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UNIOSUN VC Probe: Mixed reactions trails Survival

There are divergent views on the fate of the Vice Chancellor of the Osun State University, Prof Labode Popoola, over allegations of financial misconduct levelled against him by workers. The Governing Council  is investigating the allegations.

 

Opinions are divided on the fate of the embattled Vice Chancellor of the Osun State University (UNIOSUN), Prof Labode Popoola, who is being investigated by the university’s Governing Council for alleged financial misappropriation. While no one is faulting Popoola’s academic  brilliance, some are attributing his predicament to his ego, which they said, emboldened him to step on toes.

 

Many, including the leaderships of unions, are cautious in speaking on a matter which is being investigated by the council. A few that spoke to The Nation described Popoola’s predicament as nemesis.

 

The Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions NASU-UNIOSUN which is spearheading the battle against the management, alleged that Popoola has squandered over N106 million since his administration came on board in November last year. To back up their claims, NASU, on October 18, submitted a petition to the Governing Council. Two days after, the Council constituted a three-member panel to investigate the allegations. The panel chaired by a professor of International Relations from the University of Lagos, Solomon Akinboye, has Mr. Oluwole Awe from the National Universities Commission (NUC), and Nurudeen Adeagbo, an engineer, from the Osun State Ministry of Works. The  investigation is ongoing.

 

The petition signed by the union’s Chairman and Acting Secretary, comrades Isaiah Fayemi and Dada Kunmi, accused Popoola of trying to gag NASU by engaging in  victimisation to escape the long arm of  the law, a claim Popoola denied.

 

“Mr Chairman Sir, we are reliably informed that the Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Labode Popoola has written against NASU to the Governing Council for a sole purpose of blackmailing our union. If the VC is not predetermined to unjustly deal with NASU in order to cover up his dirt, why is he monitoring our congress? Or can’t we gather together again as enshrined in Section 40 of Nigerian Constitution of 1999 as amended,” NASU demanded in the said petition.

 

But the management has described the allegations as “corruption fighting back in the university.”

 

The management said the petitioner which had benefitted from the sleaze that was once the norm in the institution was now disgruntled as they no longer have the opportunity to dip their hands into the public treasury.

 

“UNIOSUN, which was once cash strapped, now enjoys a financial robustness – courtesy of Popoola’s ingenuity,”management stated

 

Reactions

However, a source, who spoke to our reporter on condition of anonymity, described Popoola as an individual that lacks the wherewithal to manage crisis and cater for workers’ welfare.  According to the source, Popoola acts like an omniscient and sometimes operates without recourse to due process in handling financial matters.

 

“He (Popoola) is exceptionally brilliant,” the source said, “but he lacks the administrative skill and credentials required by the Office of the Vice Chancellor. He does not work with the Registry, a vital administrative organ of the university.

 

“He is a lone ranger. He believes he knows it all and this attitude has affected his relationship with many, including workers and some members of the Governing Council, except the chairman of the council. Only (Yusuf) Ali believes in him and that is the more reason why the petitioners are warning that the council must not sweep the allegation under the carpet. They believe Ali is a man of integrity who must not allow the VC’s case  to tarnish his hard-earned reputation,” the source further added.

 

But the Director, Inter-Campus and Public Affairs in the Office of Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Anthony Olusanya, denied that Popoola circumvents protocol. According to Olusanya UNIOSUN has a structure through which the VC operates and which will not allow him to work in isolation of departments and offices within the institution.

 

“Popoola is an administrator. He follows due process in all his dealings. I don’t know how the petitioners came about the allegation of financial impropriety against the VC.  For instance, the VC cannot approve fund above N1 million and the ceiling for fund approval for the management team is N5 million. Any financial transaction above N5 million can only be handled by the university’s Governing Council.”

 

Olusanya also denied that Popoola toys with workers’ welfare, describing such as an attempt to blackmail him so as to score a cheap point. He said in the last one year of Popoola in the saddle, workers have constantly collected their salaries on 25th of every month.

 

Another source denied the impression in certain quarters that the Governing Council could not have been stampeded by NASU into setting up a probe panel. The source said that the chairman of the Council received the petition against the VC in the morning of October 20 which coincided with Council meeting and directed that a panel be set up and headed by him.  The source further insisted that no man could single handedly spend N106 million as claimed by the petitioners.

 

A member of council also corroborated this view. The source said the amount was pretty mega for an individual to have pocketed in a system with checks and balances.

 

“I do not want to agree that the VC stole such huge amount in a university system where there are checks and balances. However, I also do not wish to preempt the outcome of the panel. But one thing I will say is that the VC may be paying the price for his high handedness and disrespect for others. He doesn’t have human relations and this made him step on many toes. I also realised some of his close associates have tried to advise him against that tendency but he wouldn’t listen.”

 

“See, majority of these workers writing petitions here and there are mere noisemakers. Do your checks and you will realise that they’ve always had a hand in every crisis that have rocked the institution. Most times, they don’t apply wisdom in conflict situations, and are difficult to pacify. They are only interested in heating up the system,”said another source.

 

Meanwhile, NASU holds on to its position, and admonished all to exercise patience pending the outcome of the panel

 

Speaking to our reporter on phone, Fayemi said the union would love to hold its peace for now, adding that the end would always justify the means.

 

“For now, a committee has been set up to look into the allegations. We do not, through our utterances, wish to preempt the outcome of the committee. Mind you, all we know is that a dog will not bark unless it sees. We are the one that petitioned the Governing Council; so let’s see until the panel finishes its work,” he said.

 

The Petition

Non Aacademic Staff Union of Universities (NASU), has alleged that the VC went out of bound because he has the Governing Council in his pockets.

 

“Permit us to say that we are worried that the VC, Prof. Labode Popoola has been able to successfully commit all these under your watch as the Governing Council Chairman going by your antecedents. We are not also surprised because he (VC) has been boasting that he is in control of the Governing Council. Sir, his actions so far also confirmed the statement,” stated the petitioners.

 

“These, he is doing against NASU because he must have been informed that it is only our union that can expose his financial impropriety. Sir, NASU members have refused to be intimidated, humiliated, and victimised by the Vice Chancellor or anyone at the corridor of power because our union stands for truth, justice, equity and operates with facts and figures.

 

“We, therefore, call on the Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of Council, Mallam Yusuf Ali and the entire members of Council to do the needful and convince the entire staff of the Osun State University that he (VC) is not in control of the Governing Council. The leadership of NASU-UNIOSUN branch will be available to stand by the allegations leveled against the Vice Chancellor even in his presence. We use this medium to again call on the Governing Council under your leadership to please make sure that these allegations are thoroughly investigated’’.

 

VC’s response

“Just do your independent search on Labode Popoola as a person, a scholar and an administrator. Find out how much UNIOSUN is worth in cash after years of profligacy and sleaze by the current petitioners. Find out how a VC has succeeded without government subvention to pay staff salaries in full before the end of the month, for his 12 months in the saddle. Reflect also on what unionism has become in our clime- a tool of cheap blackmail by people who have no business being in the academia. We are dealing with a simple case of corruption fighting back.”

 

Culled from The Nation

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