By Mikail Mumuni
Professor Niyi Akinnaso’s article, ‘UNILAG: The Joy of Victory and the Agony of Defeat’, published in The Nation of Wednesday, November 18, is full of inaccuracies, deliberate misinformation and contempt for facts.
Reading through that article in relation to two previous ones by him, also about happenings at the University of Lagos, UNILAG, one might be tempted to ask if the retired professor of anthropology and linguistics has regard for facts from the past, including those recorded by him.
In his article of November 18, Akinnaso, writing on how Dr. Wale Babalakin, SAN, the erstwhile chairman of UNILAG Governing Council, allegedly treated Professor Oluwatoyin Ogundipe, the vice chancellor, stated that “Babalakin’s attitude to, and treatment of, the VC attracted the attention of the university community and beyond. Various individuals and groups, including former and serving VCs and pro-chancellors, appealed to Babalakin, but to no avail. Matters seemed to have come to a head with the postponement of the UNILAG convocation in March this year, which Babalakin engineered. It was later alleged that the convocation date conflicted with a personal engagement he had outside the country.”
Yet, here was the same Niyi Akinnaso, who in his article of April 1, titled “Clarifications on the Postponement of UNILAG Convocation” said, “Since my last article on the postponement of the 51st convocation of the University of Lagos, (UNILAG Convocation: Between Council and Management, The Nation, March 25), some important clarifications have emerged. First, it was not the pro chancellor and chairman of council, Dr. Wale Babalakin, per se, who ordered the postponement of the event. Rather, it was the National Universities Commission, NUC, on the order of the Minister of Education. However, it cannot be denied that the action was in reaction to the complaint lodged by the council chairman on the lack of sufficient information to council about the convocation.”
If the professor had seven months ago come to the realization that Ogundipe was planning a convocation ceremony and deliberately kept the council, headed by Babalakin in the dark, should he, Niyi Akinnaso, today still blame the Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, for the fate that befell that proposed event, more so as he clearly located the authorities responsible for the cancellation?
Put another way, what would Niyi Akinnaso have done if he was in Babalakin’s shoes? Would he rather than lodge a complaint, simply put on his academic gown and lead the precession to the convocation ground, even when he as the pro chancellor, only read the content of the program on the pages of newspapers?
His comment that “It was later alleged that the convocation date conflicted with a personal engagement he had outside the country” also has a tinge of mischief, as it left the substance of why the convocation was put off to chase shadows.
It is a source for concern that this is coming from the same Akinnaso, who had told his readers in his “Clarifications on the postponement of UNILAG convocation” that “It is now apparent from the timeline of events that, for a full week during advance preparations for the convocation, the vice chancellor, Professor Toyin Ogundipe, acted without recourse to council or its chairman, especially between February 24, when invitation letters were sent out, and March 2, when he responded in writing to the chairman’s memo of February 28 in which the chairman outlined his misgivings about the preparations for the convocation, particularly the lack of necessary information to council about the recipients of honorary degrees, the convocation programme, and the invitation to participants, all of which were already public knowledge.
“It stands to reason that the chairman should never have learned about this information from the pages of newspapers. It would appear that the VC sat on the chairman’s memo over the weekend and only wrote a response on March 2, the same day he (VC) held a press conference announcing the convocation details to the world.”
Professor Akinnaso in his most recent article took exception to “the zealotry with which Babalakin went after Ogundipe,” but seven months ago, he had said that “Furthermore, other issues were raised at the 3-day special meeting of council, some focusing on the finances of the university. In particular, the council was miffed by the discovery of a large pot of money that was never brought to its attention. The funds included grants from TETFund and money kept for capital projects from funds generated by arms of the university, including the Post Graduate School and the Distance Learning Institute.”
Since when has it become an offence for a university governing council chairman to lead his team to insist on probity and accountability and what has suddenly happened to make Niyi Akinnaso lower the moral compass he held so high previously? Could it be that he feels an Ogundipe restored back to office by the federal government, despite the weighty allegations of corruption against him, needed now to be courted rather than told that his reinstatement was inappropriate and a serious setback for the education system? Did we not read the comment of the special visitation chairman, Professor Hamman Tukur Saad, that clearly stated that relying on the report was wrong and that it was an endorsement of wrongdoing by the Federal Ministry of Education?
Niyi Akinnaso said in his “UNILAG: The joy of victory and the agony of defeat” that “I called Babalakin before my first article on the postponement (see UNILAG convocation: Hanging between Council and Management, The Nation, March 25); but I could not reach him. I later learned he was out of the country. As soon as I learned that he had returned, I called again to have his perspective on the same matter before writing my second article (Clarifications on the postponement of UNILAG convocation, The Nation, April 1). He picked my call and spent most of the time harassing me over the earlier article and threatening to sue me if I wrote nonsense.”
Was it the threat of being sued that prevented him from writing “nonsense” in his “Clarifications on the postponement of UNILAG convocation” or he was truly convinced that he erred seriously in his “UNILAG Convocation: Between Council and Management” or something else that he is unwilling to tell the public?
*Mumuni is Media Adviser to Dr. Babalakin, SAN.