By Kofoworola Belo-Osagie
President Muhammadu Buhari has praised the Senate of University of Lagos (UNILAG) for sending a delegation to him when crisis between the University management and Dr. Wale Babalakin-led Governing Council led to the removal of the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Oluwatoyin Ogundipe, last year. (Ogundipe was reinstated last November).
The storm that engulfed the institution was why the 2019 Convocation scheduled for March 9-12, 2020, was unceremoniously cancelled.
The Visitor to the University spoke yesterday, the final day of the rescheduled convocation which featured the conferment of honorary degrees to four prominent Nigerians, and awards of PhDs and prizes at the Ade Ajayi Main auditorium.
Buhari, who was represented by the Executive Secretary, National Universities Commission (NUC), Prof. Rasheed Abubakar, said the UNILAG Senate’s role was why he set up a special visitation panel to investigate the crisis.
He said: “As vistor to this university, I cannot but recollect the recent council-management crisis of 2020. I commend the Senate of the University of Lagos for its maturity and decision to send a delegation to me on the matter. As it became obvious, I heard your voice loud and clear. Government immediately set up a special visitation panel to investigate the crisis. The recommendations of the panel were promptly implemented to restore peace to the university. Part of this restoration process necessitated the appointment of a new governing council for the university under the chairmanship of distinguished Senator Olanrewaju Tejuoso.”
Buhari urged the university community to maintain peace in the university.
He also said the visitation panels set up to investigate federal-owned institutions in February were wrapping up their work and promised that the Federal Government would speedily implement their recommendations.
The President lauded the conferrment of posthumous Emeritus Professorship on the late Prof. Oyewusi Ibidapo-Obe, the eighth vice Chancellor of the university, who died in January. Ibidapo-Obe had also served as the pioneer vice Chancellor of the Federal university, Ndufu Alike in Ebonyi State.
Borno Governor Babagana Zulum, who was at the event to support honorary degree recipient, Alhaji Muhammadu Indimi, and the Chancellor, Abubakar Umar Garbai El-Kanemi, urged UNILAG to promote research on peace, unity and economic development.
He sad: “The ranking of the university is encouraging. I therefore urge the management and staff of the university to sustain this momentum and even to do more.
“The University should also give more emphasis to research that will promote peace unity and encourage economic development,” he said.
Zulum also spoke of partnering with the university to get more Borno Indigenes to undergo postgraduate studies at UNILAG.
“I promised the VC when he came to Maiduguri that the government of Borno State under my leadership would partner with this great university with a view to sending students to this university to study PhD courses here.
“We shall soon enter into an MOU to send a minimum of 200 Indigenes of Borno State to do postgraduate studies here,” he said.
Thanking one of the honorary degree recipients and the founder of Insight Communications, Mr. Biodun Shobanjo for recognising his administration’s effort in Borno at such a difficult time, Zulum promised to raise the bar of good governance.
He said: “I also want to commend one of the awardees, Biodun Shobanjo for noticing our modest contributions. And I promise to raise the bar of good governance with concrete, measurable, and quantum value to the electorate.”
Highpoint of the event was the award of emeritus Professorship on the late Ibidapo-Obe, which was received by his wife; and the onferment of honorary degrees to Indimi, marketing Communication expert, Shobanjo, Sir Kessington Adebutu, and the late Dr. Ameyo Stella Adadevoh.
Dr. Adebutu announced the donation of N200 million to the university to improve internet facilities. He said it was in honour of the university’s Pro-Chancellor and chairman of Council, Dr. Lamer Tejuoso, whose father, Oba Tejuoso, was a close friend.
Chairman of Zenith Bank, Mr. Jim Ovia also pledged 3,500 tablets to the institution in response to the Vice Chancellor’s call for 1,000 tablets support indigent students for virtual education.
A total of 148 students received PhD degrees, among who was 71 year old Marinze Felicia.
Rasheed Moruf of Marine sciences won the best thesis overall and in Sciences, while Meseghan Peter’s won for Humanities.
The event was graced by many dignitaries from business, government, political class, academia and royalty.
They included, former Borno State Governor, Kashim Shettima; business mogul, Alhaji Aliko Dangote; Jim Ovia; chairman Platforms Capital, Dr. Akindele Akintoye, Erelu Abiola Dosunmu; and Pastor Itua Ighodalo, among others