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UNILAG VC: Who the cap fits most

By Joseph Onyekwere
06 October 2022   |   3:34 am
Pursuant to the provisions of the Universities (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1993 as amended in 2003 and 2012 respectively, the Governing Council of the University of Lagos in May 2022 notified...


Pursuant to the provisions of the Universities (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1993 as amended in 2003 and 2012 respectively, the Governing Council of the University of Lagos in May 2022 notified the academic community and general public both within and outside Nigeria that it has commenced the process of appointing a Vice-Chancellor. Applications were invited from interested and suitably qualified candidates for the position.

Consequently, about eight candidates applied for the top job in the citadel of learning, upon which seven were listed for interview and appointment. Barring any unforeseen occurrence, the Council will announce the successful candidate on Friday October 7, 2022. The contenders are Professors Imran Oluwole Smith (SAN), Adedotun Adeyinka Adekunle, Folashade Tolulope Ogunsola, Timothy Gbenga Nubi, Abayomi Olajumpo Akinyeye, Mathew Olusoji Ilori and Rufus Ayo Olowe.

According to the Council, eligible candidate for the post must be an exemplary scholar with good quantum of publications in highly rated journals; a person with demonstrable capacity for original thinking and creativity; a professor for at least 10 years, and not more than 65 years old on November 11, 2022 as well as a person with astute managerial ability who can maintain the peace and academic stability for which the University is reputed.

Other conditions are that the fellow must be a scholar of outstanding national and international repute, with proficiency in Information Communication Technology (ICT) and considerable experience at top levels of University Administration; a person with a track record of teaching, research and community service; a person with entrepreneurial and innovative abilities with the capacity to create wealth for the sustainability of the University’s future in line with its vision and mission; a person endowed with strong character and ability to give courageous and effective leadership and with a clear vision for the development of the University in realisation of its mission to refocus research and innovation, infrastructural development and human resource allocation as expressed in the University Strategic Plan.

Besides all those, the successful candidate must be able to foster regional and international partnerships, including securing opportunities with the local and International business community for the achievement of the University’s strategic goal. The fellow must also be a person capable of inspiring the advancement of learning while reaching out to all persons without discrimination in any form, and must be of sound mental and physical health, pleasant disposition, unassailable integrity and strong moral character capable of inspiring and maintaining moral discipline among staff and students.

In my view, the Council will have an uphill task selecting the successful candidate, owing to the array of scholars in the list. They are all qualified to head the Institution, having been in the system long enough to understand its need. However, of all the contenders, Prof. Smith stands out. Apart from meeting up with the criteria for appointment, he surpassed the benchmark with remarkable difference. Prof Smith has the interpersonal skills that a University community requires to manage a complex environment, proffer solutions and tackle them with steel courage.

Born on June 19, 1958 in Lagos, young Smith, after his primary and secondary schooling in Lagos, was offered admission into the University of Lagos to read law in 1979. He graduated in 1982 with LL.B. (Hons.) 2nd Class.

Hungry for more academic laurels, in 1984 he returned to the University of Lagos for his Masters, just a year after he completed his professional studies at the Nigerian Law School between 1982 and 1983. He was rewarded for his industry with a LL.M. of the University of Lagos in 1985. The following year, he was employed by the Lagos State University (LASU), Ojo as lecturer grade 11, where he rose by dint of hardwork to senior lecturer from 1993 to 1999.

While in LASU, he taught both undergraduate and postgraduate courses such as Philosophy of Law, Nigerian Legal System, Land law, Law of Conveyancing, Equity and Trust, Law of Secured Credit and International Environmental law. Like the saying goes, golden fish has no hiding place, as UNILAG poached him. LASU’s loss became UNILAG’s gain. At UNILAG, he upped his game and was soon after rewarded with an appointment as professor of law in October, 2003 and his inaugural lecture delivered in 2008 on “Sidelining orthodoxy in quest for reality: Towards an Efficient Legal Regime of Land Tenure in Nigeria.”

Avid reader, author and researcher, Prof Smith further attended the National University of Ireland in 2019, where he bagged his Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D) in 2021, notwithstanding that he had already attained the height of professional and academic feats. Endeared to studies, he also attended Oxford City Academy, Oxford, United Kingdom in 2018 and Hague Academy of International Law, Netherlands (1989) for other courses.

He has a horde of publications, which are over 100, including the locus classicus in land law, titled: “Practical Approach to Law of Real Property in Nigeria, 2013 (Revised Edition), which is currently the darling of law faculties in Nigeria. On my first encounter with this great administrator, he autographed the book immediately after we spoke and instructed that the copy be made available to me. And he did. He is indeed scholarly and generous. Apart from his written works, he has edited books, journals and law reports.

Prof has plenty of national and international exposure, which is one of the key attributes of a good administrator, having also held many positions of responsibility in the University of Lagos, Including being a Member, University of Lagos Senate (2003-date). He trained and obtained certificates in University governance and administration from the Oxford City Academy, United Kingdom (2018). For his outstanding performance in legal research and pedagogy, he was conferred with the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria in 2010 by the Legal Practitioner’s Privileges Committee (LPPC). He is solicitor of the Supreme Court of England and Wales; Barrister and Solicitor of the Supreme Court of Nigeria; Fellow, Chartered Institute of Taxation of Nigeria, since 2008; Fellow, Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, United Kingdom; member, Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria (BOSAN). Since 2008 till date, he is a Professorial Research Associate, School of Oriental & African Studies, University of London, UK. Prior to this, Prof Smith was a researcher at the International Development Research Centre, Canada from 1989 to 1992.

In my view, if merit, experience, skill, qualifications, integrity, character, vision, creativity, commitment and honesty are the determinants for a vice chancellor of no less a University than the UNILAG, the Akokites deserve Prof Smith. And to his head the cap perfectly fits.