The University of Lagos (UNILAG) has been in the news lately, and again, it’s about injustice; the “power tussle” between the Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of Council of the institution, Dr Wale Babalakin (SAN), and the Vice Chancellor and Chairman of the Senate, Prof. Toyin Ogundipe, took a new turn a few days ago after the Secretary to the Council, Mr. Oladejo Azeez released a statement announcing the sack of the Vice Chancellor after the Council meeting which held in Abuja. Prior to this time, there had been accusations and counter-accusations of gross misconducts and mismanagement between and among top management officers and the Chairman of Council, but that is not the focus of this piece.
Prof. Ogundipe is claiming that he was not given a fair hearing, and that due process was not followed by the Council, as certain conditions were supposed to be met in accordance to the University Act before he can be removed from office. I agree with him, it is injustice, but injustice in UNILAG did not start today, it has been in the system for years and this same Prof. Ogundipe is one of those who have been watering the seeds of injustice in that institution.
A few years ago, precisely 2016, the University of Lagos Students’ Union (ULSU) protested against the terrible state of students’ welfare on campus; inadequate water and power supply among others were some of the major issues that the students were facing on campus at the time. The protest lasted for three days, from 6th to 8th April, and it led to the shutdown of the school for some weeks.
The management of the institution, led by Prof. Rahman Ade Bello who was the Vice Chancellor at the time, apparently angered by the audacity of the student union leaders to challenge them, did everything within their power and resources (including slander, false accusation, and legal might) to suspend some of the student leaders who led the protest. I was one of those leaders (I served as the General Secretary of the union), and I got two semesters suspension. The allegations against me were that I locked the school gate and declared protest without approval (very laughable); I did none of those, because I did not lock the gate, neither did I declare a protest. The union declared a protest and the students came out in large number to participate. At this period, Prof. Ogundipe was the Deputy Vice Chancellor in charge of Academic Management (he took over as VC from Prof. Bello).
During one of our meetings with the UNILAG Alumni Association after some of us were served suspension letters, and apparently in their quest to gather every excuse to get rid of us by all means, Prof. Ogundipe claimed that some students threw stuff at him while they were addressing us on the third day of the protest, of course that was not true, I was there in the heat of the protest and I saw what happened; a student splashed water on Prof. Akin Oyebode (not even Prof. Ogundipe) while he was addressing us at about 6:00PM that day, and we even chided the students.
How Prof. (Pastor) Ogundipe could claim that stuff was thrown at him still baffles me till today. This is not to excuse the action of the student who splashed water, but it does not change the fact that Prof. Ogundipe did not say the truth. Of course, as students that we were, and in the midst of all the elders that we were meeting with (meeting was chaired by Olorogun (Dr) Sunny Kuku who was the Alumni President at the time), we dared not say an elderly man, the DVC at that, was lying. We kept mum and left the meeting with no headway.
I wrote a 14-page letter to the Vice Chancellor to make him understand our position. We ran to the media and went to court but even that could not stop them, they had and still have friends everywhere at the top. They used everything against us. They achieved their aim. My experience in UNILAG will be documented, I took note of everything and I still have records. I will write a book.
For Prof. Ogundipe, I feel very sorry for him, because it is almost unthinkable and very shameful that a whole Vice Chancellor of UNILAG would carry placard to protest an injustice to himself, not outside of the school, not outside of the country, but in this same institution. I thought Vice Chancellors were the “almighty”, I thought they were untouchable. But it appears that his case is different. You see, when a system thrives on injustice, everyone gets a plate of whatever is served, however it is served. That, I believe, is what is playing out.
Nevertheless, University of Lagos is an institution that is bigger than any Pro-Chancellor or Vice Chancellor, regardless of whatever they do in office, they would someday leave. But I pray that they do not destroy the legacy that the institution has built over the years because of ego (or whatever it is that’s going on between them).
UNILAG is, and will always be my pride.
Emmanuel Afolabi (AFOO)
Ex-ULSU Gen Sec