Many people would have considered the celebrated sexual harassment case between Monica Osagie, a former postgraduate student of the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife, and one of her lecturers, Prof. Richard Akindele closed with the conviction of the lecturer by a Federal High Court in Osogbo in December 2018. Prof Akindele, a Professor of Management Accounting, had pleaded guilty to four counts filed against him by the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC) which investigated the allegations before prosecuting him. But the matter has refused to die down, especially with reports that the university was yet to release Osagie’s result, about three years after the unfortunate incident, and months after Prof. Akindele had completed his two years jail term.
The Monica/Akindele saga made the headlines when it broke in 2018 because sex-for-marks cases have become endemic in our higher institutions. It is good that the ICPC doggedly pursued the matter until it got Prof Akindele convicted. This means there was no doubt about whether the lecturer committed the crime or not. In our clime where it is difficult to prove sexual harassment cases beyond reasonable doubts in court, this is a plus for the commission’s anti-corruption crusade. Indeed, it is worthy of note because, contrary to the misconception that corruption is all about financial dealings and money would always be involved to make a good corruption case, the ICPC has proved that this is wrong, and that sex-for-marks is a variant of corruption.
We commend the commission’s doggedness in pursuing the case to its logical conclusion.
However, in spite of Prof Akindele’s conviction, the dust is yet to settle on the matter as the victim’s result is yet to be released. This is a puzzle that many followers of the incident cannot understand. The matter is not helped by the series of speculations and insinuations that she is being victimised by the OAU authorities as a way of avenging the humiliation of one of their own.
Indeed, all manner of theories on why Osagie’s result has not released have been propounded in the media. Perhaps the most dominant was that the result was being withheld because Osagie did not register “for the session” on time, hence, she was not a bona fide student of the university when she took the examination. Yet, she paid the requisite fees and even attended lectures until the scandal broke.
Unfortunately, OAU’s authorities did not help matters too by not making public the real reason behind their decision to withhold the result. It was only recently that fresh fact indicated that the student could not be awarded a master’s degree because she failed Mathematics, a major course she must pass in addition to other prerequisites, to qualify for the master’s degree. Indeed, the university reportedly bent over backwards by allowing her to take the course thrice, instead of the usual two attempts, because of the peculiar nature of her situation. Yet, she could not make it. It is instructive that the course was not taught by Prof Akindele. Moreover, she had failed it twice even before the sex saga. Again, on the issue of late registration, the university also bent over backwards to pardon Osagie and others with the same issue, just to show understanding with the victim’s plight.
It is a long tale. But, the long and short of it is that, contrary to the stories out there, Osagie could not be awarded a master’s degree simply on account of Prof Akindele’s conviction. It would appear this is what the former student wants. But, while some considerations may be given in such circumstance, they are not enough to secure a degree. University degrees are awarded to persons found worthy in character and learning. To the extent that Osagie has not met the criteria for the award of the degree, the OAU authorities do not have to compromise the institution’s standards simply on account of her peculiar situation.
But, while the university might indeed have been hesitant to throw its former student’s result into the open so as not to compound her embarrassment or further devastate her, it has got to a stage where the authorities have to weigh the options again. It would appear that the university had demonstrated impartiality in the matter by promptly sacking Prof Akindele after his indictment by the panel it set up to probe the matter. This, and other aforementioned waivers would seem enough good faith on the part of the university.
But, it is high time OAU took reasonable steps to clear its name. Its integrity is at stake now. One thing is clear though, silence in this matter is no longer golden; just as its piecemeal reactions are not in its interest. It is time for the university to give a blow-by-blow account of the matter with a view to setting the record straight once and for all.