By Bola Bolawole
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Anniversary celebrations usually are occasions when the celebrant(s) spruce themselves up in their best attires, ornaments, adornments and all. The venue is white-washed and decorated to the hilt. Guests of honour, special guests of honour, distinguished guests of honour, royal fathers and mothers of the day, chief hosts and chief hostesses, special hosts and distinguished hosts, name it, are always on parade. There is also the chairperson and chairlady of the occasion, among many others VIPs.
Sumptuous meals are usually on parade, cascading from the ordinary, the usual to the special dainties befitting only of kings and queens. Expect also all manner of exotic drinks. Those they refer to as “ti’le yi ko!” When the anniversary committee reels out its activities for the event, giving Great Ife a face-lift and sprucing it up must rank high on its priority list. Today’s Great Ife has become a shadow of its former self, but like the proverbial prince, no matter how terribly it falls, it still retains the tell-tale signs of royalty. The scriptural story of the prodigal son comes to mind.
OAU surely has fallen on hard times. The hitherto alluring edifice is in decay. A comprehensive face-lift must be given to it before the forthcoming anniversary if it is not to advertise its shame and disgrace. Part One and Part Two years in 1978 and 1979 I spent at Fajuyi Hall annexe; today, the place is not fit for human habitation. In March 2020, I froze when I saw the appalling condition of the hostel accommodation my daughter was supposed to live in at the Alumni Hall. Mercifully, COVID-19 broke and everyone had to return home. My children had to go off-campus.
But it was like leaping from a frying pan into fire! If I have my way, no single child will live off-campus where, in most cases, impressionistic boys and girls are made to cohabit face-to-face without supervision or control. On my visits to off campus hostels, I have seen half-nude girls loitering around and teenage boys smoking Indian hemp in the open in broad daylight! We are breeding monsters! The telltale sign of breakdown in morals, in discipline, in law and order that we complain about today is just the apparition; we should wait until the real masquerade enters the fray!
It is not only the hostels that need a face-lift. Everywhere is congested: More hostels have to be built. The lecture halls, no less! Everywhere, facilities meant for a few are crammed full with hordes. How will standards not fall? How will values not dip? How will discipline not fail? How will the so-called “leaders of tomorrow” not become the undertakers of tomorrow? Teachers teach under harsh conditions. Students learn under conditions not conducive to learning. In our days, we envied those who had gone before us when we heard stories of how they lived like kings and queens. The Olusegun Obasanjo military junta ended that, drawing the ire of students and triggering off the Ali Must Go students’ protests of 1978. But, even those days were a golden era compared with what operates today!
Going forward from Obasanjo, education has not been well funded. It appears there is a deliberate policy to run down or completely abandon public schools so that private schools owned in the main by the oppressor class can take over and skin the people alive. Children of the rich and powerful no longer attend public schools. On the rare occasions that they still school here and not overseas, they attend the best of private schools – from nursery to university level.
According to reports, a problem of the universities is the opaque manner in which resources are allocated by the powers-that-be. While some favoured universities still manage to get something good, others are condemned to measly allocations. While water, electricity and other developmental projects in favoured universities are speedily completed, those in discriminated-against universities are abandoned and or are left to rot.
Let the concerned authorities publish the figures and offer a defence! As OAU’s 60th anniversary draws near, let this plea go out that the following stalled or abandoned projects at the university be resuscitated and be quickly completed! The OAU independent power project is one. The modernisation and re-engineering of the university’s Opa dam is another. We all know that water and power supply are two critical issues fuelling students’ unrest on our campuses.
The Central Bank of Nigeria’s new OAU administrative block project, which has been abandoned since God knows when, should be resuscitated and completed before the anniversary. I understand the CBN is contemplating scaling down the project while it delivered in full in other universities. The CBN should please not short-change OAU! The abandoned CBN project has become an eyesore; to make matters worse, it is strategically located right across the road to the present administrative building of the university. The CBN should please complete the building IN FULL – and in earnest.
With dwindling resources from the Centre, the universities must be imaginative and resourceful if they are to survive the financial crisis creeping in on the country. Our leaders have been wasteful. They have borrowed beyond their capacity and capability. Like Jimmy Cliff crooned, they were warned but they wouldn’t take heed. Now that the chickens are coming home to roost, they have embarked on the perilous road to Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe – printing money! Shamefully, they first denied before later confessing. Soon, our currency will be worthless – like Zimbabwe’s was under Mugabe – unless they abandon the perilous path.
Nigeria’s unitarist government has always found ingenious as well as brazen ways to ride the universities, the latest being the controversial IPPIS which ASUU, mercifully, fought to a standstill. University autonomy has been eroded up to the point that university administrations cannot employ even cleaners without authorisation from Abuja. But the universities themselves are not beyond reproach in that they have been part of the Nigerian malaise of everyone looking up to Abuja for allocation of resources.
How can the universities enjoy autonomy if they keep going cap-in-hand to Abuja for dole outs? Our universities must become imaginative and resourceful. They must find ways to become financially independent. How much is their Internally Generated Revenue? They must build this up and lessen their dependence on the Federal Government.
They must become enterprising and commercialize knowledge, which they have in ample supply. Another way out is for them to leverage on the huge goodwill of their alumni/alumnae, which is their own “Diaspora”. According to statistics, remittances from the Diaspora have become huge sources of revenue for Nigeria, rivaling revenue from crude oil.
Preparations for the 60th anniversary offer an opportunity for the alumni/alumnae to rise up to the challenge and help the alma mater. We must speak out against the retrogressive forces and policies holding the universities down. Specifically, we must challenge discriminatory allocation sharing formulas and hold the feet of those concerned to the fire. OAU has illustrious alumni/alumnae that can come to the rescue if we apply ourselves to the task. And the time to act is now!
LAST WORD: OAU PRO, Biodun Olanrewaju, has disclosed that the university authorities have lifted the ban placed on students’ unionism and that elections would soon be held into the students’ Central Executive Council (CEC). According to him, the ban, while it lasted, was partial since only the CEC was affected while the executives of Halls, Faculties and Departments, etc. were not affected. Whereas he justified the ban on account of the unwarranted acts of hooliganism by the CEC leaders over money issues, I once gave the VC, Prof. Tope Ogunbodede, knocks for allowing the ban to drag for too long. OAU’s 60th anniversary will ring hollow without the participation of the Students’ Union Government.
RE: As OAU prepares for its 60th Anniversary (I): I am Funke Aboyade, Professor Ojetunji Aboyade’s daughter. I read with keen interest your column published in the New Telegraph of 14th April, 2021 but which has been circulated online via WhatsApp. Thank you, it was illuminating. I am also an alumna of the University of Ife having graduated in 1982.
However, I must correct the misinformation that my father, Professor Ojetunji Aboyade, left as a result of the Ali Must Go students’ unrest. He did not. Upon appointment as VC in 1975 (which appointment he reluctantly took up), he had declared he would only spend three years in office – one year short of a full term. He left as he had promised in December 1978.
He was given the sobriquet “the reluctant Vice-Chancellor” by the press. And he was reluctant for many reasons, including because it would not allow him to spend time teaching, which he loved. He then became the first Vice-Chancellor to combine the demands of his office with teaching his beloved Economics to students. I thought it important to point this out to you for record purposes and will be glad if you could kindly publish this correction as you deem fit. – Funke Aboyade, SAN.