The situation at the Lagos State University (LASU), certainly calls for urgent action among all stakeholders in the education sector. Things have gotten to such a level at LASU that one is tempted to suggest that Anezi Okoro probably had LASU in mind when he was writing his famous book: One Week One Trouble.
No doubt, LASU, the academic institution that was established by the Lagos State Government, thirty -one years ago, to help nurture and produce new crop of future leaders, has been turned into an arena of the theatre of the absurd. At the moment, whenever LASU is in the news, it is almost going to be for the wrong reasons. Sadly, the current state of affairs at the university sharply negates the dreams and aspirations of the institution’s founding fathers.
Years ago, LASU used to be notorious for cultism activity which was then quite rampant among some of the students. Then, it was not unusual to see various cult groups engage in fierce and bloody gun duel; sometimes in broad daylight. Typically, this was usually followed by serious commotion, which often spread into the adjourning communities, with consequence disruption of socio-economic activities. At a time, things got so bad that an Armoured Personnel Carrier had to be stationed permanently at the entrance of the institution with fierce looking armed security personnel constantly monitoring people and events around the school.
When eventually cult activities subsided to a reasonable degree at LASU, the institution became bedevilled with students related crisis that are too numerous to be recalled. In1992, for instance, one of such crisis became so complicated that the institution had to be closed down for over two years. Till date, in the history of tertiary education in the country, no university has been shut down for that long on the consideration of students’ crisis. But that is LASU for you! It has suddenly become an institution that has developed a penchant for getting into the Guinness Book of Record for the wrong reasons.
Indeed, some parents who could not bear the horror of watching their wards waste away for over twenty -four months had to devise alternative options to get their wards out of the messy LASU imbroglio. Ever since, student union activities have become so volatile at LASU that successive Vice-Chancellors have to devise ingenious means of dealing or coping with it. In some cases, it worked. In some other instances, it triggered further troubles.
Interestingly, the trouble with LASU is not only limited to students’ crisis. If LASU students are capricious, the various unions at the institution are fiery lots. When they sneeze, LASU catches cold. One of the glorious eras of the institution, under the leadership of late Professor Jadesola Akande, was eventually marred by several acrimonious agitations by members of the institution’s chapter of Academic Staff Union of Nigerian Universities (ASUU), Non Academic Staff Union, NASU, among others.
On one occasion, the situation got to such a ridiculous peak that some agitating NASU members had to tear the dress of the then Registrar, Mrs. Jacinta, who had the misfortune of having to address the aggrieved NASU members, into shreds. The sorry episode became a tale that reverberated across the land. Many who could not hide their disgust at such a show of shame, coming from the ivory tower that is universally renowned for decency and civility, astonishingly asked in utter disbelief: “What is it about LASU?”
That was over a decade ago. Years after the ugly Mrs. Jacinta’s theatre of the absurd episode, LASU has continued to move along the ignoble path of unending crisis. Presently, all is not at ease at LASU as the various unions at the institution are at daggers drawn with the current Vice Chancellor, Professor John Obafunwa, over several issues ranging from high handedness to non promotion of staff as at when due. A few weeks ago, in the LASU fashion of handling such rancorous matters, the Vice Chancellor and some of his principal officers were chased away from the school. The ASUU members that spearheaded the move are insisting that the embattled Vice Chancellor is no longer welcome at the institution. Till date, reports have it that the Vice Chancellor hasn’t stepped into the school since he was ingloriously chased away.
Presently, LASU remains shut implying that academic activities are grounded. The way things stand; nobody knows how soon the institution is to be reopened. Once again, the hopes and aspirations of students at the institution hang in the balance.
Worse hit are those in the final stretch of their academic endeavours. They are no longer sure of what the future holds for them. If the students are at present toeing a precarious path, their parents’ plight is no less pitiable. Some of them, who are training their wards under extremely excruciating economic condition, are already counting their losses as the institution remains shut.
On its part, the Lagos State Government has remained unwavering in its commitment to investing in infrastructure development at LASU. The LASU School of Transportation, first of its kind in Nigeria, which is a response to contemporary necessity, has been fully accredited by the Nigeria University Commission, NUC. Equally, the Students Arcade, Senate Building, Central Library, School of Transportation, Faculty of Law Auditorium, School of Management Sciences, LASU International School, among others, are part of the State Government’s sponsored capital projects at various stages of completion at the institution.
It is, therefore, rather agonizing that it is at a time when the Lagos State Government is committing huge resources to usher in massive infrastructure development at LASU that the various unions at the institution with the school’s management have, once again, decided to turn the citadel of learning into a battle ground. Naturally, one would have envisaged that the current infrastructure development strides being spearheaded by the State Government would be a rallying point for all stakeholders at LASU to give peace a chance for the sake of the survival of the institution.
It is, however, not too late for the warring factions at LASU to sheath their swords for the sake of peace. Grandstanding on matters that could be settled amicably is unbecoming of an institution of learning of LASU’s status.
It is, therefore, not too overdue for the promoters of this current imbroglio at LASU to toe the path of honour and peace. The Vice Chancellor needs to device a practical style of dealing with unfriendly union leaders and their cohorts. That is what management demands. Being unduly high handed, as he is being accused, would certainly leads LASU to nowhere. The various union leaders equally need to act responsibly. There should be a marked difference in how intellectuals and lesser intellectually endowed folks handle and react to contentious issues.
Universally, peace is a vital precondition for development. Without peace, no meaningful development could take place in a chaotic atmosphere. According to Martin Luther King, “peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek but a means by which we arrive at that goal.” It, therefore, behoves on all stakeholders in the LASU project to give peace a chance. This is the only way to fulfill the dreams of founding fathers of the institution. This is what LASU needs.