The drama Mr Governor Babajide Olusola Sanwoolu had been performing in the selection of the 9th Vice Chancellor of Lagos State University (LASU) is intriguing, incredulous and insalubrious. The scripting of the drama probably began hours after the recommendations of the joint selection panel of the University reached his table, but the drama itself started seventeen days after Mr Governor had received the recommendations. Rather than picking any of the top three candidates recommended to him, he elected to follow the June 12 style of President Badamasi Babangida to annull the process with the excuse that his office had received some petitions against the selection process. Unlike Babangida, Sanwo- Olu ordered the Joint Selection Panel to conduct a new selection process.
In compliance with Mr Governor ’s directive, the Joint Selection Board of the University conducted another exercise on March 11th 2021 and submitted their recommendations to Mr Governor. Rather than picking any of the three best performing candidates, the Governor again shilly-shallied for eighteen days only to cancelled the process. To calm already fraying nerves of curious observers and concerned stakeholders, he announced the setting up of a Special Visitation Panel (SVP) to look into the selection processes and come up with their recommendations. The Visitor handed the panel five terms of reference to consider in dealing with the needless impasse and proffering solutions. The terms of reference are:
ToR 1. Look at the remote and immediate causes for the impasse into the selection process and procedure for the appointment of the 9th Vice-Chancellor for the university.
The naked truth as far as the selection process was concerned was that there wasn’t any impasse over the process of appointing the 9th Vice- Chancellor of LASU. It was the indecision or procrastination by the Visitor ( Mr Governor Babajide Sanwoolu) to appoint the 9th Vice-Chancellor that created a seeming impasse being alluded to. The recommendations of the joint selection panel were promptly sent to the Visitor but he did not announce his decision till after 17 days (Friday January 8, 2021) thus giving room for petitions to be received. The question to ask is “was the selection panel given any opportunity to respond to the contents of the petitions?” No of course! The failure to avail the Panel or the candidates of such opportunity undermines the transparency which should attend the process, and implicitly gives undue credence to anonymous petitions as the basis for the cancellation of the previous processes. This not being done suggests that the government believes or somewhat aligns with the authors of the so called petitions and acted on them to cancel the process.
In that first selection process, Prof. O. Odusanya scored 90 per cent to rank first, Prof S. Bakre came second with 72.5 per cent. Prof. K. Akinyemi, who ranked third on the list, scored 68.8 per cent. The wife of the State ’s Commissioner for Environment Prof. I. Olatunji-Bello, Mr Olatunji Bello, Ibiyemi Olatunji-Bello was ranked 4th with 68.0 per cent, and was followed by Omotayo Awofolu from the Namibia University of Science and Technology, who scored 66.5 per cent.
The response to the outcome of the second selection processby Mr Governor was the same as the first. To the second interview conducted on March 11, 2021, the final decision by the Visitor was not made known till after another 18 days when news of the Special Visitation Panel (SVP) was announced. In that second selection process which was recorded on video and included Computer Based Test component, Prof. Olumuyiwa. Odusanya again came first by scoring 87.94 per cent. A Professor of public Health at Usmanu Danfodio University Sokoto, who had been a Vice-Chancellor at a faith-based university before), Taofik Ibrahim, scored 80.95 per cent to come second; and a Professor of public mental Health and incumbent Ag. Provost of the University ’s College of Medicine, Abiodun Adewuya, came third with 76.61 per cent. The incumbent deputy vice-chancellor in charge of academics, Prof. Elias Wahab, was ranked 4th with 76.61 per cent, while Prof. Olawunmi Badejo scored 71.99 per cent to be ranked 5th. Prof. Akinyemi took the 6th position with 69.01 per cent; Prof. Ibiyemi Olatunji-Bello ranked 7th with 68.95 per cent, and Prof Sena Bakre with 66.4 per cent ranked 8th.
The pattern or trend of cancelling the second selection process to the discerning minds clearly revealed that there is more to the governor’s decisions to cancel the two processes and opt for the special visitation panel than meets the eye. What the real intentions are may yet be unfolded at the end of this system inflicted imbroglio.
ToR2. Review, in the public interest, the relevance of the deluge of petitions against the 1st and 2nd processes for the appointment of the 9th Vice-Chancellor to the University.
The word ‘deluge’ means ‘a flood’ of water or something. There couldn’t have been a flood of petitions if Mr Governor had acted on time in the interest of excellence and consider the fact that not every party who didn’t excel at the selection process will be matured enough to give their blessings to the process and be happy to see another person announced as the winner without a fight.
Like it was in the first selection, Mr Governor did not give any opportunity to the Joint Selection Panel to see the petitions and defend their integrity. For justice to be done, fair hearing must be given to all parties. The petitions being entertained without any right of response being offered to those accused in reality has given room to the needless impasse. If the so called petitions had any sincere weight, none of the candidates who came first, second and third in the first selection process would have been considered worthy to participate in the second selection process. The principle of fair hearing demands that if any of the candidates has been indicted in any of the petitions, such petitions ought to be brought to the notice of such candidate and he or she should be allowed to address any allegation before an adverse decision is rendered in relation to such candidate.
ToR 3. Examine if the extant laws of the University and other relevant guidelines were followed in the process for the appointment of the 9th Vice-Chancellor.
LASU was established in 1983 and the enabling law is dated 2004 with a slight amendment to that law in 2016. With respect to the office of the VC, the amendment changes the term of the VC to a single five (5)-year tenure as opposed to the four (4)-year renewable term previously.
LASU had had eight (8) VCs listed below and three of them were Professors of of Medicine and Fellows of the National Postgraduate Medical College of Nigeria (NMPCN).
1. Professor Folabi Olumide- Surgeon, Foundation VC; 2. Professor Jadesola Akande- Lawyer; 3. Professor Enitan Bababunmi –Biochemist; 4. Professor Fatiu Akesode- Paediatrician and Community Physician; 5. Professor Abisogun Leigh-Geneticist; 6. Professor Lateef Hussain-physicist; 7. Professor John Obafunwa- pathologist; 8. Professor Olanrewaju Fagbohun-Lawyer.
THE SELECTION PROCESS
The LASU law states that the process of appointing a VC lies with the joint Council/Senate selection panel which shall consist of:
a) The Chairman of Council as Chairman; b), three external members of council who are themselves appointees of the government to the council and c), three members of the University Senate
The selection panel will after interview present a list of three recommended candidates to the Visitor from which he will make a choice of one to appoint as the VC.
In compliance with this law, the 11th Governing Council chose its three members in addition to the Chairman who is a statutory functionary while the Senate chose its three representatives from a list of 10 candidates who were nominated to represent the Senate. All the seven members of the Joint Selection Panel are academia and industry giants with impeccable character. They are: Professor Adebayo Ninalowo- Pro-Chancellor as Chairman, Mr. Karl Toriola } External member of Council, Mrs Adenike Ayo-Faseun } External member of Council, Barrister Anuoluwapo Esho} External member of Council, Professor Adeola Animasaun} Senate Representative, Professor Tunde Owolabi} Senate Representative and Professor Babatunde Yusuf} Senate Representative. It appears the Visitor to LASU did not mind rubbishing the integrity of these people until the equation which is well known in the public domain, to produce the desired answer could be arrived at.
The first advertisement published on the selection processes was in line with that done in Nigerian Universities specifying the duration of candidates as as Professors and their academic, administrative and research capabilities amongst other requirements.
It is important to note that the Conditions of Service of LASU 2017 (currently in use approved by the Governing Council, page 40) rates the PhD and the Fellowship of NPMCN equal and scores them 10 (out of 10) marks. It is also known and stated in the same document that whereas holders of PhD are employed as Lecturer Grade 2, holders of the Fellowship of NPMCN is employed as Lecturer Grade1, a higher entry position. This is the norm and practice in Nigerian Universities.
For the second advertisement, the Governing Council set in motion a new process shortly after the Visitor cancelled the first exercise. The advert was more explicit stating that candidates should have either a PhD or Fellowship of the World-renown Medical Colleges. This is to make it clear that Medical Professors in clinical medicine are not put at a disadvantage. Besides, the fellowship is backed up in the laws establishing the National Postgraduate Medical College of Nigeria (NPMCN) and is registerable with the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN) as Fellows are registered on the specialist register of medical practitioners of the country as is done worldwide. These fellows are clinical teachers, serve as consultants and are responsible for patient care while providing tutelage to medical students who learn largely by apprenticeship. The advert further stated that candidates will be expected to demonstrate Information, Communication and Technology (ICT) competency.
The fact that the candidate who came first in the first selection process and the best three candidates in the second selection process were all doctors made it seemed as if there is either a calculated attempt to sacrifice excellence because the best candidates are medical practitioners or because the powers that be is rooting for a candidate that is not amongst the best three in both selection processes.
PRACTICE IN OTHER UNIVERSITIES
The National Universities Commission (NUC) does not appoint Vice-Chancellors for any university. At the Federal Universities, the appointment of Vice-Chancellors lies with the Governing Council as part of the autonomy the Federal Government has granted universities. The LASU College of Medicine of which the Faculty of Clinical Sciences is the largest and has the highest numbers of fellows is still accredited by both NUC and the MDCN. Indeed, Professor Jubril Aminu, Professor of Internal medicine and Fellow of NPMCN (FMCP) was a former Executive Secretary of NUC.
Many Nigerian Universities have appointed and still appoint Fellows as Vice-Chancellors without any discrimination as shown in the table University Vice-Chancellors who are Doctors and Fellows:
University of Ibadan
Professor Adeoye Lambo
Professor Oritshe Jolomi Thomas
Professor ABOO Oyediran
Professor Ayodele Falase
Professor Isaac Adewole
University of Lagos
Professor Akinpelu Adeshola
Professor Kweku Adadevoh
Obafemi Awolowo University
Professor Oladele Ajose
Ahmadu Bello University
Professor Ishaya Audu
University of Ilorin
Professor Adeoye Adeniyi
Federal University Lokoja
Professor Adbulmumuni Rafindadi
University of Nigeria, Nsukka
Professor Benjamin Ozumba
Ebonyi State University
Professor Chigozie Ogbu
Gombe State University
Professor Aliyu Usman El-Nafaty
ToR 4 Review and advice on all other relevant matters of the process adopted so far for the appointment of the 9th substantive Vice-Chancellor for LASU.
Asides from Mr. Lawal Pedro (SAN), every other member of the Special Visitation Panel set up Mr Governor Sanwo-Olu are academic and University administrators who ought to know the adverse effect the circus of rigmarole encouraged by Mr Governor on the selection process of the 9th Vice Chancellor for LASU could end up having on the effective administration of the institution. Professor Bamitale Omole, the Chairman of the Panel was the former Vice Chancellor of the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife. The chaos that engulfed OAU after his tenure was caused by the kind of politics that is now unfolding in the selection of LASU’s 9th VC. One would have thought he would lead the panel with the benefit of history to advise the Visitor to stand for excellence but the feelers coming out from the grapevine on the panel’s submission did not show any serious respects for history by the panel.
Professor Joseph Ajianka a former Vice Chancellors of University of Port-harcourt and Professor Ayo Olukotun from Olabisi Onabanjo Universities both know the horrific damage that promotion of mediocrity and lack of respect for due process could do to LASU and they ought to have considered the effects this needless impasse is having on LASU already as well as the signal being sent across to youths across Nigeria that merit, excellence and hard work mean nothing in the Nigerian culture and leadership equation.
One of the members of the Special Visitation Panel is Mr. Olujimi Olukoya, the former Registrar of the University of Ibadan. History seemed to have uniquely placed Mr. Olujimi Olukoya in the panel so that the recollections of his ascendancy to the position of the Registrar of University of Ibadan could be a priceless guide to the Panel in their advice to the visitor.
Mr. Olukoya’s selection based on merit was vehemently opposed by haters of due process in 2013 when he was interviewed for the then vacant position of Registrar. Like it is in the case of LASU’s 9th VC selection process, petitioners and protesters fought hard and huffed and puffed to have excellence thrown away because Mr. Olukoya was coming from a College of Education environment and not a University environment. Mr. Olukoya was then the Registrar at the College of Education, Oyo. The petitioners didn’t mind the fact that Olukoya came first in the selection process with 86% beating the nearest applicant who had scored 62% with 24 points. The enemies of due process preferred an insider to get the job even though the best candidates from UI then had come a distant 4th and 6th respectively. The Governing Council led by Pro – Chancellor Chief Wole Olaonipekun (SAN) stood by excellence and cleared every obstacle on the path of Mr. Olujimi Olukoya.
Olukoya’s experience in UI and the eventual triumph of merit was perhaps God’s way of letting the SVP see that the best candidates in LASU’s VC Selection process needed the same justice that the system supported Mr. Olukoya to get, but it appeared the Panel would rather play safe and flow with the rhythm of the powers that be than stand for justice.
The paramount consideration in reviewing the processes that have taken place so far should be the question of whether or not the due process of the law has been followed. The process for the appointment of a Vice Chancellor for Lagos State University is purely in the realm of rules and the law. The question agitating the minds of many Nigerians is “what exactly did the Visitor find wrong in the second exercise that necessitated the creation of a Special Visitation Panel and wasting of millions of tax payers’ money to conduct a needless goose chase? Did the selection processes violate any rule or laws of the institution. The purpose of the rules of engagement and laws guiding the process is to make for certainty in the process, to inject integrity into the process and to limit the exercise of any subjective discretion in the process. Controversy will only be averted if it can be established that the process as previously undertaken was not in accordance with the due process of law as enshrined in the statutory provisions guiding the appointment of a Vice-Chancellor for LASU. If no such flaw exists, then all those involved in the process, including the Visitor and this special visitation panel are bound by the outcome, otherwise the process would appear to be arbitrary, subjective and politicized. That is what the principle known as the Due Process of law means and entails.
It is gradually becoming a norm now for the political powers that be in Nigeria to throw Nigerian universities into turmoil over the selection of Vice-Chancellors and this is counter-productive for the quest for excellence. The list of infamy is growing: the university of Port-Harcourt, University of Ibadan, Lagos state University and lately University of Jos. How do we convince our children to believe in Nigeria where a simple issue as choosing a University Chief Administrator becomes enmeshed in politicking? Ho can we demand patriotism from our youths if we blatantly rubbish merit, hard work and sacrifice them on the altar of political expediency. We are losing thousands of young Nigerians to other lands annually because they believe the culture of mediocrity which thrives here can not allow them to reach the pick of their career. Our way of deployment of impunity continues to crush the will of the ordinary masses. God forbids that we soon totally become a nation where only the children of the rich and powerful succeed and excel through patronage.
There is enough crises and confusion in the land already and needles crisis should not be encouraged in LASU or any other part of Nigeria through injustice and insensitive leadership. Rather than our leaders merely appealing to Nigerian youths not to leave the country, let them make the land comfortable through the practice of righteousness in all they do. We can never make progress as a nation if we continue to revel in sin and injustice despite our many prayers for God is righteous and just.
ToR 5. Make other recommendations for the smooth running of the University.
It is the belief and position of millions of Lagosians and Nigerians who stand for merit and excellence that the processes involved in the appointment of the 9th VC of LASU have been transparent, untainted, and credible and of the highest ethical standards and the candidate who came first in both selection exercises should be announced in the interest of excellence which Lagos states claims it represents.
The eyes of the whole world was on the panel all the while it was seating to review the memoranda it received and the presentations made to it. The eyes of the whole world is now on Governor Babajide Sanwoolu to see what act or scene of his poorly written script he will be unfolded next. The eyes of the world are on the Visitor as it was on the World Trade Organization’s Council during the process that led to the appointment of Nigeria’s Professor Okonjo Iweala as the first female DG of the WTO.
Okonjo Iweala came first in the many rounds of interviews. The powerful United States opposed Okonjo Iweala’s appointment initially but later surrendered because the men and women who guided the process remained principled and unbiased to the end. History is presenting Governor Sanwo Olu with lessons to learn from this very recent incident. Okonjo Iweala was not assisted by any god-father to become DG of WTO. She took the post by merit, not on the sentiments of apologists. The recent history of Okonjo’s emergence places a big burden on the conscience of the governor to do the right thing and do things right without wasting further time.
As the governor studies the SIP’s recommendations and weighs the next action to take, he must never forget that history is not only a coach, but a judge as well. If he truly believes in #GreaterLagos, the governor must match rhetoric with action by announcing the best candidate in LASU’s two selection processes as the 9th VC of LASU. It is by allowing the best to lead LASU that the institution can truly excel. We can never become greater by rubbishing merit and rejecting excellence.
Olanrewaju Osho is a Director @ Inspire Nigeria Initiative. He is a development strategist, road safety specialist and the flag bearer of the Abundant Nigeria Renewal Party (ANRP) for Senate in FCT during the 2019 elections.