Uchechukwu Nnaike in Lagos and Kuni Tyessi in Abuja
Peace is set to return to the University of Lagos (UNILAG) as its Senate yesterday elected Prof. Folasade Ogunsola as the new acting vice-chancellor.
Ogunsola’s emergence, after a meeting of the Senate of the institution, is expected to end a leadership crisis arising from the war of attrition between the Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of its Governing Council, Dr Wale Babalakin, and the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Oluwatoyin Ogundipe.
President Muhammadu Buhari last Friday suspended Babalakin and Ogundipe.
In addition, the president, in wading into the power tussle between Babalakin and Ogundipe, had directed the removal of the acting VC, Prof. Theophilus Soyombo, earlier appointed by the council when it removed Ogundipe, asking the Senate to elect another person to hold the fort.
Besides, Buhari as the visitor to the university constituted a visitation panel to look into the crisis in the university and recommend workable solutions and peaceful resolutions.
The panel, chaired by a former Vice-Chancellor, Federal University of Technology, Minna, Prof. Tukur Sa’ad, has two weeks to submit its report.
Other members of the special visitation panel are Mr. Victor Onuoha; Prof. Ikenna Oyindo; Prof. Ekanem Braide; Prof. Adamu Usman; Chief Jimoh Bankole; and Ms. Grace Ekanem, who is the Secretary.
The establishment of the visitation panel was announced on the day Ogundipe withdrew from the National Industrial Court (NIC) where he had gone to challenge his controversial removal by the governing council of the university.
Yesterday’s election of Ogunsola, who was the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (DVC), Development Services, as the acting VC, made her the first female to attain such a position in the 58-year history of UNILAG.
Ogunsola got 135 votes to beat the DVC Management Services, Prof. Ben Oghojafor, who got 31 votes.
Ogunsola, born in 1958, is a professor of Medical Microbiology and specialises in disease control, particularly HIV/AIDS.
She is also the immediate past Provost, College of Medicine, University of Lagos, and is reputed as being the first woman to occupy the position. She became the DVC, Development Services of the institution in 2017.
In her acceptance speech, Ogunsola, who doubles as the Chairperson of Infections Control, Africa Network, and member of the Lagos State COVID-19 Task Force, thanked the Senate members for entrusting her with the huge responsibility.
“Electing me the acting vice-chancellor at such time the university is going through so much is a big task. But it is a task for all of us, and I appeal to you to help rewrite the story of this great university for good,” she said.
The UNILAG chapter of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) yesterday welcomed Ogunsola’s election, stating that calm has been restored to the institution with her emergence as the new acting VC.
The Chairman of ASUU in the institution, Dr. Dele Ashiru, told reporters that they were waiting for the visitation panel to start work while hoping that parties concerned would get justice.
Ashiru decried the locking of the university auditorium before the meeting of the Senate.
“The locking of the auditorium is a crudity that has characterised Dr. Wale Babalakin’s reign.
“No principal of the university should have the temerity to trample on the Senate of the university as we witnessed earlier this morning by the university’s Registrar,” he said.
On whether punishment will be meted out to the Registrar, Mr. Azeez Oladejo, he said it was premature to sanction him, adding that the union stands for due process and when a case is established against him, he would be duly sanctioned for such act.
Before the Senate met yesterday, there was a mild drama as the members were initially barred from meeting by a memo posted on the door of the auditorium.
The memo signed by Oladejo, stated in part: “This is to inform all Senate members that no meeting of the Senate has been summoned, members should await proper notice of meeting after the Federal Government of Nigeria has clarified some issues germane to the meeting.”
But some workers later opened the door to the main auditorium for the Senate members to meet.
Senate Discontinues Suit against Babalakin, Others
The Senate of the institution has filed an application at the National Industrial Court to discontinue a suit challenging the sacking of Ogundipe.
The defendants in the suit, marked NICN/LA/283/2020, were the university’s governing council, Babalakin, Oladejo, Soyombo and Ogundipe.
But the Senate, through its counsel, Prof. Taiwo Osipitan (SAN), prayed the court to declare that Ogundipe’s ouster via an August 12, 2020 letter was not procedural, and was null and void.
The Senate also prayed the court to restrain Soyombo from parading himself as UNILAG acting VC.
THISDAY learnt that the decision to withdraw the suit followed Buhari’s intervention in the crisis.