The burning issue out of Lagos State University (LASU) on the appointment of the ninth Vice-Chancellor is yet to be extinguished.
Two previous selection processes have been cancelled owing to the irregularities observed which led to the dissolution of the previous Governing Council.
Although a new Joint Council and Senate Selection Committee for the appointment of the ninth Substantive Vice-Chancellor for LASU has been inaugurated, the tension about the selection of a suitable candidate as Vice-Chancellor is yet to subside.
The first reaction against the 30th July, 2021, Internal and External advertisement for the Position of Vice-Chancellor, Lagos State University, made by the new Joint Council and Senate Selection Committee, was from the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), Lagos State Branch, the Medical Guild, and the Medical and Dental Consultants Association of Nigeria (MDCAN), Lagos State University Teaching Hospital Chapter.
These medical professionals petitioned the Lagos State Governor and Visitor to Lagos State University over the exclusion of the Postgraduate Medical fellowship in the said advertisement.
One may recall that the issue of equivalence of the Postgraduate Medical fellowship to the PhD has been the subject of contention in the contest for the position of Vice-Chancellor in most Universities in Nigeria.
However, the National Universities Commission (NUC) has laid to rest this controversy by its 29th March, 2021 letter addressed to the Vice-Chancellor of Lagos State University reinstating the fact that only the Doctor of Medicine (MD) which has been approved as the postgraduate degree in clinical sciences to be awarded by the National Postgraduate Medical College of Nigeria is equivalent to the PhD degree.
It appears then that it was on the basis of this letter from the NUC to the LASU Vice-Chancellor that the new Joint Council and Senate Selection Committee anchored their 30th July, 2021 advertisement to include only the MD or the PhD as the basic qualification to be eligible to apply for the position of Vice-Chancellor of LASU.
In spite of this clarification, the NMA and MDCAN’s petition got some traction as the new Joint Council and Senate Selection Committee bowed to pressure with an addendum to the earlier Internal and External advertisement for the Position of Vice-Chancellor, Lagos State University.
The addendum, published on Friday 13th August, 2021, was signed by the Acting Registrar and Secretary to Council, Mr. Emmanuel A. Fanu, which recognises that “the possession of Fellowship of a world renowned Post Graduate Medical College is acceptable as a criteria for candidates for the vacant position of Vice-Chancellor, Lagos State University”.
LASU Former VC and the IBILE group
It does appear that the bowing to pressure of the Mr. David Sunmoni led Joint Council and Senate Selection Committee exerted on them by the NMA and MDCAN has thrown up possibilities for various other organisations and individuals to further pressurise them in a bid to cow them and allow further waivers in the advertisement! Information making the rounds suggest some desperadoes adopting the toga of a socio-cultural group (named withheld) is also about to submit its own petition to Governor Sanwo-olu on the insistence that an indigeneship criteria should be added as an addendum to the advertisement.
The petition will also contain an order for the immediate reinstatement of the suspended Registrar, Mr. Mohammed Olayinka Amuni, in a bid for him to help them achieve their nefarious agenda.
These desperadoes, it was further gathered, has also resolved to approach the Court to seek an injunction in order to stall the process of the appointment of the new Vice-Chancellor if their conditions are not met within a specific time to be announced.
Interestingly, a former Vice Chancellor linked to the past botched exercise was the brain behind the establishment of the so-called social cultural group in 2019 as a special purpose vehicle to carry hatchet jobs.
The group has been coordinated from inception by the former Vice Chancellor’s agent who is still in service at LASU. Dr. Habeen Sanni, a Senior Lecturer in History and International Studies.
The reason is not farfetched.
Many publications have indicted the former Vice Chancellor and another top member of the last governing board in a number of administrative improprieties and financial misconducts.
It is unlike that the former helmsman and his cohorts would want the process to materialize to fruition, having failed in their bid to install their candidate through the manipulations that resulted in the dissolution of the last governing council.
While it is legitimate for the so-called socio-cultural group to agitate for the welfare of its members, the promotion of indigeneship clause is laughable, lacks merit and is at variance with global standard practices.
A university is a high-level educational institution where adequate teaching and academic research are carried out.
By its very nature, a University is to attract the finest, best of the best of academics and researchers regardless of the individual’s ethnic background, colour, race, sex, religion or nationality.
In fact, Universities are rated by the level of academic achievements in teaching, research, grants and endowments, and not by the number of indigenes employed. This is why it is laughable when the ember of indigeneship is put at the front burner of appointments and promotions of academic and non-academic staff in an institution of higher learning, such as LASU.
The efforts of the so-called social-cultural group at ensuring that the current Acting Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Oyedamola Oke, did not emerge because he is not an indigene of Lagos State during the Senate Election of Monday 11th January, 2021 was thwarted. Senate members seemed to have voted for merit and credibility.
The University is not a place where ethnic jingoism should fester.
In fact, there are many Nigerian Professors who have been appointed as Vice-Chancellors in various Universities abroad, such as Prof. Charles Egbu as Vice-Chancellor of Leeds Trinity University in the United Kingdom.
It will be a denigration at the level that LASU has attained in 2021 for issues of indigeneship to take centre stage of its appointment of Vice-Chancellor.
The socio-cultural group needs to look inward and reviews its cardinal objectives, part of which should not be a clamour for an indigene of Lagos State to necessarily become a Vice-chancellor of Lagos State University.
Such political moves should be taken away from the University.
* Mr. Kunle Afolabi writes from the Ojo campus of LASU.