Dissecting the Politics of LASU's 9th Vice-Chancellor: Who will wear the crown?

Some workers of the Lagos State University have petitioned Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu and kicked against the recommendation made by the institution’s Vice-Chancellor Selection Committee, saying “a man without a PhD cannot confer PhD degrees on students”.

In the petition, the workers under the banner of Concerned Staff of LASU urged Governor Sanwo-Olu, who is the visitor to the university to reject the recommendation.

They alleged that the joint council and senate selection committee acted in flagrant violation to the advertisement for the position of Vice-Chancellor by shortlisting of Professors Olumuyiwa Odusanya, Kabir Akinyemi and Senapon Bakre.

The workers passed a vote of absolute confidence on one of the candidates, Professor Ibiyemi Olatunji-Bello as the next Vice-Chancellor, while on the other hand, totally lost confidence on the current Chairman of Council and the outgoing Vice-Chancellor, Professor Lanre Adigun Fagbohun.

“We are constrained to react to the recommendation which listed Professor Olumuyiwa Odusanya as number one and deliberately excluded Professor Ibiyemi Olatunji-Bello from first to third. We believe that there is a grand, elaborate plan hatched by the Chairman of Council and the outgoing Vice-Chancellor to scheme Professor Ibiyemi Olatunji-Bello out of the race on the pretext that she didn’t make the top three,” read the petition signed by Olalekan Akinloye and Olatunji Alonge.

“What is interesting about the candidature of Professor Olumuyiwa Odusanya to the position of the 9th Vice-Chancellor in LASU 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 of the University dismissed many academic staff across different cadres for not possessing PhD. If appointed, this clause may lead to a crisis of legitimacy as a Vice-Chancellor without a PhD cannot confer PhD degrees on students. Such a Vice-Chancellor cannot also chair the Senate of the University where results of PhD students are considered to be approved.

“The argument that the fellowship of the Medical College is equivalent to a PhD has not gained traction because many fellows of the College across Nigeria also have PhDs. The reason is that both serve different purposes. While the fellowship eminently qualifies a doctor to practice, training for teaching and research in academia only comes with a PhD.

“Professor Kabir Akinyemi is statutorily unqualified ab initio, having not met the 10 years’ post-professorial experience stipulated in the advertisement for the position. 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. Kabir Akinyemi is not new to controversy in LASU though, as his position as Chairman ASUU-LASU and the attendant roles he seemed to have played during the crisis of the John Obafunwa administration appears to have contributed to his dismissal from ASUU-LASU by the National Executive Council of ASUU over 5 years ago in March 2015. His pivotal role in the ill-fated Obafunwa administration also estranged him from the other staff unions in the University.

“He was to be given the so-called Obafunwa treatment of expulsion from his office as Dean of Students Affairs, but for the strong plea of some notable personalities within the campus, same March of 2015. This crisis of reputation may not be unconnected to the reason he lost the elections into the position of Dean of Science on the three (3) occasions that he contested. His immediate constituency, Faculty of Science, rejected him successively in 2016, 2018 and 2020 Deanship elections. Professor 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.

“Similarly, Professor Senapon Bakre’s prima facie unqualified status is centred on her failure to have successfully supervised and produced a PhD student in her entire academic career. The advertisement clearly states that the 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).”

“Among all the shortlisted candidates, Professor Ibiyemi-Bello is the only one who is eminently qualified for the office of the Vice-Chancellor of Lagos State University, having ticked all the boxes as specified in the requirements advertised for the position. She has a PhD in Physiology and possesses well above the required ten years’ experience as a Professor. The weak effort to question her heritage as a Lagosian appears to stem from the realization in some quarters that she is the only one on the shortlist whose credentials meet ALL the stipulated requirements.

“Professor Ibiyemi-Bello in her brief stint as Acting Vice-Chancellor of Lagos State University demonstrated in little time that she is an institution builder, a good motivator of the workforce, and a leader who possesses an in-depth understanding of a dynamic work environment. This is why she enjoys wide acceptability across all layers of the University. If she gets the nod of the Visitor, Mr Babajide Sanwoolu, to steer the ship of the University, Lagosians and other stakeholders in the University can be rest assured that the institution is in for an extended period of peace and phenomenal progress.

“Although the provisions of the Lagos State University Law 2004 provides that “The Vice-Chancellor shall be appointed from the proposal of at least three names of candidates nominated for the post of Vice-Chancellor 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 Lagos State University. Contrary to flying insinuations from certain vested interests, the Law does not limit the list of those recommended to three.

“Another point of note is that the Visitor needs to consider the appointment of the 9th Vice-Chancellor on the grounds of morals, equity and justice. If Odusanya is picked, it will mean that the Epe Division will have 3 Principal Officers in the VC, Registrar and Bursar. It is also not lost on us that by providence that the current SAE is from Epe.

“As for Akinyemi, it will mean that Ikorodu will have the VC, DVC (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 5 Divisions.

“The fair option is for the Governor to pick Prof. Ibiyemi Olatunji-Bello who is from the Lagos Division or outrightly reject the list in order to avoid a crisis from erupting 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 Vice-Chancellor be started afresh.

“LASU is presently witnessing peace of the graveyard. A lot of people have bottled up a lot of grievances against the outgoing administration. The decision of the Visitor in the choice of Vice-Chancellor will determine whether the University can move from this facade of quietness to true peace, or erupt in crisis in the not too distant future.”

Vanguard News Nigeria

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