A professor of Physiology and former acting vice-chancellor of the Lagos State University (LASU), Ojo, Ibiyemi Olatunji-Bello, has been appointed the institution’s 9th substantive vice-chancellor.
Mrs Olatunji-Bello is the wife of the Lagos State commissioner for environment and water resources, Olatunji Bello.
The announcement was made on Thursday by the state’s commissioner for information and strategy, Gbenga Omotoso.
A highly placed source among the state’s cabinet members had also confirmed the development to PREMIUM TIMES earlier on Thursday.
The new development perhaps puts an end to controversies that have trailed the processes of appointing a substantive vice-chancellor for the university following the completion of a five-year single term of office by the 8th substantive vice-chancellor, Olanrewaju Fagbohun.
But some persons including academic and non-academic staffers on the campus believe the withdrawal of other strong contenders from the race, especially, Olumuyiwa Odusanya, a professor of public health, may signal an impending crisis.
According to Mr Omotoso, the appointment followed the recommendation of the joint committee of the governing council and the Senate of the university “in accordance with the LASU Law, Cap 169 Vol 7, Laws of Lagos State.”
“Lagos State Governor, Mr Babajide Olusola-Sanwo-Olu has approved the appointment of Professor Ibiyemi Olatunji-Bello as the 9th substantive Vice-Chancellor of the Lagos State University (LASU),” the statement reads in part.
The university had been embroiled in controversies surrounding the appointment of Mr Fagbohun’s successor leading to the cancellation of two selection processes earlier conducted by the university’s former governing council.
As a result of allegations of manipulation and inconsistencies levelled against the then Adebayo Ninalowo-led governing council, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, who doubles as the institution’s visitor, set up a visitation panel which recommended the dissolution of the governing council.
The panel also recommended the reconstitution of another council. It added that the then registrar of the university, Olayinka Amuni, should embark on leave pending the conclusion of the selection process.
Mr Amuni was accused of not properly guiding the governing council on the laid down procedures to be followed by the selection committee.
But critics had accused the governor of supporting Mrs Olatunji-Bello’s emergence. They cited her husband’s influence on the governor, especially “in connection with his second term bid.”
Mr Olatunji Bello, a close ally of the former governor of the state and political godfather of the incumbent, Bola Tinubu, has been a regular cabinet member in the state since he served during the tenure of Mr Tinubu.
The results of the two earlier selection processes which were cancelled by the governor had Mr Odusanya, who is the university’s director of research, taking the first position.
The result also had a former deputy vice-chancellor, Senapon Bakre, and a former dean of students’ affairs on the campus, Kabiru Akinyemi, ranking second and third respectively.
Following petitions against the process, the governor ordered that a new process be conducted.
At the end of the second process, while Mr Odusanya ranked first again, a professor of public health from Usman Danfodio University, Sokoto (UDUS), Mohammed Ibrahim, ranked second and the then provost of LASU’s college of medicine, Abiodun Adewuya, came third.
In both the first and second selection processes, Mrs Olatunji-Bello ranked fourth and seventh respectively.
However, while other members of the former council were returned, Mr Ninalowo was replaced with a former auditor general of the state, David Sunmoni, as the chairman.
A new seven-member joint council and Senate selection committee under the leadership of Mr Sunmoni was reconstituted with three other council members- Hakeem Adetugbobo, Moronke Williams and Oluwakemi Kalesanwo.
The university’s Senate had earlier elected Fidelis Njokanma, Adenike Boye and Joseph Olagunju, all professors, as members.
But following what concerned individuals and groups such as the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) described as an attempt to exempt medical doctors from the process, especially with the criteria of provision of PhD degree, and for clinical lecturers, a newly introduced Doctor of Medicine (MD) degree, Mr Njokanma, a holder of medical fellowship resigned his membership.
The criteria was reportedly set against Mr Odusanya, who is said to be the favourite candidate of the former council chairman and the immediate past vice-chancellor, Mr Fagbohun.
Mr Njokanma was on 10 August replaced by Rafiu Okuneye, a professor of physical and health education, who was elected by the Senate.
But as a result of pressure mounted on the governing council and the governor, the university readjusted the criteria for the office and permitted holders of medical fellowship to be part of the contest.
However, the medical practitioners who had consistently taken part in the contest, refused to participate in the new process.
Both Messrs Odusanya and Adewuya rebuffed all entreaties to take part in the process.
“Three high ranking traditional rulers in the state pleaded with them to rescind their decision but they said they did not trust the process, and so opted out,” a source told PREMIUM TIMES.
Born in Lagos on 23 April, 1964, Mrs Olatunji-Bello graduated from University of Ibadan where she bagged a BSc (Hons) in Physiology in 1985.
She bagged her MSc in Physiology in 1987 at the University of Lagos and a PhD in the same field at the same university in 1998.
She had attended Anglican Girls Primary School in Surulere from 1970 to 1974 and then Lagos Anglican Girls Grammar School, also 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.
The new vice-chancellor also has 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, (CMUL) Idi Araba.
Between 1999 and 2005, she was a senior lecturer and became an associate professor in 2005 at the CMUL before she was appointed the pioneer professor of Physiology at the Lagos State University College of Medicine (LASUCOM).
Mrs Olatunji-Bello has held various positions at the university including serving as an acting vice-chancellor, and deputy deputy vice-chancellor in charge of academic matters.
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 also appointed a Fellow of the society for Environmental Toxicology and Pollution Mitigation in 2019.
She served under the administration of her predecessor, Mr Fagbohun, as the pioneer director of LASU directorate of advancement.
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