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How power play forced UNILAG to postpone convocation

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PHOTO: UNILAG NEWS

A supremacy battle between the governing council of the University of Lagos (UNILAG) led by Dr Wale Babalakin (SAN) and the university management over the lined-up programmes for the convocation has resulted in the forced postponement of the event billed to commence on Monday, March 9.

A letter from the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Education, Mr Sonny Echono through the National Universities Commission (NUC) directed the university to suspend the weeklong convocation.

The letter addressed to the executive secretary, NUC by Echono and titled, “Re: invitation to the 2019 convocation ceremony of the University of Lagos” read in part” :“The attention of the honourable minister has been drawn to the attached copy of letter dated March 2, 2020 from the pro-chancellor to the effect that the 2019 convocation ceremonies were not approved by the governing council in line with the laws of the university.

“I am to, therefore request that you kindly advise the vice chancellor to suspend the convocation and ensure full compliance with due process.”

The eventual suspension of the ceremony followed a two-day council meeting where efforts were made to persuade the pro-chancellor who allegedly felt sidelined in the planning of the ceremony.

But at the end of the two-day marathon meeting, which ended around 7:30 p.m. yesterday, members emerged from the venue wearing gloomy looks, while announcing that the ceremony had been postponed to a later date.

The postponement may have altered the plans of graduating students who are getting ready for their national youth service. Besides, the resources expended by the university in readiness for the event may have gone down the drain.

Babalakin, who earlier had a running battle with the university management over contracts and projects’ implementation resulting in the indictment of some serving and retired principal officers of the institution, allegedly faulted the university’s choice of a guest speaker without the knowledge of the council.

He also faulted the action of the management concerning the programmes and they could also not agree on the awardees meant to be conferred with honorary degrees.

The Guardian learnt that the school had initially settled for a former Ghanaian president as the speaker for the convocation lecture who later wrote to express his unavailability during the period.

It was based on the development hat the management settled for the communications minister. But the Babalakin- led council would have none of it. He was alleged to have queried the vice chancellor, Prof. Oluwatoyin Ogundipe and copied the minister of education, Adamu Adamu and the NUC executive Secretary, Prof. Abubakar Rasheed.

Prof. Ogundipe, in his response was said to have also copied Abuja explaining why the university took the decision, clarifying also that it is the chancellor, and not the pro-chancellor that has the final say on ceremonies in the institution.

Apparently to douse tension, the minister had to step in, directing the suspension of the ceremony.

A source within the university who pleaded anonymity said the council was not consulted before the choice of the guest speaker was made.

Apparently dissatisfied with the management’s programme of activities for the event, to appoint a guest speaker without the input of the council, Babalakin was alleged to have queried the vice chancellor and copied the minister who in turn directed the permanent secretary to write the school to suspend the ceremony.

The source said: “There was a letter from the ministry of education through the NUC directing UNILAG management to suspend the convocation because the council is yet to approve of it. There is a disconnect actually because the convocation lecture was meant to be delivered by a former Ghanaian president who cancelled his visit few weeks ago. The communications minister was billed to commission some projects in the university within this period so the management seized the opportunity to invite him to deliver the convocation lecture.

“The parties could not agree on the guest speaker and the list of awardees for the event; the pro-chancellor felt he ought to have been carried along in the scheme of things while the vice chancellor, relying on the university act insisted that it is the chancellor that has the final say on ceremonies in the institution.

“The postponement was as a result of a disagreement between the university management and the council about who should do what, the programmes appeared not to have been properly shared by both parties. Unfortunately, the UNILAG Act does not give any role to the council concerning convocation. Convocation is the responsibility of the chancellor and when he is not around, the responsibility falls on the vice chancellor.”

Efforts to speak with the pro-chancellor on the matter proved abortive as calls to his phone were not answered.

Meanwhile, the university in a statement has announced the postponement of the convocation. A statement by the registrar and secretary to council, Oladejo Azeez expressed regrets over the inconveniences caused by the postponement.


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