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NIGERIAN UNIVERSITIES & NATIONAL TRANSFORMATION: THE ROLE OF THE ALUMNI By: Prof. Tunde Adeniran, OFR, KJW

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 ‘’Ask not what your country has done to you, but what you have also done to your country. ‘’Misplaced victimhood is also misplaced aggression against one’s country.’’ …. Tatalo Alamu.

At inception, TERRIFIC HEADLINES promised to focus on a broad spectrum of the global community, with emphasis on Nigeria, Africa, and indeed the whole world in that order. We disclosed that our activities and publications would always be in good faith, and for future generations, in recognition of virtues and values that are worth reading and recording for posterity. We equally asserted that we will entertain only issue-based discussions grounded on merit, patriotism, fair play and justice. Therefore, our publications have been chiefly directed at influencing the citizenry for improvements and better standards of living and conducts, through sensitization and advocacy activities. We don’t do gossips. Therefore, TERRIFIC HEADLINES is publishing the views of notable Nigerians and scholars of repute, as a means of educating the government and the governed.

People, who have patriotically given us the right to publish their materials in national interest include Prof. Tunde Adeniran, OFR, Nigeria’s former Minister of Education; later Ambassador to the Federal Republic of Germany. It is expected that these opinions would go a long way in encouraging discourse that would promote development and encourage politicians seeking elective and other positions in government to discuss issues rather that engage in mudslinging that yields no dividend.  Specifically, we request that the relevant audience, including politicians, students and scholars of Political Science, Diplomacy, International Relations, Governance, Security Studies, History, Social Studies & Sciences and other related disciplines should join our social media networks to be able to benefit from refreshing debates and information. Today, we present a paper titled: NIGERIAN UNIVERSITIES & NATIONAL TRANSFORMATION: THE ROLE OF THE ALUMNI as presented by Professor Tunde Adeniran, OFR.  It is being published in two parts; starting with Part 1, today in which the erudite professor submits that: ”WE ARE ALL GUILTY AS CHARGED: Yes, indeed we are all guilty as charged – past leaders, present leaders and all those who have had the benefit of university education and have chosen to be silent in the face of booming business of hand-outs and term papers, examination malpractices, certificate racketeering, etc.”

PROFILING PRODUCTS OF UNIVERSITIES: Profiling recent products of our universities is not a pleasant exercise. The shock has, however, now gone beyond some so-called graduates who are unable to construct two correct sentences or a degree-holding job seeker who titled his application as Application for the post of Employment to a University Professor who, on national television announced to the world that “my names are … ” Or the one who asserted that “Government cannot afford to obligate its responsibility” or another wanted to intimidate his boss, “with the facts”!

University autonomy used to be part of the major challenges. I can recall that .as chairman, of the Academic staff union of Universities (U.I.” Chapter) I was part of the delegation (led by Biodun Jeyifo) that negotiated with the Shehu Shagari administration in 1981. The petition and protests of that period led to the Sol. Cookery Commission through which most of the contentious issues were resolved. The key one that lingered on was University Autonomy. By sheer coincidence and grace of God I had the privilege, as the Federal Minister of Education in 1999 under President Olusegun Obasanjo, to initiate, co-ordinate and manage the fundamental aspects, of the University Autonomy issue. The framework was firmly established for University Autonomy in addition to improved working conditions (capacity building, salaries and wages, etc) whose implementation was prompt, HATTISS/IV remains for me an enduring source of satisfaction. I wish to express my gratitude to Emeritus Professor Ayo Banjo (a distinguished Alumnus and former Vice chancellor of this university) who, as Chairman of the Committee of Pro-chancellors and a key player in the negotiation with ASUU, balanced his responsibility as representative of the Federal Government with his desire as an academic to have ASUU’s demands met and assisted us in arriving at an objective and credible solution.

A word about the Joint Admissions and Matriculations soared (JAMB) and the National Universities Commission (NUC) which presumably killed the first University Autonomy will be in order here. The JAMB and (NUC) have continued to play critical roles in the affairs of Nigerian Universities. They were established to serve primarily as gate – keepers of due process in matters relating to criteria for entering universities and the administration of grants as well, as accreditation of course contents respectively. There have always been mixed reactions to their coordinating functions particularly the NUC’s prerogative on quality assurance, the setting of expenditure guidelines and general monitoring which could be perceived as capable of compromising university autonomy. It could be argued, especially based on the quota system in admissions, that the centralization of the university system administration has been contributory to the decline in standards but my view is that the politicization of the process has been the major factor in this regard.

THE TASK OF NATIONAL TRANSFORMATION: Now to the specific issues of national transformation in which I believe university Alumni should be involved, some weeks ago I read two pieces in two different Nigerian newspapers of the same’ date which both depressed me but gladdened my heart at the same time! They revealed the depth of the crises we face in our universities and the pitiable dimensions in which transformation is’ needed in Nigeria. Nevertheless, they provide credible evidence that I am not alone in the theatre of lamentation.

One could say that our universities grew rapidly in response to the shortages of manpower needs of our country. Various statistics abound to confirm, the trend. But some things went wrong, fundamentally, which led to a tragic decline in quality or decay before, the expected fruition. One of the articles I hinted at was by Biodun Jeyifo, a profound alumnus of lbadan (member of the UI class of 67) who observed this situation which tends to defy precise definition and categorized it as a crisis of “regressive neocolonialism”. According to him, it is “the calamitous fall in the quality, not only of the products of our tertiary educational institutions, but of the producers themselves – the teachers, the junior and senior lecturers and; especially, the professoriate'”

To buttress his verdict, Jeyifo affirms that: ‘’In the last twenty years standards have more than plummeted; they have gone far below ground level and settled at the bottom of underground cavers in the rankings of the tertiary institutions of our continent and the world. I have remarked earlier that no single Nigerian university is ranked among the top 2000 universities of the world. Well, consider the following statistic: of the highest ranked 100 universities in Africa, only 8 are Nigerian institutions and not one of them is among the top 30 African universities …’’Which is why, for at least the last two decades, Nigerian parents who can afford it have been sending their children to South African and Ghanaian universities; and in Nigeria itself, potential employers of our university graduates have been complaining that a high percentage of those who pass through our Institutions of higher learning are so poor in quality that they are either downright “unemployable” or have to be re-educated and retrained in order to meet the demands of the market and the professions in al( fields: science, technology, engineering, administration, medicine, law, business, the arts and the humanities … ‘’

The second article, a product of the “snooping around” by Tatalo  Alamu whose observation, contained in a 2003 address to a group of Nigerian professionals in Albany, Georgia (USA), contains some insight relevant to the appreciation of the challenge’ of national transformation. After a diagnosis of the ailments afflicting Nigeria, he (Tatalo Alamu) posits that: ‘’The problem with Nigeria is the failure of institutions and of people institutional collapse and elite disorientation. Virtually everybody is implicated: soldiers, politicians, writers, journalists, lawyers, doctors, intellectuals, traditional rulers, clergymen, Islamic leaders, etc. ‘’Ask not what your country has done to you, but what you have also done to your country. ‘’Misplaced victimhood is also misplaced aggression against one’s country.’’

 WE ARE ALL GUILTY AS CHARGED: Yes, indeed we are all guilty as charged – past leaders, present leaders and all those who have had the benefit of university education and have chosen to be silent in the face of booming business of hand-outs and term papers, examination malpractices, certificate racketeering, etc. All those who, in this age that requires cutting-edge technology for problem-solving, are indifferent or lure themselves into an invidious position as the selling of education metastasize into a flourishing enterprise!  In period of transformation or in societies in need of transformation, the people as well as the political, economic and social institutions are subjected to severe stresses and strains. This is a logical effect of a crisis situation. The dispiriting reality of today, that our national institutional, educational, economic, political, judicial, etc have become the objects of skeptical-attitudes and corrosive doubts, is indicative of a national dilemma and the seriousness of the challenge of transformation and national development.

This is being compounded by the specter of moral nihilism that is steadily penetrating the consciousness of the greater percentage of Nigerians. Everywhere we turn we encounter the erosion of core values while the role of transvaluation which education is expected to perform, the task of curbing societal descent into chaos or the diminution of humanity, is being abdicated! And laws do not seem to exist anymore to tame the aggressive impulses of the will to seek power among members of the political class, creating a culture of impunity in the society.

WHAT IS TRANSFORMATION?: Essentially, transformation is a process and that has to predicate all the relevant issues. Arising from this, the seven laws of transformation put out by Philip Walker to the International Christian Ministries (ICM) Alumni are instructive:

  • Law One: Transformation is a Process
  • Law Two: Transformation Changes both Heart and Mind
  • Law Three: Transformation Builds on Core Beliefs
  • Law Four: Transformation Produces Godly Character
  • Law Five: Transformation Impacts Commitments
  • Law Six: Transformation Requires Competencies
  • Law Seven: Transformation Increases Capacity.

Looking at the task of national transformation from the micro to the macro level, we should of necessity focus first on university education or the university system, our immediate community. Its vision should guide us in this regard. Here, Ayo Banjo’s submission is quite apt:  The vision of university education in Nigeria can be summarized as the maintenance of a group of institutions run by some of the country’s most gifted individuals fully committed to the development of all Nigerians and the full harnessing of the resources of the country in order to guarantee happy and reasonably prosperous citizens who are thus empowered to live a fulfilled life and in turn play their own part in increasing the Stock of human goodness and happiness in the country.

Against the foregoing definition of ”vision of university education” which we consider quite appropriate, we can now locate the task and challenge before educational institutions of higher learning – and specifically the university. Again, I find delight in drawing attention to the findings of another great alumnus of UI, Pai Obanya. According to him: ‘’… Transformation involves getting society to the next level by taking advantage of advances in ideas, knowledge and technology. Higher education … has always emphasized more of the transformation role. Playing this role has become more challenging with the acceleration of history, globalization and the knowledge economy.’’

What is the next level in a globalised world – a world in which there I is a collapse of barriers, between nations such as trade, tariffs, culture, distance and access to global communication? By now I believe we all have an idea. But it goes far beyond the importance of computers and cyberspace technology. It has to do with a clear vision, purpose and values. When other countries are faced with natural tsunamis, the tropical storm Nanmadol that hit china’s coast recently, hurricanes (Katrina, Irene, etc) mudslides, tornadoes, typhoons and earthquakes, these are phenomena they already. predicted and acquired some capacity to deal with. When we were faced with man-made disasters or the type of floods which turned Ibadan upside down last month how, did we react? How prepared are we in the’ face of the world’s imploding economies and the crippling ‘recession? And as we move as a nation from our ordinary level of difficulties to the advanced level of challenges how do we plan, to cope with the army of the unemployed and the unemployable, etc?

 A TRANSFORMATION AGENDA .. Today, the alumni of Oxford, Harvard, Cambridge, Sorbonne, Columbia, Yale, MIT, etc are proud .to be products of their worthy universities. They continue to be guided by the vision which inspired their establishment and have consistently focused on their missions. The prevailing conditions in Nigeria demand a transformation that could only be meaningful and complete if spurred by our universities. The characteristic features of transformation we should seek to achieve must be that which best conforms to the needs of Nigerians and’ the Nigerian nation. In this regard, the ways to national transformation’ would be both functional and institutional. If we are to key into the global direction of the twin essence of science and technology, and education in general, moving at a rapid pace to create a better society for Nigerians, by freeing our people for ignorance, hunger, disease and servitude, a new agenda must be set and pursued. Such university education agenda should include, but not limited to, the following:

  • Mission review;
  • Genuine promotion of a reading culture;
  • Raising the bar or quality assurance;
  • Ascertaining relevance;
  • Conscientizing university education.

To be continued

                 

 

 

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