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UI AT 64: PROSPECTS AND CHALLENGES

Not too long ago, the Nigeria’s premier university – University of Ibadan (UI) established in 1948, celebrated its 64th Foundation Day alongside the 2012 convocation ceremony with fanfare. At 64, Ibadan could be seen as a much younger university when compared with many prestigious universities across the world. For instance, this year, Harvard University which is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States of America (USA) celebrated its 376th years of existence, having being established in 1636. University of Oxford has no clear date of establishment, but record shows that teaching started in 1096, while the University of Cambridge which is the second oldest university in the English speaking world was set up in 1209.

Against this background, how logical is it then to compare 64 years old UI with all these universities with long history and old academic trajectory? Perhaps this is where those who are worried that none of Nigeria’s universities is rated among the best in the world are missing the point! Certainly, Nigeria still has a long distance to destination in terms of competing with the world best universities. Not that we are intellectually inferior, but because of the fact that we are deficient in infrastructure in an inclement environment!

But, situating UI in context, the journey in the last 64 years has been considerably fruitful. Evidence abounds that Ibadan has not done badly. UI, which has literally become a national patrimony, has contributed its quota to national development in terms of manpower development and training in no small quantity. Being the first university in the country long before some of these “late arrival universities” which hardly can pass for glorified secondary schools, Ibadan has a prestigious pedigree respected all over the world. Indeed, its products are its pride: properly tutored, well baked and sound in knowledge. With 295 professors, 89 readers and 315 senior lecturers as well as 717 lecturers, UI is obviously a giant among African poplars, hence, succeeding in succession. There is hardly any serious organization in Nigeria, Africa or across the globe without a UI product making waves.

However, judging by the development in the institution in the last 12 years or so, it could be confidently asserted that UI has been lucky in terms of leadership. Both at Council and Management levels, UI has been fortunate to have committed leaders who have been building assiduously on the past glory. Without any attempt to diminish the achievements of past Vice-Chancellors before the Prof. Ayodele Falase’s led management, this writer feels proud of restoration agenda of Prof. Falase (2000-2005), which substantially cleared all the rot in the system. The rejuvenation and modernization agenda of Prof. Olufemi Bamiro (2005-2010) which saw to the improvement of teaching and learning environment was equally commendable while the current Prof. Isaac Folorunso Adewole’s era of human emancipation and staff welfares is not only impressive, but generally accepted as dazzling. The three consecutive leaders have been marvelous in terms of quality leadership delivery.

Today, Prof. Adewole as the 11th Vice- Chancellor of Ibadan is writing his name in gold with the achievements he has recorded in the last two years of his five-year-tenure. Currently, Prof. Adewole has been able to stabilize electricity on campus. This is a major achievement. Power outage was an albatross in the immediate past. He deserves that credit. Besides, Prof. Adewole moved to the hitherto moribund Teaching and Research Farm and breathed life into the farm. The farm is now yielding bountifully for the benefit of all. Fresh meat, fish, eggs, dairy among other agricultural produce are now on commercial display. This VC with business orientation has computerized bursary department for the sake of accountability and prudence, established many commercial ventures including UI water factory, UI Micro Finance Bank. To make life much easier for his students, Prof. Adewole has established student’s work-study scheme in which students get financial reward for the job done while in schools, not to mention several innovations he has initiated to better the lives of the staff members.

More importantly, Prof. Adewole has historical record of opening up the second phase of the University (Ajibode). The road leading to the second phase was commissioned by the Education Minister, Prof. Ruquayattu Rufai during the convocation ceremonies. With gradual movements to Ajibode, UI is certainly on its way to becoming a university with the biggest campus in Africa.

However, it will be uncharitable to enumerate some of the fundamental achievements of this institution without acknowledging the contributions of its Council Chairman, Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN, who is, to say the least, has become an oasis in the desert of the university. Chief Olanipekun is indeed a special gift to the institution on account of his numerous contributions to the university. His contributions are simply unquantifiable. How does one describe the 350 capacity hall he built within four months and donated to the Faculty of Law in Ajibode? Marvelous! Here is a man who personally donated N10million to UI in the aftermath of August 26, 2010 flood disaster that ravaged the institution! Well, Education Minister has said it all: other Nigerians should emulate Chief Olanipekun in selfless service to humanity and magnanimity.

On a flipside, however, UI has several challenges chief of which is funding. In more ways than one, paucity of fund has incapacitated further developmental initiatives. There is an acute shortage of fund which does not allow expansion of infrastructure, yet, there is a deliberate policy that student’s enrolment in all programmes must not exceed the carrying capacity. Consequently, of 41,367 candidates who applied last year for a first degree admission, UI was able to admit only 2,402, representing only six percentages. This situation is unfortunate. In other words, thousands of eligible and qualified candidates who wanted to taste Ibadan fountain of knowledge were turned back for lack of space. A whopping 94 percent for that matter missed admission for lack of space. It is not a message of good cheers!

Another major challenge is the accommodation of female students whole enrolment has been increasing over the years while the number of halls of residence remains almost constant. Prof. Adewole in his innovative characteristic manner has called on Ibadan indigenes to come together and build Olubadan hall of residence in UI. But there seems to be no encouraging signal. There is Sultan Bello hall, Zik hall, Awolowo Hall among others; Olubadan who gave the university large expanse of land should have a hall of residence on campus. Is anybody listening?

Perhaps this is the time UI should engage in extrapolating thinking with a view to overcoming these challenges. Government can no longer be relied on as the only horse that will pull the cart of needs through life. Obviously, the University needs money as a therapy to prevent atrophy. Every legitimate method must be explored to raise fund for the sustenance of the system. Alumni of the University therefore need to come in here to assist. They should look back with a view to giving back to the university that made them. It is not enough to keep shouting “Greatest Uites” without greatest sacrifices to make UI great.

The current VC needs to be supported in his valiant efforts to uplift the university. Prof. Adewole and his team mates have been displaying captivating qualities towards better UI, these current players including the Deputy Vice Chancellor (Administration), Prof. Arinola Sanya, DVC ( Academic), Prof. Idowu Olayinka and the Registrar, Mr. Olujimi Olokoya among others require support from all and sundry to make UI greater than it is. On a wider canvas, President Goodluck Jonathan should show more commitment to education. A nation that de-emphasises education is fated for failure. As Spanish writer, Gaspar Jovellanous says, “numerous are the streams that lead to social prosperity, but all spring from the same source and that is public education.”

Sunday Saanu wrote in from University of Ibadan via Sunday [email protected] (08059436919)

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