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Our expectations from new LASU VC, by ASUU, NASU, others

By Iyabo Lawal, Adelowo Adebumiti
23 September 2021   |   3:07 am
Stakeholders at the Lagos State University (LASU), Ojo, have described the appointment of the vice-chancellor, Prof Ibiyemi Olatunji- Bello as a step in the right direction.

Olatunji-Bello

Olatunji-Bello’s appointment on merit, says govt official

Stakeholders at the Lagos State University (LASU), Ojo, have described the appointment of the vice-chancellor, Prof Ibiyemi Olatunji- Bello as a step in the right direction.

The professor of Physiology is seen by many as a progressive, whose antecedent as former acting vice-chancellor (VC) speaks volumes about her ability. However, to succeed in her new task, stakeholders said she must engage various interest groups on campus and make their welfare her priority

Chairman, Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), LASU chapter, Prof. Ibrahim Bakare, said the new VC came in at a time when the achievements of her predecessor needed to be consolidated.

He said: “The question of leadership should be predicated on trust. What actually worked for the immediate vice-chancellor, Prof Olanrewaju Fagbohun, was his running an all-inclusive administration. From what I can deduce from her mission statement, she sounded very positive about the need to build on the gains of her predecessor.”

However, Bakare said the new vice-chancellor

Olatunji-Bello

cannot achieve any of her objectives alone, rather, must join hands with others, especially those that contributed to the success of the last administration, tapping from their skills in order to take the institution to the top.

“Leadership is a continuum, and I really want to see her working in a similar direction with some modifications that will generate improved outcomes,” the ASUU chief said.

Speaking on what should be her priority, Bakare said welfare, promotion of staff and regular training should be her major focus.

“Our expectations border on those variables of factors that have brought global recognition to the institution and we expect her to move in a similar direction to take LASU to a state of Eldorado. The situation at LASU calls for concern on how it will move forward.

“The questions to ask are: Are there issues on ground? Are there issues to be resolved? Are there anomalies? She should try to build bridges of unity, peace and understanding,” Bakare added.

He assured that ASUU would cooperate with the new VC to take the institution to greater heights.

The union leader said the body would work with associations on campus to set a sound and robust agenda for the new leadership and advise appropriately while offering advice in the right direction.

The ASUU chief urged the VC to extend hands of the harmonious working relationship to the body and other unions on campus in the interest of peace and progress of the institution.

He advised her to specifically focus on staff welfare, especially Earned Allowance while identifying improved infrastructure as a necessity.

While reminding that leadership is teamwork, Bakare said it is important for Prof Olatunji-Bello to ensure that the component parts of the institution work together as a team to generate better results.

The ASUU chief also charged the vice-chancellor to avoid people that may misinterpret her action, focus on her vision for the institution and do proper consultation with stakeholders to generate ideas. “Let her screen the ideas and ensure they become part of her implementation plan.”

Chairman, Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU), LASU chapter, Lawal Ouwaseyi Modiu, called for her intervention in securing Earned Allowance for staff and ensure that non-teaching staff are promoted as at when due.

He also listed staff welfare, accommodation, conducive work environment and provision of needed working tools, training and development as well as improved security as areas that require urgent attention.

Modiu further enjoined Olatunji-Bello to be a listening leader and be focused.

Similarly, National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT) Chairman, LASU chapter, Adejo Olujimi, said: “My expectation is that our new vice-chancellor, who is an erudite scholar, will upgrade and equip our laboratories across the three campuses and restore the institution’s global ranking to a leading position.

“Our expectation in NAAT is for the new VC to develop a robust and unique union-management working relationship within the framework of labour law,” he said.

Chairman, Non-academic Staff Union of Education and Associated Institutions (NASU), LASU chapter, Moruf Ige Sanni, said when she was acting VC, she paid members hazard allowance at a time when most universities were yet to start paying.

He said Prof Olatunji-Bello’s immediate priority should be how to facilitate payment of the earned allowance. He, however, urged her not to listen to fifth columnists, but be impartial and vigilant in diligently carrying out her duty.

The Students Union President, LASU, Badmus Oladipupo, charged the new VC to focus on students’ welfare in terms of scholarship and support union activities on campus.

He also advised her to be open-minded and operate an open-door policy by carrying everybody along.
MEANWHILE, despite complaints of bias in the appointment of Olatunji-Bello, officials of the state government have clarified that her emergence was based purely on merit.

The officials disclosed that of the four persons shortlisted for the plum job, Olatunji-Bello emerged top.

The officials in separate interviews with The Guardian said the questions to ask is whether the new vice-chancellor is qualified for the position or not.

The sources, who pleaded anonymity, said the government was not interested in whoever emerged as VC, but only directed that candidates be given a level-playing field, irrespective of colour or gender.

The Guardian learnt that at the close of entries on September 3, 2021, there were six applicants and of the six, two were disqualified for not meeting the benchmark professorship of 10 years.

“Of the remaining four, Olatunji-Bello emerged top, while Prof Awofolu from Namibia, Prof Bakare and Prof Tijani, followed in that order and the governor chose based on merit,” the source said.

The official disclosed that despite initial opposition to the inclusion of medical fellowship holders, the selection committee agreed that they be allowed to apply, and the window was extended for two weeks to accommodate all the candidates.

“ Olatunji-Bello won by a very wide margin; the yardstick set-up by the committee was such that by the time she was going in for the walk-in interview, she was already in a comfortable lead,” a top official of the university stated.

On claims that the new VC is not from the state, a senior lectuer in the school said if LASU must be globally competitive, the institution must be placed on a global pedestal without sentiments, adding “to attract the best, you must open your arms to the best.

“We cannot get the best if we go on that trajectory; of being from Lagos or not, our duty is to put her on her toes to give us the best,” a member of the university community stated.

The appointment of a vice chancellor for LASU at the expiration of Prof Fagboun’s tenure had been a long-drawn battle. Twice the state government set up selection committees, and on the two occasions, was dissolved over allegations of bias and favouritism.

The official said: “The project started last year and the first process was cancelled by the visitor to the university, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, because due process was not followed. For instance, the committee said benchmark is 10 years as a professor, one of the applicants interviewed and shortlisted had eight years, and that person was recommended to the visitor as one of the top three candidates.

“A barrage of petitions came in where they gave facts and details and as visitor, the law allows the governor to step in at that point, and he did. After about eight weeks, the panel, led by Prof Bamitale Omole, came back with a far-reaching report that we should dissolve the council and let the process start all over with a new council, set up a proper visitation panel for LASU as the school is divided from the middle, while the registrar should recuse himself from the process. The governor decided to adopt the report and start the process afresh.”

The official dismissed claims of imposing Olatunji-Bello, saying it will be unfair to downplay the merit of her emergence by virtue of her marriage to a commissioner.

“Part of the reasons why Sanwo-Olu cancelled the first two reports was basically because of allegations of bias and favouritism. For those that chose not to apply when the opportunity to do so came up, they chose to close that door on themselves. If she is qualified, why are we raising issues?”