Saturday 2 March 2013


What remains of the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) are the hilarious tales about past achievements. She was famously in the intellectual horizon and her magnificent architectural gratification. Pitiably, it is a fact beyond exaggeration that the institution is a shadow of her old self. No one is to be blamed for this degeneration, except for the government and self-imposed university administrators. In all facets of life on campus, OAU students wallow in dejected conditions. An average Great Ife student wakes up from a congested room housing fifteen or more students  (a room originally designed for four). It is only for him to meet uglier fate later in the lecture rooms; a place where he is miserably jam-packed amid colleagues. Funny enough, he is not there to take lectures, but to mark attendance. The overwhelming population of students and absence of Public Address System make listening to lecturers an elusive ambition. Despite all the ills that characterises the life of OAU students, the government still fails copiously in its budgetary allocation, while corrupt University administrators do not also help matters. Government spending on University education yearly flunctuates between 5-9% of National Budget. This is clearly against the UNESCO education funding recommendation for developing countries; where at least 26% of budgetary allocation should be voted for education. And the meagre granted the educational sector is only a tiny fraction of the national wealth budgeted for embezzlement and laundering. With ever-increasing number of UTME candidates yearly, dilapidated academic facilities in universities like OAU only produce the effect of non-qualitative university education. And of course, the negative impact of this on national economy is too appalling to mention. However, with the peanuts grudgingly granted to universities, it is impossible for academic facilities to be radically upgraded.   Similarly with financial neglect of the university system, university administration is by implication left in the hands money-thirsty Vice Chancellors. Only few Nigerian VCs surpass the aggressive money-making record of OAU VCs. No farther than January 2011, Prof. Faborode, the immediate past VC, increased acceptance fee from N2, 000 to N20, 000. Like a hereditary trait, the emergence of a new VC, Prof. Omole has meant no difference to the immoral business of extortion. Prof. Omole has conducted a post-UTME in July 2012 with an unprecedented record of candidates' extortion. Candidates paid N2, 300 for registration and another N2, 750 to check examination results. And this fraud was inspite of the pathetic fact that only a tiny 20% will gain admission. The vast majority who are denied admission will move en masse to another fraudulent university business avenue, Pre-Degree programmes. There they pay as high as N150, 000 to study in a hell-like condition for a year with the tranquilising hope of studying in Ife. But in actual fact, only a fraction of their population is ever admitted. Despite the opaque manner in which the earnings and spending of OAU are being shielded from public knowledge, it is graphic that the university's funds are always carelessly squandered. Recently, in the name of hosting National Universities Games (NUGA), the university management spent N500 million on building a swimming pool. Not that a swimming is not in order. Indeed such new facilities alongside a real program to upgrade existing ones are required for the teaching and promotion of sport among students. But the swift construction of an expensive swimming pool for a handful population of students-sportsmen only just to make easy profit from NUGA games, contrasted with the real need of the entire students (inadequate lecture theatres, decrepit hostel accomodation, epileptic water and electricity supply, inadequate academic staff including sport lecturers and libraries and laboratories denuded of relevant materials) again underlines the skewed priority of the management. Despite the presence of a huge dam on campus that can serve the whole Osun State in terms of clean water distribution, students still experience large scale water scarcity. Even in the few halls where water runs, it cannot be used for purposes outside laundery. It is then ironic that N500 million could be mindlessly spent on a swimming pool project, when such money could be used effectively for upgrading the dam and procuring modern water treatment and ensuring electricity supply. Times without number, staffs and students unions have always demanded that tertiary institutions be democratically managed from inside. But instead, universities are being undemocratically and bureaucratically managed by "Vice-Chancellors and friends". This means that how a community of thousands will be managed is determined by the dictates and views of a privileged section. In actual fact, these few are cut-off from the real life of the academic community. Vice Chancellors, Registrars, Chairmen of 'annointed committees' and Directors of University businesses live far more lucrative lives that prevents them from knowing what lecturers, junior staffs and students want. In view of this, they plan elitist projects for the institution. Such projects do not fit into the life of students or staffs but fit into that of the previleged elite.   One could hardly imagine that the response of the Tale Omole-led administration to the clamour for adequate water supply would be to start a commercial water-bottling enterprise. The amount of this bottled water makes it a non-affordable commodity for students on a daily basis. And this makes students to depend on contaminated university water for drinking purposes. But for the administrators that can afford buying this product, creating a bottled water company is far more important and profitable than creating a non-commercial clean water source. Of course, selfish-oriented policies of OAU administration do not end at unnecessary enterprises. The university has only last year responded to the need to renovate dilapidated buildings by repainting them. The once beautiful structures on OAU campus are now tearing apart. The gigantic buildings in Awolowo hall are begging for renovation. In the face of this urgent task, the best the management could do is to cover copious sections with thick gloss; even when these structures are tearing apart within. As stated earlier that the absence of democratic decision-making system in Universities like OAU will not give university policies a positive outlook and acceptability. Actually, no decision of the present OAU administration has revealed the yearnings of students. And this pathetic development is effectively aided by the administration's determination to place the students' union under continual ban. Really with a students' union on OAU campus, the management would have been properly guided in line with students' wants. But with no known students' representatives in decision-making organs of the University, a gap of interests will be continually established between the studentry and the management. With flamboyant lifestyles of the University officials, it is not unexpected that the administration want students' unionism crushed. Today, the security outfit attached to the motorcade of OAU VC is almost as large as that of a president. Evidently, OAU with a traditional students' union that abhors superflous spending will oppose this kind of lifestyle. But the administration cherishes it. In conclusion, the absence of the democratic involvement of students and workers unions in university administration will always cause setbacks. Nigerian universities must be saved from inhumane and money thirsty VCs. Even for this reason, parents and alumni must join the campaign for restoration of a democratic students' union in OAU. Wole Olubanji (Com. Engels).

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