By Sam Otti
Former Vice Chancellor, University of Lagos (UNILAG), Prof Tolu Odugbemi, has frowned at the activities of supervisory bodies that monitor institutions of higher education, who place pecuniary advantage above national interest. He said some members of such supervisory bodies appear uninformed about their duties, while others see such appointments as a cash cow.
Odugbemi stated this in his paper, titled, The Pivotal Role of Administration in a University- Reflections, in a programme tagged, An Hour with Doyen, at the University of Lagos (UNILAG), Akoka. He observed with dismay that some of the supervisory bodies (School Boards, Governing Councils, Committees on education, science, health, technology, among others.) fall short of expectations.
“While some work very hard for excellence, others see membership of such bodies as opportunities to ‘make it’. Projects to be supervised by supervisory bodies become personal ‘projects’ of self-aggrandizement they execute with nothing to show at the end of the day. Even the funds for execution of necessary projects are usually taken to be ‘for sharing’. Deceit, insincerity and abuse of office are rampant. Harassment of ‘those not playing ball’ is the order of the day,” he said.
Odugbemi, who had a broad experience of the university system as the immediate past Vice Chancellor, Ondo State University of Science and Technology (OSUSTECH), said the manipulation of admission, promotion and appointments processes in universities has reached unacceptable and intolerable level. Sadly, such impunities, he said, enjoy an immunity of silence in relevant quarters.
“The various bodies, communities, individuals and judiciary system (know of injustices but appear to be in a state of ‘hopelessness ‘ and / or impunity. As university administrators, we must lead the way and have the courage and integrity to get ourselves out of this state of ‘hopelessness,” he pleaded.
The erudite scholar explained that the decay in the university and general school system was evident in dilapidated buildings, often without roofs, walls, doors and windows, no books, no library equipment even in tertiary institutions. He said pupils attending public primary schools are worst affected, subjected to formal instruction in dehumanizing circumstances.
Odugbemi maintained that the foundation of any viable education system remains the primary school, stressing that successful nations go to considerable lengths to build starter schools as the launch pad for human capital development. He called for Quality Assurance Agency to be put in place to ensure strict compliance with standard and quality at the primary and secondary school levels.
He blamed past leaders for failing woefully in providing good and effective leadership and appropriate policy directions for the relevant sectors, notably the education sector.
“Corruption in my view is responsible for intolerance we now witness in crises emanating from differences in political persuasions, religious bigotry and ethnic backgrounds. We all need to live together in peace and harmony for development to occur,” he explained.
Rather than allow the stinking influence of corruption to smear the reputation of universities, Odugbemi called for moral rebirth in ivory towers.
“Character building must accompany any form of learning for graduates of such institutions to be relevant to societal development. We, Nigerians, must re-assure ourselves that we can rebuild our societies by refocusing our values on positive and virtuous traits”.
He also called on the leadership of universities in the country to lead the way out of the dark spot by providing purposeful and courageous ideas that would move the country forward. He urged university administrators to live above board.
“If you jealously guard your pivotal roles in the university, deceit, harassment, insincerity and abuse of office should be utterly denounced in its entirety,” he added
Rather than seek ephemeral glory in academic laurels, Odugbemi charged universities in the country to initiate academic programmes that are relevant to societal needs.
“It is strange reading news that some universities are to be assigned to produce “only PhD”. University system is about evolution and not based on revolution, commands and orders. Research is vital and critically important for producing PhD degrees. Research goes with Passion: Spirit of Adventure and community service,” he said.
Odugbemi, who also served as President of the National Postgraduate Medical College Of Nigeria, harped on the need to equip universities to make them hub of research. To achieve the desired result, he maintained that university environments should also be peaceful, orderly and conducive to thinking, learning and teaching.
While calling for a wind of change in universities, he said: “Discipline is very important in attaining any significant achievement in society. Nigeria is at crossroads. Instead of our present educational system helping to propel us forward in development, we face a gloomy state of decay because of wrong ideas and teachings that made “self” instead of the “society” the centre of development. The over-development of “self” in positive ways would not have harmed the nation but the greed attached to self-development has”.