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Wale Babalakin: The pitiable angle

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Wale Babalakin

It is with great relief that one read the news about the resignation and exit of Wale Babalakin from his position as the Pro-Chancellor of the University of Lagos.

The birds on the sky of Akoka are chanting “Hallelujah while the trees in the garden of various faculties lurch left and right in a chorus that signifies the dancing steps of the Church choir. The minarets are clapping as they are elated for witnessing “good riddance” the University of Lagos has never had it “so bad” for It has been smeared, its brand name had been de- marketed and its tall towers have been painted black due to a storm in the teacup.

Indeed, the tenure of the council headed by Wale Babalakin seemed to have given no iota of benefit to the great institution as its activities were full of tension, toxicity, and confusion with a constant battering of the good image of the school as if there are no positive assignments to embark upon during the period. Babalakin’s resignation was followed by Adaralegbe’s expected exit and Dr. Dagiri’s “childish” letter to the Minister. The communication of these men to the world after their exit reconfirmed the belief that they are dogmatic, unrepentant, and arrogant. They see the color of light from their own lens alone. One of their mistakes is that they hold onto the erroneous belief that they know the Bible more than the pope and the Quran more than the Khalifa. That is ab-initio their undoing. Before the intervention of the proprietor of the university, well-meaning Nigerians who dared to intervene had been insulted, called names, and even ignored. Whereas their ignorance about university regulation and the procedure was clear and palpable yet they chose to ignore voices of wisdom and reasoning.

As pointed out in my article in the Guardian Newspaper of July 4, 2019, titled “University of Lagos, smeared but not sinking”, the chicken has come home to roost. Like a seer behind a crystal ball, the content of the article predicted today’s inglorious exit of the Council and his helmsman. Whereas Babalakin, the main character in this historic play might think he has lost nothing, after all, he is a billionaire but not wise, everything is lost. I don’t know how many universities in and out of this country will consider him, for such a position without reference to his antecedent. The President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in his capacity as the Visitor has taken a firm and decisive stand on the battle that had been raging like wildfire at the University of Lagos. You don’t need to crystal gaze to know that the Pro-Chancellor Wale Babalakin will not survive the war judging by his inexperience in handling the affairs of one of the foremost universities in Africa. His attitude and general mien to university governance remind me of the proverbial man who caught a man right in his bedroom sleeping with his wife. He was so enraged that he held the man firmly by his jugular beckoning to the whole community to observe the shame of a greedy womanizer who has the audacity to probe the privacy of another man’s home. The entire town gathered slapping, kicking, and mocking the intruder with some shouting “Straight to the King’s palace. We must crucify him”. They dragged the offender through the whole town to the Palace where he was sanctioned for infidelity.

After the crowd dispersed, the King invited the somewhat victorious husband to the inner recess of his palace and said to him “My dear son, I have never seen a man so naïve and gullible like you. A problem you should have resolved within the confines of your home will from tomorrow become a subject of ridicule and shame in town due to your indiscretion. Don’t you know that you have rechristened yourself and your families as you are likely to be seen from today from the perspective of the incident as henceforth, you will be described by people in this town as the husband of the promiscuous woman”. It is indeed most disheartening that Wale Babalakin was unlucky to have found himself in the midst of some advisers in the university who are generally not known for construction.

Unfortunately, he fell headlong into the trap ignoring wise counsel thinking that he was exposing corruption whereas, if he had taken the pain to understand the process he would have known that it is not probable for the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Lagos to brazenly deep his hands into the cookie jar, the way he has perceived it. In a system where the committee system is so strong that even a “crook” is conscious of the complexity of the accounting process, it may not be easy to swallow the meat with its bone. We are sure that good lessons have come from the year-long controversy. Humility, reasonableness, and wisdom should always accompany leadership. One is indeed happy with the leadership of the University of Lagos, particularly the Senate and the Academic Staff Union for upholding the tradition and culture which have made it a great citadel of learning. Nobody holds it all in terms of knowledge for it could always be better but one thing stands out for UNILAG, its leadership weathers the storm when it is necessary.

Prof Ojikutu wrote from the Faculty of Management Sciences, University of Lagos.


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