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UNILAG at 55: What cheers!

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UNILAG

“Wherefore rejoice? What conquest brings him home? What tributaries follow him to Rome” an unimpressed Mark Anthony rails on his audience in Shakespeare’s “Julius Ceaser.”

So do I, at the celebrants in UNILAG at 55. When I was at UNILAG between 1975 and 1977, light and water did not fail residents.

Can the celebrants of UNILAG at 55 say light and safe quality water runs all day at UNILAG today? Has the university expanded beyond the founding Departments of Law, Social Science, Environmental Science, Engineering, Education and Arts? When will the university add Departments of Aquaculture, Food and Crop Production to its menu as Lagos was in olden times city of fishermen and farmers?

I cannot celebrate if news does not come to me that bed-bugs no longer feast on students’ blood at UNILAG. Are the hostels routinely cleaned and made safe to students’ health? Have new beds and mattresses been bought and installed in the halls of residence? What new buildings have been constructed in the past years beyond those already in the quadrangle of the fore-court and the students’ hostels by the main gate?

The library is the soul of the university. Are there new acquisitions and e-libraries? Is the bookshop fully stocked with new books and journals? A university lecturer not only publishes to be damned, he has a burden to write, teach, publish and publish!

Where is the University of Lagos Law Series and its counterpart in the History Department? Is there any follow-up to Professor Ayodele Awojobi’s ‘reversible’ automobile or a follow-up to Professor Chike Obi’s Fermatt’s Last Theorem? Who are the poets-in-residence replacing our own ‘W.S’ and ‘J.P.?’

The University of Lagos can only celebrate if it has broken the ogre of ‘NO NEPA’ by, for instance, installing barges on the lagoon right in front of its estate to generate electricity, or quicken researches, (possibly with German counter-parts) for the production and installation of affordable solar panels for generating electricity for its immediate needs and transferring the remainder to its host community.

Pray of what use is celebration and the cutting of a birthday cake where honor has fled to ‘brutish beasts’ in the bickerings to mount the Vice–Chancellorship in the 55 years of its existence? When will the cut-throat rivalry of “The Naked Gods” cease? In my days at UNILAG, the University Health Centre had among its staff, a cadre of expatriate staff, including, I remember clearly, one Dr. Velandria.

The menu at the facility included vintage fruits and fresh sardine and salmon in soup. Drugs were available and free. Is this still so? And what about housing and transport needs of staff and students? To what extent are these provided for in the annual budgetary allocation to UNILAG?

In my days, foreign students from other African Countries, particularly, the Camerouns, the Gambia, South Africa had UNILAG as a ‘first choice’.

Mrs. Lucy Ayuk Asuagbor, a Cameroonian and my class-mate, was the first student of the Faculty of Law to bag a first class in the June, 1977 Bar Finals.

Professor Akin Oyebode of the Law Faculty once lamented in a National Daily newspaper the absence of under-graduates from other African Countries in the Law Faculty in ensuing years. Are the celebrants of UNILAG @ 55 willing to enquire where the under-graduates have gone? UNILAG is, today, a shell of a universality long gone by.

Is UNILAG pulling up or sourcing endowments from public and private bodies for its Departments? There are some hundreds of persons, sitting on stupendous wealth in oil blocs in this country. They should be invited, to subscribe to endowments to the university. Are there published accounts on its efforts?

In social circles on campus, life was vibrant and exciting with play-wrights like Late Bode Osanyin on campus and the University consistently hosting the NUGA Games. Celebrants should ask what happened to the publication of the Lagoon Echo and its celebrated columnists.

Where are they? What happened to the paper that once sold for… wait for it…30 kobo! To the philosopher, Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Free should the scholar be, free and brave, free even to the definition of freedom, without any hindrance that does not arise out of his own condition.” –

Emerson, Essays, The American Scholar. To what extent is academic freedom permitted in teaching, research and publication in UNILAG without constraints?

All in all, at 55, UNILAG has made strides in manpower development, producing over the years, graduands including the former Deputy Governor of Delta State, Professor Amos U. Utuama; former minister of External Affairs, Odein Ajumogobia; former Attorney-General of the Federation, Chief Bayo Ojo; the pro-Chancellor, Dr. Wale Babalakin (SAN) and not the least, the Vice-President Professor Yemi Osinbajo.

In conclusion, Comrades Ahoy! Great Akokites, Aluta Continua!
Victory is assured! We will win!
Apampa, a legal practitioner, wrote from Lagos.


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