DANIELS G. O
We bring warm greetings from the Medical Academic Community. We wish to bring to the attention of the good people of Lagos State, Mr. Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, and all stakeholders our observation on the events surrounding the appointment of a 9th Vice-Chancellor of the Lagos State University, LASU viz a viz our role, expectations and fears.
Following the expiration of the tenure of the former Vice-Chancellor, the Governing Council of the University advertised vacancy of the office of the Vice-Chancellor of LASU. Eligible academics from within and outside of LASU applied for the position, including some bona fide professors in the Lagos State University College of Medicine (LASUCOM). The process of appointment of the university Vice Chancellor, which often terminates at the university level with the selection of three adjudged best candidates by the University Joint Senate and Council Selection Committee for consideration of the University Visitor (the State Governor), was completed twice. In each occasion, the University Council had presented three names to the Governor for final selection of the Vice Chancellor, but the Governor had ordered fresh selection process each time. The excuse that was given each time the process was scuttled at the last lap on the Governor’s table has always been some petitions from certain quarters within the University.
What has drawn the interest of the medical community, including the Nigerian Medical Association and her affiliate bodies, initially is the fact that, to our excitement, each time the selection process was completed, at least one clinical professor had made the first three submitted to His Excellency for consideration. In fact, in the first selection process, now botched, the professor that ranked highest among the three selected professors, based on information in the public domain, was a medical doctor and professor of a field of clinical medicine. It even got more interesting in the second attempt at selection as all the three professors selected by the selection Committee were medical doctors and professors of different areas of clinical medicine. Our expectation was that one of these professors would have been selected for the position by now. The interest of the medical community was further drawn to the selection process of the 9th Vice Chancellor of LASU when it became apparent, based on earlier sundry media releases by some members of the university, that a key reason for the protraction in the appointment of the new Vice Chancellor was certain petitions from some members of the University community which queried the propriety of the Selection Committee to have countenanced clinical professors in LASU whose terminal qualification was the Medical Fellowship and not the PhD. These petitions, which were, apparently, efforts by certain individuals in the university and, perhaps, other political interests outside of the university to subvert merit, were despite the fact that section 2.7.5 of the Condition of Service of Lagos State University stated clearly that ..”A recognized doctorate degree (PhD) OR a recognized Professional Qualification in Medicine (Fellowship)” is the basic requirement for teaching and career progression in the university, as in the case in every university in Nigeria.
That such frivolous petition will continue to be a basis for delay in appointment of the 9th Vice Chancellor is a source of disappointment to all members of the Medical Academia. Our primary concern is the fact that despite the fact that in the very last (second) attempt at the selection, the Joint Selection Committee of LASU Senate and Council not only stated in the advertorial that the Medical Fellowship or a PhD were the terminal qualifications they sought in any professor that will aspire to lead LASU in line with the LASU condition of service, age-long tradition, and best-practice in all Nigerian universities; such baseless petitions were still being considered worthy of engagement by the Governor. It is also secondarily unsettling for us as stake-holders in the academia, including the medical academia, that despite the fact that the LASU Vice Chancellor selection process, now conducted twice, was widely adjudged thorough, with computer-based examination and oral interview with full video coverage, was still being subjected to endless scrutiny. This is without recourse to the fact that in attendance in the interview was at least one of the juggernauts of corporate Nigeria, that is, the CEO of MTN Nigeria, someone who understands the place of merit in organizational growth and development and who was able to bring to bear best-practices in corporate head-hunting into the selection process. The Governor still went ahead to subject the process to endless scrutiny again due to what was said to be “petitions” he supposedly received about the VC selection process. This news came to us as a rude shock and we are unable to dismiss well-known public insinuations that the process is being hijacked by external political forces and that the interest of these political forces, is to impose a Vice Chancellor on LASU and to prevent medical doctors who are professors of clinical medicine from emerging as Vice Chancellor in LASU as part of a larger conspiracy.
Despite the fact that we were not convinced that there was any genuine “crisis” or “impasse” in the LASU Vice Chancellor selection process, as alluded, to further warrant the convocation of a Visitation Panel; we, the members of the Medical Community, still went ahead to submit memoranda to the Panel. On Thursday, 22nd April, 2021, The Medical Associations (NMA Lagos, Medical Guild and the Medical and Dental Consultants Association of LASU’s affiliated Teaching Hospital) had an impromptu call from the visitation panel to an interactive session. At the meeting, we were given opportunity to speak to the issues in our memoranda and members of the panel asked wide range of questions. The bias, in terms of composition and knowledge, of the panel towards the medical academia was not lost on us as we sat before them. We were amazed that despite the fact that the main argument of the petitioners was on the PhD versus Medical Fellowship debacle, members of the visitation panel were all PhD holders and none is a Medical doctor. We were concerned by the level of ignorance feigned by the panelists about the Medical fellowship, as they ALL erroneously assert that the Medical Fellowship was not an acceptable qualification to teach in the University despite glaring evidence that this is the practice in Nigerian Universities and stipulated by the relevant laws and conditions of Service of LASU. In addition, despite the fact that three past Vice-Chancellors of LASU (the pioneer VC, Prof Folabi Olumide, the 4th VC, Prof Fatiu Akesode and the 7th VC, Prof John Obafunwa) who distinguished themselves were Medical Doctors with Fellowship and the Condition of service of LASU recognized such, just as every other University in Nigeria; the Chairman of the panel continued to insinuate that Professors of clinical medicine should not become university Vice Chancellors because they hold the Medical Fellowship in lieu of PhD! This view expressed by the Panel Chairman confirmed our fears that the whole “crisis” in the LASU Vice Chancellor selection process was orchestrated and for the sole agenda of using the needless PhD versus Medical Fellowship brouhaha as excuse to reject the outcome of the selection process until the desired outcome of imposing a certain candidate is achieved.
Our thoughts, our fears and appeal
a) We strongly believe that the intervention of the Special Visitation Panel was in furtherance of a sinister agenda that will not serve good purpose for the progress of the University and which may engender further crisis
b) That the Special Visitation Panel, based on our interaction with them, exposed not only feign ignorance but their prejudice and bias against the Medical Academia and we fear that their recommendations will reflect such and will only engender crisis.
c) We do not have any reason to believe that the previous processes of selection of 9th Vice Chancellor for LASU were not rigorous or not in compliance with laid down procedures and the extant laws of the University. And we appeal that any one of the three finalists in the second selection process be announced by Mr Governor without further delay, since they all have what it takes to put the University in the path of unrivaled progress and excellence in its three core mandates of teaching, research and community service.
d) We are afraid that political interference and the seemingly apparent discrimination against the Medical Profession and established Medical education in Nigeria may derail the University system as this will send a message to all clinical lecturers in the College of Medicine in general as unwanted members of the university community and to the selected Professors of Clinical Medicine in the University specifically, as being perceived as second-rate academics in the LASU despite proving their mettle by coming top in the interviews conducted.
e) We use this opportunity to draw attention to the danger this act will portend to medical education in LASU and other Colleges of Medicine in Nigeria where clinical lecturers has diligently held and still hold the forte, if their morale is killed by this needless, almost reckless, act of discrimination.
f) We appeal that merit and extant laws be applied in this matter and reiterate we will use any lawful and legal means to prevent the disenfranchisement of any qualified person including Medical Doctors with Fellowship.
g) We appreciate the effort of all the stakeholders who have warned against discrimination against Medical doctors in the process for the good of LASU retaining its role as a world class institution.
Dr Adetunji Adenekan
Chairman NMA Lagos
Dr Oluwajimi Sodipo
Chairman Medical Guild
Dr Mumuni Amisu
Chairman MDCAN LASUTH