Opinion

The Nigerian University System and the Change Mantra

By Dr. Karo Ogbinaka

The Minister of State for Education, Hon Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba, fired what may pass for a full scale ‘crackdown’ on ASUU and the contentious matter of IPPIS/UTAS. The minister is himself a product of the Nigerian educational system. He studied law in Nigeria. He attended three public owned universities.

The first is the Imo State University, established by Chief Sam Mbakwe in 1985. He bagged his LLB at IMSU;then the University of Lagos, LLM and the University of Jos, PhD. He was called to the Nigerian bar in 1989. He served as the Chairman of TETFund Board of Trustees. Consequently, in TETFund, he has benefitted from a baby created by ASUU. If the records are correct the Honourable Minister was born on August 20, 1967.

Interestingly, the sector he is presiding over as Minister is in crisis, but our honourable minister has just purchased the APC form to enable him contest for the office of the OPINION May 2-3, 2022 www.thetrumpet.ng 13 president of Nigeria. He paid N100 million.

No doubt, the honourable minister is qualified to be an academic. Perhaps, he was wise in his decision not to be an academic.How wouldhis salary of an academic give him N100 million to buy a mere form? What he paid for to express his interest to run for presidency can cover the salary of a professor at bar for 20 years. The Minister of State for Education and many others have expressed their interest to be the president of Nigeria by dishing out this amount of N100 million. All are free to choose their life path.

But to think that academics are merely workhands that should have no say on how they are paid is to cross the red lines of rational thought.

Academics are not a colonised people under the subjugation of some Leviathans. Nigerians cannot be held hostage by those who ought to be ministers, i.e. servants. In addressing the facts of IPPIS and UTAS, the minister failed to tell the world how the peculiarity of an academic work, as reflected in Sabbatical leave, associate lectureship, and facilitators of external examinations,can be addressed by the IPPIS payment platform.

Consequently, ASUU is simply telling the honourable minister that you cannot underpay academics and put the blame on a contrived ineffective IPPIS platform.

The minister gave the impression that ASUU is against IPPIS. This is wrong. ASUU is only against the things IPPIS cannot do that it ought to do as a payment platform.

This is a challenge the APC-led government must address. Honourable Minister Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba should demonstrate to the world that IPPIS hasboth the capacity to solve the problem of academic peculiarity, and overcome the shortcomingsof IPPIS ASUU has pointed out.

The 2022 World University Rankings that was recently released showed that only two universities in Nigeria made the list of 15 institutions in Africa.

The 15 Africanuniversities on the list of ranked institutions in the world were: (1) University of Cape Town,(2) Stellenbosch University, (3) Wits University, (4) University of Cape Coast, Ghana,(5) University of KwaZuluNatal, South Africa,(6) Addis Ababa University,(7) Aswan University, (8) Durban University of Technology, (9) University of Ibadan, (10) Ferhat Abbas SétifUniversity, (11) Kafrelsheikh University, (12) University of Lagos, (13) Mansoura University, (14) University of Nairobi, (15) North-West University.

This is an independent rating of universities in the world. How come the two Nigerian universities are among those at the forefront of ASUU strike? What happened to the universities others? The main problem with our university system is that we have an elite that believe that the best they require are gotten abroad; and this ‘best’ is the preserve of their families.

This elites’ urgefor the foreign is sustained by the sole most viable business in Nigeria – government! Why would one care to build good hospitals when one can take a flight out of Nigeria to get the best of health facilities? Why should one be bothered about securing life and property in Nigeria when one can send ones family abroad to reside, and sustain themthere with stolen funds?

The same can be said of all other sectors; so long as these politiciansare at the helms of affairs in Nigeria. Nigeria is now becoming a plague upon the black race. Our institutions need encouragement. A vision to become the best in the world is never on the agenda of our government.

Those clamoring for political offices today hardly speak about inflation, poor infrastructure, collapsed municipal services, poor schools, food crisis, and collapsed university system. What they sell to the voters is promoting sentiments that it is their turn to rule! How would turn by turn governance solve the Nigerian problem? The Nigerian youth has been short-changed by their society.

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They can only achieve their potentials outside the shores of their so-called country. The crass boldness with which the ruling elite now sleaze the Nigerian State, and boast about it, is becoming worrisome. Those who gain power on the mantra of change must know that Heraclitus thought that “everything is in a state of flux.

You cannot step into the same river twice.” It was Leo Tolstoy who said “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” Margaret Mead advised that: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” And the great Nelson Mandela also pointed out that “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” If there is one important thing the Nigerian academia owes her youth, it is the philosophy of change!

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