ESTRANGED former University of Lagos Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of Council, Dr. Wale Babalakin, SAN, has eminent right to resist any assault on his rights. That is his natural forte, being a legal silk himself.
Yet, his letter of resignation from office, dated September 15, crawled with stacking of cards and fawning paternalism that can really gall — even to disinterested third parties.
For starters, Babalakin sounded like an unimpeachable force, as pro-chancellor, whose oracular words should never be challenged.
“I led the Governing Council of the university to remove the Vice Chancellor of the university from office …” and he followed that with a peremptory re-listing of the alleged charges, which gave the impression of a media trial — nay, conviction — afresh, when the original process had been challenged by those involved, prompting the setting up of a visitation panel by the university’s Visitor, President Muhammadu Buhari. That panel just submitted its report.
From the tone of the letter, Babalakin appeared to give only grudging respect to the right of the visitor (who appointed him to the job in the first instance) to take measures to address controversies, arising from the actions by the council, the visitor’s own brood of appointees.
“After calm had been restored in the university [says who?], the visitor acting within his powers, set up a Presidential Visitation Panel to review the action taken by Governing Council,” and added: “I find it difficult to understand how a non-executive chairman of Governing Council could be requested to recuse himself during the visitation.”
Perhaps Babalakin was making a technical point in law, which lesser mortals can’t comprehend?
But if the government had frozen the council’s sack of the vice-chancellor for complaints of alleged skewed process, and the pro-chancellor was central to that decision, just as the vice chancellor, who now parades himself as victim of an allegedly faulty procedure, what is wrong with recusing both of them, to create a clear field to get at the facts?
Doesn’t natural justice demand just that? Indeed, such an action would seem simple common sense in the circumstances.
To push his case, Dr. Babalakin went on to list his sacrifices to the university — not taking due sitting allowances and shunning even refreshments, in terms of foods and drinks, each time the council met. Bayo Adaralegbe, a council member who also resigned in protest, augmented that list by claiming Babalakin had sunk no less than N100 m of his own private funds into the university, aside from being on the cusp of transferring own land (40 hectares), to help Unilag staff acquire own homes.
These are gestures the university community would be eternally grateful for. But they are freely taken personal decisions that can’t weigh in on the fairness or otherwise of the Babalakin-chaired university council decision.
Indeed, these are extraneous factors logicians would call stark stacking of cards, powered by appeal to pity. Hardball can’t see how these sentiments fortify Dr. Babalakin’s case.
Let every party to the dispute, in good faith, await the panel’s reports. But the Babalakin effort appears a ploy to discredit it, even before it is out. That can’t be fair to the concerted efforts to unearth the truth, in the Unilag crisis.
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