UNILAG leadership crisis: Disrepute creeps in, as role models wallow in dirty politics


Academic institutions of learning are human-built systems set aside to guide and mould societal consciousness. It is within these systems that thoughts, discipline, intelligence are forged. The situation, however, becomes paradoxical when such institutions bestowed with such honour are engulfed and caught in the web of ignoble crisis.  The showdown between the University of Lagos’ (UNILAG) Vice Chancellor, Prof. Toyin Ogundipe and the Chairman, Governing Council of the Institution, Dr. Wale Babalakin, SAN, is one of such distasteful examples. The plot thickened on Wednesday when the University’s Governing Council announced the removal of the VC from office, following a meeting held in Abuja. It was gathered that 12 members of the Council were present at the meeting and seven voted to oust the VC from office; while four voted against the move, and one voted that he be placed on suspension.

In a statement signed by the Registrar/Secretary to the Council, Oladejo Azeez, the Council claimed that  Ogundipe was removed from office based on allegations of “wrongdoing, gross misconduct, financial recklessness and abuse of office.” The statement which was titled, ‘Notice to the general public on the removal of the the Vice Chancellor, University of Lagos’ read: “The general public is hereby notified that at an emergency meeting held on Wednesday, 12th August, 2020 and in accordance with the statutory powers vested in it by law, the Governing Council of the University of Lagos removed Professor Oluwatoyin T. Ogundipe, FAS, from office as the Vice Chancellor of the university with immediate effect. The decision was based on Council’s investigations of serious acts of wrongdoing, gross misconduct, financial recklessness and abuse of office against Professor Oluwatoyin T. Ogundipe, FAS.” The University of Lagos Act 1962, stipulates a 14-member Governing Council comprising the Pro-Chancellor, Chancellor, the VC, the two Deputy Vice Chancellors, a representative of the Ministry of Education, one person representing variety of interests. Others include four persons appointed by the Senate of the University; two persons appointed by the Congregation and one person appointed by Convocation.

The announcement however attracted stiff reactions across board. The embattled VC, Professor Ogundipe, in a swift reaction contained in a statement, described the ousting as “untrue and a figment of imagination.”  The reactional  statement titled: “Re: Notice to the General Public on the Removal of the Vice-Chancellor, the University of Lagos by Oladejo Azeez, Esq,” reads: “The attention of the University of Lagos (Unilag) management has been drawn to the ‘Notice to the General Public on the Removal of the Vice-Chancellor, University of Lagos’; dated August 12, 2020, and signed by Oladejo Azeez, Esq, Registrar and Secretary to Council, stating that the current Vice-Chancellor, Professor Oluwatoyin T. Ogundipe, FAS has been removed from office with immediate effect. This is untrue and a figment of his imagination. Therefore, stakeholders of Unilag and the general public are advised to disregard this mischievous disinformation about the sitting Vice-Chancellor of Unilag, contained in that notice. Professor Ogundipe still remains Unilag’s Vice-Chancellor.” On similar grounds, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), UNILAG chapter, by its  Chairman, Dr. Dele Ashiru, berated the development, standing on the ground that the Council lacked the constitutional powers to oust the VC.

In further reactions, a representative of the Senate in the Governing Council, Professor Bola Oboh, in a statement to the University’s Senate, berated the development, stating that the Pro-Chancellor, Babalakin, has trampled upon the regulation of the University following the abrupt announcement of the removal of the VC. In his reactional statement, the Professor who  slammed the action of Babalakin for not giving the VC a fair hearing to defend himself before announcing his removal, said: “Dear Senate members, the University of Lagos regulation has been stepped on and ridiculed. Babawale Babalakin, the ProChancellor waited for the tenure of Prof. Chukwu and Prof Familoni to end, to call an Emergency Council meeting.Based on the Dagari report, without allowing the VC to defend himself, the ProChancellor called for a vote for the removal of the VC. I (Prof. Oboh), Prof. Odukoya, Prof. Leshi and John Momoh voted against the removal of the VC. Six persons (excluding Babalakin) voted for. Babalakin then went ahead to announce the removal of the VC. Dear Senate members, the procedure for removal of persons in the office is clear and this was pointed out to Babalakin several times but he turned deaf ears. He said he will announce the Ag. Vice-Chancellor at 5pm. I have excused myself that I need to report to Senate members the shameful act currently ongoing. Please let us arise to fight this.”

Based on statutory provisions, the University of Lagos Act 1962 states how the Vice Chancellor and other principal officers of the school can be appointed or removed from office. Article 17 under the Constitution and functions of the University and its constituents bodies, listed how the Pro-Chancellor and certain members of the Council can be removed from office; which states thus that “If it appears to the Council that a member of the Council (other than an ex-officio member) should be removed from office on the grounds of misconduct or inability to perform the functions of his office, the Council shall make a recommendation to that effect through the Chancellor to the Visitor and if the Visitor, after making such enquires (if any) as he considers appropriate, approves the recommendation, he may, by any instrument on writing signed by him, remove the person in question from office.” In addition, the First Schedule 4 (8) of the Act states, “The Vice Chancellor may be removed from office by the Visitor after due consultation with the Council and the Senate acting through the Minister of Education.” The ‘Visitor’ to the University as provided here, is the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

The drama staging the VC and Babalakin, the Chairman of the Council blew open last February when the later petitioned the Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu, accusing the VC of running a ‘one man show’ in the preparations for the convocation ceremonies of the school. The Minister had subsequently in response, ordered the National Universities Commission (NUC) to direct the VC to suspend the graduation ceremony. The ASUU chapter of the Institution, during one of the Congress it held, condemned Babalakin’s action and declared him an unwanted visitor on campus. Recall that in June, the Council attempted to hold a meeting on campus, but had to cancel it because ASUU also fixed a Congress for the same venue. The Council’s  inability to hold its meetings within the confines of the Institution can be pointed out as what prompted the Council to relocate to Abuja.

Academic institutions are citadels of learning that the society keeps looking up to for the sharpening of intellectual and moral integrity. In whole, they remain one of the sacrosanct institutions the society has set aside for shaping and developing sound values to socially and constructively guide members of the society, who, imbued with the necessary skills will push the society into viable growth and development.

It is however saddening to witness, when an institution looked up to by the society for the setting of standards, now presents itself in the public space as a laughable stock. It is regrettable that the leadership of the institution (UNILAG) have not been so guarded with the codes of morality and wit in conducting their affairs, resolving all ruckus in a  civil manner. Such brazen acts of vendetta merely plunge the country into the throes of public humiliation, wrecking decades-long legacies. It is important for the leadership engaged in the tussle to remember that the good image which the institution has spent years to build, risks being soiled over a tussle that can be resolved rationally. The struggling parties should come together on the page of civility to resolve the ongoing face-off by subscribing to the provisional principles of existing institutional structure and statutes.