The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), University of Lagos (UNILAG) chapter, has condemned the postponement of the 51st convocation ceremony of the institution, describing it as wicked and inhumane.
With the postponement, the hope of over 13,000 graduating students have been dashed as the Federal Government directed the UNILAG management to suspend its 51st convocation ceremony earlier scheduled to commence from tomorrow, March 9th – 12th, 2020.
The Vice Chancellor of the University, Professor Oluwatoyin T. Ogundipe, had last Tuesday addressed a pre-convocation press conference where he announced that 13,489 students would be graduating for the 2018/2019 academic session, out of which 281 are of the First Class division.
Daily Trust gathered that the convocation ceremony was suspended over alleged supremacy battle between the University management and the Pro-Chancellor, Mr. Wale Babalakin.
A letter signed by the Permanent Secretary to the Federal Ministry of Education, Arc. Sonny S.T. Echono, and addressed to the Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission (NUC), requested him to advise UNILAG’s Vice Chancellor to suspend the convocation and ensure full compliance with due process.
The letter reads in part: “The attention of the Minister of Education has been drawn to the attached copy of letter dated March 2, 2020 from the Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of Governing Council, Dr. Babawale O. Babalakin to the effect that the 2019 convocation ceremonies were not approved by the Governing Council in line with the laws of the University.”
However, a statement issued by UNILAG ASUU chairman, Dr. Dele Ashiru, said that preliminary investigations by the union revealed that the postponement was occasioned by the Pro-Chancellor’s unilateral complaint to the Ministry of Education that the ‘2019 convocation ceremonies were not approved by Council’ contrary to available evidence.
“Our Union therefore condemns in the strongest terms this wicked, inhumane, egoistic and retrogressive postponement of this historic convocation ceremony on account of the over-bloated ego of the Pro-Chancellor.
“This latest antics of the Pro-Chancellor has further confirmed our age-long fears about his destructive machinations in the University of Lagos in particular and the entire Nigerian University system in general.
“Otherwise, how else can one explain the role of the Pro-Chancellor in the calamitous postponement of a convocation ceremony without any consideration for the psychological trauma this may cause the graduands, their parents, relatives, the image and reputation of the University. This is apart from the huge human, material and financial resources that has been committed to planning the ceremony.
“That the Ministry of Education could by fiat request the Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission (NUC) to ‘advise the Vice Chancellor to suspend the University’s convocation ceremony’ without investigating the veracity of the Pro-Chancellor’s claim is not only worrisome but highly depressing. It is a blatant erosion of academic freedom and University autonomy for which our Union has consistently fought for over the years,” he said.
He also described the action of the Ministry of Education as an eloquent testimony to the leadership bankruptcy at the helm of affairs of the nation’s education system.
Some of the university’s students who spoke to Daily Trust also expressed sadness and disappointment over their inability to graduate as planned.
A graduating student of Theatre Arts, who pleaded anonymity expressed disappointment, saying, the postponement had shattered her plans.
“A lot of money has been spent to that effect; students, their friends and parents have planned for the ceremony but now, the postponement has rendered all plans useless. It is really painful because it is clear that those involved do not have the interest of the students at heart,” she said.
Mr. Babalakin could not be reached for official comments as he did not pick calls put across to his mobile lines.