Mr. Cecil Esekhaigbe is the National President of Lagos State University Alumni Association and a retired Major General. In this interview with Funmi Ogundare, he highlighted the efforts of the alumni to ensure a crisis-free atmosphere and stable academic calendar in the institution, among other issues
Before the emergence of the current management of the Lagos State University (LASU), the institution had been embroiled in various crisis ranging from strikes, scuffle between the institution’s chapter of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), other unions and two of its past vice chancellors, students protests and rampages occasioned by tuition fees hike paralysing academic activities.
However, under a new administration, the alumni association also under a new leadership, headed by Cecil Esekhaigbe moved by a passion to develop LASU, had to engage in constructive dialogue with the management to move the institution forward.
According to Esekhaigbe, “it is about leadership and vision. If you recall in recent past, LASU used to experience all sorts of crisis either from the angle of government, management, students or various unions. The question of winner-takes-all used to be a big issue. The unions were not ready to give in and often ending in protracted crisis. But the new leadership has a very clear vision; it has a dream to take LASU to greater heights.
“Above all, there are now constructive engagements between LASU management and other stakeholders. This is where the alumni has come in as a stabiliser. So the give and take culture is being restored and the university now enjoys a crisis-free ambience.”
He compared the current alumni to what the university used to have, saying that it is all about what people are able to give back to their alma mater rather than what they will benefit from it.
“The difference between the alumni before and now is that unlike the attitude of certain people who feel the alumni has to do with what they could profit from it, we believe it is about what we can all give back to our university,” he said, adding that along with the chairman, Board of Trustees (BoT) and others they are championing the course of development for the institution.
“I am happy to tell you that the results are already manifesting, that is why the National Universities Commission (NUC) rated LASU as one of the best 20 universities nationwide. This is as a result of responsive leadership which has also given peace a chance.”
On the efforts of the association to build an alumni centre, Esekhaigbe said, “we have set up a fundraising committee comprising members with integrity and goodwill in their own right. During the forthcoming fundraising which we are yet to announce the date, we are going to reach out to individuals and groups who have the knack for giving. Soon a committee will be inaugurated and members will roll out their plans.
“What is left is the need for transparency because prospective donors want to know what you want to do with the money they are giving you. That is why we are insisting on having the architectural drawing and the bill of quantity which is almost ready before the launching proper. The architectural drawing which we have now put on our various WhatsApp platforms is to sensitise the public of what we intend to come up with.”
He added that the idea of having a bill of quantity is to get individuals that could donate material towards the construction of the centre and other things required to complete the project.
“It is not everything that will be monetised; we are looking for individuals that will say let me give you a trailer-load of cement or roofing sheet and all that. Therefore the bill of quantity will give you the idea of what is required to do the project. By and large, with the cooperation of the branches, meaningful progress will be achieved.”
The president said the association is currently collating members’ database as a result of expansion of more branches springing up in Lagos, Abuja, USA and UK and Canada.
“Right now, we have commenced registration of these branches so that we can have enough data to create the base. The one we had before was not elaborate and there is need for expansion. In a very short while, we will all see a database that will offer more exhaustive information on members and the alumni activities.
“Very recently, we set up the Lagos Committee, we also have a mobilisation committee and one of its functions is to bring together more members that will form the nucleus of this database.”
Asked how harmonious the different chapters have been in keying into the overall objective of the alumni, Esekhaigbe said: “Initially some of them had suspicion. They felt why should all activities be streamlined along the national body. But we made them realise it is all about one university and branches are established to provide a forum and voice for those who live particularly in the diaspora. Having understood that, many have registered with us to achieve that cohesion.”
On the efforts of the alumni to address the financial or physical challenges of undergraduates, he said, “if you have been following our various WhatsApp platforms, you will realise we are not resting on our oars. Whenever we see the need to fill a gap, we promptly rise to the task, especially by putting such information on the platform for our undergraduate students and other alumni members to quickly tap into.
“We have organised series of sensitisation workshops for our students. Very recently a 500-level undergraduate of medicine suffered a health challenge and the alumni were at the forefront of mobilising funds for his treatment in India.
“During the Tony Elumelu distinguished lecture at the university last November, we mobilised our members especially the current students there to ensure they see a clearer picture of what the future looks like and how to gird their loins ahead of graduation.”