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Ambode, LASU and adopted best graduate

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The 22nd Convocation Ceremony of the Lagos State University.

Thank God, Akinwumi Ambode, Governor of Lagos state is not one of the wonderful governors in Western Nigeria who keep establishing more universities without consideration for quality and history of the region.

Instead of announcing a brand new university the other day (as some of his colleagues would have done) at the convocation of the Lagos State University, the Governor instantly granted scholarship and N5million cash reward to the 2017/2018 overall best graduate of Lagos State University (LASU), OgunsanyaFuhadAdetoro.

I am persuaded that the Governor should be encouraged to invest robustly in the 35 years old university (LASU) instead of personal scholarships to gifted graduates who are being encouraged to study abroad.

If you missed the story, citizen Adetoro of the Faculty of Management Sciences, was last month (May 23) announced as the best graduating student at the 22nd convocation held at the Auditorium Complex of the Lagos State University in Ojo having scored CGPA 4.78.

While responding to Adetoro’s request for scholarship to go for a post-graduate study outside the country, Governor Ambode, visitor to the university, said he would personally finance the student’s education in any university of his choice anywhere in the world.

Specifically, the governor said, “In response to the best graduating student’s request, Lagos State Government does not generally give scholarship anymore but only bursary.

So, I adopt him… His story is too compelling and it reflects my own story. So, any university he wants to go, I will do it personally.

I will be responsible… In addition to that, because he is the best graduating student, I dash him N5 million…”

The Governor also noted that occasions such as university convocation deserved necessary attention as the future of any nation could only be guaranteed when its youth, who form a majority of the population, were educated enough to contribute to the economy and the continued sustenance of the country.

Recalling the pledge to construct 6000-capacity hostel for the institution, Governor Ambode reported that preliminary works had already been concluded on the project, while work would start in few months.He added that other ongoing projects in the university were on course and would also be delivered on schedule.

“In addition, the Government’s Legacy Projects in the University including the New Senate Building, the Ultra-Modern Library, Students’ Arcade, LASU Homes (Staff Quarters) and the New Faculty of Management Sciences Buildings are all nearing completion simultaneously,” the Governor said, adding that the projects, when completed, would change the entire overview of the landscape of the University.

While reiterating that provision of qualitative education is indeed a cardinal duty, which government must render to its people, the Governor said such a conviction necessitated the 12.07 per cent allocation for education in the 2018 Budget of the State.

Besides, the Governor noted that the education of the teeming youths remained a priority for his administration.

According to the Governor, “our State has always been a trailblazer in various spheres of life and in order to consolidate on the economic gains made so far, the education of our youth is paramount.

We seek the cooperation of all Lagosians to ensure that we eradicate illiteracy in the state, groom the next generation of leaders and captains of industry as well as position our state as the standard bearer for the nation in the provision of qualitative tertiary education,”.

Meanwhile, Governor Ambode, a graduate of the University of Lagos and Harvard Business School said he was encouraged by the successes so far recorded through Ready.Set.Work (RSW), an initiative of the State Government targeted at equipping penultimate and final year students of public tertiary institutions in the State with employability and entrepreneurship skills.

It is thus better to encourage the governor of Lagos state to create more values instead of praising him for the present state of the university. In terms of education quality, I have been writing about lack of enthusiasm of most of the Western state governors at the moment.

It is a fact that most of them have let down Chief Awolowo and his legacy in education. Yes, quality in education, which used to make Western Nigeria a reference point in Africa.

Within that context, the University of Ife became a citadel of learning everyone wanted to go then even long after the spoilers called the federal government seized it in 1975 – and polluted the organic mission (0f the Great Ife).

I have raised the issue of the executive excesses of the governors of the western region several times.

I have also talked about absence of strategic and development plans for education quality in the region on so many platforms.

Curiously, not many are ready to debate the thorny issues anymore within the Yoruba nation.

We are ever ready to debate federal and presidency issues. I have raised the issue of too many ill-equipped universities in the region.

No one is ready to ask the governors questions.

The elite and the elders in the region appear complacent and complicit. I have asked what Ondo and Ogun states, for instance, would be doing with three state universities each when none has been a world-class institution of higher learning.

I have also asked what Oyo state needs a Technical University for when LAUTEC jointly owned by Osun and Oyo has been struggling to survive.

It (LAUTEC)was recently shut down for almost two years for poor funding. Osun State has a state university that is also underfunded.

The University of Ibadan and ObafemiAwolowo University, Ife are in Oyo state. There are so many private and mission universities in these states.

Yet the states that cannot pay primary and secondary school teachers regularly, are busy setting up more universities they can’t fund.

Yet the elders of the land close their eyes to all these absurdities in Western Nigeria, once a pace setter in education quality.

Barely two years ago, I wrote in this column an article titled, “Why we need better universities, not more”. (https://guardian.ng/opinion/why-we-need-better-universities-not-more/June 4, 2016)

I had then claimed, among others in the article, a part of the series that gave me the 2017 Dame Award:

“…This is not a seminal paper on the role of the university in a developing country. Nor is it a research topic on the role of public intellectuals in development.

Rather, it is a thought-provoking discussion point on why all our representatives in government should halt the “hollow rituals” called licensing of new private universities and the federal government’s own obsession with political project called federal universities in all the states of the federation.

I am persuaded that elders of the land, notably those that had enjoyed ‘the good old days’ in this same country when universities were universities to support a motion that governments at all levels should stop all priority projects and declare emergency on education with a view to funding them ruthlessly.

I mean there had been good time here when even Americans were applying to studyeven English at the University of Ibadan.

In 2008, I met an African American, in Miami Florida who claimed to be a classmate of now Professor G.G Darah at the University of Ibadan where she did her PhD in English/Literature. The woman gave me a note to give to her radical classmate, GordiniDara. She too is a President of a University in Florida.

What is more horrible than a situation whereby most Nigerian universities have become mere factories for producing unemployable graduates at all levels?

All the major highways have become attractions for private universities, most of which are just for ways of laundering money for some crooks who can no longer hide such slush and stolen funds abroad.

But sadly, most of the lecturers of the universities cannot allow their children to be admitted into the universities where they teach. I know many of them, who would still have to struggle through thick and thin to send their wards abroad where real learning takes place…”

And so here is the thing, I will continue to encourage Governor Ambode who can earmark resources for robust investment in Lagos State University and its Teaching Hospital.

There should be incredible investment in academic resources to make the two institutions world-class centres of academic and medical excellence. Lagos state is a pace-setter state.

It is not enough to aspire to be third largest economy in Africa.

It should be noted too that at the core of why South Africa’s economy and democracy are the strongest in Africa is the presence of more than ten world-class universities in the country.

For decades, the University of Cape Town, South Africa has been Africa’s best University.

Besides, there is some consistency in almost all global ratings for universities that of the ten best universities in Africa, eight are always from South Africa while the remaining two are located in Egypt.

The best in Nigeria is always around 30th in Africa. This is part of Nigeria’s chronic challenges that our leaders hardly pay attention to.

The federal government has never fulfilled and may never fulfill any promises concerning substantial investment in education quality. They promised to declare an emergency on education – to address funding and reform before the end of April 2018.

There has been no word. But no one is surprised. Two former leaders (a president and vice president) who failed to address long noticed decline in education standard curiously set up their own universities in their state capitals too shortly after leaving office.

No questions can be asked in a country where the law does not rule. So, there is no doubt that Nigeria cannot develop beyond the quality of its tertiary institutions.

In the same vein, Lagos cannot become a sustainable mega city unless there are concomitant good, local universities and research institutes that can provide resources to sustain its growth and development.

Governor Ambode, congratulation on the scholarship and N5 million gift to citizen Adetoro. But we need to encourage you to invest boldly and crazily in LASU, which should havebeen able to build the Valedictorian, Ogunsanya Fuhad Adetoro into a world-class scholar too. Ambode’s scholarship should have been used in the same LASU.

That is why LASU should be our ‘University of London’ or Oxford or Cambridge or Harvard that Adetoro would like to go. It is not glorious to be talking of investment in library, senate building and even hostels and staff quarters of LASU (set up in 1983) at every convocation.

Time to invest robustly in LASU and LASUTH is now.Reason: quality in education in the only known weapon of country and global competitiveness. You need that to be competitive in Africa.

Study this too: In 1963, the then U.S President, John F.Kennedy told a student body: “…No country can possibly move ahead, no free society can possibly be sustained unless it has an educated citizenry whose qualities of mind and heart permit it to take part in the complicated and increasingly sophisticated decisions that pour upon all the citizens who exercise the ultimate power….”

We will continue this conversation here…


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Akinwunmi AmbodeLASU
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