LASU: What is the problem with Nigeria?

LASU gate

By Ibrahim Balogun

For decades, LASU was a major liability to the Lagos State Government. During my time at the University of Ilorin, LASU gained notoriety as a battleground for cultism, killings and all sorts of fetish confrontations.

There was a time in LASU’s history that you dared not walk in front of the gate once it’s 6pm. My late father, being a Lagosian; wanted me to study at LASU in the early 2000s but my mother vehemently opposed his choice. To my mom, studying at LASU then was synonymous with walking in the valley and shadow of death. I eventually studied at the University of Ilorin after which I proceeded to London for my master’s degree.

Upon my return to Nigeria in late 2016, I began to read about different positive developments in LASU. These positive news have been consistent since then – from being selected as a World Bank Africa Centre of Excellence to emerging as the second best university in Nigeria.

With no major strike, closure or crisis in years, LASU is the rising star of world-class university education in a country that needs cutting-edge innovations and high-level scholarship for impactful development: a mandate that only a rising star like LASU can effectively deliver.

Nevertheless, recent news emanating from the university is disturbing. A few days ago, I stumbled on a newspaper report on the appointment of a 9th substantive vice-chancellor for LASU. Since then, I have read several contradictory reports and counter-claims of performance of candidates who are contesting to succeed the incumbent.

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One of the reports mischievously posited that a medical doctor cannot become a vice chancellor without a Ph.D. This is not the goal of my write-up, but, based on my knowledge of the Nigerian university system, I am aware that a Joint Selection Committee (made up of representatives of the Governing Council and Senate members) oversees the screening and recommendation of candidates to the Governor (for State Universities) or President (for Federal Universities) for appointment as a substantive vice-chancellor.

In the case of LASU, my investigation revealed the calibre of people involved in the selection process: Prof. Ninalowo, the same Pro Chancellor who managed the process of appointment of the incumbent who has been adjudged by all as having served excellently well; Mr Karl Toriola, the Vice President West & Central Africa of MTN; Anu Eso, a seasoned Legal Practitioner; Dr. Fasehun, a Partner at KPMG; Prof. Owolabi, the incumbent Dean of LASU’s Faculty of Education; Prof. Yusuff, the incumbent Dean of LASU’s Faculty of Management Sciences; and Prof. Animashaun, the Director of CESSED at LASU.

There is no way these calibre of people drawn from different walks of life can all be compromised at the same time. Issues like that of Ph.D / Fellowship requirements must have been assessed by the Selection Committee.

I read in one of the publications that LASU in its history has produced vice-chancellors who were also medical doctors without a Ph.D. Professor Olumide FMCS surgeon was the foundation VC of LASU. Professor Akesode FMCPaed was LASU’s VC between 1997-2001.

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Professor Obafunwa FMPath was LASU VC between 2011-2015. Outside of LASU, at the Univesity of Ibadan: Prof. Adeoye Lambo, Prof. Falase, and Prof. Adewole who are all medical doctors were noted to have served as vice chancellors without a Ph.D.

At the University of Lagos: Prof. Adadevoh & Prof. Odugbemi who are also medical doctors were also noted to have served as substantive vice-chancellors without a Ph.D. Why are we now making so much issue of this?

It is equally troubling that erstwhile LASU staff who were dismissed for various acts of misconduct have now suddenly turned into government advisers. The decision of the Lagos State Government (LASG) to dilly-dally on the announcement of a 9th substantive vice-chancellor for LASU has given room for mischievous elements to spin baseless stories with a view to misleading members of the general public.

This delay may give the impression that the state government is doubting the credibility of its nominees on the LASU Governing Council. The appointment of the 8th substantive vice-chancellor on merit has helped to transform LASU in the last 5years. LASU must continue to toe this same path if we are truly desirous of the sustainability of excellence in LASU.

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Recently, the LASG made the right decision with the timely appointment of a Rector for LASPOTECH – why can’t LASU be the same? The LASG should not continue to give the impression that it does not respect its own structures. The government must believe in the credibility of its nominees to do things right – unless if the LASG is actually desirous of manipulation.

Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu’s rating is currently very high on respect for merit . He must apply wisdom and ensure that the rising star of LASU is not buried on the altar of politics, lies and desperation.

The LASG must not allow personal selfish interests to throw LASU into an avoidable state of crisis. LASU must not return to its infamous history where it was a liability to the government, the people of Lagos State and Nigeria.

On a final note, I join other Nigerians in congratulating the outgoing Vice Chancellor, Prof Olanrewaju Fagbohun, SAN. It is refreshing to note that we still have individuals who can prove to all that good leadership can make all the difference in the life of institutions.

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