Re: Resolving the UNILAG CRISIS

I have read the article of Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria titled “Resolving the UNILAG crisis”, dated  November 3, 2020 and published in Tribune Newspapers.

I was not surprised at all. By now Nigerians know that there are so many people who carry on as if their actions are driven by public good when in fact they are nothing but hired guns carrying water for their principals. There is a reason why in the civilised world the concept of full disclosure is so well developed.

I personally would not have minded if Adegboruwa disclosed that Prof. Oluwatoyin Ogundipe, the former Vice Chancellor of University of Lagos, that he wrote to defend is his Co-Pastor and superior in the Redeemed Christian Church of God. Ogundipe and Adegboruwa both pastor Redeemed church parishes in Lagos- Ogundipe in Yaba and Adegboruwa in Lekki Phase I.

I would also not have minded very much if Adegboruwa disclosed in his write up that he has for some time now been Ogundipe’s personal lawyer. Adegboruwa filed Suit No. NICN/LA/278/2020 Professor Oluwatoyin Ogundipe v. University of Lagos & 5 Ors at the National Industrial Court, Lagos, challenging the removal of Ogundipe, where he sought, and failed miserably to obtain an exparte injunction restraining the Governing Council from removing Ogundipe. The public will have perfectly understood Adegboruwa’s motivation in writing his piece to be fees or filial pastoral relationship or both, and would never have been misled into thinking that some high minded public spiritedness was the motive. Long before the Covid 19 pandemic ravaged the world, in his life time, the late Chief GaniFawehimi, SAN (that Adegboruwa tries hard to model his life after) practiced social distancing. He kept his distance from people, especially tainted people like Ogundipe and did not hobnob with just anyone. There was a reason for this. It allowed him to call out just about anyone.

Again, perhaps I would not have minded if Adegboruwa, despite this conflict of interest, had been sincere and objective in his write up. But he certainly was not. The Panel report that Adegboruwa is clamoring for was authored by 6 members, 4(four) of them were Professors, like Ogundipe. Out of those 4(four), 3(three) were former Vice Chancellors, again, just like Ogundipe. Out of the 3 (three), two of them are both President and member of the Nigerian Academy of Science that recently conferred Fellowship on Ogundipe. Does Adegboruwa seriously think Nigerians will accept that this Panel will reach fair and unbiased decisions against one of their own and that its findings will assist in “resolving the UNILAG crisis”? But the entertainment value of this panel just doesn’t end there.

In its terms of Reference framed by government for the Panel, the Panel was supposed to determine whether the Governing Council of University of Lagos removed Ogundipe according to the Universities Miscellaneous Act; whether the University of Lagos Governing Council appointed an Acting Vice Chancellor in accordance with the Universities Miscellaneous Act; and  whether Ogundipe in fact committed acts of corruption as alleged by the Council. Clearly, these three terms are questions of law that a panel of six that had only one lawyer and in which the chairman is a non-lawyer, evidently did not have the capacity to deal with or answer these questions.

Historically, government has constituted Judicial Commissions of Inquiry to investigate alleged wrongdoings in our universities. In 1975 Professor Hezekiah Oluwasanmi was investigated as VC in the then University of Ife over the collapse of a building. Government set up a Judicial Commission of Inquiry headed by his eminence, Chief FRA Williams, SAN. In 1978 when Professor Ade Ajayi was investigated as VC in University of Lagos over the crisis that led to the death of Akintunde Ojo, a student of the university, a Judicial Commission of Inquiry headed by Justice Mohammed was set up by government. Why is this Special Visitation Panel on Unilag different? Even SSANU has flagged its  lopsided composition. What Adegboruwa touts as a resolution to the crisis in in fact  is a recipe for protracted litigation. Would Adegboruwa advise his principal to accept and not challenge in court the report of a panel that patently lacks the legal capacity, but that determines legal questions adverse to his client’s interest?. And if he is representing the Council would he accept the report of a panel that is, by its composition, patently biased?

This aberration obviously did not enter the mind of this human rights crusader who is a talking head on television. If as a lawyer and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria Adegboruwa does not understand this then it will really be a pity.  But he obviously does.  Just two weeks ago he was sworn as a member of  Panel set up by  Lagos State government  to investigate and determine questions of law, involving acts of crime (just like in the Ogundipe situation) concerning the unfortunate EndSars protests. That Panel is a Judicial Panel of Inquiry headed by a retired judge and populated by people representing key stakeholders with capacity to determine   questions of law. Clearly the public is likely to be accepting of the recommendations of a judicial panel asked to determine questions of law than a panel of academics trained in Architecture, Parasitology, Epidemiology, and Chemistry, with zero   training or knowledge in law, but asked to determine questions of law. It is really a travesty that people are advocating for the recommendation of this Panel as the way forward to resolving the Unilag crisis.

One really would not have minded if, even as a hired gun Adegboruwa’s facts are correct. They are dead wrong and very misleading. Adegboruwa is not a member of University of Lagos Governing Council, yet he traffics in falsehood. Part of his narration was that the Babalakin led Council simply woke up one day, decided to hold a Council meeting in Abuja, marched Ogundipe out of this meeting and proceeded to remove Ogundipe on trumped up charges that it raised by itself and without the involvement of the University community. This is flat out wrong and Adegboruwa must really be ashamed of himself. As they say, Adegboruwa may be entitled to his opinion (and we have seen that even his opinion is not credible considering that Ogundipe and he are both Redeemed pastors and Ogundipe is his client) but he is not entitled to his own facts.

In a widely circulating advertorial published in Thisday, Punch, Vanguard and Daily Trust of 17th August 2020, the Registrar and Secretary to Council of University of Lagos Governing Council provided very detailed accounts of how Ogundipe got to be removed. As official and legal custodian of the Minutes and affairs of the Council and as someone who attended all these Meetings Adegboruwa knows that these accounts put in the public domain, and not disputed by anyone, is the unvarnished truth. Yet he persists in trafficking in falsehood and   hearsay.

There were allegations of massive corruption, financial recklessness and abuse of office against Ogundipe. Ogundipe was giving the opportunity of fully defend himself by the Council. In his response Ogundipe provided a written defense to all of the allegations. Ogundipe NEVER denied ANY of the allegations. Not one! The issue that led to Ogundipe’e removal was listed on the Agenda of that  Council meeting. While it is correct that Ogundipe was asked to excuse himself from this meeting when his removal was being deliberated, this was in accordance with Council’s Standing Orders and best practice that a person is to excuse himself in Council or Board deliberations involving his interest.

The impression that somehow, internal members of council or the university academic community did not participate in the decision to remove Ogundipe is a big lie told by this Redeemed Pastor. Professor Bola Oboh, Professor Folabi Lesi, Professor Kemi Odukoya, Professor Eddie Omolehinwa, Professor Ben Ogojiafor  and Mr Rotimi Sodimu,  all internal members of the university, not only all personally attended this meeting(Professors Odukoya and Omolehinwa participated through Zoom) fully participated in the deliberations as to whether Ogundipe should be removed or not and fully voted(one of them abstained). Ogundipe was removed by a majority of votes and the Governing Council based its resolution to remove him on the Council Standing Order that provides that where decisions of Council are put to vote majority carries the decision. This is exactly what happened.

Adegboruwa will have to live with his own conscience. Ogundipe, his principal never denied the billions of Naira he was said to be financially reckless with. As a human rights crusader and former student’s union leader he never shone a light on these allegations, preferring to highlight contrived rule of law infractions at a time Nigerian students are languishing at home due to an ASUU strike that was called because of lack of university funding.   Adegboruwa knows why he wrote his piece. It is not the first time he will be a dog whistler. On the 21st of September 2020, barely 5 days after he filed an action at the National Industrial Court on behalf of Ogundipe challenging his removal, most unusually, Adegboruwa suddenly discontinued that suit. Government announced its decision to set up the Special Investigation Panel the very same day. What else does Adegboruwa know that the rest of the public does not?

Mumuni, the Media Adviser to Dr. Wale Babalakin (SAN), former Chairman of the University of Lagos Governing Council sent this piece.

 

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