UNILAG Crisis- A tale of three “Elephants” and the “Grasses” beneath, By Yemi Oke, PhD

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University of Lagos and its legendary brand has again come under needless and avoidable attacks particularly by non-stakeholders and freelancers in the electronic, social and other conventional media.

Those who knew or know next to nothing about UNILAG and its towering heights now constitute “judges” in the misconceived “courts” of public opinion. This, sadly, is most unfortunate.

Most bewildering is the fact that the crisis is a manifestation of extreme contradictions of fine attributes of the three”Elephants” for the following reasons:

(1) First, and without prejudice to the position of the Fedetal Government (or Nigerian President as Visitor of Unilag), the purported removal of Professor Toyin Ogundipe as Vice-Chancellor of the University of Lagos is needless and might be counter-productive.

(2) My personal knowledge of the three “Elephants” as a “grass” under them is sharply at variance with the turn of event on recent happenings.

Prof. Oluwatoyin Ogundipe,, UNILAG VC
Prof. Oluwatoyin Ogundipe
Dr. Wale Babalakin
Dr. Wale Babalakin
Prof. Theophilus Soyombo, UNILAG acting VC
Prof. Theophilus Soyombo, UNILAG acting VC

(3) Starting with the Pro-Chancellor, Dr. Wale Babalakin SAN who is not known to have caused the downfall of any human being prior to this crisis.

(4) While he might be different personalities to different people, “BOB” as we call him, has given more to humanity just as humanity has also rewarded him.

(5) I served in Babalakin & Co in 2001/2002 and I worked under direct supervision of Dr. Bayo Adarelegbe (another sound legal mind).

(6) I recall introducing one Emeka (surname withheld) through “GOA” (Geoffrey Adebayo Adaralegbe). He said “YO”, BOB has just attended to a number of similar requests. Despite that, Emeka later called to appreciate me for facilitating a support through GOA. BOB “apologetically” gave him $10,000 USD to support his LL.M admission in Columbia University early 2003. Emeka was a year my junior at Olaniwun Ajayi where I just resumed after NYSC at B&Co.

(7) I also know that a Former VC in my Alma Mata had a house built or completed by BOB when he (BOB) realised that he was about to finish his tenure as VC without a decent house in Ilorin GRA, as his (former VC’s) house was under construction, at Iintel level. I could go on and on on BOB.

(8) Prof. Toyin Ogundipe is NOT A CORRUPT person. I wish to be quoted. If truly he approved some N48m to renovate the expansive VC Lodge (a Government property), he should be commended for prudence as renovation of similar residence of a Senate President or Speaker of House of Representatives or CEO of a parastatal would have cost a modest sum of N48 Billion.

(9) While admitting that the University system, typical of Nigerian systems is not in a decent shape prudence-wise, inputting large-scale corruption to Prof. Ogundipe would appear to be unkind.

(10) In my over a decade of knowing and working closely with Prof. Ogundipe, he’s worth far less in assets than some comfortable Senior Lecturers in Unilag. Prof Ogundipe is not crazy about wordily possessions. He desires to live and die (in old age) a decent Christian and Pastor. He aspires to be known more for his spiritual gift and humble service to humanity than as a “rich man”.

(11) I know a few deep and personal things about him. Prof Ogubdipe is a senior brother, spiritual father, mentor and much more. I enjoy his confidence. He has mine.

(12) Administratively, there might have been some lapses and/or imprudence. Those have been there as systemic issues or lapses in the structure of University management or administration in Nigeria. Those were not manufactured or created by Prof. Ogundipe.

(13) Therefore, cutting our “nose” to spite our “face” would only complicate the already vulnerable University system in Nigeria where mid-level officials in some anti-corruption agencies earn almost three times university Professors.

(14) As to Professor Soyombo; not only is he my kinsman, he also an “Old Boy” like myself (BBHS-Baptist Boys High School, Abeokuta where the likes of Chief Olusegun Obsansjo, Late M.K.O Abiola, Alake of Egbaland, Dr. Aremu Gbadedo, Former Governor Gbenga Daniel, Rt. Hon Dimeji Bankole and his Dad, Cheif S.O.A Bankole, H.E, Prince Bola Ajibola, Olowu of Owu, Abeokuta, Olubara of Ibara, and several others attended.

The list is endless.

(15) To crown it all, Prof. Soyombo is our amiable “Octa Chair” (Octagon Club ’90) at Unilag. To him, I’m “Bada-Baamofin of Egbaland”. He stopped calling me Dr Oke, “aburo” and the likes and now prefers to address me by my traditional title as an Egba High Chief.

(16) I recall when his official apartment was gutted by fire. We could not salvage anything. Myself and another brother, Dr. Alabi Soneye (now Prof. Soneye, Dean of School of Postgraduate Studies (SPGS) had to bring Prof. Soyombo down to the Sneior Staff Staff Club to calm down. We were briefing the Late VC, Prof Adetokunbo Sofoluwe at regular intervals about his kinsman and junior brother’s post disaster therapy!!

(17) The students took charge to rescue their “father’s apartment and simply became “fire-fughters” to our admiration. The level of responses were overwhelming and largely by students. It could only have been elicited by records of good deeds.

(18).Prof. Soyombo has never been ambitious for postions. He applied to be VC like Prof. Ogundipe and was not even shortlisted. (19) Nature has a way of putting him on the “spot”. According to a senior colleague, Prof. Soyombo was not even in contention. He was called upon as a compromise candidate given his usual peaceful and calm dispositions.

(20) The options were those of devil, deep-red-sea and “no option” at all. Should Prof Soyombo have declined and anyone even a “monster” becomes “Acting V.C. or everyone in Unilg decline and outsider or stranger is brought from another University as Acting VC? Prof. Soyombo was deeply divided and confused!!! In the end, we weighed the options and became persuaded to accept knowing that it takes the full support of Senate, Council, Staff, Students, Alumni and other stakeholders to be successful in his interim regime.

(21) In the midst of these confusion, the outside world should realise that Dr. Wale Babalakin SAN might have been prompted by his perceived best as a former Unilag student.

(22) Prof. Toyin Ogundipe has taken Unilag further than where he met it in terms of research, innovations, global rankings, cordiality and other praxes. I recently wrote that, as someone privy to his Manifesto before becoming VC, he has achieved more that what we jotted down in his Misison Statement.

(22) Again, I saw that Prof Toyin Ogundipe is not corrupt but at best a victim of inherited imperfections of a Nigerian system. For example, in my considered view, spending just N48m to renovate Goverment property (VC Lodge) and/or related allegations (though not yet satisfactorily established) would or should not have warranted his unceremonious removal.

(23) Again, I wish to empathize that to now begin to “demonize” Dr. Wale Babalakin SAN would, in my honest and considered view, wrong and most inappropriate.
(24) Similarly, Prof. Soyombo is an “innocent bystander”. For me, while I think he should not have accepted, I reasoned with the logic of the older Professor that the system abhors vacuum, and he (Prof. Soyombo) might be a better “evil” than an imaginable disaster waiting to happen.

In conclusion, my most humble view is:

(a) That our dear Pro-Chancellor should kindly rescue the unfolding calamitous-disaster in Unilag. I apologise if I’ve not kept in touch with BOB and GOA until this crisis (though some confused elements irrespective of their age might paint a contrary picture), I “stand on my knees” appealing for peace while I subscribe to the view that Prof. Toyin Ogundipe should be allowed to continue in office.

(b) Litigation seems a long battle. The system abhors vacuum just as a “Visition Panel” would do more harm and might likely not be efficacious than internal mechansisms that would have brought about a “win-win” situation.

(c) If the inevitable happens and the Federal Government takes a decision, I hope and pray that all concerned would be magnanimous in their respective “losses” and or “victories”.

Peace!!!! UNILAG is bigger than, and will remain even after tenure or and/or sojourn on earth of the there “ELEPHANTS” and the “GRASSES” BENEATH!!!

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