated a little before adding, “Number one, it is only a few vocal people that orchestrated that. No matter what anybody may say, they cannot take away the fact that under my administration, there was massive and rapid infrastructural development of LASU, on a scale that had never been seen before I assumed the mantle of leadership. You cannot take away the fact that sanity was brought to bear in a number of places. You cannot take away the fact that probity was enforced. I plugged many financial loopholes in the conduct of post-UTME, and many of those involved were furious at me. I mean, really furious. And, despite everything, nobody has come out to say that Obafunwa stole some money from LASU purse.
“Having said that, in the history of LASU, no VC has ever peacefully handed over to the next nor had send-off party been organised for any VC. The question is: who owns LASU? If you have brought probity into a system, of course, you are not going to expect everybody to go about clapping for you. But the owners of LASU need to think or ask themselves what exactly they want. I wouldn’t want to say much at this point but at the right time, I will bare my mind on some issues.”