University Of Ibadan at 68 and the education of Nigeria
The 2016 convocation and 68th Foundation Day ceremonies of Nigeria’s premier university, University of Ibadan (UI), clearly provided a platform for interrogation of some, not only educational issues, but also critical national matters which deserve continuous considerations and appraisal with a view to solving them. Beyond pushing some crucial matters of national interest into the front burner, UI at 68 ceremony attracted the attention of the richest man in Africa, Aliko Dangote who gave the institution the whooping sum of N250 million for the development of UI School of Business. This is not only thrilling to the ears but good for the system that has been longing for help and healing! The donation, at this point in time is indeed a lifeline.
There is no doubt that UI, has, over the years, secured a place in the pantheon of the great academic institutions across the world through the production of well-bred, well baked, and world-class graduates who are making waves across the globe. Evidently, UI’s products are its pride. However, the Chancellor of the University, Alhaji Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar lll, who is also the Sultan of Sokoto, called the attention of the elated gathering to a rather debilitating national issue: corruption. He wondered why Nigeria was so much enmeshed in corruption despite the sound education received by the ruling class. His words, “Today, one of our major challenges as a nation is the widespread corruption among the elites, many of whom are graduates of our universities. The revelations in the last one and a half years have shown the absence of moral consciousness in our elites who found it easy to defraud the public treasury of mind-boggling amounts, which are meant for the development of the society”
The Sultan of Sokoto was not done. He turned to the university administrators. “We need to ask the universities to revisit the content of their training and find out where exactly this quest for material acquisition finds its ways into the psyche of the educated elites. Our educational institutions mould the minds of our future generations and no society can have a future, if its educational institutions are imparting the wrong values or are operating at variance with those values, which alone build strong societies.”
What a challenge from the Chancellor! Sadly enough, as this writer was putting this piece together, a Pro-chancellor of a Federal University in South-West of the country, the Vice Chancellor and the Bursar of the university were being dragged to court to answer questions on corruption and complicity. This is in addition to various cases of corruption involving some judges and politicians as well as some professionals in various courts of the land. Perhaps it is safe to say Nigeria is a country subsumed under the crippling culture of corruption. To overcome this virus, therefore, UI and other universities are expected to assist the country. Ivory towers generally are required to proffer solutions to many of the national challenges.
As if responding to contemporary demands, UI seems to be yielding to the modern needs of this generation with the new undergraduate programmes underway. Prof. Olayinka reported that the erstwhile Department of Economics has evolved into the Faculty of Economics with four academic departments including Economics, Accounting, Business Administration and Banking and Finance. Again this is a welcome development. Many candidates had in the past shunned UI because all these courses were not available, rather, the University ran only Economics. But with the assistance of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), which has built a gigantic structure that will house the Faculty, these courses will now be mounted as from the next academic session. UI is truly great, swimming with the tide of time, an attribute of a 21st-century university you may say.
Again, in line with its internationalisation vision, the University, now has 274 international students. A world-class university must reflect the diversity of the universe by a good mix of its student population. In the early years, up to the 70s, UI had foreign students and lecturers across the globe living on Ibadan campus. The university’s popularity soared because of the presence of foreigners who really felt at home in Ibadan. Good enough, Ibadan is a city of open arms. The people in the city possess in abundance, the friendliness that draws all like a mystic magnet. No wonder they say there are no strangers in Ibadan. There is no doubt therefore that UI will reclaim the past glory with the return of more international students. It is even a testament to the quality of education in Ibadan if we have more of them.
Again, an important matter that was highlighted by the ceremony has to do with Nigerian value system. To my mind, the quality of people a society venerates speaks volumes of the value system such a society upholds. In Nigeria, thieves are often celebrated as Chiefs. Paradoxically, morons are regarded as barons because the value system has been skewed towards materialism. But UI seems to be teaching the Nigerian society to learn to honour only men of conscience. The university is passing across this lesson by examples. The university has only been honouring men and women of impeccable character every year through its honourary awards. For this year, three men of probity made the list, including the business mogul and the richest man in Africa, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, the literary giant and the world-acclaimed poet and writer, Prof. Niyi Osundare and an accomplished entrepreneur, Chief Bode Amao. These three men, in the estimation of UI and in the court of public opinion have attained greatness through honest toil.
By and large, this year’s convocation and 68th Foundation Day ceremonies were so impressive and successful. The truth remains that in this world of accelerating change, intensifying complexity and increasing inter-dependence, no serious nation, determined to be relevant, can afford to trifle with development-inspired research. This is where the government has a major role to play. Education must be accorded the required attention and priority. A situation in which university workers and knowledge facilitators are not paid their full salaries by the government is as horrid as it is awful. There is no doubt the economic heat is becoming blistering for everyone in the country. Civil servants are the worst hit. Their meagre salaries must not be “amputated” by the shortfall in personnel cost. Education must be given attention. Workers in the sector must equally be treated well if academic excellence must be maintained. Education remains the only tool of economic empowerment and social advancement.
• Saanu is with the Directorate of Public Communication, University of Ibadan.