A big trouble seems to be brewing at the University of Lagos, Akoka as the local branch of the Academic Staff Union of Universities is set to collide with a group of Professors, led by Prof. Rufus Ayodeji Olowe, a former Chairman of the union, over the former’s declaration of the university’s Pro-Chancellor, Dr. Wale Babalakin, as a persona non grata.
The union will hold an emergency congress on July 15, 2020 to perfect plans to stop the meeting of the Governing Council summoned by the Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of Council, Dr. Wale Babalakin.
But Monday night, the group of professors rose from a crucial meeting and countered the union, saying it has no power to declare Babalakin a persona non grata.
Therefore, the Pro-Chancellor should feel free to come to the campus to hold his meeting.
But the union is not yielding any ground.
In a memo issued to members over the weekend, Dr. ‘Dele Ashiru, Chairman of UNILAG ASUU, summoned a “Special Emergency Congress” for 9am on Wednesday (tomorrow) at the foyer of the Council Chamber.
The sole agenda of the special congress is to discuss the vote of no confidence and declaration of persona non grata passed on Dr. Babalakin on March 11, 2020.
While urging members to be punctual, Ashiru assured them that “ALL COVID-19 protocol would be strictly adhered to,” adding: “A People United Can Never be Defeated.”
The union didn’t stop there.
It also took its case to the media, via a widely publicised press release, titled: :PENDENCY OF THE VOTE OF NO CONFIDENCE ON DR BOLANLE OLAWALE BABALAKIN.”
In the release signed by Dr. Ashiru, UNILAG ASUU declared: “The attention of our Union has been drawn to a surreptitious Council meeting summoned by Dr Bolanle Olawale Babalakin.
“Our Union wishes to remind members of the University community and the general public that the VOTE OF NO CONFIDENCE passed on Dr Wale Babalakin and his PERSONA NON GRATA status on account of the unfortunate cancellation of the University’s convocation ceremonies occasioned by him has not been vacated by the Congress of our great Union.
“Consequently, Dr Wale Babalakin should be advised to rethink his intention of entering the University of Lagos campus as his presence may rupture the long cherished peace and tranquillity on our campus.
“Our Union, therefore, respectfully call on the Honourable Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu, and the Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission (NUC), Prof. Abubakar Rasheed, to please rein in Dr Wale Babalakin. He should also be held squarely responsible for any breakdown of law and order which his presence on our campus may create. Meanwhile, all members of our great Union in the university have been fully mobilized and put on alert.”
However, in its own press statement issued on Monday night and signed by Prof. Olowe, the pro-Babalakin group of professors declared the union’s threat on the Pro-Chancellor a nullity.
It said the union’s action was “provocative, disrespectful and illogical”, adding that it “does not represent the collective will of the majority of academic staff and other stakeholders of the University of Lagos.”
“ASUU, as a union,” continued the Olowe-led group, “respects the rule of law, especially the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, which guarantees the free movement of all Nigerians within Nigeria. Thus, the purported threat on the movement of the Pro-Chancellor, Dr.Wale Babalakin, is not in line with the tradition and constitution of ASUU. ASUU, as a union, has formal procedural way of presenting its grievances; it always dialogues and follows due process.”
Insisting that majority of the university’s stakeholders-lecturers, non-teaching staff, general staff etc., were against the union’s combative stance against Babalakin, the group urged the Pro-Chancellor to feel free to come to the campus and perform his oversight function.
The group, which includes Prof. Yomi Akinyeye, Prof. Lai Olurode, Prof. N. Nwabueze and other senior academics, promised to prevail on all members of ASUU to follow the path of peace and dialogue in resolving the impasse in accord with the tradition and Constitution of ASUU in pursuing grievances with the university.
The statement by Olowe, titled: “RE: THREATS BY ASUU ON FREEDOM OF MOVEMENT OF COUNCIL CHAIRMAN, DR. WALE BABALAKIN,” said: “Our attention has been drawn to various publications in several newspapers by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (UNILAG Branch) restricting the movement on campus of Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of the Governing Council, Dr. Bolanle Olawale Babalakin OFR, SAN,. We want to state unequivocally that this provocative, disrespectful and illogical threat does not represent the collective will of the majority of academic staff and other stakeholders of the University of Lagos.
“ASUU, as a union, respects the rule of law especially the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which guaranteed the free movement of all Nigerians within Nigeria. Thus, the purported threat on the movement of the Pro-Chancellor, Dr.Wale Babalakin is not in line with the tradition and constitution of ASUU. ASUU, as a union has formal procedural way of presenting its grievances, always dialogues and follows due process.
“Dr. Babalakin, an illustrious alumnus of the University of Lagos, has, since his assumption of office as the Pro-Chancellor, been playing an outstanding role in its oversight functions in the conduct of the affairs of the University of Lagos. We, along with the majority of the stakeholders of the University, have full confidence in the leadership of the Dr. Wale Babalakin-led Council. We also dissociate ourselves from any act or action capable of obstructing the oversight function of the Dr. Wale Babalakin-led Council.
“We, therefore, want to assure Dr. Babalakin and any other Nigerian citizen of their free movement within the University of Lagos and any other part of Nigeria. It is possible that there could be conflict between ASUU and the University, we will talk to our members to follow the tradition and Constitution of ASUU in pursuing grievances with the University.”