Reminiscences on tenure of Prof Rahamon Bello in UNILAG – The News
By Andrew Aroloye
How time flies is a common saying. We often say too that “the debtor does not count days, but the lender does!”. I couldn’t believe it’s already over five years since Prof.Rahamon Adisa Bello moved into the Eleventh Floor of the Senate House, in University of Lagos. This article will remind us of how this came to be and later flip through the events of progress of change in the University since then. A more detailed assessment of the Five-Year- term job is covered in a book: WALKING THE VISION. I believe he felt fulfilled; hence he permitted the writing of the book under the leadership of Prof.Obina Chuckwu one of the rising star-Professors at the University of Lagos. He and his group wrote as insiders while I am chronicling my views as a Unilag observer.
When Prof. Bello came into office, I wrote an article captioned ‘Tasks before The New Unilag-VC’in some national dallies and magazines. I noted then as follows in paragraph one. “Let me start by first congratulating you on a well-deserved position. In the month of May,2012 you became a transitional leader like Samuel in the Holy Book: it was least expected. We all woke up that Saturday at the University of Lagos to be told that our beloved Prof. Adetokunbo Sofoluwe,was no more! We were all saddened by this sudden passage of a man of great valour and dexterity. Your coming on board fits the Nigeria- political- lexicon of “DOCTRINE OF NECESSITY”.! It is gratifying to note that Prof. Bello did not shy away from accepting and doing what was needful.It was very difficult and sad news to believe that Tokunbo was no more.
Before this sad incidence, Prof Bello had assiduously worked for nearly two years with Prof. Adetokunbo Sofoluwe as Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Administration). They shared the same vision together and he knew clearly where the ship in which Sofoluwe was captain was heading. His choice to lead at that time fitted the mood of the time.
His appointment as the substantive Vice-Chancellor through due process in November of that year was pleasing to the generality of UNILAG Community. The courage and finesse with which he handled the assignment since May 2012, has been wonderful and impressive.
Two years into Prof Bello’s administration, I decided, to access how he has kept the ship of state sailing.It is pertinent at this point to note, some of the issues I raised in two articles then. The impressive handling of the 50th Anniversary of the university, the burial arrangement for late Sofoluwe despite the mood of the entire community then and the highly unacceptable re-naming of the University which actually drew the ill-feeling of staff, students and non-university people. The role of the Alumni under the leadership of Prof. Laide Abass and the University Council during the period is highly commendable.
The unwritten law of continuity in governance at the expiration of an administration moving into another is worth mentioning here too. When Papa G.Onosode ended his term within the tenure of Prof. Bello and Prof. Jerry Gana took over as Pro-chancellor, the administration with the support of council moved on smoothly. The new Pro-chancellor, Dr Wale Babalakin is equally moving on as things should be. Peace has reigned in the system outside the general national strike of the university workers recently. The electrocution of a female student over a year ago, cannot be left without mention. It was however not the fault of the university authorities.
Prof. Bello’s administration, kept within the enhanced infrastructural, academic and administrative development of the University. Building projects commenced earlier were completed. These include donated projects by Kensington Adebutu Foundation, Chief Arthur Mbanefo, Troyka Nig. Ltd, and UNILAG Alumni Association Buildings. In addition to these the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) commenced the building of two buildings (one 8-floor and another 7-floor) of its Centre of Excellence project for University of Lagos about this time too. The Nigerian Maritime and Shipping Administration Authority started work on the 12-floor building for its Institute site at the University. Other agencies too commenced work on building projects within the university. The interesting story about these projects is that, they are being built on reclaimed swamp. Also of note is that most of the green-areas have given way to building projects.
It is gratifying to note that, university programmes under the administration of Prof. Rahamon Bello, his Deputy Vice-chancellor Academic Prof. Babajide Alo, and the Deputy Vice-Chancellor Management Services Prof. Duro Oni then, were kept within the projected parameters of the university’s quinquennial programme. I have always noted my surprise that our politicians do not learn from the act of governance from our university system even though most of them passed through the universities, polytechnics or teachers colleges. It needs to be noted that programmes started by Prof. OyeIbidapo- Obe, who took over from Pro Jelili Omotola were continued and later improved upon by Prof.Tolu Odugbemi who handed over to Prof. Tokunbo Sofoluwe from whom Prof. Rahamon Bello took over.Politicians in their usual way would have abandoned such programmes for new ones.
Being once an insider, six areas were of importance to me at this stage for mention. I observed that the administration has focused on the use of IT in all facets of university life. Work commenced on e-processing of examination results and the use of CBT examination for post-UTME exam. As at today, all results are computer processed and late or delayed results are becoming a thing of the past; certificates are now issued promptly. Also, the use of CBT examinations has been extended to large classes (GST courses, like the DLI exams, Foundation courses, etc) thereby fast tracking the prompt release of examination results. Also, management meetings are now conducted on e-platform, salaries and pension of workers do come in on due dates and regular too. Unilag has not been in arrears of allowances, except those that government failed to remit or pay as agreed with the workers.
On appointment to management positions, meritocracy has been the order of the day in making appointments in UNILAG. However, and like other universities, UNILAG has always struggled to achieve gender equity in handing such issues because of the dearth of qualified women or even those deemed qualified; do not show interest in such high positions. Nevertheless, under Prof Bello, UNILAG recently gracefully responded to both meritocracy and gender equity with the appointment of two Deputy Vice-chancellors viz: Prof Ben E.A Oghojafor as Deputy Vice-Chancellor Management Services and Prof. (Mrs) Folashade Tolutope Ogunsola, (a past Provost: (CMUL) was equally appointed Deputy Vice-chancellor ‘Development Service.’ The Deputy Vice-chancellor- Academic, Prof.Toyin Ogundipe is into his first term. What interests this writer about the appointments, is appointing ‘right people’ into right positions. Within this gender equity, I need to note that two Principal officials of the university are women. Dr (Mrs) Taiwo Ipaye is the university Registrar while Dr (Mrs) Kemi Fadehan is the university Librarian. It is to the credit Prof.Rahamon Bello that of the seven administrators who are in charge of the day-to-day administration of the university,three are women.
I wish to congratulate Prof.Rahamon Bello as he reverts back to his office (I hope there is an air-conditioner there!) at the Department of Chemical Engineering. I do hope his head of Department, (who probably was one of his students when he was appointed professor) will give him a reduced-work-load, to enable him settle down fully and in a relaxed atmosphere so that he can continue with his research work that has been kept in the cooler for seven years since he was posted to the “Eleventh Floor”.
(Andrew Aroloye was former Director CET, UNILAG. He wrote from- andre email@example.com)