Since the announcement of the removal of Professor Oluwatoyin Ogundipe as Vice Chancellor of the University of Lagos by the Governing Council led by Dr Wale Babalakin few days ago, different reactions have continued to trail the announcement. Our checks reveal that the removal communicated by the Registrar and Secretary to the Council, Mr Azeez Oladejo has led to the emergence of academic and non-academic unions’ insistence on the recognition of Professor Ogundipe as the substantive Vice Chancellor of the institution.
From meetings to the media, Unions in the institution believe that the removal was illegal and that the Governing Council should be dissolved by the Federal Government. As the debates on whether the Council has legal instrument to remove the Vice Chancellor or not rage on, historical retrospect analysis conducted by our analyst indicates that this is not the first time that Vice Chancellor and Governing Council face-off happened in the institution.
Tim Livsey, a lecturer at the Department of African History, University of Oxford. In his book titled “Nigeria’s University Age: Reframing Decolonisation and Development”, the University Don documented how the appointment of Professor Eni Njoku by Aja Nwachukwu [Federal Minister of Education], an Igbo, was not accepted by the leading Yoruba politicians. When Richard Akinjide, a Yoruba, emerged as the new Minister of Education, information has it that the Governing Council refused to renew Professor Njoku’s appointment and Professor Saburi Biobaku (1918-2001), a renowned historian and an Egba man from Igbore, Abeokuta, present day, Ogun State was appointed as Vice Chancellor.
This development nearly led to the death of Professor Saburi Biobaku, when “a radical student activist, identified as Kayode Adams, surged forward from the crowd [during a public engagement with the University Community by Professor Biobaku] and stabbed the Vice Chancellor at the back, ostensibly in protest against Njoku’s removal.” Now, it appears that the history is repeating itself.
As the groups and individuals continue expressing their views on the matter, this piece takes a look at what the law says and what people and entities has said about the issue on digital sphere. Our analyst specifically examines ongoing conversation on the face-off within the Nigerian Twitter Community in relation to the public interest in understanding actors through information seeking using the Internet.
Examining the genesis of the crisis, our analyst discovered that the face-off became public knowledge in February, 2020 within the frame of what could be described as ‘early warning’ to other stakeholders [see Exhibit 1]. Further checks reveal that there were no proactive steps by the concerned stakeholders to resolve the crisis during the month. The inability to resolve the matter in February, 2020, according to our analyst led to the announcement of the University’s Pro-Chancellor, Dr Wale Babalakin as persona non-grata by Staff Unions in the University.
Exhibit 1: Trends of the Crisis
UNIVERSITIES (MISCELLANEOUS PROVISIONS) ACT
This Act [which has been subsequently amended by the Universities (Miscellaneous Provisions)(Amendment) Act 2003 and Universities (Miscellaneous Provisions)(Amendment) Act, 2012) was designed to reconstitute the Councils of all Federal Universities and among other things, to set out a uniform procedure for the appointment of Vice-chancellors, and other Principal Officers.
Powers of the Council
The powers of the Council shall be exercised, as in the Law and Statutes of each University and to that extent establishment circulars that are inconsistent with the Laws and Statutes of the University shall not apply to the Universities.
Independence of the Council in exercise of its functions
(1) The Governing Council of a university shall be free in the discharge of its functions and exercise of its responsibilities for the good management, growth and development of the university.
(2) The Council of a university in the discharge of its functions shall ensure that disbursement of funds of the University complies with the approved budgetary, ratio for-
(a) Personnel cost:
(b) Overhead cost;
(c) Research and development;
(d) Library developments; and
(e) the balance in expenditure between academic vis-a-vis non-academic activities 11.
Vice-Chancellor of a University.
(1) There shall be a Vice-Chancellor of a University (in this Act referred to as “the Vice-Chancellor”) who shall be appointed by the Governing Council” in accordance with the provisions of this section.
(2) Where a vacancy occurs in the post of a Vice-chancellor, the Council shall-
(a) Advertise the vacancy in a reputable journal or a widely read newspaper in Nigeria, specifying-
(i) The qualities of the persons who may apply for the post, and
(ii) The terms and conditions of service applicable to the post, and thereafter draw up a short list of suitable candidates for the post for consideration;
(b) Constitute a Search Team consisting of-
(i) A member of the Council, who is not a member of the Senate, as chairman;
(ii) Two members of the Senate who are not members of the Council, one of whom shall be a professor;
(iii) Two members of Congregation who are not members of the Council, one of whom shall be a professor, to identify and nominate for consideration, suitable persons who are not likely to apply for the post on their own volition because they feel that it is not proper to do so.
(3) A Joint Council and Senate selection Board consisting of –
(a) The pro-Chancellor, as chairman;
(b) Two members of the Council, not being members of the Senate;
(c) Two members of the Senate who are professors, but who were not members of the Search Team, shall consider the candidates and persons on the short list drawn up under subsection (2) of this section through an examination of their curriculum vitae and interaction with them, and recommend to the Council suitable candidates for further consideration.
(4) The Council shall select and appoint as the Vice-Chancellor one candidate from among the three candidates recommended to it under subsection (3) of this section and thereafter inform the Visitor,”
(5) The President may appoint as Vice-chancellor, any one of the candidates recommended to him in accordance with the provisions of subsection (4) of this section.
(6) The Vice-Chancellor shall hold office for a single term of five years only on such terms and conditions as may be specified in his letter of appointment.
(7) For the avoidance of doubt the provisions of subsection (6) of this section shall –
(a) Only be applicable to those appointed to the office of Vice-chancellor after the commencement of this Act;
(b) Not confer on a person serving a first term of office as Vice-chancellor before the commencement of this Act, any right to renewal of the appointment for a further term of four years
(8) The Vice-Chancellor may be removed from office by the Governing Council on grounds of gross misconduct or inability to discharge the functions of his office as a result of infirmity of the body or mind, at the initiative of the Council, Senate or the Congregation after due process”.
(9) When the proposal for the removal of the Vice-Chancellor is made, the Council shall constitute a joint committee of Council and Senate consisting of-
(i) Three members of the Council one of whom shall be the Chairman of the committee,
(ii) Two members of the Senate, provided that where the ground for removal is infirmity of the body or mind, the Council shall seek appropriate medical opinion.
(10) The Committee shall conduct investigation into the allegations made against the Vice-Chancellor and shall report its findings to the Council.
(11) The Council may where the allegations are proved remove the Vice Chancellor or apply any other disciplinary action it may deem fit and notify the Visitor accordingly provided that a Vice- Chancellor who is removed shall have right of appeal to the Visitor.
(12) There shall be no sole administration in any Nigerian University.
(13) In any case of a vacancy in the office of the Vice- Chancellor, the Council shall appoint an acting Vice-Chancellor on recommendation of the Senate.
(14) An acting Vice-Chancellor in all circumstances shall not be in office for more than 6 months”.
From the above sections and provisions, it is clear that the Governing Council has the right to appoint a Vice Chancellor, subjected to the Visitor approval. It is also obvious that the Council has the legal right of removing Vice Chancellor when he or she was found guilty of wrongdoings. We can well see that Vice Chancellor can appeal to the Visitor.
The Data: Complication in Actors and Actors in Complicated Discourse
From the staff of the University, their declaration of Dr Wale Babalakin as non-persona grata remains a struggle against “arbitrariness, tyranny and unbridled dictatorship” and that there is a need to reinstate Professor Ogundipe as Vice Chancellor of the University.
As the staff continue supporting Professor Ogundipe, Nigerians in the Twitter Community are also expressing their feelings about the removal and the possible implications for the University. Between 6pm on August 12, 2020 and 2pm on August 13, 2020, our analyst discovered that Nigerians discussed the matter with the specific reference to the Governing Council and the University’s Registrar. Purported and illegality were the two words predominantly employed by the members of the Community [Twitter].
Starting from the first user, who tweeted at 6:51 on August 12, 2020 and the last user, who tweeted at 2:34 on August 13, 2020, insistence and remove frames permeated the Community along with purported and illegality topics of the discourse. With this, our analyst describes the simultaneous emergence of the topics as complicated discourse. This is premised on the fact that the users were found to use the topics to explicate who should be blamed and who should be praised among the two primary actors [Professor Ogundipe and Dr Babalakin].
The complicated discourse becomes more useful in understanding the actors, when analysis reveals that the discourse connected with the public interest in the actors by same percent [the discourse led to same 64.3% connection]. Surprisingly, analysis shows that the discourse had 66.7% linkage with public interest in knowing more about the Governing Council.
Analysis further shows that one percent of public interest in Professor Ogundipe increased information seeking about Dr Babalakin by 23.1%, while a percent interest in Dr Babalakin increased the need to seek information about the Governing Council by 18.7%. This is quite different from what we found for Professor Ogundipe. One percent interest in Professor Ogundipe only increased public’s need of seeking information about the Governing Council by 12.5% [see Exhibit 2].
Exhibit 2: Nexus among the Actors
- University of Lagos’ dated August 12, 2020 and signed by Oladejo Azeez, Esq, Registrar and Secretary to Council, stating that the Vice Chancellor, Professor Oluwatoyin T. Ogundipe, FAS has been removed from office with immediate effect. The purported removal is an illegality. [Insistence]
- Professor Oluwatoyin Temitope Ogundipe remains the Vice-Chancellor of University of Lagos. Thank you. Signed Professor Oluwatoyin T. Ogundipe, FAS Vice Chancellor, University of Lagos. [Insistence]
- EdugistNG: This decision was based on the Council’s investigation of serious acts of wrongdoing, gross misconduct, financial recklessness and abuse of office against Professor Oluwatoyin T. Ogundipe, FAS. https://t.co/IgjSMSJ7hO [Remove]
Exhibit 3: Dominant Words in the Community