UNILAG: Two Years After Professor Sofoluwę
The late Vice-Chancellor of the University of Lagos Prof. Adetokunbo Sofoluwe, was an outstanding scholar, and an astute administrator. This article will be an overview of things there since his demise and also look into the immediate future of the University.
The university system is an organized place. When it happened, there were two Deputy Vice-Chancellors on ground. With Deacon Gamaliel Onosode as Chairman of Council then, within days an acting Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Rahamon Bello, Deputy Vice-Chancellor Management Services was appointed. Prof. Bello thereafter led the organization for a befitting burial for the distinguished professor of computer sciences-Tokubo Sofoluwe.
It was in the mist of this mourning period, when the university had started the series of events earlier slated to mark its 50th Anniversary that the change of name of the university to Moshood Abiola University (MAUL) was announced. It was immediately resented by the students, the Alumni Association, and some columnists. On 4th June 2012, in the Punch, I captioned my dismay: 'An Incomprehensible Decision Taken at a Wrong Time'. I based my comments on the fact that The University of Lagos was in a mourning mood as the body of its Vice-Chancellor-most loved Tokunbo alias Tokulus Toks was still in the morgue. Other writers including eminent Lawyer Afe Babalola (SAN) and Eminent Scholars like Prof. Ade Ajayi and Prof. Akinjide Oshuntokun equally sounded same song of disbelieve at the impropriety in the change of name of the 50 year old university. Only the wisdom of Deacon Onosode, The University Council, and the acting Vice-Chancellor Prof. Rahamon Bello saved the system from getting the students not to have done what they knew how to do best. They stayed within the confine of their campus mourning Tokulus-Toks.
Like I noted earlier, what is important at this point is to review how things have been since Tokubo passed on as best as I know. The university act did say that a new helms-man should be in place within 180 days. Deacon Gamailiel Onosode and his team kept strictly with that time limit. After going through the required due processes, a new Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Rahamon Bello, Deputy Vice-Chancellor Management Services a seasoned and world renowned Chemical Engineer was announced as the substantive Vice-Chancellor of the University of Lagos (UNILAG) on 12th November, 2012.
Deacon Onosode has since completed his term as Pro-Chancellor and a new chairman in the person of Prof. Jerry Gana has been appointed in his place. The styles of operation of the two men are different: One is a seasoned administrator and businessman while the other is a reknown academic and equally a politician. Unilag has been lucky in having both men to lead it.
It is gratifying to note that, all university programmes under the new administration of Prof. Rahamon Bello, his Deputy Vice-chancellor Academic Prof. Babajide Alo, and the Deputy Vice-Chancellor Management Services Prof. Duro Oni, has been kept steadily within the projected parameters of Prof. Adetokubo Sofoluwe. The university system is worth a place of study for our politicians. It need to be noted that Programmes started by Prof. Oye Ibidapo-Obe, who took over from Prof. Jelili Omotola were continued and later improved upon by Prof. Tolu Odugbemi who equally handed over to Prof. Tokuboh Sofoluwe from whom Prof. Rahamon Bello took over. Politicians in their usual way would have abandoned such programmes for new ones.
As an insider, five areas are of importance to me at this stage for review.
The new administration has focused on the use of IT in all facets of University life. Work commenced on e-processing of examination results and the use of CBT examination for post-UTME exam. As at today, all results are computer processed and late or delayed results are becoming a thing of the past: and the use of CBT examinations have been extended to large classes (GST courses, like the DLI exams, Foundation courses, etc) thereby fast tracking the prompt release of examination results. Also, Management meetings are now conducted on e-platform, thus reducing the consumption of paper. Conduct of other major meetings this way is being considered.
In the area of academic life, the university has held its Inaugural Lectures at due times. The normalization of the academic calendar at Unilag, had been maintained in spite of critical challenges like; the change of name crisis which I referred to earlier and Corporate Social Responsibility issue like having to shut down for two weeks to accommodate the use of Unilag facilities to host the National Sports Festival, which was hosted by the Lagos State Government. Also, during the nearly six months-long strike of ASSU, the administration kept 'cool' and continued to function outside having to conduct lectures in classrooms. The post-Graduate students had access to their supervisors. Admission for this new session was purely on the e-system thereby eliminating the usual crowd of admission seekers.
The 50th Anniversary Celebrations which was kicked off by Professor Sofoluwe, were successfully held culminating in the Special Convocation Ceremonies.. It is a known fact to all within the university that this administration has equally been very sincere in the welfare of its staff. Payment of salaries both to regular staff and pensioners have been maintained on scheduled period within the month. In the past year, the tenure of Mr. Olu Sodimu as Registrar ended. Dr. (Mrs.) Taiwo Ipaye from the university's College of Medicine, Idi-Araba was appointed as the Registrar. Equally, a new Librarian - Dr. (Mrs.) Kemi Fadehan from The University of Ife now takes charge at the University Librarian. As if it is a new dawn for women in Unilag, The First Female Provost for the College of Medicine Prof. Folasade Ogunsola was elected into office lately
The new administration, has kept within the enhanced infrastructural development of the University. Building projects commenced earlier are either completed or about to be completed. These include donated projects by Kessignton Adebutu Foundation, Chief Arthur Mbanefo, Troyka Nig. Ltd, and Unilag Alumni Association Building. In addition to these, The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has commenced the building of two buildings (one 8-floor and another 7-floor) of its Centre of Excellence project for University of Lagos. Similarly, The Nigerian Maritime and Shipping Administration Authority has commenced its 12-floor infrastructure for its Institute site at the University. Other infrastructures are in the works. The interesting story about these projects is that, they are being built in reclaimed swamp hither-to untapped.
As a friend of the University, I feel happy that Tokunbo's legacies have been kept by the present administration of the University of Lagos. It is hoped that the following years, will equally witness new project donations like the new women Hotel being put in place by the first lady Dame Patience Jonathan.
May Tokunbo's soul rest in perfect peace.
Andrew A. Aroloye
(A former Director, Center for Educational Technology, CET-UNILAG, wrote from: [email protected])