•Nigeria’s premier university must renew itself
As the venerable University of Ibadan embarks on year-long celebrations to commemorate the 70th anniversary of its founding, its students, administrators, alumni and admirers must ensure that the university is better able to live up to its noble ideals.
There can be little doubt that UI, as it is fondly called, has a distinguished record of achievement to look back upon. It has graduated 232,225 students since 1948, more than most Nigerian universities. It has produced 45 per cent of all the vice-chancellors of universities in the country. It is the highest producer of Ph.D. degree holders in Africa, and currently has over 400 professors on its staff list. In September 2016, it became the first Nigerian university to make the top 1,000 in the well-regarded Times Higher Education ranking of world universities.
The University College, Ibadan, as it was formerly known, was meant to develop the indigenous high-level manpower that a rapidly-growing Nigeria urgently needed. It was structured after the traditions of the best English universities, and as such, its standards were correspondingly high. Many prospective students were compelled to go overseas after they had been rejected at Ibadan.
While its tradition of “high dinners,” elaborate dress codes, and intricate regulations guiding personal conduct might be seen as unnecessarily elitist, it did have the positive benefit of imbuing students with an acute sense of self-worth. This in turn gave them the confidence to take on formidable challenges and overcome them.
Alumni of the University of Ibadan read like a Who Is Who of distinguished Nigerians: Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka, Bola Ige, Emeka Anyaoku, Kayode Osuntokun, Gamaliel Onosode, Adamu Ciroma, Felix Ohiwerei, Ken Saro-Wiwa and Tekena Tamuno are only a few of an impressive multitude of UI graduates who have made indelible marks upon the consciousness of Nigeria and the world.
Apart from these distinguished names, there are thousands of UI graduates who have made critical interventions in all aspects of national life, from governance through the armed forces and the civil service to non-governmental organisations. Over time, the University of Ibadan has become synonymous with intellectual rigour and academic excellence in a way no other university in Nigeria can dare to claim.
However, it does seem that the university in the recent past has been unable to live up to the very high standards that it has set for itself. It has not been immune to the toxic combination of dwindling finances, inadequate facilities, gross overcrowding, poor teaching, and indiscipline that beset the country’s universities. Indeed, as the very school whose pioneer status established it as the pacesetter, it appears that the maladies afflicting Nigerian universities as a whole have hit it particularly hard.
It has lived through examination malpractice scandals, bruising confrontations with militant students and striking staff, as well as the pressures of expanded admission numbers even as it attempts to focus more emphatically on post-graduate studies.
Like almost every other tertiary institution, this ivory tower has wallowed in a cesspit of corruption. In July 2003, it was revealed that a financial audit of the university had uncovered brazen disregard for laid-down regulations and outright misconduct, ranging from budget management to the maintenance of cash books. This was in spite of the fact that it had over 300 staff in its bursary alone.
If the University of Ibadan is to enjoy a future as celebrated as its past, it will have to rethink the way it does things. It must come up with policies that will make it less dependent on government funding; it must ensure that its contributions to teaching, research and community service are in greater proportion to its pre-eminent status; it must see that its contributions to the resolution of national problems are much more decisive than they are at present.
This means ensuring fiscal probity in the way it is run; increased revenues are meaningless if they will be lost to corruption. It means evolving mutually-respectful relationships with students, staff, alumni and other stakeholders. It means adopting a conscious strategy of globalisation which will result in enhanced international student enrollment, more worldwide linkages and universal visibility.
In essence, it will mean breaking out of the constrictions that have prevented it from living up to its true potential as one of Africa’s leading universities. The first must return to being the best.
Original Content from
UI at 70 – The Nation Nigeria – Editorial – 2018-11-07 00:03:52