'Village head' refuses to talk

January 9, 1998

STUDENTS at Lagos State University have redesignated their vice chancellor "village headmaster" in protest at his refusal to open what they regard as meaningful dialogue over their grievances.

Since the beginning of his confrontation with the students, vice chancellor Fatiu Ademola Akesode is no longer able to use the university's main gate. He has been forced to use the emergency exit at the back of the campus, strictly reserved so that he can leave the campus without being harassed by students.

Security guards have been given strict orders not to allow anyone - student or teacher - to use the emergency exit. An armoured police tank stationed in front of the campus since disturbances last May has been reinforced by additional armed police.

"Since his assumption of duty as vice chancellor, Professor Akesode has been treating us with scorn," declared Bunmi Demola, an aggrieved student. "We decided to call him village headmaster to remind him that Lagos is not a primary school but a university with mature students."

Since he assumed office less than 18 months ago, Professor Akesode has been involved in a series of disputes with the students.

His first confrontation came when students decided to go on an indefinite boycott of classes after the announcement of a new US$2.5 million (Pounds 1.6 million) medical school while they faced shortages of chemical reagents needed for practicals.

Another source of anger was the re-emergence of bloody clashes between rival secret cults. Students claimed that the university authorities were not prepared to tackle the problem despite knowing the identity of students alleged to be involved in a series of attacks.

The students also claim that the vice chancellor was directly implicated in the over-admission of students to the law faculty. More than 400 students were admitted instead of the quota of 140 while other faculties admitted over 200 per cent above the quota permitted by the National University Commission. Consequent overcrowding alienated the students, who were told by the vice chancellor to mind their own business.

A peaceful demonstration over bus fare rises and the arrest of a bus conductor degenerated into a violent confrontation with the police called in by the vice chancellor, who further heightened the charged atmosphere by suspending members of the student union executive for two semesters and banning union activity for two years.

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