By Rukayat Adeyemi
The 39-year-old Lagos State University (LASU), Ojo, known for crises, agitations, protests and cultism has in the last three years maintained a peaceful era marked by uninterrupted academic calendar to the surprise of stakeholders, Lagos residents and Nigerians generally.
The journey into the new dawn and era of massive infrastructure turnaround, academic exploits and staff development began when the current Vice-Chancellor (V-C), Prof. Olanrewaju Fagbohun was appointed.
The Lagos State Governor, Mr Akinwunmi Ambode, had appointed Fagbohun as LASU’s 8th substantive Vice-Chancellor on Jan. 6, 2016, following the expiration of the tenure of the former, Prof. John Obafunwa.
Fagbohun was inaugurated on Jan. 11, 2016 and assumed office the same day.
The professor of Environmental Law, was until his appointment, Director of Research at the Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, University of Lagos.
His appointment also followed the governor’s approval of a five -year single-term tenure for the vice-chancellor of the state-owned citadel of learning.
Fagbohun stepped into the institution at a period when crisis was the order of the day, following a rift between the former vice-chancellor, (Academic) and non-academic staff and also the students unions.
The height of the crisis then, was the demand for a reversal in hike in tuition during the administration of former Gov. Babatunde Fashola and the “No Vacancy, No Promotion Policy’’ adopted by the former VC.
On assumption of duty, Fagbohun preached forgiveness and promised to rebrand the institution and transform it to meet world class standard through all inclusive governance.
His promises began to manifest within six months into his administration when the bad roads in the university which the previous administration had said could not be repaired due to ongoing construction and presence of heavy duty vehicles in the institution were rehabilitated.
The no vacancy, no promotion policy was also lifted and staff began to enjoy their promotion when due, while the Fashola’s administration before handing over reversed the increased tuition from about N195,000 to N25,000.
Also, the clearance of backlog of certificates of graduates of the LASU External System (LASUES) and winding up of LASUES which was replaced with the Open and Distance Learning Research Institute (ODLRI).
All satellite campuses within the state were also scrapped and the programmes relocated to the main campus.
The current administration had since continued to enjoy the goodwill and support of the staff and students unions which has culminated in the peace and progress enjoyed currently.
However, there are lingering issues between the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), LASU chapter and the current management which were still unresolved.
The loggerhead between ASUU -LASU and the management erupted following the dismissal of the union’s erstwhile Chairman and his deputy in September 2017 over an alleged misconduct.
Mr Saheed Oseni, Chairman, Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU), LASU chapter, said the university in the last three years under the current vice-chancellor had witnessed tremendous improvement in staff welfare, academic and infrastructure development and redemption of the institution’s image.
“The VC has demonstrated unequalled administrative and technical leadership skills in the running of the university.
“As a matter of fact, he has performed and achieved this because of his ability to carry everyone along and give premium to staff and students welfare coupled with much attention to academic and infrastructure development, accessibility and a listening ear,’’ he said.
Oseni noted that Fagbohun could still do better to improve the present lot of the institution by facilitating more residential quarters for staff, renovation of the existing ones, construction of student hostels, befitting and well equipped sports center and laboratories.
He listed also adequate staff buses, well-furnished office accommodation regular career training programmes and a holistic review of contentious cases with a view to addressing each on its merit to calm all frayed nerves.
Dr Tony Dansu, Secretary, ASUU-LASU, said there were several issues he considered detrimental to the progress of the university, but to the great credit of its members, the union continued to contribute to its growth in spite of the situation.
“The current administration is three years old. Mathematically, it has 40 percent of its lifespan left.
“Our union has continued to be under harassment and threats, for its insistence on due process and transparency.
“The secretary, Treasurer and Assistant Secretary were to be dismissed late last year, but for the decision to approach the courts and that would have made it five executive members dismissed within one year.
“Attempts are ongoing right now to use the office of the Vice-Chancellor to illegally hijack the leadership of our union and its accounts,’’ he alleged.
Dansu lamented that it was 10 years since ASUU and the Federal Government signed the agreement that gave birth to the Earned Academic Allowances (EAA) and LASU had not paid its lecturers and efforts to engage the university administration continues to meet resistances.
“There are many more issues that we may not be able to identify immediately and we believe that it is in the interest of the university that they be addressed.
“No system can thrive on injustice, victimisation and arbitrariness. There must be compliance with the rule of law at all times, when it is convenient for those in power and when it is not.
“ASUU-LASU hopes that the vice-chancellor, for the sake of legacy and the peace of the university, will realise the futility of trying to destroy the union for its insistence that things be done right,’’ he said.
According to him, it is only when all stakeholders work together in openness and sincerity that meaningful progress can take place.
Mr Albert Agosu, Chairman, Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions (NASU), LASU Chapter, scored the current vice-chancellor 70 per cent pass mark and noted that he had tried.
“To the best of my knowledge he has tried, it is not as if we have got everything we want but we are all human beings and anybody that can score 70 as pass mark, I think has done well.
Agosu urged Fagbohun to continue in the way he had chosen and not listen to sycophants in the system because there are such people in every system.
“Everybody is entitled to his or her opinion and we are not saying that the vice-chancellor is a perfect being but he has a very good listening ear and so, it is the way one approaches issues with him that matters.
“I think some of the people who are saying that the current peace we are enjoying in the university is that of a graveyard, if they could find a way to address their issues, they will not see things the way they are seeing it now,’’ he said.
Agosu advised the VC to be focused and continue in the way he was doing and prayed God sees him through in the remaining two years of his administration.
The university’s Spokesman, Mr Ademola Adekoya, while congratulating the vice-chancellor, said Fagbohun with the support of the state government had been able to record numerous achievements by adopting the all-inclusive governance style.
Adekoya listed the major achievements of the university’s current administration as restoration of peace and tranquility, emergence of LASU as an Africa Centre of Excellence recently, massive rehabilitation and repair of bad roads leading to a befitting road network and the light-up LASU project.
Also, the constitution of 32 university committees made up of academic, non-academics and students to see to the running of the institution’s affairs and respect for the rule of law.
He named also the establishment of LASU Directorate of Advancement (LASUDA), Research Management & Innovation, Quality Assurance Unit, various Certificate Programmes in Entrepreneurial Studies, resuscitation of LASU (JUPEB) Programme, establishment of LASU International School (LASUIS), securing NUC approval for LASU ODLRI academic programmes, among others.
Also, the introduction of a monthly breakfast programme between management and students union executives, robust and regular staff and management meetings, good welfare packages, seamless promotion of teaching and non-teaching staff and sponsorship of more students for competitions.
He added that the administration had provided adequate security that culminated in the peaceful academic environment and stable academic calendar.
Adekoya said that about 17 Inaugural Lectures had been held between 2016 and now and that two successful Distinguished Lecture Series had been held.
The institution’s spokesman said the progress witnessed also attracted donations from well-meaning Nigerians such as the 500 seat capacity lecture theatre recently donated by Aderemi Makanjuola, Chairman, Caverton Group.
A new ICT Centre was donated by Providus, and sports equipment by the Lagos State Ministry of Sports among others.
According to him, the vice-chancellor also introduced the LASU Excellence Award, Long Service Award and the slogan “We are LASU, We are Proud’’ that has been widely adopted by its stakeholders.
In spite of the remarkable achievements, successes, peace and progress achieved by the current administration, problems bothering on residential and office accommodation for staff and students hostel need to be looked into and addressed.
There is also need to renovate the Sports Centre and construct a befitting one and improve on facilities at the University’s Health Centre.
Analysts have scored the current university management 70 per cent but it must not rest on its oars in order to attain and maintain global standard.