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NIGERIAN UNIVERSITIES AND NATIONAL TRANSFORMATION THE ROLE OF THE ALUMNI By: Prof. Tunde Adeniran, OFR, KJS PART 2

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Yesterday, we commenced publishing this scholarly material by Prof. Tunde Adeniran, an eminent political scientist and politician who has served Nigeria in several capacities. We now bring you the concluding part of the lecture.

 ‘’One frightening reality that both the’ producers and products of our university system are pushing the educational enterprise to the point of irrelevance is compounded by the infectious nature of the underlying racketeering! Educational accountability must henceforth be demanded of those who have had the advantage of educational facilities and whose actions or inaction could shape national destiny. Those who have passed through the university system are honour bound to prepare grounds for hope (and not alarm) for the cultivation of a worthy national destiny.’’

 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 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 TRANSFORMATIONAL 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 fr 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:

(i), Mission review;

(ii) Genuine promotion of a reading culture;

(Hi) Raising the bar or quality assurance;

(iv) Ascertaining relevance;

(v) Conscientizing University Education.

MISSION OF UNIVERSITY EDUCATION: Any mission is usually tied to the vision underlying it. I have no doubt that the vision of university ‘education in Nigeria remains inspirational and valid even for our challenging times. But there is no doubt we need to redefine or re-establish the mission of university education as part of a new agenda to give concrete and lasting effect to the vision. Reflecting upon a transformational mission for the university system takes me again to that fundamental postulation by our esteemed Ayo Banjo. His proposal was for the following questions to be addressed in. formulating a mission statement for the university system:

  1. Exactly how does a university seek, within the prevailing circumstances, to have the desirable impact on the whole ‘of society?
  2. More specifically, how does it set about the moral and intellectual formation of its students?

iii. How does it seek to create new knowledge?

  1. How does it intend to contribute to the creation of more wealth?
  2. How does it intend to contribute to the creation of a happy society?

The Issue here, however, goes beyond “mission statement”. A concrete’ agenda for effective action would, of course, still require that the foregoing pertinent questions be asked. During the past few years, whenever I am faced with the Obligation of completing some forms ‘or writing some recommendations on behalf of applicants seeking admission into postgraduate schools (especially foreign institutions), I do not take such exercise’ as a ritual the way it is treated by many of our universities nowadays. A candidate’s “emotional stability” and related matters might difficult to assess objectively but reflections or interactions would expose whether indeed the diversity ever passed through the candidate and to what extent he could be banked upon in realizing the vision and, accomplishing the mission of the university system.

TRANSFORMATIONAL AGENDA: A transformational agenda would have clear goals, goals that must be right and goals we must get right for the individual and the nation. The agenda should consist of clearly delineated short-tern, medium-term and long-term goals. Based on what we shall do to fulfill the vision of the university system, the goals must be clear and compelling enough to keep the, system’ going all the time. We already have a rather all-inclusive and universally accepted functions of the university as teaching, research and community or public service. As the major vehicle for moving society forward, Pai Obanya has on various occasions put the “Triple Mandate” of universities elegantly as “Knowledge generation (or Research), knowledge transmission (or Teaching) and knowledge application (or Responsive Social Engagement)”. And since the society in view, the mission to be accomplished, is genuine national development, the productive capacity of the Nigerian worker would have to be the focus’.

DECAY OF THE PAST FEW DECADES: Before the systemic decay and degeneracy of the past two decades, our universities played a major role in the mobilization, training, development or empowerment of youths for participation  in various programmes of socio-economic development. Graduates constituted the core of skilled manpower and were agents of the country’s economic, political and socio-cultural transformation. There was balance between the quality and quantity of graduates, a healthy match between the university graduate output and employment, guaranteed quality assurance and high world rankings based on a comparable maintenance of international standard.

The decay that set in and led to the present crisis in Nigeria’s university education started manifesting through gross inadequacies of numerous development indices: poor enrolment ratio into universities; inadequate qualified’ teaching force; dilapidated/outdated basic infrastructure; overcrowded and poor sanitary conditions; underfunding coupled with cost ineffectiveness; libraries, laboratories and workshops as shadows of their former selves; – replication of the rot in the larger society as evident in -rampant examination malpractices, ‘corruption in all forms, cultism and banditry. Consequently, the glory tower lost its glory in Nigeria as evident” in mass exodus to Europe, the Americas, Asia, South Africa and Ghana in pursuit of university education; low rating in world ranking unstable academic calendar and incessant labour ‘restiveness.

Recent developments in some of the universities present evidence that the situation stated above could be reversed and should be reversed through a new transformational agenda. The agenda must be an educational process that would, among other things:

i.target a globalized world and the. Nigeria of our vision in the admission and training of university students;

ii.promote a needs-driven research culture;

iii.provide practical-oriented education that would equip graduates with life-long capabilities for contribution to society; and

iv.produce graduates imbued with core-societal values, professional competence to serve self and the knowledge society as well as the consciousness of individual roles within the self-purifying process of democratic consolidation.

REVAMPING UNIVERSITY EDUCATION: There is need to emphasize at this point that it is not enough to keep harping on the essence of revamping university education and broaden it through comprehensive curriculum review without addressing some of the basics; for instance, technical- education being crucial for development is no longer in doubt and so is the essence of sustainable Scientific researches beyond debate. But we cannot create and advance knowledge through research and; apply them if there are no means of their dissemination. Students no longer read the way they should and a transformational agenda would be meaningless if it does not entail vigorous promotion of the book-reading culture. Recent findings have also shown that the depth and scope of readings required in some courses have been sacrificed and this partially explains’ why it is sometimes difficult to distinguish between those who actually passed through some of our universities and those who graduated from fictitious universities.

POOR READING CULTURE: Talking from the experience of my life-long association with education particularly my decades in the university and my sojourn in the political leadership of, the Federal Ministry of Education and the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), a reading culture cannot be effectively promoted without the necessary publishing and printing capacity in Nigeria. It is disheartening that nothing concrete carne out of e Nigerian National. Book Policy on Education of 1981 which proposed that by the year 2000 every Nigerian should be literate. That was before the World Conference on Education (of 1990) which came up with “Education for a by the Year 2015” to ensure we no longer joke with it!  The promotion of a reading culture presupposes availability and affordability. Over the years I have watched with dismay the periodic or regularized policy somersault occasioned by the crippling increases in the import duty on materials used by the local employers of labour in the business of printing books, etc.!

So long as books remain vital tools in educational and, ultimately national, development so long shall we remain underdeveloped unless we reverse the policy and practice of encouraging Nigerian books to be published in Europe, Asia, etc to the detriment of our local/national book industry. A new agenda must of necessity get the National Universities Commission (NUC), the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund), the Nigerian Educational Research and Development Council (NERDC) and the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) to collaborate in giving effect to a reactivated book policy, and ensure that both indigenous and foreign publishers utilize the services of Nigeria printers, particularly in the printing of government-sponsored books. They have the basic capacity and it is through the much needed patronage that they could develop greater capacity and help in promoting a reading culture and facilitate national development. It is noteworthy however that TETFund has set aside, the sum of N4.4billion as Book Development Fund to cover book Publication (N1.103 billion), Journal Publication (N355.6 million) and the establishment of Academic Publishing Centres (N2.965 billion) in seven universities in the six geo-political zones and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT)’ of ‘ the country.

A transformational agenda- should’ also deal with the various categories of educational charlatans ever ready and determined to exploit the Nigerian society’s reverence for credentials and the pathetic inability to judge or take a principled position on what we are buying in the educational market. One frightening reality that both the’ producers and products of our university system are pushing the educational enterprise to the point of irrelevance is compounded by the infectious nature of the underlying racketeering! Educational accountability must henceforth be demanded of those who have had the advantage of educational facilities and whose actions or inaction could shape national destiny. Those who have passed through the university system are honour bound to prepare grounds for hope (and not alarm) for the cultivation of a worthy national destiny. And we must bear in mind the classic dynamic that the slower we are in acting the harder and longer it would be to solve the problem.

RAISING THE BAR: Earlier on I noted the need to raise the bar, to reestablish quality, ascertain relevance and conscientize university education. The foregoing paragraph was to partially touch on the relevant issues and challenge us to reflect further on relevant agenda. I see the desecration of the soul of university education, a baffling degeneration, when I come across so-called graduates seeking employment and could not communicate as if they never had secondary school education. I feel depressed and thrown unspeakable agitation when university graduates cannot plan what to do with their lives outside of government employment. Is this a reflection of the callousness of our institutions or their artificiality and insincerity regarding the mission of universities? They certainly must be re- engineered with a transformational agenda based on the essence of university education and appropriate benchmarking for competitiveness in  a globalizing world. In this regard, it is gratifying to know t e Federal University of Technology, Minna presently runs a programme on entrepreneurship for undergraduate and post-graduate students. This is one of the scattered mountains we have to climb to turn the corner of national transformation.

THE ROLE OF THE ALUMNI: No matter the lamentation that goes into the state of our universities today, no change would occur, no meaningful transformation will become a reality unless there is a clear appreciation of the bizarre dimensions as well as massive investment of resources, dedication and commitment by the key stakeholders. As students of U.I in the late 19605, we left and were welcomed wherever we went in Europe, the Americas, etc in the early 1970s as corning from an institution of academic excellence. How does an alumnus feel today about the fall of Ibadan? How do the alumni of Nigerian universities feel about the steady deterioration of our universities? Is it imaginable, for instance, that U.I is presently not ranked as belonging to the 40 top universities in Africa and not in the category of the world’s 3000 leading universities? I feel seriously diminished!

For the alumni as key stakeholders, it is time yet to realize that the sing-song of rehabilitating physical infrastructures must be -complemented with greater emphasis on continuous capacity building, mindful of the social obligation of human capital development through youth empowerment, etc. As products of the Elliot and Asquith Commissions and beneficiaries of Nigeria’s immense possibilities, there has always been an inspiring vision with which to construct a clear roadmap and time lines for transformation. We must ginger all concerned to act beyond mere proclamations and eschew simple-minded projections.

In summary, for our universities to be relevant in’ national transformation they would have to be restored to perform transformational roles. Restoration of the university system requires all hands to be on deck, an enduring government regulatory framework, budgetary provisions backed with prudent management and judicious application, healthy private sector partnership in building and ownership, resource and chair endowment, ; promotion and funding of research and commercialization of inventions and discoveries as well as full involvement of all major stakeholders with the government handling tax deductibles. Exactly one week ago today an alumnus of the Federal University of Technology told me he had always been consistent, in the regular payment of his monthly dues to the university. I pray others would join him in this patriotic commitment.’ The totality has potentials for reducing the burden of students in. the university.

There will, of course, be user charges as university education cannot be entirely free. While some alumni had, in the past, participated in the restoration of their Halls of Residence, Departments .and Faculties, a time of transformation is actually pay-back time when restoration goes beyond ‘ the physical to the content. It is the time to see through appearances, to deploy intuitive insights and shrewd discernment and utilize evaluative capacities and analyze the ramifications of the devaluation of our universities. To transform, we must serve as careful calculators and conscientious monitors of what, in the final analysis, would determine the future of the coming generations and the fate of our country.

At this point I cannot but recall how pained I was some two years ago at Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) Ile-Ife. An important event brought together some prominent traditional rulers, intellectuals, politicians and an array of students. On the podium a Guest Speaker who was highly privileged and politically powerful alumnus of Ife (with tremendous capacity for influence) started, and occasionally punctuated, his address with something like “Great Ife ya ya yaa”! while the students and some imported “Area Boys” responded with a resounding “G .. r .. e .. a .. t”!. “Great, great … Aluta Ife ye ye yee and Gbosa to the third power”! And the response was a deafening “GBOSA … GBOSA … GBOSA”! My pain or concern was not merely because rapacious sloganeering without limits or limitation has a tendency of scaling over to the realm of absurdity. I saw such rapturous exercise in self-definition and. self-praise as an awful ref1ecti and symbol of the extended varnishing of critical values, of cultural despoliation!

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, are you aware that “GBOSA” or “GBOOSA”, which has become a signature, refrain not only for students and youths generally but for myopic politicians as well, is a clarion whose origin is traceable to campus cultism? Are we to be electrified by it or be ambivalent? Or shouldn’t it even evoke more than mere derision and cause us to share a common bond of hurt, of loss and bewilderment? Occasionally when confronted with the terrible state of our universities some alumni rationalize that things are getting worse all over! A few days ago, while reading one of the New York Times latest best sellers, I was not in anyway, consoled when, in discussing the rapid erosion of America’s advantages the author confessed that: ‘’… the decline of science is symptomatic of a larger cultural decay. A country that once adhered to a Puritan ethic of delayed gratification has become one that revels in instant pleasures. We’re losing interest in the basics – math, manufacturing, hard work, savings – and becoming a postindustrial society that specializes in .consumption  and leisure.

He goes on to quote Jeffrey Immelt, the CEO of. General Electric whose earlier alarm was that “More people will graduate in’ the United States in 2006 with sports-exercise degrees than electrical-engineering degrees: … so, if we want to be the massage capital of the world, we’re well on our way. While there is need to appreciate the efforts of the Alumni of such institutions as the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, and our own University of Ibadan among a few others, there is need to do more to awaken staff and students and the Nigerian youths generally away from the yahoo and other disorientating and dispiriting contemporary cultures. It is. not just the dark side of human nature that is on display presently, it is also the failure of institutions and processes.

Self-interest, the modulating factor in most of what we do, should now be extended to include collective interest if we are to transform. Nigeria is waiting to be led out of a crisis of retrogression and regression, an issue that should be touching something deep in our collective psyche. I believe it was this spirit which informed the action of the 1~8S graduates of the College of Medicine of Ahmadu Bello University recently. Specifically on the first day of this month (01 September 2011)- they came from different  parts of the world and assembled at ABU (Zaria) with their skills and resources to address some crucial areas of need of the institution – both physical and otherwise.

The first generation of Ibadan alumni could be said to have been fair to their Alma Mater in words and deeds. The present generation can only be part of the necessary transformational agenda if they appreciate the essence of unity, selflessness (as scientists, engineers, lawyers, etc) and the imperative of effective national transformation in the interest of national development. Since the law of human progress suggests that man as an individual, is capable ‘of indefinite improvement or transformation, so are institutions and societies. To actualize that potentially would require aggregations of people, mindful of the critical challenges, planning together, focused and not giving up until specific goals are achieved. It is in view of this and the hope that all’ alumni would key into the transformational agenda to the best of their abilities that I thank the Oyo State chapter of the U.I Alumni Association for inviting me to deliver this lecture and I wish to dedicate the Lecture to the U.I Class of ’67

I thank you all.

Being text of a lecture delivered by Prof. Tunde Adeniran at a ceremony held by the Oyo State chapter of the U.I Alumni Association for inviting me to deliver this lecture and I wish to dedicate the Lecture to the U.I Class of ’67