Less than 24 hours after being appointed the Vice Chancellor of Lagos State University(LASU), the appointment of Prof Ibiyemi Olatunji Bello has already begun to generate heated controversy within the Lagos polity.
While many have congratulated her and hailed the appointment as well deserved, many others linked the appointment to her powerful politician husband, Tunji Bello, a close and trusted associate of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the strongman of Lagos politics and National leader of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). Bello currently holds office in the state as Commissioner for Environment and Water Resources. A top journalist and lawyer, Mr Bello has been a current and constant decimal in the inner workings of Lagos government in the last 20 years. This is his second time holding office at the powerful Ministry of Environment. He was a former Secretary to the State Government, a Special Adviser, and former Managing Director of Lagos State Advertising and Signage Agency(LASAA).
However, what no one has faulted is the qualifications and experience of Prof Bello. Lagos State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Gbenga Omotosho reeled out the curriculum vitae of the eminent scholar thus:
Sixteen facts you need to know about Prof. Ibiyemi Ibilola Olatunji-Bello, the new Vice Chancellor (VC) of the Lagos State University (LASU).
- She was born on April 23, 1964 to Mrs. Jadesola Ibidapo (nee Abraham) of Ita Kose, Lagos Island and Mr Emiola Ibidapo-Okunrinboye of Owo, Ondo State.
- She attended Anglican Girls Primary School in Surulere from 1970 to 1974 and then Lagos Anglican Girls Grammar School in Surulere, between 1974 and 1979. She proceeded to Methodist Girls High School in Yaba, and Lagos State College of Science and Technology, Ikosi Campus where she did her “A” levels in 1982.
- She attended the prestigious University of Ibadan where she bagged a BSc (Hons) in Physiology in 1985. After her NYSC at the University of Lagos, she was awarded MSc Physiology in 1987 at the University of Lagos. She attended a 6-month research training in the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio in the US in 1994.
- In 1998, she was awarded a PhD in Physiology at the University of Lagos.
- She bagged a Post-graduate Diploma in Theology from the Bible College of the Redeemed Christian Church of God in the year 2001 and a Post-graduate Diploma in Education PGDE at the Lagos State University in 2018.
- She rose through the ranks from an Assistant Lecturer (1988-1991), Lecturer II between 1991 and 1996, Lecturer 1 between 1996 to 1999 at the College of Medicine of the University of Lagos, Idi Araba.
- Between 1999 and 2005, she was a Senior Lecturer. She was Associate Professor between 2005 and October 1, 200 at the UNILAG College of Medicine.
- In October 2007, she assumed duty as the first Professor of Physiology in Lagos State University College of Medicine (LASUCOM).
- In 2012, she was nominated by the National Universities Commission (NUC) to attend Course 34 at the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies in Kuru, Plateau State – the highest policy advisory body of the Federal Government. She was awarded a Member of the National Institute (mni) certificate.
- She was awarded a fellowship by the Physiological Society in the United Kingdom (UK) in 2017 and followed by the fellowship of the Physiological Society of Nigeria. She was appointed a Fellow of the society for Environmental Toxicology and Pollution Mitigation in 2019.
- She has held positions, which include: Acting Vice Chancellor, LASU (July –December 2010; January – October 2011).
Deputy Vice Chancellor (December 2008 – December 2010)
Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academic), LASU (November 2011- January 2013
Head, Department of Physiology, LASUCOM (October 2007 – December 2008)
- She was State Government’s representative on the Lagos State University (LASU) Governing Council, between 2004 and 2008. She was LASU’s Senate representative in the Governing Council.
- She is the pioneering Director of LASU Directorate of Advancement established by former Vice Chancellor, Prof Lanre Fagbohun, in 2016
- She has graduated 4 PhDs and 37 MSc candidates, while still supervising more PhD students. A brilliant academic, she has over 53 publications to her credit.
- She is happily married to Mr. Tunji Bello, a journalist and lawyer. They are blessed with 3 children.
- She is the Area Pastor in charge of the Testimony Chapel, an area under Lagos Province 1 of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG).
But a group of Lagosians called Omo Eko Pataki has faulted the appointment, calling it “continued marginalization of Lagos indigenes under the governor, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu.
In a statement signed by a former Minister of Communications, Major General Tajudeen Olanrewaju, the group claimed that the new Vice Chancellor came a distant third in the result of the committee that screened prospective candidates.
Major General Olanrewaju served as Minister of Communications under the military junta of the late Gen Sani Abacha. He was implicated and sentenced to death alongside Gen Oladipo Diya, the then Chief Of General Staff, and others in the 1997 coup. Providence however saved him from bullets as Gen Abacha died before the day of their execution.
Gen Olanrewaju said: “The Lagos State government of one size fits all policy of marginalisation of Lagos State indigenes is pushing the natives further into an enclave of sheer servitude. This unwholesome decision of the government will not stop us from speaking out;
Ọmọ Eko Pataki will never be blackmailed or threatened into silence. We will continue to defend and protect the collective heritage and the dignity of our people against the ravages of the scourge of aliens. It is so obvious now that the government of Jide Sanwoolu is indifferent and contemptuous of the popular feelings of the indigenous community;
With the skewed decision to appoint Professor Ibiyemi Olatunji Bello, a native of Ondo state as the new Vice Chancellor of Lagos State University, LASU, Lagosians have been inflicted with an unpopular candidate far above well qualified natives. Sanwoolu himself who is of contested and ambiguous origin has demonstrated a crass partisan inclination that is disdainful of the democratic clamor of Lagosians. He has basically thumbed his nose on our people. While this may be the saddest day in the history of Lagosians, those who conspired to deepen our marginalization will never be forgiven by the ultimate judgement of history;
A desperate candidate who came last twice in the Sanwoolu’s annulled exercises, has suddenly transmogrified into number one position! This is gross abuse of public office to suit preferred political tendencies;
From the beginning of this struggle to the final decision of the government, brilliant Professors of Lagos State indigenes, some members of the Selection and Governing Councils and others lost out for performing and asking for their legitimate duties. They were removed from participating in the process of selecting the VC of LASU;
The Pivot of the Nigerian constitution is to protect the rights of the citizens. This very core of our liberty naturally dovetails to the state level where the indigenous communities in all the states are to be given preference in all appointments. Lagos state remains an aberration where indigenes are still being treated like second class citizens on their own soil. What a shame!
We at Ọmọ Eko Pataki are particularly saddened and troubled with this brazen miscarriage of justice. This decision is a lie. And as Thomas Carlyle observed correctly : “No lie can live forever;
Sanwoolu may have had his way . But not for long. His rigged victory is transient. The collaborators of injustice can never escape the well hewn unforgiving arbitration of Providence. This is a pyrrhic victory for the ephemeral tools of power. We will not be silenced. Our voice will remain strong and vibrant, unmuted by the lash of evil. We will continue to resist and rail against injustice until the truth prevails over falsehood”.
Also, former Chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association(NBA), Ikeja branch, Dave Ajetomobi condemned the process of appointment, saying that “meritocracy lost out to political expediency”.
He said: The battle for LASU Vice Chancellorship is now won and lost, though not on the altar of meritocracy but on the altar of political expediency. Mrs. Tunji Bello, whose husband is Tinubu’s loyalists, has been picked over other more competent and more qualified ones. The husband has been in government for about 20 years now, courtesy of “Ikoyi Okija club”. Politicians of Ikoyi-Okija lineages have raised clowns to campaign that Lagos is for Lagosians, thinking that the most qualified candidate, Prof. Odusanya is from Ogun State, without realizing that he is from Epe. When that failed, they resorted to Ph.D/ fellowship dichotomy, which also fell like a pack of cards;
Per adventure what worked against Prof. Odusanya is the fact that he is a straight forward man and a pastor. He may not allow the business as usual style of Lagos State which may work against the interest of the chop-chop political elites in the state. Prevention is better than cure;
This is a big lesson for people who are innocently or ignorantly pushing for the man behind the Lagos sleaze to become the next President of Nigeria to think twice. Things are too bad to allow another nepotistic fellow to take over from an irredeemable irredentist and nepotistic President”.
A Public Affairs Analyst, Churchill Umoren regarded the appointment as a shame. “This is so wrong. This woman, in concert with some powers in Lagos, truncated the process that produced two Professors ahead of her. The School, buoyed by Tunji Bello, nullified the results because this woman lost. She was a distant third. The state said the process must begin afresh. In the end, she got it. This is a woman who is hardly in class to teach. Shame on Lagos State. Yes, she is qualified but came a distant third in the first screening done by independent Professors.
However,Mr Richard Akinnola, a senior journalist, and Chair, Center for Free Speech(CFS) took Gen Olanrewaju and co- travellers to task on the issue. “I have been reading all sorts of drivel in the last few months by Major General Tajudeen Olanrewaju (rtd),as Trustee of Omo Eko Pataki over the appointment of VC for LASU, and l have a few posers.
When he was a GOC in the Nigerian Army, how many Lagosians did he get into the Army? When he was the Minister of Communications, how many Lagosians did he offer jobs or empower? When Abacha wanted to kill him over the 1997 alleged coup, how many Lagosians put their lives on the line to save him? We know ourselves, non-Lagosians, what we did during that period. Enough of these petulant posturing”, he concluded.