Prof Dapo Asaju, immediate past Vice-Chancellor of Ajayi Crowther University, Oyo, Oyo State, whose five-year-single-tenure ended September 30, 2020 is reluctant to do a second tenure despite pleas from stakeholders. The Bishop Theologian of the Anglican Church of Nigeria and former Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Lagos State University (LASU), also spoke on ASUU, brain drain and other issues in this interview.
Why don’t you want to continue?
We must let Nigerians know what is called integrity. Nobody should manipulate the law because of personal reasons. The law of this university said the vice-chancellor should serve a single non-renewable term of five years. But because they think I have done well, they want to change the law for me. They want me to continue. I have told them to keep to the law because it will be an example to the government at the centre. The politicians have destroyed us with second terms. They have hiked the price of everything. If the president and governors have stopped for the first time, our woes would have been minimized. The second term does not help anybody. If I am no longer alive today, it will only take two weeks to put another person on the seat. No man is indispensable. All man must know his limit. Another reason was that the law that stipulated that the VC must serve a single term was an agreement between ASUU and the Federal Government. I was the chairman of ASUU in Lagos when we agitated for the law. We agitated for the law because of our experience the second term has never bore good fruit. It breeds chaos and corruption. If I have my way, I would never allow any person to do a second term at the presidency. We have a lot of ethnic groups and they must all feel the power. I always ask these questions when anybody asks me, what will I do in 10years that I cannot do in five years. So, if as an ASUU chairman in the 1980s, I fought for something with all my strength, after 30 years, I then violate it because I became a VC also.
How would you grade your stay here at the university?
These people have treated me well. We have operated as a family. They have cooperated with me. The only problem I have with them is the lack of funds. The owners of this university don’t fund it at all. There is no subvention or anything. They only take a donation one Sunday in a year and send it to us. I keep telling them that you can’t run a system when there is nothing. We have many things to do with the money that includes caring for the 20 professors I appointed since I came here. We have established eight new faculties and yet there is no input from the proprietor, even if there is room for me to continue, I won’t not because leaving here is a big relief for me then return to Lagos State University (LASU) as an ordinary lecturer.
But there is rumour that you might resume as the VC?
I was aware because before I came here. Former governor Akinwunmi Ambode had plans to appoint me as the acting VC but the appointment here came out earlier than his own. They would naturally want me to come but the truth is I am not a Lagosian. I am from Kogi State. If I were a Lagosian, I would have contested for the post to fix that university. If we could achieve this feat in a school like this; without any fund, imagine what we would do to that school with all the TETfund. I will not contest for the post because I don’t go where I struggle. I go to where I am wanted but if they invite me, I will do my best. I don’t like position I like to be invited to serve.
What is your thought on the continuation of the ASUU strike after COVID-19 pandemic?
You have to look at it in a balanced way. ASUU is the only group in Nigeria that still has a voice. NBA had one voice but now has been polarised. ASUU is the only group that can call this government to order if not the whole place would be chaotic. But as a person, ASUU should have allowed these students to just finish their semester before hammering on the government again. However, the government does not deserve such good gesture. The government has mismanaged this country that any health care personnel we train in this country ends up in a foreign country. More than 7,000 Nigerians are health workers in Canada. What kind of country allows its best brains to leave the shores of the country while we die like chickens? Is it not COVID-19 that kept them here, they would have been all over the place. With all these, would you still say ASUU should not talk? They need to talk because they are the only group holding the government responsible
What are your lowest highest points in office?
It was when I was poisoned in this office in 2018. I didn’t know those who did it. It could be those I sacked. Or those that were not happy with the people I drove away and that student I expelled. I had to be rushed to the University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan, where I almost die but was saved after two major operations. It was another reason I cannot stay here again because someone entered this office to kill me. If I had died, they would have found another VC. My happiest moment was last year when we had 42 first-class students. I am also happy that we have reduced excessive spending. For example, the main gate was built in 2006, which cost them N101million, but in 2020, I built a more modern gate with N8million. I am happy we were able to open three new campuses where will have our medicine and engineering faculties.