By Toyin Dawodu
I am constrained to speak up out of deep concern for the present state of affairs at the University of Lagos (UNILAG). *Available press reports indicate that the planned 51st convocation ceremony for 2019 graduates of the institution, scheduled to hold from the 9th of to the 15th of March, 2020 was postponed on the directives of the Honourable Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu.* The said directive was based on a petition of the Pro-Chancellor & Chairman of the Council, Dr. B.O. Babalakin.
What has become quite apparent from the media reports on the suspension of the UNILAG Convocation is that there are internal tensions and protracted fights between the management of the University led by the Vice Chancellor, Professor Oluwatoyin Ogundipe, on one side and the Governing Council of the university led by Babalakin, on the other side.
It is the in-fighting between the warriors that is strangulating the university to the detriment to the interest of students and graduates especially, the over 13,000 recent graduates of the university who are neither able to be mobilized for the NYSC scheme nor the graduates of medicine among them, who are unable to apply for the house officers’ programme for intending medical doctors.
Whereas the Federal House of Representatives is reported to have waded into the crisis between the Management and Governing Council of the university, the announced postponement is both shocking and highly inconsiderate. I am even more incensed by the general quiet and normalcy that have greeted what I consider as an abnormality of such a crude order. Why would innocent students suffer such cruel fate of spending four, five or six years of study in a university and, nearly two years after passing their finals examinations, they are still kept at home without issuance of any certificates?
As an individual who went to school in Nigeria in the 70s before migrating to the United States, I am appalled at the level of degeneracy in the state of the Nigerian university system. Also, as a committed stakeholder in the Nigerian project, I had earlier considered that the problem of falling standards of education in Nigeria have been basically associated with lack of adequate infrastructure. Therefore, I have made efforts to draw attention to the need for better funding for education in Nigeria. It has however, become apparent to me in recent times that the problems in the Nigerian educational system are much more than infrastructural but have so much to do with human elements who have lost a sense of responsibility in discharging the duty of upholding educational standards and the building of sound minds for the ultimate development of the country.
I have supported many causes in Nigeria with funds, including providing food and money during the COVID-19 lockdowns. I have also committed much of my resources to supporting students, a few of whom are currently affected by the unnecessary debacle at the University of Lagos. Personally, I consider it as a very sad development. The postponement is without basis and it is highly insensitive to the psychological and economic plight of the graduates, their parents and sponsors.
The loud silence of the Nigerian public to this unjust decision by the Federal Ministry of Education to unnecessarily and carelessly postpone the convocation of persons who have graduated from a university since 2019 is reprehensible.
Nigerians must increase their concerns about the well-being of their fellow citizens and constantly demand for justice, fair treatment and the general application of the benefits of good governance to all, irrespective of personal interests, ethnicity, tribe or religion.
I am therefore by this press statement strongly urging the Honourable Minister of Education to urgently rescind the postponement of the planned convocation.
In addition, I have instructed my lawyers in Nigeria, specifically, Frank Tietie, Esq. of Forthright Chambers, Abuja to convey my displeasure in a formal legal letter to the Honourable Minister of Education and to urge him to immediately rescind the postponement of the planned convocation of the University of Lagos.
The Honourable Minister and the UNILAG authorities must strongly consider the legal consequences of the legal proceedings in the public interest that I to initiate immediately, following the failure to rescind the decision to postpone the convocation.
▪︎ Dawodu of Riverside, California, USA sent this via WhatsApp and can be reached at email@example.com
That insensitive suspension of the 51st convocation of UNILAG graduates
By Toyin Dawodu