It has been a game where clearly the hallowed ground of a university we looked up to for inspiration in orientation and management of society and its conflicts and contradictions is itself trapped in the same squalid, if not more, conditions. In the town, we are helplessly ensnared in dystopia, dragged down by a decadent, dysfunctional and debilitating system…


…if gold rust, what then will iron do? For if a priest be foul, no wonder common man should rust.Geoffrey Chaucer (1343-1400), English poet and author.

Evicted from Heaven for pride and rebellion against God countless thousands of years ago, the devil would hardly be expected to move in the mundane details of mortal man here on earth. But alas that has been his business, meddling in the affairs of puny man. He is everywhere man is: bedroom, market, school, politics, institutions, government, environment, mosque, church, heathen centres and even pagan or atheist abodes. He must order disorder where there is order, as he sought to do in serene and symmetrical Heaven. That is if you allow him.

The arch recidivist has also been at work at the University of Lagos (UNILAG), Nigeria’s foremost institution ranking as the twelfth in Africa. He has cooked noxious menu ready to consume all the parties, including those we presume are our beautyful ones, by the standard of Ghanaian novelist, Ayi Kwei Armah. What is on the table that Nigerians must not take from the devil?

There were complaints about perceived malfeasances in the finances of the University of Lagos (UNILAG), moving its Governing Council to initiate an audit. A lecturer at a university in Bauchi, Saminu Dagari chaired the body that conducted the probe. The committee returned with the report of “manifest and gross mismanagement of university finances by the past and current management.” It also established that there were sharp practices in contract award by the Tenders Board, arising from contempt for due process. This led to more stages of corruption: ghost payments, excess spending by officers, travels of principal operatives that didn’t have the approval of the chairman of the Governing Council, disrespect of constituted authority which undermined the discipline needed to uphold the administration of a research and academic community. So the audit committee recommended a bridle on the outflow of money. There should now be only monthly or quarterly limits for all approvals. Next, there should be a reorganisation of expenditure control and internal audit units, together with the automation of the revenue and expenditure processes. The committee also wants disciplinary action to be taken against culpable officers.

But the devil surfaces where the audit body recommends that the Tenders Board should come under the headship of the chairman of the Governing Council. Those criticising this aspect of the committee’s work argue that it is contrary to the sacrosanct Procurement Act of the Federal Government’s Financial Regulations, that vests such powers in the hands of the accounting officer. At UNILAG, a federal university, the vice chancellor is the chief accounting officer. He is in “full control of, and is responsible for human, material and financial resources, which are critical inputs in the management of the organisation.” The Act adds that it is only such an officer with the presence of mind, body and spirit at work who can be trusted “for safeguarding of public funds and the regularity and propriety of expenditure under his control.” The Act insists that only such fully empowered officer can, in turn, “observe and comply fully with the checks and balances spelt out in the existing Financial Regulations.” If all this still appears foggy, Section 113 of the Procurement Act clears the cloud: “an Accounting Officer shall preside over the Tenders Board of his agency; ensure adequate appropriation for procurements…render annual returns of procurements to the Bureau of Public Procurements; and ensure compliance with the Public Procurement Act.”

Now observers have drawn the attention of those watching what’s going on at UNILAG to the school’s own Act, which provides that the Governing Council “shall ensure that proper accounts of the University…are audited annually by auditors appointed by the Council…” Obviously there is a dissonance here, unmitigated by the intervention of the Committee on Public Procurement of the eighth House of Representatives. The chairman of the Committee, Oluwole Oke didn’t sit on the fence. He told the UNILAG VC, Oluwatoyin Ogundipe: “Be in control of your duties. Do not allow anyone to usurp your powers… The only job of the Council members is to receive reports from you.”

The position of UNILAG teachers’ union, Academic Staff Union of Universities, has been predictable. The lecturers have been chiding Babalakin, calling him a “stooge” of the central government, proprietors of the school. They once wrote to the immediate past minister of education, Adamu Adamu, asking him to warn Babalakin to drop his “penchant to disregard rules and procedures.”


This isn’t acceptable to Wale Babalakin, chairman of the Council, who is arguing that there is incontrovertible evidence that “projects in the university (under the regnant VC) hardly ever comply with the terms of the award.” He has also spoken of “weakness in the…procurement process”.

The position of UNILAG teachers’ union, Academic Staff Union of Universities, has been predictable. The lecturers have been chiding Babalakin, calling him a “stooge” of the central government, proprietors of the school. They once wrote to the immediate past minister of education, Adamu Adamu, asking him to warn Babalakin to drop his “penchant to disregard rules and procedures.”

Disturbed students of UNILAG are also crying, seeking the federal government’s mediation in the feud between the pro-chancellor and the management, which has worsened and raised more tension following a series of queries to key functionaries including the vice chancellor. They were said to have been indicted in the audit report. The students say their lecturers and Governing Council are at war, leaving no space for administration, research and teaching.

It has been a game where clearly the hallowed ground of a university we looked up to for inspiration in orientation and management of society and its conflicts and contradictions is itself trapped in the same squalid, if not more, conditions. In the town, we are helplessly ensnared in dystopia, dragged down by a decadent, dysfunctional and debilitating system unable to lift us from the pain of poverty. The universities that ought to give us the ‘liberation theology’, as did the intellectuals in the Renaissance Age and during the Latin American resistance to U.S. domination in the 80s, have permitted a twist to their mission.

Last year when a professor was crowned a traditional ruler in one of the South-West states, he vowed that he would struggle to wed town and gown. He said it is paradoxical that the society should be mired in misery, misfortune and mishaps, when we have scores of universities whose researches, teaching and graduates could be encouraged to come to our aid as they do in other climes where they honour education and scholarship. He said he is a product of the university community and education and therefore he understands how they can be wielded to bring about profound changes among the people.

But can the gown save the town when it is also afflicted with the same torments of corruption in an internecine war for power and filthy lucre?

If gold rusts, what shall iron do? Our tertiary centres need help to help us. This week the world has been marking the 50th anniversary of the moon landing by man. President John Kennedy conceived the idea. But America’s research and learning centres took over and gave us Commander Neil Armstrong and Pilot Buzz Aldrin and their Apollo 11 craft that touched down on lunar ground on July 20, 1969.

Talk of the power of research and knowledge!

Banji Ojewale writes from Ota, Ogun State.