UNILAG: Threats as danger to academic freedom

UNILAG: Threats as danger to academic freedom

Sunday, July 12, 2020 2:56 pm


University of Lagos and Professor Lai Olurode

  By Lai Olurode

I have read with disgust in several newspapers, the threat by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (Unilag Branch) which was directed at Dr. Babawale Babalakin who is the Chairman of the University of Lagos Governing Council.

This threat is ultra vires, provocative, illogical, anti academic and an assault on freedom of movements and thoughts. Wale Babalakin is a free citizen of Nigeria whose freedom of movement can only be restricted or frozen with due process.

It is possible that in the cause of performing his job as Chairman of Council, he had stepped on toes or that the Council which he heads had taken unpalatable decisions which ASUU or University’s Management are uncomfortable with, this cannot suffice to justify the issuance of threat by anybody. It is simply childish, an abberation and reckless.

Dr. Wale Babalakin

Universities are expected to triumph on logic and freedom of discussion. Of course, a typical university setting with its diversity must generate conflicts but, it simultaneously has in built mechanisms for their resolution other than through brawls, spear and arrow.

A Governing Council is an indispensable organ of a university system in Nigeria. It is mechanism for maintaining checks and balances and abuse of power within the system. Academics and administrative organs have different roles to play. No organ should pose a threat to the proper functioning of the other. The set up is meant to promote democratic governance of the university complex system and ensure equitable distribution of scarce resources available within the system. Conflicts are normal in simple and more so in complex settings.

Even, where differences appear to be intractable, there are other platforms that can be explored in place of threats which signal attacks on logic and a celebration of gangsterism neither of which are defensible and are alien to the system. It was never part of the university sub culture. Universities cannot continue to operate as an island or as an untouchable or continue to nurse the Kabiyesi mentality.

I urge ASUU to create an environment for dialogue to prevail in Unilag no matter how strong it feels about a matter. On matters between administration and Council, ASUU should desist from assuming naively that it has monopoly of opinion or that it is speaking the mind of all.

Moral and ethical issues are complex and not cheaply resolved by the mentality of the crowd. Let’s all construct a formidable consensus in resolving our differences. In any case, it ASUU has feeble powers to prevent Babalakin’s virtual access into Unilag. There is separation of powers in our universities. Let each organ perform its role without let or hindrance.

* Lai Olurode is a Professor of Sociology, University of Lagos

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